By Chris M. Junior
Rapid-fire song segues in concert can be a strong indication that the performer can’t wait to wrap things up and get off the stage.
Not so with Dwight Yoakam, who made a lot of quick transitions during his Jan. 26 show at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, N.J. In Yoakam’s case, it was a businesslike — and ultimately crowd-pleasing — approach to squeezing in as many songs as possible (25-plus) over the course of nearly two hours.
Yoakam set the pace right from the start: After being introduced, the adventurous country-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist immediately launched into “Take Hold of My Hand,” a song co-written with Robert Ritchie (a.k.a. Kid Rock) that opens Yoakam’s latest album, “3 Pears.” Yoakam and his four-piece band wasted no time blasting through the next two tunes (one being a take on the Elvis Presley classic “Little Sister”) before pausing so Yoakam could address the audience.
“Thank you for coming to see us on a cold winter’s night,” he said. The southern California-based Yoakam followed with comments about the recent cold spell in the Los Angeles area, eventually directing his story up north as a lead-in for a crisp rendition of “Streets of Bakersfield.”
That song, which was a 1988 hit for Yoakam and Buck Owens, was not the show’s only nod to Yoakam’s biggest stylistic influence. He slipped in a snippet of the instrumental “Buckaroo,” a No. 1 country hit for Owens in 1965, and not long after that, played a moving version of “Close Up the Honky Tonks,” a 1964 Owens album track that Yoakam recorded for his 2007 Owens-themed collection, “Dwight Sings Buck.���
Hardcore Yoakam fans know that he worked for many years with guitarist Pete Anderson — and similarly, Owens had his own longtime ace in Don Rich. But while Owens never got back on track artistically after Rich died in 1974, Yoakam has done just fine since he and Anderson parted ways around 2003. And in his current touring band, Yoakam has an exceptional guitarist in Eugene Edwards, whose enthusiasm throughout the show (evident from his smiles and occasional headshakes) was charming.
Winding down his main set the same way he started it, Yoakam performed two of his latest (“3 Pears” and “Trying”), then quickly followed with some of his greatest (including “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” “It Only Hurts When I Cry,” “Little Ways,” “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “ Fast As You”). Yoakam and his band briefly left the stage before returning for a two-song encore that concluded with “Long White Cadillac.” The chugging rocker (penned by Dave Alvin of Blasters fame) gave Edwards an extended opportunity to flash his lead-guitar skills, and he punctuated his playing with a few mini Pete Townshend-style windmills.
Yoakam’s tour in support of “3 Pears” resumes in Tucson, Ariz., on Feb. 7, followed by shows in Albuquerque, N.M. (Feb. 8); Catoosa, Okla. (Feb. 9); Mahnomen, Minn. (Feb. 22) and Plant City, Fla. (March 4).