Dwight Yoakam Was the Eternal Honky-Tonk Man at Arena Theatre

Other than a few dozen new songs, not much has changed about Dwight Yoakam -- whose management has taken to not approving photography of his concerts -- since 1986.
Other than a few dozen new songs, not much has changed about Dwight Yoakam -- whose management has taken to not approving photography of his concerts -- since 1986.

Dwight Yoakam Arena Theatre November 28, 2014

Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc. was released in 1986, and other than his catalog expanding, not much has changed about Dwight Yoakam. He has been one of country music's most consistent performers, who gives equally consistent performances. If you have ever seen one of his concerts, it is highly likely that you did not walk away disappointed.

Last Friday night, the Arena Theatre looked like Gilley's back in the day, packed with pearl-snap shirts, boots, tight-fittin' jeans, large belt buckles and tall cowboy hats. Or it could have been the inside of a large tent at the rodeo cookoff. Groupon specials helped bring in fans on the unofficial day-after-Thanksgiving holiday, but it still wasn't quite enough to sell out the venue as several rows in each section sat vacant.

The rotating stage appeared to be set up exactly the same as it was during the past several stops by Dwight and his band in our fine city. A few minutes before show time the stagehands unraveled about a dozen several set lists protected in plastic covers, locating the correct one and affixing them to the floor.

The show was very loud, leading to quite a bit of distortion and feedback that sounded more like a Sonic Youth concert. A significant amount of people got up and walked out about four songs in, a real surprise considering the cost of tickets. The sound quality was superb during some of the more quiet ballads, but these instances were few and far between.

Dwight at at the Arena in November 2009
Dwight at at the Arena in November 2009
Photo by Jason Wolter

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Yoakam came out in his familiar tight jeans, denim jacket, pressed button-up collared shirt (shirttail out), boots and signature cowboy hat. His band was dressed in seemingly diamond-studded jackets so blinding they only rivaled Paul Wall's grill. The crowd was pumped and excited as he started to sing., but the first few songs seemed to be a bit subdued.

Yoakam and his crew had much more excitement in store, though, peppering in a couple of new songs from most recent album 3 Pears with the big hits. Once he tuned his guitar for "Honky Tonk Man" and started those first few chords, the ladies were dancing the rest of the night. It started a string of his biggest songs that continued through the encore until security ushered everyone out.

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Consistency is not necessarily a bad thing from one concert to the next, but at a minimum the jokes must be mixed up. During "Streets of Bakersfield," Yoakam stopped the band at the part where he talks about being thrown in the San Francisco jail, and said he has been coming to Texas long enough to be able to change the lyrics to say he spent time in our jail. I can't speak from experience, but my friends have told me that the Harris County Jail can be a quite memorable visit, so maybe this was the reason for the repeat joke.

The large man in front of me wore a tall 10-gallon hat that led to watching some of the show on the white ring above the stage that served as a screen. The fuzzy quality and blown-out colors were reminiscent of old American Bandstand episodes being broadcast on Channel 39 prior to the current digital/NewsFix days.

During "Little Sister," a Peggy Hill lookalike who appeared to be in her mid-seventies walked up to the stage and threw a pair of red panties at Dwight. He didn't seem to see her do it, so in accord with perfect attention-seeking behavior she returned a few moments later to toss a magenta pair of drawers at the crooner. Still no reaction. This got me wondering if Dwight doesn't like panties or just doesn't much like older versions of Peggy Hill.

During the encore, she returned once more, this time with a black pair of bloomers and made sure Yoakam saw her by twirling them above her head for some time before launching them onstage. He inadvertently gave her the reinforcement she wanted by shaking his head back and forth with a wide smile. Expect to see more of her next year.

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Arena Theatre

7326 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77036

713-988-1020

www.arenahouston.com


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