Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music
Dwight Yoakam's first night at the Moody spells c-o-u-n-t-r-y
By Abby Johnston, 1:35PM, Fri. Jul. 13, 2012
When I moved here four years ago from a small East Texas town, I dove into the city slickin' my parents cautioned me against. I tried losing the twang I'd previously been unaware of, got tattooed, and went Austinite. Last night's kick-off of Dwight Yoakam's two-night stand at the Moody brought back my roots in a flood of glam denim and hillbilly bass lines.
Dotting the crowd were the white Stetson hats I knew so well from the annual county fair, and in a weird clash of cultures, the folks wearing them all touted iPhones to document the evening.
Hollywood cowboy, Yoakam took the stage flanked by a quartet sporting three sequined blazers, two hats, and boots all around. The bandleader, in a denim jacket with sparkling inlay to match his guitar strap, wasted no time before the initial whines of "Please, Please Baby" sent the full floor into a frenzy.
For the next two hours, Yoakam made himself at home in the three-quarter-full house, his sparsely decorated stage set-up dotted by lava lamps and cowhide rugs – the perfect combination of retro-modern sensibilities that translate famously into his music. He snaked around in a toe-heel honky-tonk moonwalk, Elvis Presley in white pointed boots.
Song after song of old favorites and smart covers spilled forth, including the Beatles via Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" and a piano blues rendition of "Ring of Fire," which Yoakam speculated Mister Johnny Cash wouldn't mind if he made it a little louder than the original. Loud, indeed. All night long the sound system blasted as if for a face-melting metal shred.
Yoakam threaded mega hits throughout his set list, saving "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere," the song from which former Statesman pop critic Don McLeese borrowed the title of his recent book on Yoakam, toward the latter half of the show. "Fast As You" brought members of the balcony to their feet, and as middle-aged women danced and shouted the chorus, the austere Moody Theater was temporarily transformed into a honky-tonk.
Poignant numbers like "I Sang Dixie" also begged for two-stepping, with a sober Yoakam lamenting the detriments of alcohol. Even then, he held the crowd with raucous country-rock, seamlessly returning to bar-light anthems time and again.
As he rounded off the evening with "Guitars, Cadillacs," I shamed myself for not digging my boots out of the recesses of the closet. The line, "Guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music, and the lonely, lonely streets that I call home" struck me with an odd sense of hick pride, perhaps the same kind the headliner draws from as he recalls his origins.
Ultimately, Dwight Yoakam proved to us urban folk that there's still a little country in us all.