Dwight Yoakam Day at the Greek Theater

Dwight's guitar kit, photo © next.space, UNC Chapel Hill, via flickr

Dwight's guitar kit, photo © next.space, UNC Chapel Hill, via flickr

Nick Lowe said something in an Onion AV Club interview a while back that I still find rolling around my head every once in a while:  he said “Even if I was really prolific—which I’m not—I think I’d always put at least a couple of covers on my record. I think it’s a sort of healthy thing to do. It shows that you’re not totally self-obsessed.”

An interesting idea, that artists should cover other people’s work because it demonstrates humility.  And, if it’s true, Dwight Yoakam is one of the humblest performers around.

He opened last night’s show at the Greek Theater with Buck-tastic triple:  “Under Your Spell,” “Act Naturally,” and his duet with Owens, “Streets of Bakersfield.”  Through the two-hour long set, he covered Waylon Jennings (“Stop the World (and Let Me Off),”); Johnny Cash (“Ring of Fire,” and “Home of the Blues,”); Warren Zevon (“Carmelita,”); and the Flying Burrito Brothers.  One of the evening’s more surreal sights was the hooched-up girls in the front row bopping and dancing along happily to Dwight’s cover of the traditional song “Man of Constant Sorrow.”  (Well, it was an uptempo version.  But still.  But still.)

Yoakam wound the evening up with by bringing it back to Buck for his final encore (“Close Up the Honky Tonks.”)  Between the evening’s first Buck cover and its last, he played old stuff and new stuff, but his energy never flagged for a second.

I think one of the keys to Yoakam’s tremendous success – well, besides his unmistakable voice and the wiggly dance steps (which look something between a Mashed Potato and an Elvis-style pelvis thrust) – is that he wears his influences so proudly on his shoulder.

Yoakam says, these are the people I admire, these are the people who made me want to sing for you, here’s one of their songs.  He approaches his work with honest admiration for the artistry of the musicians who came before him.  He has so completely absorbed what’s great about their work that it doesn’t seem to matter much whether he’s playing his music or theirs – what he learned from them is evident in every song that he writes, and he can’t play a classic without making it sound like a Dwight Yoakam song.

So, the short version is that I would go and see Dwight Yoakam just about anywhere, anytime.

And I’m not alone in this, since the Greek was pretty packed, and since the city of Los Angeles declared yesterday Dwight Yoakam Day, and some city councilman (I don’t know who, some citizen journalist I am, huh?) read a seven point declaration about how awesome Dwight Yoakam is.  Which, obviously, we already knew, on account of we had been listening to Dwight play all night, so, probably-not-Tom-LaBonge-but-then-again-maybe? take Vince Vaughn with you (?!) and get off stage so Dwight can play his encore already, for God’s sake the Greek’s curfew is fifteen minutes away, right? Still, it was a nice sentiment.

By the way, I won tickets for the show from losanjealous.com, which I love, and if you’re reading this, you probably would too.  Check ’em out (start with the ebay business plan, which is maybe my favorite thing ever, in the world, no hyperbole.  Couldn’t hurt to enter a ticket giveaway contest while you’re there.)

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3 Responses

  1. Joan Drysdale says:

    Hi Matthew – love your take on Dwight at the Greek – he is definitely the best in Country Music (I mean real Country Music!!)We recently saw him up here in Canada, near Vancouver – was a great show with all the old songs of his, plus the covers which he paid tribute to the original singers – that’s our Dwight, always thinking of the earlier Stars.

    You should order the DVD of his Induction to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame – it was in February – we drove there and back and thoughourly enjoyed it, and met up with a lot of fans we’ve known for years from around the world while attending shows in the US.

    Thanks – Joan

  2. Anita says:

    Matthew:

    Very nice review, just as I remember it. Thanks for putting it into words,

    Anita

  3. jo says:

    Yeah, the greek was nice, but it wasn’t “packed”–which is ok with me.. and as others have said, the parking is not good, putting it nicely, overpriced.. personally for me.. I don’t think i’ll go back there again.

    On to Dwight. I was sooo looking forward to his performance. I was sadly embarrassed for his sound for probably almost the first 1/3 of his set. What was up with that?.. did no one else notice? hello!!?!!
    And whats up with his voice? missing a couple of his usually high notes and hiccups…while Dwight is always great to see in person, I’ve been spoiled in the past with his preformances, usually with more energy, style, personality and “readiness” to perform. He had many instances that may have been set up as “impromptu”– yeah…. very much so, in my opinion. Even the roadie handing off a mandolin early in the conert– was poorly planned/executed- the instrument was nearly fumbled!

    As usual, Dwight looked and moved quite well! I wished he would have done Crazy Little Thing Called Love–but I was still quite pleased with all his choices in music. He just wasnt’ as lively as I’ve seen him.

    That whole LA performance to present Dwight with his award–the “where as” and the “here to’s” were annoying.. just let the man sing! And sing he does!

    Forever a DY fan, adn still look forward to more concerts! Jo

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