WEEKEND REVIEWS : Pop : Lyle Mixes It Up: Audience Couldn't Help but Lovett


Lyle Lovett felt compelled to allude to his recent marriage--yes, he's tied the knot; you may have heard about it--several times during his show Saturday night at the Universal Amphitheatre.

Usually when celebrity newlyweds offer unsolicited bromides from the stage about how deliriously happy they are, it's a sign of terminal tabloid-itis, like when Whitney has to reassure every audience she gets ahold of that she and Bobby are doing great, really great, thank you very much.

Lovett's occasional reassurances about true love didn't seem so superfluous, though. In fact, they made fairly obligatory apologetic song intros, given that almost every tune in his performing repertoire addressing the subject of matrimony, either directly or tangentially, makes it sound like The Institution From Heck.

"This song is proof that, uh, anything I ever wrote about marriage or about, uh, the opposite sex at all was, uh, done strictly out of ignorance," Lovett announced in his droll, hemming-and-hawing fashion, by way of introducing "She's No Lady (She's My Wife)."

Despite the comically marriage-phobic tint of some of his material, Lovett was able to find a couple of moments in his catalogue more appropriate for homage to his bride. The song "Here I Am" has been amended so that the line "Can you doubt we were made for each other" is followed by two self-explanatory bars of Roy Orbison's "Oh Pretty Woman" riff. And the set-closing "She Makes Me Feel Good" was prefaced with a dedication to "my favorite girl," complete with a reference to the song's opening line about the feel-good gal's "big red lips."

No, Julia Roberts didn't come out to introduce Lovett's opening rendition of "Stand by Your Man," as she has on other dates. That duty fell here to a not terribly convincing cross-dresser, in tribute to the other event that's exposed Lovett to a huge audience lately, that song's inclusion in "The Crying Game."

Otherwise, it was superlative cross-demographic business as usual in this nearly 2 1/2-hour show, which was actually hitting Los Angeles for the third time since the release of Lovett's excellent "Joshua Judges Ruth" album early last year (previous stops: the Roxy and Wiltern). His time-tested revue continues to offer as much sheer entertainment value as any tour in recent memory.

Some fans might fret over whether the attention of millions of inquiring minds will affect Lovett's heretofore cult-gathering artistry. It's not inconceivable that Lovett's music could take a turn for the popular: Some of the half-dozen or so new, unrecorded songs he unveiled as part of his generous 25-song set indicated a slight shift to a more accessible brand of songwriting, including at least one uncharacteristic straight-out love song and a couple of lighthearted ditties about Texas pride and hat-owner protectiveness.

But, basically, Lovett is and probably always will be a great miniaturist, including in his narratives the kind of off-center details that most hit songwriters would certainly leave out. These intriguing miniatures find their maximalist glory, if you will, in the wide-ranging, genre-jumping arrangements of his accurately monikered Large Band, which delivers country, folk, R&B;, gospel, pop, jazz and big-band sounds with such seamless, joyful, alchemic precision that virtually no potential American listener of any stripe is left excluded.

Fellow country-star-gone-universal Rosanne Cash opened with an hour of mostly her more recent confessional material. These introspective tunes were rightfully, respectfully well-received, although her revelations would surely benefit from Cash's putting together a more colorful band, one even a fourth as spicy as Lovett's.

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