Dwight Yoakam at Arena Theatre, 12/20/2013
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.
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.
Photo by William Michael Smith Dwight's crowd Friday night
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."
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