Music News & Reviews

Lovett and Keen team up again for an evening of (mostly) acoustic music

Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett will bring their tour to the Gallo Center on Feb. 11.
Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett will bring their tour to the Gallo Center on Feb. 11. Submitted by Gallo Center for the Arts

Lyle Lovett met Robert Earl Keen when they were both students at Texas A&M University. They lived about a block away from each other in rental houses and Lovett heard Keen and a friend jamming on a front porch. He paused his bicycle ride to listen and it wasn’t long before he helped Keen write “This Old Porch,” which Keen recorded for his solo debut album, “No Kinda Dancer.” Lovett’s own version showed up later on his own self-titled debut album.

The two have performed together occasionally since then, according to Keen, “starting with a basement coffee house, Methodist church spaghetti suppers, places like that.”

The two are re-teaming for “An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen” (“well, as acoustic as we can get,” says Keen) at Harrah’s Tahoe on Saturday evening. It’s part of an extensive tour with 19 stops around the West, including one just-ended two-night engagement in Las Vegas where they opened for George Strait.

“Yeah, back on the road,” said Keen just before embarking to Tacoma for the first concert. “The travel is what is bad. The shows are fun. Lyle and I sit on the stage and play and tell stories. I could do the shows for free I love doing them so much, and Lyle loves the whole process. We’ve also got a big band so it’s all like a circus on wheels.

“I don’t write music on the road very well, though. I just don’t get that much input from the road. I prefer full solitude.”

Keen studied English during those early years at A&M, a pursuit that undoubtedly contributed not only to his compositions musically but also to his talent in telling stories, a feature of his performances that his fans look forward to and that newcomers are often surprised to discover. As good as most of his recordings are, probably the best are the six live-performance albums he’s released.

When asked for a contemporary story he might tell this go-round, he responds: “Right now I don’t have a particular story in mind. Right now, all I can tell you is I’m driving home from Fort Worth where I went to pick up a horse. I spent five hours trying to get him into a truck. I finally gave up. The horse won. So, I’ll got back home, get my stuff and head out on another tour.” (7:30 p.m.; $86.50; Ticketmaster)

Meanwhile, Harrah’s and Harveys have just announced two more major concerts for this summer’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Summer Concert Series, both of them country: Kenny Chesney, joined by Old Dominion on July 3 ($69.59-$149.50); and this year’s big Grammy winner Chris Stapleton, who will bring Marty Stuart and Brent Cobb along on July 26. ($69.50-$149.50; Ticketmaster or apeconcerts.com)

In today’s political atmosphere, more and more entertainers are speaking out from both sides of the spectrum, even though doing so almost always means a loss of part of their audience. Dennis Miller was a regular contributor on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel until O’Reilly’s recent fall (they even toured together) so it’s pretty easy to guess where most of his audience will stand. He’s on the road Saturday at the Silver Legacy in Reno. (8 p.m.; $45-$55; silverlegacy.com).

Finally, Carlos Mencia, still most remembered for “The Mind of Mencia” on Comedy Central, plays Thunder Valley on Friday night. ($42.95-$54.95; thundervalleyresort.com).

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