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Concert review: Dwight Yoakam at Red Butte Garden

by on July 26, 2013


For a guy who doesn’t tour as often as most of his country peers, Dwight Yoakam sure knows how to get it done when he does step on a stage.

Flanked by four musicians in glittering jackets that would make any amateur bedazzler proud, Yoakam hit Red Butte Garden Tuesday for a show that was not as packed as most thus far this season. But he certainly didn’t seem to worry about it, delivering nearly 30 songs across two hours that featured the mix of traditional honky-tonk and poppy flash that has been his trademark for decades.

Yoakam launched the show with “Take Hold of My Hand,” the first song on his excellent 2012 album 3 Pears. That was just the first of five new ones that he included in his set. All of them fit nicely alongside Yoakam’s classic hits, and the title track, “Waterfall” and rabble-rousing “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” were all particularly strong performances.

At one point, Yoakam joked about his set list that “we get two new ones, and you get one old one. And later we get three new ones and you get one old one. Eventually, it’ll all just be new ones.” To the delight of those on hand–who stayed on their feet throughout and fed off the energy of Yoakam’s band and the man’s own Elvis-inspired leg twitches–he did not live up to his word.

Instead, the show was a savvy blend of career-spanning hits and well-chosen covers. “Little Sister” and his take on Buck Owens’ “Streets of Bakersfield” came early on, seguing into an inspired medley of “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose” and “Buckaroo” before hitting another Owens favorite, “Act Naturally.”

Noting the beauty of Red Butte Garden, the “stomping grounds of the Utes,” Yoakam forged ahead through strong version of “Blame the Vain,” “Close Up the Honky Tonks,” “Always Late With Your Kisses” and “If There Was a Way,” all before hitting the halfway point of the show.

Yoakam rarely left his spot at center stage, where he stood, shimmied and swiveled his hips behind a music stand as he band bashed away behind him. A slowed-down version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” led into Yoakam challenging the audience to keep up with his band.

“It’s Thursday night, y’all,” Yoakam annouanced. “Looks like we’re going to see what you’re made of!” And with that, he proceeded to lead his band through a solid dozen or so more songs, including “Nothing’s Changed Here,” “3 Pears,” “Honky Tonk Man,” “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” “Only Hurts Me When I Cry,” “Little Ways” and “Guitars, Cadillacs.”

You can attribute the relatively small crowd to competing concerts in town; the Flaming Lips probably drew some of Yoakam’s alternative-minded fans, while One Direction probably took away some parents who were entertaining their kids at that show. Even so, the energy at Red Butte Garden was great, and Yoakam proved an excellent front man with a knack for delivering a modern honky-tonk sound.

Opening the show was The Hollering Pines, a collection of locals including Marie Bradshaw, Kiki Jane Buehner, Dan Buehner and Dylan Schorer. Similar to Yoakam, they delivered traditional country originals and covers–including an excellent “Long Black Veil”–with the added bonus of excellent harmony vocals and Schorer’s lap-steel. They have an album coming this fall–keep an eye out for that one.

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