Being at home in the US this week has allowed me the time and quick internet to catch up on all my favorite blogs. And to realize how little I've been posting lately. Need to be better about this. I've posted a couple things already (not Cairo yet, it's still hanging over my head...) but want to get caught up from last weekend.
One of the things I miss most about being in KSA is the lack of cultural outlets. No movie theaters, concerts, theater, etc., unless we put it on. I think there are some underground-ish venues and performances, but it's not quite the scale I was used to in DC. Or even in NH, where I live near Dartmouth and have access to all the great artists who come to Hanover. Last year in DC I went to see LOTS of musicals, concerts, sporting events, and various shows, including some of my favorite performing artists. So there's some cultural shock this year. Pun intended. So when I knew I was coming home, I made a short list in my head of who I wanted to see and started researching shows. Dartmouth wasn't featuring anything I'm dying to see, nor were the local opera houses. And none of my favorite bands would be nearby. So I started thinking. If I could see anyone, who would it be. And the answer was easy. Very easy.
Most people aren't too familiar with Lyle Lovett, except perhaps his slightly wild hair and slightly wilder marriage to Julia Roberts. They know of him, but they don't know his work. Which is a shame. Because Lyle Lovett is one of the most talented songwriters and singers of all time. His lyrics are pure genius, his genres diverse, and he's a fabulous entertainer. I grew up listening to Lyle Lovett, and, even now, he's one of the few artists my brothers and parents and I will ALL listen to without complaints. I have all his albums and follow his career closely. I started going to see him in college and do so as often as I can. Which is easy when I'm in the US since he tours much of the year. I last saw him in November 09 in DC, right after his latest album came out. Even if you're a skeptic, go see Lyle Lovett and His Large Band in concert. This touring group usually has 10-15 members, on all types of instruments and vocals. Some have been recording and touring with him for decades, and some are newer. But they're all phenomenal musicians and/or singers. Without exception. LL has a way of arranging his songs to best fit the musicians/vocalists he has with him, and his repertoire is large and diverse enough to accommodate this. As a result, every concert is phenomenal. Hands down. Not to mention he's got a fantastic, dry sense of humor and amazing stage presence. He has a way of making a large concert hall seem like an intimate venue. His narrative and conversations with the audience throughout his shows keep people coming back year after year.
Enough gushing. So I looked on his website, and, sure enough, he was touring. But nowhere near NH while I'd be home. So I started thinking about traveling to see him. And then I started thinking of taking someone with me. And then I remembered my mother's birthday was coming up. So I started appraising his concert venues for their ease/cost of getting to and from. One venue won because he was performing in the same place two nights in a row. Near an easily-accessible airport. And that's how I chose Fort Worth, TX. I had my mom take a day off from work before I told her why and asked my dad if he wanted to come too. He said no, because it involved flying. Which he doesn't do. But Mom was game, as usual. She and I like crazy travel adventures on a whim. So I booked the concert tickets. And the flight. And the hotel. And the rental car. And started getting really excited and exclusively listening to Lyle on my iPod, as I do before every concert. Another bonus? This would be my first trip to Texas. A travesty, I know.
So I got home last Wednesday night. Mom and I left early Saturday morning. Very early. Especially for her, since she and my dad had gone to see a concert the night before, and she only ended up with two hours of sleep. I slept on the 3 hour bus ride to Boston. She watched the movie. We both slept on the two flights. We landed at DFW, got our rental car, eventually found our hotel (who knew there were two Hyatt Places within a mile of each other!?), and rested briefly. We drove in early to Fort Worth and parked downtown with the intention of finding a place to eat. Which was more difficult than we imagined, since apparently November 13 in Fort Worth was a BUSY night. Between the concert and a film festival and something else, downtown was buzzing. And beautiful. We didn't mind walking around looking for a restaurant with a decent wait list. We settled on a nice Tex-Mex place and had a delicious dinner, including my second favorite enchiladas of all time. (But keep in mind my standards are pretty low/quirky; the first best are in Cape Town.)
One of the bonuses about this concert series (aside from being in Lyle's home state) is that the performance hall is phenomenal. The Bass Performance Hall in downtown Forth Worth is about 12 years old and considered one of the 10 best in the world. I can see why. Beautiful architecture, very inviting space, the hall itself is gorgeous, and the acoustics are amazing. I rate it highly.
Concert number 1 was phenomenal, for lack of a different word in this blog. I expected nothing less. I tapped my toes and my fingers and laughed and smiled the whole way through, as did Mom. I will spare you the details, because I could gush for paragraphs.
The next day we slept in and had breakfast at IHOP, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. We headed into Fort Worth and down to a top tourist attraction, the Fort Worth Stockyards. We had no expectations and were pleasantly surprised. Sure parts of it were touristy, but there was some authenticity as well (a live cattle auction!). And who doesn't like pretending to be a cowgirl for a day? The highlight of the day was the cattle drive. Twice a day cowboys and cowgirls drive the Fort Worth Herd of longhorns around the Stockyards. My only previous experience with a cattle drive was the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. There's no comparison. This 'drive' could more accurately be described as a saunter. Which was great, it gave me time to snap photos and video and enjoy the scene. But it was still slightly underwhelming.
A day of shopping and sightseeing complete, we drove back into town to find a restaurant. And drove and drove. Nothing sounded good. We checked a few menus but didn't find anything that struck our fancy. So finally we settled on a nice BBQ place where we could get a decent steak. We crossed the road, and just then my mother grabbed my arm and said, "Lyle Lovett," in an eerily calm and steady voice. I looked up, expecting to see a concert poster. Instead, right in front of me, was Lyle Lovett and his girlfriend April Kimble. O. M. G. I could have died. I was rendered speechless. They were in a bit of a hurry (to get to a private barbecue dinner I found out later), but he politely thanked my mother when she told him how much we enjoyed last night's concert and that we were coming back again tonight. And as he walked away I called after him, "we came all the way from New Hampshire just to see you!" He looked back, smiled, and doffed his hat. Ten gallon of course. And then they walked off into the sunset. Or into Sundance Square. Same thing. Wow. But wow. There's a fine balance of being star struck and wanting an autograph and photo and wanting to let the poor guy walk down the street without being accosted by crazy ladies. I think we stayed pretty centered, no matter how much we wanted to veer into crazy stalker fan.
Dinner was good (how can you go wrong with fried okra, filet, and pecan pie?), but I was just completely star struck. I started hoping for a shout out during the concert. He occasionally does that sort of thing. The concert was as amazing, if not better, than the first. The set was slightly different, including singing about 1/3 different songs. No shout out. But it was still positively awesome. Phenomenal even. And the fourteen hour travel day the next day was worth it too. (Fifty minute weather delay in Charlotte meant missing our bus in Boston by 5 minutes and having to wait an extra two hours.)
So the moral of this blog is, I love Lyle Lovett. And His Large Band. And I am going to make a tradition out of traveling someplace new every year or so to see one of his concerts. (My secret fantasy is to recruit him for a State Dept overseas tour... If anyone has any suggestions as to how to make this a reality, I'm all ears.) He is, in a word, phenomenal.