Dwight Yoakam Thursday, June 6, the Arena
Dwight Yoakam and the Babylonian Cowboys took the stage Thursday night to the bouncy strains of “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MGs.
It was a great way to open a show that recalled that brief but magical time when there were no borders between rock and country and rhythm and blues.
All the original Sun Records rockers - Elvis, Jerry Lee, Orbison and Carl Perkins - fit that non-mold. Out on the West Coast, Buck Owens was going his own way with a swampy, chooglin’ hillbilly music he called “freight train music.”
Yoakam paid homage to these roots and others in a lengthy, low-tech show that invited listeners for a ride across a landscape as varied as Yoakam wanted it to be.
If you listened carefully, you heard echoes of Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard and Roy Orbison. “Wild Ride” was a Stones-ish rocker, “Near You” shimmered with a Beatles-esque patina and “Gone (That’ll Be Me)” dripped with Doug Sahm border organ.
“Never Hold You” reprised mid-‘60s psychedelic soul, and Dave Alvin’s classic “Long White Cadillac” bristled with a heartland glint.
On the apparent assumption that the audience has come to hear songs, Yoakam presents a stand-up-and-sing show devoid of fancy risers or special effects.
The only showy effect was the grainy - and sometimes very sexy - images that played on five screens behind the stage.
They included chunks of the bizarre but hilarious video for “Sorry You Asked” that stars a spooky Harry Dean Stanton at a David Lynch-ian roller rink.
The show’s standouts were dramatic versions of two new ballads, “This Much I Know” with its martial drum beat and Haggard-influenced vocals, and “Nothing,” a dense, soulful set-piece whose mournful refrain was scored by slicing Pete Anderson guitar solos.
Newcomer David Ball gained steam over the course of his 45-minute set to win big points with “I’m Just the Bottle,” which he dedicated to Johnny Cash, and with “Thinking Problem,” his hit from a while back.