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John Lamb, Published August 13 2011

Lamb: Lovett ‘don’t Tolerate’

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band’s Wednesday concert at Bluestem Center for the Arts was a nearly flawless two and a half hours of vibrant music – and 15 seconds of dread, for me.

I’d seen Lovett three previous times and always enjoyed his reserved banter, but this time, between the rousing spiritual “I Will Rise Up” and the bluesy stomp of “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” it got personal.

It was 30 minutes into the show’s set and the sun was still out. Lovett was impressed with the setting. He said he got to see things he didn’t normally see, like how terrific the crowd looked.

He also saw me standing in back writing in a notebook.

“He’s either our line coach taking notes or he’s reviewing the show,” Lovett said drolly. “Either way, it makes me nervous.”

Standing back by the production booth, I wished I was back at WE Fest, an unnoticeable speck in a crowd of more than 40,000 country music fans.

My friend Gina said she’d never seen me blush, but I insisted it was just the bright, evening sun.

I thought about yelling something witty, but all I could come up with was, “Read about it in tomorrow’s Forum or at www.inforum.com.”

So I kept quiet.

There’s an old saying, “Don’t pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel.” Earlier this summer I learned not to argue with a mic’d performer with 20-plus years of stage experience quelling hecklers.

The show was by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy at the Fargo Theatre, and when the crowd got too vocal, he wasted no time putting them in place.

“I’m picturing you as a big man,” he said to a fan who had yelled an expletive. “With a taste of homophobia and slight hint of racism, just among friends, behind closed doors.”

That shut the man up, but not another, who yelled something inaudible.

“I can profile you, too,” Tweedy started. “Forty, divorced twice, two grandchildren … oh, and you have glasses.”

You’d think the crowd got the message – just let Tweedy play. But a few songs later a female fan responded to a song about domesticity and relationships, resulting in a short, awkward give-and-take where the two sides did not see eye-to-eye.

“We could have this conversation for 15 minutes, but you should just keep playing,” the fan said.

Mock thanking her for giving him permission, Tweedy asked for her name, then introduced her to the crowd.

“Gina, everybody, she’s running the show tonight,” Tweedy said.

Yes, my friend Gina.

The musicians would go back to her throughout the night, asking if he could play more songs. When some in the crowd booed after Tweedy announced he had only a few songs left, he challenged them.

“Bring it on. I’ll take you all,” he said. “I’ve got Gina on my side.”

After 25 years of going to concerts, I realize no one is paying to hear the thoughts of me or another ticketholder. Besides, talking back to someone with a stage and a mic is a bad idea, but someone backed by more than a dozen musicians?

So when Lovett played “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” I got the message: Shut up and enjoy the show.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533