Lyle Lovett at Kentucky Center for the Arts

By Allen Howie

I have a theory that the world is really divided into two basic groups: those who never understood why Julia Roberts married Lyle Lovett and the rest of us who couldn't figure out what a guy as smart, funny and talented as Lyle ever saw in Julia. It was an enthusiastic gathering of the latter group that filled Whitney Hall for Lyle Lovett's August 2 show.

Accompanied by a splendid band, Lyle delivered a wonderful performance that drew as much from his debut album as from his newest, I Love Everybody. Where most singers start with a fast number to get things rolling, Lovett eased into a spooky "Pontiac," then swung into a jaunty big band tune and the jaunty "Penguins."

The set list was an accurate reflection of the eclectic appeal of Lyle's individual albums. The gospel-flavored jazz of "Since the Last Time" slipped into the giddy "What I Don't Know," the country bounce of "Record Lady" and the delightful abstraction of "La to the Left," laced with some especially sweet fiddle.

Lyle's backup singers — Arnold McCuller, whose superb solo set opened the show; Sir Harry Bowens and Sweet Pea Atkinson of Was (Not Was) and Bonnie Raitt fame; and Willie Green, Jr. — were a show all their own, appearing to have as much fun as anyone in the audience.

The bluesy shuffle of the new "Goodbye to Carolina" and the gallop of "Cowboy" gave way to the Texas swing of "That's Right (You're Not from Texas)" and — I'm not making this up — a completely straight performance of "Long Tall Texan."

Add in another fourteen glorious tunes, plus the double encore of "Closing Time" and the merry masochism of "She Makes Me Feel Good," all performed with a band for whom these songs seemed to have been written and you have one of the most satisfying performances to hit Louisville – well, "since the last time" Lyle was here.