Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

It was like the two legendary troubadours were just passing through little ol’ Henderson, Nevada, and decided to put on a show for the neighborhood, if anybody’d be interested in coming. They’d brought a couple of amps and acoustic guitars. Green Valley Ranch had a ballroom and a bunch of chairs. What else was necessary?

Nothing, to most people in the intimate Grand Events Center on June 4, because if they bought tickets to An Acoustic Evening With Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt, they got an entertaining two-hour Sunday drive around the block of life with a couple of guys who obviously still enjoy the ride themselves.

The format was essentially this: laid-back conversation between the wry, deadpan Texan (Lovett) and genuine, introspective Indianan (Hiatt) about their decades of illustrious songwriting and the experiences that shaped it, followed by the songs themselves, performed by one while the other sat and watched (for the most part). This austere, impromptu approach worked all the way through, mostly because no matter how rewarding the dialogue (it was often mere banter), they couldn’t lose with such an arsenal of music to draw from. Armed otherwise with only their passionate guitar play and distinctive voices, the two swept through the landscape of emotions, from Lovett’s humorous irreverence (“If I Had a Boat,” “She’s No Lady”) to Hiatt’s heart-wrenching best (“Cry Love,” “Feels Like Rain”).

In the end, it was as close to a spiritual experience as you can have in a casino, except for the frequent reminders that you were in a casino—comped slot-clubbers coming in for only part of the show, dumb smartphone users (can you really lose that thing three times in one show, lady?), etc. So, the front-porch pace was not for everyone in Vegas, which is why alt-country/Americana types seldom tour these parts.

But Lovett and Hiatt, as befit the humble tone of the evening, frequently expressed how glad they were to be here. Maybe every act says that when they come through town, but in this case it showed.

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He’s won every major award in country music, but Tim McGraw wants more. “I’m only about 30 percent as good as I want to get in music,” the 44-year-old says. In an effort to expand his artistic boundaries, McGraw has released a crossover hit with Nelly (“Over and Over”), co-wrote a single for Def Leppard (“Nine Lives”) and hopes to work with Bruce Springsteen one day. The self-described “Blue Dog Democrat” has also hinted at running for governor of Tennessee one day, but he’s not sure why.



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