DWIGHT YOAKAM; in concert with THE LONESOME STRANGERS; The Huntsman Special Events Center; Oct. 7; one show only.A small, small crowd greeted Dwight Yoakam at the Special Events Center Friday night. KKAT Radio had been receiving calls all week from people who said they wouldn't show up at a Yoakam show for all the tea in Tennessee. (Yoakam was two hours late to his last Utah show.)
The empty seats proved those that stayed away made their point. The sad part is, they missed a wonderful concert.
Yoakam's fans are pretty evenly divided between young, blonde girls with permed hair who love his "hoody" bad-boy looks and style, and hard-driving, hard-country fans who like to mainline pure twang.
Yoakam reached both groups Friday. The first with his slinking stage style, the second with the best music in the business.
He played the songs fans came to hear, of course ("Little Sister," "Little Ways," "Guitars, Cadillacs," "Streets of Bakersfield") and he played the songs only a honky-tonker can love ("Walking After Midnight" with a bluesy walking bass line, old Johnny Cash bluegrass ditties and new tunes about mean-minded wom-en.)
The stage was decked out in cactus and serapes (in honor of Yoakam's new LP, "Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room") and the musicians he brought were top-of-the-line. Joining Yoakam on this trip was Pete Anderson, his producer. Anderson is a lead guitar whiz (though his guitar kept shorting out Friday) and he showed some of the inventive instrumental breaks that make him a country icon.
Yoakam also did a single-guitar solo spot that proved again he's a fine stylist, maybe the best in country today.
Opening the show was a new group from Los Angeles, The Lonesome Strangers. Hip, clean-cut, the Lonesome Strangers (not to be confused with Haggard's group, The Strangers) have an early 50s sound - much like the music coming out of Memphis during the reign of Elvis and Chuck Berry. It's flat, straight-ahead music without much embellishment. The vocals have a bit of the Everly Brothers crossed with the nasal twang of Bob Nolan (Sons of the Pioneers).
Listen for this group. Their first album should hit about Christmas and the world - with its Elvis mania - may be ready for a country-fied version of the King's basement-band sound.
You heard it here first.
In the end, to keep the record straight, Yoakam did show up late again; though this time only about 20 minutes. You don't get that boy to do anything he don't want to. Which is why he is now on the cutting edge of country music, putting out a sound that goes back to the '40s and is the envy of the business in 1988.