Lyle Lovett is one of those rare pop figures, a star in the old '40s sense of the word, someone who seems to have gotten his vaunted status by dint of just being different from you and me; smarter, weirder, hipper, prettier (is it merely coincidence that his (brief) movie-star wife was the same type, female variety?) and who is therefore the subject of a lot of interest that has nothing to do with his art.
Lovett fills the role perfectly, paying equal attention to distance and accessibility, blending the two to form a renaissance guy--actor and singer, country boy and city man--who doesn't make you feel guilty for your fascination with him. Weirdly coifed, stoic, and guarded, he might be mistaken for some maladaptive dork if only he lacked his facility for style: beautiful suits, wry cynicism, and sophisticated songwriting. Lovett might well have been the very first of the now-cool cocktail nation, except he doesn't appear to know--or more importantly, care--how his sense of irony, martini-glass deportment, and appreciation of big-band arrangements predicted the lounge revival.
More remarkable still is the way in which he blends the whole uptown shebang with his love of country music. (Say it: Lyle Lovett. Texas A&M graduate. Does it sound right? I didn't think so.). He is able to do "Stand By Your Man" without coming off like a smirking jerk, and never confuses pain and pathos. Perhaps The Road to Ensenada is more marching in place than progress, but the album's sense of style is worth a thousand Garths or Shanias any day. This, combined with the fact that his concerts are among any year's primo see-and-be-seen events for hipsters and music lovers, makes an evening with Lovett worth the effort. If he can invoke that sense of detached amusement and bring it across the expanse of Starplex, imagine what he can do within the confines of the Fair Park Music Hall. On second thought, don't imagine it--go see it, you fools.
Lyle Lovett plays the Fair Park Music Hall August 21.