Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett gave a fantastic performance last Friday night, and Kate and I had the honor of being present for the event. Set in the beautifully restored Alabama Theater in downtown Birmingham, this 2,000 seat venue provided the perfect setting for an intimate evening with these musical icons.
Birmingham was the third stop on their thirteen city Songs and Stories Tour. When I first bought our tickets for this event, I didn’t realize that the concert was a two man, “un-plugged” performance. I made that discovery the day before the event while searching online for reviews, and honestly, I was a little disappointed. No drums? No bass? No electric steel guitars? How was that going to work? It turned out that my disappointment was unfounded as the show exceeded every expectation.
When we first arrived, the stage was set with two chairs, a table between them, a couple of microphones, and several guitars on stands. Then these two great singer-songwriters took the stage and delighted everyone with… wait for it… Songs and Stories! The entire performance was very informal, with the artists taking turns telling tales related to a song and then singing it. Vince joked about his weight gain, spoke lovingly about his relationship with his wife Amy Grant, and addressed “losing it” at the George Jones memorial as “seen by a couple of people on YouTube.” Lyle talked about some strange situations he had encountered in life, folks who had inspired him, and, because Vince was providing back-up vocals and guitar on several of his songs, he quipped “I have a much better band backing me tonight than Vince does.”
I have been to several Vince Gill concerts at the Grand Ole Opry, and it is always a treat to see him perform. He is a virtuoso guitarist and that high, lonesome voice of his never fails to send chills down my neck. Perhaps more importantly, he is one of the few true gentlemen remaining in country music. Always gracious when performing with others, he unselfishly contributes to the music rather than seeking the spotlight and highlighting his own considerable talent. The world needs more performers like him.
Lyle Lovett has not lately been on my radar. Going in to the concert, I only really knew him by his crazy hair and his brief marriage to Julia Roberts, and I have occasionally seen him in guest appearances on TV. Coming out of the concert, I felt honored to have had the opportunity to spend some time with the man, learning about his life and music. Although unfamiliar with his songs (which made me a minority in the crowd that night), I discovered that he is a fantastic songwriter and musician, and he has a great sense of humor in a refined, Texas gentleman sort of way.
This is the second time that Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett have combined talents for a Songs and Stories performance, and with luck, it won’t be their last. If you ever have the opportunity to see these artists together, I recommend that you jump at the chance. It’s like having legends in your living room, making it an incredibly unique experience that I will not soon forget. This was decidedly not the concert I expected. It was much better.