Dwight Yoakam Day at the Greek Theater
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.)