Dwight Yoakam Arena Theatre July 8, 2011
Aftermath has never considered Dwight Yoakam a country artist in the general sense of the term, the way most people define country artists. In our mind, he simply rocks too hard to be lumped in with people like George Strait or Alan Jackson. He's more like Social Distortion or Bruce Springsteen - artists who incorporate some twang into their sound, but are firm believers in the gospel of rock and roll.
Yoakam has been what bean counters and genre nitpickers would call a country neotraditionalist, worshiping at the altar of Buck Owens and Elvis Presley, but also giving thanks for the hooks and pop prowess of the likes of Queen, Cheap Trick and The Clash.
But for this guy here, we see no difference between Yoakam's This Time or Hillbilly Deluxe and something like London Calling and Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. They are all populated by the same jilted losers and playboys.
Friday night, Yoakam laid waste to the Arena Theatre crowd for two hours and nearly 30 songs, barely spending any time on small talk. It was everything Aftermath wanted from our first Yoakam concert, chock-full of hits and covers.
He's also one of the few artists we don't have to scrounge up a set list online as a guide, since we knew most every song within the first ten seconds, even at the venue's ball-busting volumes. We usually hear them at that level in our car most every week, so it wasn't anything we couldn't handle.
Yoakam and his band gave no quarter, revving up the cougars and MILFs in the crowd, who are still brought to their Pilates-toned knees but the man's trademark painted-on jeans and customary cowboy head-cover. The only thing their men in the crowd could do was hold their purses and hope for a physical release of their pent-up, base frustration later in the evening as their dates/significant others went into hysterics every time Dwight swiveled his hips.
Early on Yoakam and his band cracked into the standard Buck Owens cuts, just as he did at his November 2009 Arena gig. Since Owens has died, Yoakam's role in keeping the California country crooner's legacy alive has only grown larger. Each time he covers any Owens compositions, he's really saying a prayer to the man for all of us.
At the halfway mark, Yoakam went into berserker mode, pulling out every fist-pumping ass-shaker in his bag, beginning with "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose," with the band playing harder and louder than they did at the start of the night.
"Fast As You" and set closer "Long White Cadillac" rumbled and throttled the crowd like any - dear God, are we about to say this? - Motorhead show we have seen. We saw Houston Police officers inch up closer to the revolving stage to get in between Yoakam and his adoring females. Or maybe they too just wanted to get a better look at what a 54-year-old having the time of his life looks like.
The liveliness and ease we saw from Yoakam on Friday night all bodes extremely well for his upcoming return to Warner Bros., which according to a Los Angeles Times blog, is in the works with a new-blood producer pitching in and Beck Hansen (of all people) involved. A new album is due in 2012, according to the report.
If the energy we saw and felt on Friday night is any indication of the things to come, Yoakam is about to get really fun, really weird and really in the red in the next year.
Personal Bias: The last, and only, disc that our late Grandfather Hlavaty (who will have been gone three years this month) ever burned for us with his computer was a Yoakam greatest-hits collection he made. It's cherished more than we can intimate here. The dude liked good music.
The Crowd: Like we said, loads of cougars and men there to wrangle them in from ripping their own clothes off in front of Yoakam. A small contingent of Houston rockers was also there, but overall it was just a few clicks over from being a Firehouse Saloon crowd.
Overheard In the Crowd: We lucked out twice in almost as many days, with two quiet crowds in a row. Yoakam's set was simply so loud and full of hits that he left no space for anyone to talk in their seats.
Random Notebook Dump: Damn, did we really compare the loudness of Yoakam to a Motorhead show? There is no turning back now. Is there something we have to sign somewhere? Do we need to turn in all of our Motorhead gear? We are officially going off the rails on a crazy train, and we like it.
Please, Please Baby Under Your Spell Again (Buck Owens) Act Naturally (Buck Owens) Streets of Bakersfield (Dwight & Buck Owens) Blame the Vain Three Good Reasons What Do You Know About Love Close Up The Honky Tonks (Buck Owens) Little Sister (Elvis) If There Was a Way Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose Things Change This Time Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash) Only Want You More Nothing's Changed Here Pocket of a Clown Honky Tonk Man A Thousand Miles From Nowhere I Sang Dixie This Drinkin' Will Kill Me It Won't Hurt It Only Hurts When I Cry Little Ways Guitars, Cadillacs Fast As You
The Heart That You Own Since I Started Drinkin' Again Long White Cadillac