Lyle Lovett and his large band take over the Smith Center stage

Photo: Bill Hughes

Three and a half stars

Lyle Lovett July 25, Smith Center.

“It feels like a family reunion combined with summer camp,” Lyle Lovett said of his latest tour with the group he’s dubbed his Large Band, and Lovett’s two-and-a-half-hour show at the Smith Center on Saturday showed how comfortable he is with his musical family members, some of whom he’s played with for more than 30 years. The show opened with the 13-member Large Band running through instrumental “The Blues Walk,” before backup singer Francine Reed strutted up the aisle of Reynolds Hall to sing blues standard “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues.” Lovett finally took the stage a good 10 minutes into the show, and he remained a capable ringleader throughout the evening.

He was also the strongest performer in a band bursting with talent, and while his generosity in showcasing his band members (including solo numbers for fiddle player Luke Bulla and guitarist Keith Sewell) was admirable, it took focus away from what the audience came to see. When Lovett focused on his own songs and his own performance, the show was excellent, especially when the Large Band became a little smaller for a mid-set stretch of pure country, including Lovett favorites “North Dakota,” “If I Had a Boat” and “L.A. County.”

The full band had a jazzier vibe, complete with several extended instrumental jams, and Lovett kept the evening moving with jokes and stories ranging from a bus breakdown earlier that day to memories of car trips with his parents. If this was a family reunion, Lovett was happy to include the entire audience as part of the family

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