Dwight Yoakam mosied into the sold out show on this brisk October night on Central Park’s upper west side as naturally as if he were playing at a State Fairgrounds or a Texas honky-tonk. The adoring crowd of big-buckle Yankees, pretty ladies in tight shirts and tattoos dancing in front of the stage hoping to catch the Honky-tonk man, in his stylish dudes, eye and there was a smattering of Southerners, like myself, appreciative to have a cultural diplomat of this talent stopping in town.
Tift Merritt was a surprise opener for the show and show and she charmed and wowed the crowd with her passionate voice and goofy jokes.
Yoakam’s sharp dressed band hit the stage at about 9:50 in his trademark off-white Stetson set over his eyes, and after a quick “Thanks ya’ll!” they break into “She’ll Remember” the toe-tapping rave-up from his latest release for New West records “Blame the Vain.” The nearly three-hour set was brimming with an embarrassment of riches, “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose,” “This Time,” Jume Carter’s “Ring of Fire,” – Johnny Horton‘s “Honky Tonk Man,” “Stop the World (And Let Me Off),” “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” “Little Sister” as well as “Guitars, Cadillacs” — the song that startled the Nashville brass who had written Yoakam off when he was living in Nashvile in the early 80’s.
Yoakam also paid tribute to his late friend and Bakersfield style mentor, Buck Owens by covering his classics “Act Naturally,” “Cryin’ Time” and “Together Again”. The tribute ended with the duet the pair recorded in the 1990s, “Streets of Bakersfield.” I’m sure Owens was smiling down at the performance that night.
After a few minites off stage the band came back out to close things out with Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and the great song of spurned female commupance “Intentional Heartache.”
When he’s in the spotlight, Dwight Yoakam ranks with just a handful of country singers that make it all seem effortless.