Dwight Yoakam at the Pabst Theater;
Milwaukee, Wisconsin – June 14, 2006
Review written by Tom Wilmeth
Dwight Yoakam returned to Milwaukee on Wednesday night for two-and-a-half hours of first-rate music. After opening with “She’ll Remember” and the title track from his latest CD “Blame the Vain,” he immediately offered homage to mentor Buck Owens. Yoakam sang complete versions of Owens’ hits “Act Naturally,” “Crying Time,” “Together Again,” and their duet “Streets of Bakersfield.”
Most of Yoakam’s own hits were also played, from early success with “Honky Tonk Man” and “Guitars, Cadillacs” through a reworked “Please, Please Baby” and “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry.” Intense takes of “Fast as You” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” were played during a generous and briskly paced set, as were moving ballads “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” and “If There was a Way.”
Yoakam occasionally talked about the songs, regretting that many album tracks rarely get heard in concert. He remedied this problem by singing “It Won’t Hurt” from his first album, plus “Home for Sale,” “Dreams of Clay,” and a slowly haunting “Long Black Cadillac.”
The singer was in strong voice and upbeat throughout the night, often leading his tight quartet with dance moves. Yoakam seemed serious, however, when thanking Wisconsin for twenty years of career support. Almost apologetic for playing newer material, he then featured impressive renditions of “Just Passing Time” and “Three Good Reasons.”
Late in the concert Yoakam paid tribute to Bonnie Owens. Although once married to Buck and then to Merle Haggard, Dwight credited Owens’ own importance to the Bakersfield Sound, making sure Bonnie’s legacy was not lost in the shadows of her famous husbands. Also acknowledged was bluegrass master Jimmy Martin, who died last year.
Yoakam has been accused of neglecting his music, becoming distracted by Hollywood side-trips. Wednesday’s Pabst Theater concert proved that he remains focused on giving his fans great songs, and lots of them.
Opening for Dwight was Robbie Fulks, who featured rollicking original material from his latest CD “Georgia Hard.” Milwaukee’s own Mike Frederickson played bass, and guitarist Grant Tye demonstrated furious single-note picking and sweet steel guitar sounds, by turns. Fulks closed a strong 40-minute set of pure country with his rousing “Let’s Kill Saturday Night.”