With all of the commercialism and pageantry in modern country music, many wonder how far back one has to go to hear the real thing. Some traditionalists feel so disenfranchised that they will bring up everything from Harry Choates version of "Jolie Blon" from 1946 to C.W. McCall's 1975 trucker anthem, "Convoy." But after seeing a Dwight Yoakam show, you may not feel the need to go further back than the late Eighties when his second consecutive number 1 album "Hillbilly Deluxe" was released.
The Kentucky crooner's total package of hybrid classic country and hard rock, traditional garb and timeless themes are enough to soothe the savage beast inherent in hardcore purists. As if to reinforce his traditional standing, during the first half of the show he donned his cap to some of country's greats starting with a four-song mini set of Merle Haggard covers. He put his rocking stamp on "Silver Wings'' and "Okie From Muskogee.''
For good measure, he threw in songs by Johnny Horton, Lefty Frizzell and Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning." But the highlight of the tribute was saved for his biggest influence, Buck Owens. When he sang the verse, "dancing to an old Buck Owens song'' in his "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose,'' from 1999's "If There Was A Way" the band stealthily headed into the instrumental "Buckaroo'' that morphed into a pair of Owens classics, "My Heart Skips a Beat'' and "Love's Gonna Live Here."
Guitarist Eugene Edwards sparkled all night, not just because of his bedazzled tuxedo jacket. His scorching riffs made the Telecaster seemed extra twangy while the three other members helped prove why they are considered one of the best touring bands in country.
Yoakam does not play lead, but is no slouch on acoustic, deftly chicken pickin' his way through intros to "Liar" and "Things Change." Mitch Marine seemed to heed John Bonham's timeless advice: "If you want to sound like me, just hit 'em harder" as his tom tom work boomed throughout unconstrained by a drum baffler. The set featured select tracks from "Second Hand Heart," which hearkened back to Yoakam's major label days with Warner/Reprise and a host of hits from his 21-album catalog. There were few demarcation lines between songs as Yoakam delivered hits in a stream of consciousness staccato fashion.
Canadian Colter Wall's menacing baritone was well suited for the material from his inaugural EP, "Imaginary Appalachia," which includes a murder ballad and a hobo anthem.