By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
RICHMOND — My fiance Jimmy mostly hates country music ― but he loves Dwight Yoakam.
So on Friday night (a.k.a. “Dwight Night”), we found a babysitter for the youngin’ and followed a trail of straw/cowboy hat-wearing fans to the EKU Center for the Arts. I had never seen so many bluejeans with gull-wing back pocket stitching in my life.
Oh, and cowboy boots.
But that was Dwight Yoakam style: poured-in blue jeans, a cowboy hat pulled down real low, and tonight, head-to-toe denim. Of course, he was wearing cowboy boots, with those slick soles that seemingly glide the honky-tonk man across the stage during his signature knee-knocking moves.
I told Jimmy I’m calling it the “Cowboy Moonwalk.”
We took our seats next to a sweet lady named Mildred Brandenburg. She immediately struck up a conversation with us about how she comes to a lot of concerts and was “into all kinds of music,” but didn’t really know anything about Dwight Yoakam. She does remember loving the Kenny Rogers concert last year, she said.
Her granddaughter Melony Lane sat down next to her and said she didn’t bring her grandmother to the concert, she came with her grandmother, who was “game for most anything.”
The stage was decorated with low-hanging lights, which created the illusion of an intimate jam session ― but the show had a full-arena sound. I remember thinking MY grandmother would’ve definitely thought it was too loud.
Every band member was wearing some variation of black, white and sparkles, except for Yoakam, who was keeping it real down-home in denim. He had just a spattering of sparkles on his guitar strap. But when he turned his back to the audience to strum on the guitar or to do that signature shuffle, you saw that his jacket was “be-sparkled” too ― which incited the crowd to scream louder.
With no introductions or small talk, Yoakam and his band started the set and didn’t stop until around the middle of his fourth song, “Streets of Bakersfield.”
By this time, I was already bouncing around in my seat, wishing I had a dance floor, some cowboy boots and a beer.
A duet with Buck Owens, “Streets of Bakersfield” became a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles in 1988 and was an obvious crowd favorite Friday. When Yoakam got to the fourth stanza and begins to sing, “I spent some time in San Francisco,” all of a sudden, the music cuts out and every starts looking around trying to figure out what happened.
I was thinking, “Man, this can’t be happening to Dwight.”
But just as soon as it stopped, the music started back up and in place of “San Francisco,” Yoakam sang “I spent some time in Pikeville.”
He interrupted the song again and mumbled something about his mom spending more time in Pikeville in the hospital.
He playfully sang several variations on that lyric and inserted other Kentucky places like Prestonsburg, Floyd County, and eventually Richmond (which drew a big cheer).
Yoakam was born in Pikeville, raised in Columbus, Ohio, and spent most of his adult life in California, he told the crowd.
But you could tell by the buzz in the hall that the audience easily welcomed the Kentucky boy back home.
When the 56-year-old musician started out in the mid-1980s, he was “too country for Nashville,” according to his biography.
However, since the 1986 debut of his first album “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.,” Yoakam has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. He’s had 12 gold albums and nine platinum or multi-platinum albums. He’s won two Grammys and earned 21 nominations.
Yoakam also has starred on the big screen.
For me, one of his most memorable performances was as the evil Doyle Hargraves in the Academy Award-winning film “Sling Blade” (I like mustard and biscuits, Dwight, but I don't like abusive boyfriends).
In my younger days, I went to many concerts where you have to stand up the whole time or risk sitting down in some mystery goo on the floor. I admit, it’s nice sitting in the cushy, state-of-the-art, air-conditioned Grand Hall of the EKU Center for the Arts, but the audience was itching to stand up and dance.
At the beginning of nearly every song, one poor fella would jump up, dance for a few seconds, and sit back down, aware of the patrons unable to see from behind him. One lady in the front row would wiggle around in her seat with her arms up in the air like she was dancing.
Near the end of the performance, and especially through the encore, everyone stood anyway. The whole show would've inspired some major boot-scootin' if it were that kind of place.
Jimmy said he saw even Mildred moving around in her seat.