Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams III, Backyard, June 27

Live Shots

Dwight Yoakam at the Backyard, Tuesday, June 27
Dwight Yoakam at the Backyard, Tuesday, June 27 (Photo By John Carrico)

Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams III

Backyard, June 27

If Dwight Yoakam gets any better, his next Austin booking might be at Ginny's Little Longhorn. There was noticeably more room at the Backyard Tuesday than for last year's "Last Chance" tour, which in turn drew about half the crowd of his August 1996 Erwin Center stop. By now, it's beyond cliché to point out that Nashville is a lost cause and pop-country really sucks -- though opener Hank Williams III didn't mind a bit on a vituperative "I'm Gonna Put the Dick Back in Dixie and the Cunt Back in Country," almost as entertaining as his multiple cries of "Sooey!" -- and if Yoakam is bothered by his gradual regression from hip-wiggling mainstream heartthrob to Bakersfield boutique artist, it didn't show. Given the relaxed tenor of his two-hour set, he might even prefer it that way. Naturally, there was still plenty of room for his sizable roster of hits, with "Guitars, Cadillacs," "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose," "Little Sister," and "Little Ways" coming early, and "1,000 Miles From Nowhere," "Honky Tonk Man," and "Fast as You" near the end. He debuted "spurts" of new songs from his forthcoming album; continuing the serious-minded melodic sorrow that served him so well on 1998's A Long Way Home, "Love Caught Up to Me," "The Heartaches Are Free," and "A Place to Cry" all showed that if the KASEs of the world aren't interested anymore, it's certainly no fault of Dwight's. Besides, true Yoakam fans found plenty to savor, from Long Way's "Things Change" and "Yet to Succeed" to a swooning "Ain't That Lonely Yet" and a nifty pairing of "North to Alaska" and "Ring of Fire." Shoot, even the Queen cover is starting to grow on me. "Miner's Prayer" and "Traveler's Lantern" brought out his deep Kentucky soul, and the solo acoustic encore that included "She Wore Red Dresses," "I Sang Dixie," and "If There Was a Way" was proof enough that, fame or no fame, Yoakam is simply one of the keenest, most affecting songwriters out there. Then, of course, he called his veteran band back out and brought the house down with a King-sized double-shot of "Mystery Train" and "Suspicious Minds." Well, well, well -- maybe he does want to be a star after all.

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