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Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett’s informal Reno get-together

Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

Country stars Lyle Lovett, left, and Vince Gill swap “Songs and Stories” at the Silver Legacy.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett

Throughout the show, it was two country legends taking turns playing their songs and telling some stories and making jokes.

The Silver Legacy in Reno brought Lyle Lovett and Vince Gill to the Reno Ballroom Saturday , March 25, 2017, for an informal night of “Songs and Stories,” a tour they’ve collaborated on for three years.

The two of them have been working together since 1987 when Lyle asked Vince to sing background vocals on his second album, “Pontiac.” They have been friends ever since and continue to work together.

It started like this: Lovett opened the night with his hit “I’ve Been To Memphis.” Then he “turned the show over to Vince,” who played his hit “One More Last Chance,” inspired by the late, great George Jones. Lovett noted that he had once played with George Jones in 1986 and Gill asked, “Did he show up?”

This reminded me of a show I attended in 1993, shortly after Lovett married Julia Roberts. It opened with the seemingly silhouetted beauty of Julia coming to center stage to introduce Lyle Lovett and his Large Band.  But it turned out to be a bearded roadie in a dress who delivered the intro.

On this night, for the most part, Lovett and Gill just took turns singing and playing. They played together on a handful of songs, but mostly one crossed his arms on his guitar and watching while the other played. One tune that I found to be a highlight, which they played together, was Lovett’s song of lost love, “She’s Already Made up Her Mind.” Gill played both lead guitar and some beautiful backup.

Both are fantastic songwriters, guitar players and singers. Their voices are as different as silk and gravel. Both of them hit every note, every time. Gill’s voice was as smooth as glass all night and Lovett has that coarse, strained tonality that sounds like heartache from the depths of his soul. Put them together and you have the best of both worlds. This was a guitar pickers’ paradise. These two are among the best at their craft — every note rang true and crystal clear.

I found it odd that most of the time they took turns playing, but it worked. It was like a living room concert. A big living room. There was no set list. They pulled out songs that you could tell were just a response to the story that was just told. They also took requests shouted from the audience.

They wrapped up the body of the show with Gill’s “Liza Jane.” After a brief break, they came back for the encore with Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat,” and finished with Gill’s “This Old Guitar And Me.” As concerts go, this was as easy going and relaxing of a show that I’ve ever attended.

-Nick McCabe

Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage

Vince Gill

Photographer’s notebook: There wasn’t a whole lot to shoot, it was just the two sitting on chairs with a half a dozen guitars each.  One would sing and play while the other accompanied.  Lovett joked that his “band” was much better than Gill’s band.

They literally sat around, told stories and improvised the show, while also playing a couple of songs that were just yelled out by the crowd.  The emotions were so high that someone shouted that it brought tears to their eyes, to which Gill replied, “My grandmother told me that when your eyes leak it will keep your head from swelling.”  The stories and history these two have experienced are beyond compare.

Lovett brought the bold vocals to the stage, while Gill clearly is a master at the guitar. The songwriting. Between the two is second to none, except maybe to each other.  I truly feel like I know them both after sitting with them for the two-hour, nonstop show. What a special experience for all those who attended.

-Larry Sabo

  • THE BAND
    Lyle Lovett – guitars, vocals, stories
    Vince Gill – guitars, vocals, storie
  • SET LIST
    Bunch of Lovett
    Bunch of Gill
    Little bits of both Lovett and Gill

About Nick McCabe

Nick McCabe is a musician, photographer and writer from Carson City, Nevada. He is the editor of the music website Front Row Photo

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