Over the years Dwight Yoakam has been known for putting on massively entertaining live performances. After last Friday’s performance at Horseshoe Casino’s Showroom, that reputation is likely to carry on.
Yoakam came onstage just after 8:00 pm, and was decked out in a all denim ensemble with his traditional spandex tight jeans over what I’m sure were suede cowboy boots. He had a diamond pleated ace-spade-club-heart denim jacket, and his typical tan cowboy hat, which kept his eyes tucked away from everyone but his band mates. He’s one mysterious, and somewhat “classy” redneck dude if I may say.
He opened with a few songs that I didn’t recognize by name, but were recognizable by ear. Regardless of trying to figure out the song names, I focused more on the band’s stage antics and performance style of Yoakam and band. Bassist Jonathan Clark, almost immediately after arriving on stage made friends with a pretty little blonde about three rows back as he struck flirtatious poses for her while she snapped away on her camera.
Lead guitarist Eddie Perez (formerly of The Mavericks) also played with a lot of animation. Almost always in a constant state of motion, Perez added in many exclamatory moves that corresponded with instrumental change-ups and the notes he was hitting on his Fender Telecaster. The guy could just flat-out play and was an asset to the ears as much as he was to the eyes.
As for Yoakam, he just pretty much danced and strutted his way around the stage with guitar in-hand and striking as many of his iconic take-a-picture-of-me-now guitar poses as he could.
Five songs into the set came his 2005 hit “Blame The Vain” which finally stimulated the crowd to make some noise and sing along.
But I was still mainly focused on the actual performance style and stage antics that Yoakam and band brought to the stage. Like when Yoakam broke a guitar string at mid-song, his bandmates immediately recognizing it almost as if string breaks are rehearsed situations, and they carry on instrumentally with the song until Yoakam has changed out a new guitar.
And then, contrarily, an out-of-tune guitar was discovered after the start of “Little Sister.” For a brief moment I thought Yoakam was going to erupt into Doyle mode, as his tech took a little grief for handing him the wrong guitar for the song. Keeping his cool, Yoakam immediately got back to business and proceeded with playing the song.
Yoakam also gave a twangy and bluesy performance of “This Time,” a crowd-pleasing version of “Honky Tonk Man,” and an almost unrecognizable take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” which I didn’t even realize it was till the end of the song.
High energy versions of “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Fast As You” came to be the set closers once Yoakam and band kinda half-ass walked off stage after playing the songs. The crowd, not accepting that this was the true end of the show, kept yelling and screaming for more. Of course Yoakam and band knew they were coming back for an encore, and so did the audience. But that’s the formality of a live performance, right? It’s not an actual encore until the band walks offstage and then reemerges again shortly thereafter. And that they did. Anxiously grabbing their instruments again, Yoakam finally introduced his band by name and then played “Since I Started Drinking Again,” which perpetuated me to order one last drink for the night.
Yoakam’s two hour performance would finally conclude with a hard rocking version of “Long White Cadillac,” which he strummed out to perfection on his Epiphone Casino guitar. Some of Yoakam’s stage antics during this song’s performance left you wondering if the song was actually about a car. Hmm. Good ole’ Dwight.
* This review also published at Louisville.com