Lyle Lovett may have been late in coming. He's never played here before despite more than twenty years of albums of genre-transcending, lateral-minded country that has set him apart from the stetson-wearing mainstream.

But for much of this show the feeling wasn't that he was playing a catch-up with his local fanclub, but that the comedy festival had started early.

The Texan's droll between-song humour had plenty of a bit of Prairie Home Companion-styled old world charm about it.

Well that's when he wasn't contemplating why some bluegrass groups just didn't endure - too much close singing around one microphone just made the good ol boys uncomfortable ("Makes you wonder about the ones who lasted").

But while his pokerfaced chats showed why he's had a sideline acting career (which led to a brief marriage to a very famous movie star), his songs were the stars of a captivating two-hour performance. One which stretched all the way back to his 1986 first single Farther Down the Line through to some of the few self-penned tracks on his 2009 album Natural Forces.

Throughout as the styles shifted effortlessly and harmoniously through bluegrass, blues, gospel, folk, Texas swing, Lovett's "Acoustic Band" - the quintet of percussionist, double bassist (Viktor Krauss, brother of Alison), a guitar-mandolin player, cello and fiddle - offered sympathetic and quietly spectacular backing.

It made for a sound of both twang-power and texture, especially on the brooding tumbleweed-gothic of I Will Rise Up which was an early highlight, through to the encore of southern prison song Ain't No More Cane with its tag-team vocals.

Lovett's voice, so deadpan when talking, was rich and melancholy, often a wonder of tongue-tripping phrasing, especially on the soul-shaped opener Here I Am.

That started a run of songs marked both by beautifully economical storytelling, and a line in acerbic observations about relationships gone bad - " this song is about the same girl that last song was about ... it's meaner actually" he quipped before one, while also dusting off his cause-for-divorce anthems She's No Lady (That's My Wife) and My Baby Don't Tolerate.

Add the likes of his surreal hit ballad If I Had a Boat, the satirical gospel stomp of Church and his swingin' ode to the Lone Star State That's Right (You're Not from Texas) and it made for a very special night.

An evening with a man who might have started out as a maverick but has become an enduring American classic.

In support, Aussie country star Kasey Chambers and her backers , guitar playing husband Shane Nicholson and father Dad Bill Chambers, started off somewhere Tamworth-traditional but got more interesting along the way with the earthy songs off their Rattlin' Bones album.