021106 Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt/Joe Ely/Guy Clark, Ottawa, ON

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On February 11th, 2006 I had the seemingly unique opportunity of experiencing a deceptively intimate performance by one of my favourite songwriters, and it was truly enthralling.  

At the time I had a songwriter crush on Lyle Lovett.  I would see the man play any chance I got and when I did I would sit on the edge of my seat and hang on every word – both the lyrics to his songs and his dry, brilliantly articulated song introductions.  It was an affair that started in this exact venue a few years before; it had been my first exposure to the man and I was instantly drawn to both the songs and the astounding musicians he surrounded himself with.  Plus he has a voice like a male k.d. lang.  

While the big room in the National Arts Centre is always a good, comfortable place to see a show I would generally not consider it an “intimate” venue, but when the concert is an acoustic song-circle and your seat is in the fourth row it almost feels like you’re just watching four people jam in someones living room.  And though I wanted nothing more than one Lyle song after another I’ve got to admit the other guys weren’t hacks.  John Hiatt, Joe Ely, and the late Guy Clark did an admirable job of holding their own as the songsters bounced their masterpieces off of one another, but my bias towards Lovett’s brilliance was easily confirmed.  The curly-coifed cynic had the cozy crowd eating out of his strumming hand, making us laugh out loud with one line before the next lyric would silence us in poignant reverie.  

And it really was like being a fly on the wall at a private rehearsal.  With the crowd behind me dissolving into my own laughter and silent awe and only about a dozen feet of air between my eyes and the performers my memory tricks me into conjuring up images of watching four men play in a small, empty room.  And while I know it’s a deception, I’m happy to swallow the blue pill on this one and imagine that I was lucky enough to witness Lyle and his songwriting buddies play a private little show.  

I guess I’m just a blue pill kind of guy.  Is any of this actually happening?

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