Grammy-winning and multi-platinum artist, Dwight Yoakam performed live at the UGA Conference Center in Tifton, GA on Nov. 2. He follows a long line of famous country artists who’ve performed there in recent years like Willie Nelson and Vince Gill.
Yoakam took the stage dressed in a Canadian tuxedo, from his worn Levi’s 517 jeans which were tight enough to rival any emo rockers, to his faded Sherpa Trucker jacket modified with a strip of bright rhinestones on the back-tail and his low-riding, felt Stetson cowboy hat— Yoakam was ready to perform. His band dazzled audiences not only with impressive musicianship but with the sparkling embroidery on their black and white western wear, looking like the rhinestone cowboy version of the Beatles all the way down to the lettering of the drumset.
Fans from all corners of Georgia came to see the performance, from as far North as Rome to as far west as Columbus.
Jim Morgan of Valdosta, who used to perform in a cover band himself, said “I’ve been a fan of Dwight since the 80s. Anybody who could write songs like that had to get noticed. Everything he’s done has been class.”
When asked what he hoped to hear Dwight play he responded, “I obviously want to hear the hits but I like everything he does, acting and all. He has a traditional style, but true to the 50s and 60s performers in the way he carries himself onstage like with his attire, mannerisms, and writing. He writes a really good story.”
Morgan concluded by saying “This’ll pry be the last opportunity for me to see him live so for those fans of country music like me, there’s that nostalgic attraction.”
Dr. Justin Ng, an agronomy professor at ABAC, was there to see the performance and because he admires classic country artists partly due to his time playing bass in a Texas country band.
“I have an iPod with thousands of songs on it and when I heard ‘A Thousand Miles from Nowhere’ picked out on it, I just fell in love with it immediately.”
When Yoakam and his band took the stage, the whole crowd lit up with people jumping out of their seats in excitement. Dwight’s band glittered on the stage lights as they powered out a honky-tonk version of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie.”
Next, the band played a couple originals. First, “Please, Please Baby” followed by “Wild Ride” featuring Yoakam’s stellar boot-scooting.
Later that night, Yoakam performed a series of Merle Haggard covers in tribute to his friend. He talked about the significance of Merle’s work and the role he played in giving a voice to the rural peoples and veterans of the Vietnam War who felt like they had been ignored during the counter-culture’s revolution.
He introduced the song with a story about him and Willie Nelson talking on the bus after a show one night in Florida.
“Through the smoke and the haze there, I could see what I think was Willie and I said ‘Willie? Is that you Willie?’”
Yoakam continued saying, “I reached out through that cloud and grabbed his beard and said ‘Is that you?’ He said ‘Yea,’ and I said ‘Lemme ask you something, did you do this one?’ Through that cloud of smoke, he kinda peeked down with a twinkle in his eyes and said ‘Oh yea I did!’”
Yoakam then began singing the opening verse to “Okie from Muskogee.”
“We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee/We don’t take no trips on LSD.”
The crowd loved it.
He then performed three more Merle cover’s “Silver Wings,” “Swinging Doors,” and “Mama Tried.”The best was saved for last as the last six tracks were all of Yoakam’s greatest hits like “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” and “Guitars, Cadillacs.”
At this point people of all ages had gotten up to dance, some were square dancing while others were just tapping their boots to the rhythm of the beat.
The night closed out with “Fast As You.” You could hear Yoakam’s voice starting to become a little feeble but he was still going strong showing he’s still got it well into his 50s. After the song was through Yoakam thanked everyone and complimented the crowd’s hospitality. As the band exited the stage, the bassist threw his pick out to the crowd which created a scramble to find the memento.
As many great bands know, you always leave the audience wanting more and the audience definitely did. The hardcore fans started chanting and whistling for the band’s return.
The energy paid off as Yoakam and crew returned for an encore, a cover of “Suspicious Minds” by Mark James which was made popular by Elvis Presley. This finale satiated the audience’s appetite. They quickly rushed to the merchandise booth afterward before the goods were sold out.
And the urban cowboy rode away…
Published in The Stallion on November 14.