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Paul Mann: Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt Perform Night of Classic American Music at UCSB

Indie music performers Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt brought a night of classic American folksy pop songs to a completely packed house at UCSB's Campbell Hall on Nov. 12.

The venue was a fitting setting for the extended performance, which featured a witty diatribe and humor-drenched banter between the two masterful songwriters that incorporated a living history lesson about modern American folk music.

The two singer-guitarists sat across from each other on the stage, trading songs and sarcastic jabs veiled in long and often humorous anecdotes about the origins of their songs.

According to Lovett, the two had been performing together in the same relaxed setting as far back as 1989. Lovett, originally from Houston, and Hiatt, an Indiana native, have spent considerable time together in the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world — Austin, Texas. It is there that they have collaborated not only with each other but countless other American pop stars.

While Lovett's roots most closely resemble modern American country music, he has incorporated nearly every other major indigenous pop music genre into his prolific work over the years. Hiatt, on the other hand comes from a more blues-oriented folk music background, but has also evolved over the decades incorporating the same scope of pop styles from the American musical landscape.

Together they tell a powerful story about modern American music history in a fascinating and entertaining way. If there wasn't enough musical genius to go around, the momentous concert also featured a guest performance by Grammy-winning indie country performer Ryan Bingham. The young singer played several songs, to the delight of the riveted crowd.

Then Lovett and Hiatt returned to their set of alternate songs, ultimately playing for nearly 2½ hours, as the audience sat ensconced in their seats. Surprisingly, nearly the entire audience remained in the venue, standing lockstep, demanding an encore after the marathon set. The two prodigious performers obliged, returning to the stage, along with Bingham. The trio played several more songs before bringing the nearly three-hour concert to a close.

If only all the history lessons at UCSB could be such a fun and inspiring to experience.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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