Thursday, September 29
When Dwight Yoakam played Snoqualmie Casino in June last year, my good friend and fellow Yoakam nerd Mark>"/>
When Dwight Yoakam played Snoqualmie Casino in June last year, my good friend and fellow Yoakam nerd Mark Allen jumped at the chance for us to go. But it wasn't going to work--I was in a wedding that weekend and couldn't budge. Mark ended up not going, and in the most bittersweet twist of countrified fate, passed away not too long afterward of the pancreatic cancer that had made his life hell for months.
Do I regret not going with him? Well, yes--but my hands were tied. I would have regretted missing my friend's wedding just as much. But Mark was a goddamn music savant who flooded me with ideas for my writing, and there's nothing like having a friend who not only shares your passion--ours was music--but who actually knows more than you and is just as happy to pass along some wisdom as you are to soak it up.
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, life is full of missed opportunities, and country crooner Dwight Yoakam, with a chart-topping catalog of lamenting ballads and honky-tonk drinking songs, knows a thing or two about that. When the 54-year-old artist strode onstage at Snoqualmie Casino last night to an intimate, sold-out room of 1,200, I had no idea he was about to unleash a two-hour set of 31 of his biggest hits. Had I known how epically the singer would have stayed the course, cranking out righteous hit after hit--all while enacting his trademark sideways boot-scoot-shuffle--I probably would have worn my skimpiest outfit and flung my bra on stage.
Full disclosure: I'm a lifelong fan and suddenly found myself face to face with a dream come true. While Dwight Yoakam has built a corner of his success on the songs and sound of Buck Owens, he's penned just as many of his own hits and rocked them with his own personal style--those tight acid-washed jeans, a cowboy hat balanced perfectly at eye level, that luscious, natural, country yodel. To me, it's as country as it gets without the douchbaggery of the pop-country world. Dwight's a normal looking, old-school entertainer--more from the mold of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard than Keith Urban or Kenny Chesney. Yoakam's long since started losing his hair and wears that hat for a reason, but his natural vocal talent and unfussy, blue-collar look gets him through just fine.
Suddenly, he was there. And punctual, at that, just a scant 10 minutes after his scheduled 7 p.m. set time. The outfit, the hat, the jeans--check. A peppy backing band festooned with sequined jackets and more tight jeans--check. And the hits--just see the set list below--Yoakam brought his A game.
As for the sound--well, you can't have it all. There were moments of pitchy feedback and a few songs I had to strain to pick up lyrics through a wall of washed-out noise, but the tiny venue simply wasn't big enough to hold all of Yoakam's awesomeness. Yoakam has IT--the finesse, the mystique, and the ability to gently guide a bittersweet memory to a place it belongs--in a country song.
"Please, Please Baby"
"Under Your Spell Again"
"Streets of Bakersfield"
"Blame The Vain"
"Love Caught Up To Me"
"What Do You Know About Love?"
"Close Up The Honky Tonks"
"If There Was A Way"
"Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose"
"Ring of Fire"
"Hey Little Girl"
"Nothing's Changed Here"
"Pocket of a Clown"
"Heart of Stone"
"Honky Tonk Man"
"This Drinkin' Will Kill Me"
"It Won't Hurt"
"Today I Started Loving Her Again"
"It Only Hurts When I Cry"
"Fast As You"
"Since I Started Drinking Again"
"Long White Cadillac"
Damn! That was the best cover I've ever heard of Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking"--all smooth, rolling vocals and steely, strummed guitar. Bliss.
And Here's Your Hipster Cred: Yoakam and Beck have been recording tracks for Yoakam's forthcoming album next year. Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with My Morning Jacket, the Shins, and the Strokes will be producing it along with Yoakam. Sounds almost as rad as the Yoakam on Will Oldham interview for Filter magazine.