Dwight Yoakam at Arena Theatre, 12/20/2013

Photo by Jay Lee
Dwight Yoakam the last time we were approved to shoot him at the Arena -- July 2011
Dwight Yoakam
Arena Theatre
December 20, 2013

An odd thing occurred at the Dwight Yoakam show at Arena Theatre Friday night: the cast of Federico Fellini's epic remake of Urban Cowboy showed up to party. Rhinestones, Jack and Coke, and all.

While Yoakam and his band of musical throat-cutters ran through a 30-song set list with all the abandon of pirates sacking a town full of vestal virgins, a crowd mainly consisting of people who looked like they did their dancing at Gilley's three decades ago got drunk and fairly rowdy, although as best we could determine from where we were sitting no one threw panties on the stage -- or disrobed (thank God!).

Yoakam himself was splendid and all-business as he led his band of sequined marauders through their paces with military precision. In fact, the usually loquacious Yoakam barely talked at all during his two-hour pressure-cooker set, only bothering to introduce one song all night, the title track from his most recent album 3 Pears.

Photo by William Michael Smith
Dwight's crowd Friday night
But he left no doubt as to his influences and versatility as he subtly inserted Buck Owens' "Buckaroo" as an instrumental bridge to "Act Naturally" (which Owens also covered during his career) before offering a paint-peeling, super-revved-up version of Elvis's classic "Little Sister" within the first 15 minutes of the show.

Call Yoakam honky-tonk or country all you want -- or need to -- but when the lights come up his band rocks harder than most. In fact, only a handful of songs he dropped during his set -- "1,000 Miles From Nowhere," "Streets of Bakersfield," "I Sang Dixie," "This Time," "Close Up the Honky Tonks," and a couple others -- could be called country. Yoakam's versions of Johnny Horton's classic "Honky Tonk Man" or "Little Ways" have as much rockabilly swagger and stomp-your-butt attitude as Sleepy LaBeef.

But try as one might to just listen to Yoakam and his aces do their thing, the scene kept insisting to be noticed. Along the way it got mildly amusing, like when the fortysomething cowpoke all in black with his felt bullrider hat leaned over and asked, "Isn't this the song where he shakes his butt? Not that I'm gay for him or anything."

Well, then.

Review continues on the next page

Location Info


Arena Theatre

7326 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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MadMac topcommenter

This reads fantastic. I read a review of an early show--'88 or so--where Mr. Yoakam staggered onto the stag mumbled through one song and face planted. It's nice to read a review of a working band that works to give the audience their money's worth. Good stuff, Mr. Smith. 

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