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Just like old times as Lovett, Keen play Bass Hall

Posted 11:24pm on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013

Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen have built sturdy careers out of the honest Texas music the two singer-songwriters crafted as students in College Station in the late 1970s.

Keen's modest house in College Station sheltered Lovett and a host of fellow musicians back then, but now it takes a place the size of Bass Hall to hold the magic they've created. along with all their fans who will gladly hang out anywhere to hear them perform.

On Sunday night, it was back to "the fundamentals," as Lovett and Keen joked throughout their two-hour-plus acoustic set: just the two guys, four guitars, and a sellout audience.

Although it opened in 1998, more than a decade after both Lovett and Keen had become Texas-music favorites to national audiences, Bass has played host to Keen nine times since 2003, and Lovett has played there -- wait for it -- 23 times since 2001.

The show was billed as the Hall's 15th anniversary celebration.

Fans laughed at some of the pair's jokes and reminiscences, sung along to Keen's Merry Christmas to the Fam-o-lee, and quietly soaked up every guitar chord and lyric as though they were Shakespeare.

The music began amiably, with Keen's Feeling Good Again and Lovett's story of how the two met in 1978.

"He was singing on his front porch," Lovett said. "He made you feel like you could just move right in with him, without even asking."

Keen benefited, too.

"Lyle taught me the music of Townes Van Zandt , and he taught me this particular finger-picking pattern I've used for the last 30 years," he said.

Most of Keen's tunes were familiar fare, while many of Lovett's acoustic offerings were less frequently heard by those who are most familiar with his Large Band repertoire.

Keen's Gringo Honeymoon, Corpus Christi Bay and Coming Home to You were among his hits.

Lovett performed a couple of songs with the visual accompaniment of Texas Ballet Theater dancers Carolyn Judson and Lucas Priolo, just as they had in November.

The Waltzing Fool was nice, but She's No Lady was even better.

Lovett's Lights of L.A. County, She Already Made Up Her Mind and his version of Guy Clark's Step Inside This House were imbued with the quiet, almost unsettling intensity that makes his acoustic work so appealing.

They performed This Old Front Porch late in the show, trading the verses each had contributed to the defiant anthem and mocking, once again, those who "said they'd never get back up."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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