The thunderstorm blew past Wolf Trap exactly on time Wednesday night, leaving behind, as if on cue, a perfect rainbow arching over Filene Center right at showtime.
The timing was an omen of the charmed life of Lyle Lovett, and it portended good things as the 47-year old Texan led his 17-piece Large Band through his hybrid of pop, Americana and gospel. The evening was alternately rousing and relaxing, and while the show was as entertaining as expected -- and, at 21/2 hours, quite a value -- there's a complacency in Lovett's repertoire and performance that is wearing thin.
The only surprise of the performance was the arrival onstage from the back of the audience of R&B veterans Sweet Pea Atkinson and Harry Bolton belting out Was (Not Was)'s funk-dance number "Walk the Dinosaur" (Atkinson was the original singer on the 1980s hit).
The set, as usual, was bookended by brassy up-tempo numbers -- "Here I Am," "My Baby Don't Tolerate," "Cute as a Bug," "M-O-N-E-Y," "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)" -- with quieter, introspective songs in the middle. Lovett has the singular skill to turn an enormous venue into an intimate one, as he drew even the most distant Wolf Trap audience member into his space on "You Were Always There" and "Nobody Knows Me."
When it was over, with the Muscle Shoals Horns and the gospel chorus ringing into the night, Lovett's fans rejoiced at yet another note-perfect performance. Others who respect his talent and have been following him since his days as a country music rebel were disappointed at something that felt like resting on artistic laurels.
-- Buzz McClain