Kindred alt-country crooners Lyle Lovett and k.d. lang both emerged on the country music scene as genre-bending mavericks. Both are gifted with captivating voices and a quirky wit. Each has garnered four Grammys. And both mesmerized the crowd beneath a dusting of ash and a mandarin moonrise at the Bowl last Saturday night.
Admiring the locale, lang stated, “A good venue is a jewel to have in your city.” Backed by a tight four-piece ensemble, the barefoot songstress sustained flawless, pitch-perfect notes for seemingly impossible stretches of time on “Still Thrives This Love,” previewed her forthcoming album with the melancholy “Cold Dark Places,” and lent her honeyed tones to a spellbinding rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
When the sound equipment blew during a languorous rendition of “Wash Me Clean,” lang didn’t miss a beat. While those seated in back grew restless, fans on the floor were treated to an unamplified serenade as her powerful, intoxicating voice washed over them. Her encore celebrated her country roots with “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” replete with playful polka dancing, and a smoldering rendition of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” that surpassed even Patsy Cline herself.
After lang’s fervent standing ovation, Lovett’s 17-piece Large Band took the stage. Lovett incorporated an eclectic array of genres, from country to swing and honky-tonk to gospel, into his set. A performer of unfaltering graciousness, Lovett spoke admiringly of lang and lavished deserved praise on his musicians. Although he sang several new tunes, such as the gospel-tinged “I Will Rise Up” and the boisterous “Make It Happy,” Lovett never touted his upcoming album, instead covering songs from and promoting bassist Viktor Krauss’s current release. In characteristic deadpan banter, he referred to bluegrass as the “dark side of country music,” performing the cheeky “Keep It in Your Pantry” and the rollicking “Up in Indiana.” He offered up such old favorites as the bluesy “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” “She’s No Lady,” and “That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas).”
No, we’re not. But we know when we have a jewel in our city, and a captivating doubleheader of two of music’s most distinctive voices definitely qualifies.