C2C 2016: Dwight Yoakam

P1000129The organisers of C2C always include someone who would be classed as a more traditional country artist. Previously we have been treated to performances from Lee Ann Womack, Martina McBride and Vince Gill.

This year we had the pleasure of singer-songwriter, actor and film director Dwight Yoakam, a performer who has sold more than 25 million records and has recorded 21 albums.

Whilst he was sharing the bill with Miranda Lambert and Thomas Rhett it would be fair to say that a large share of the almost full o2 arena were here to see Dwight.

He was following a very energetic upbeat performance from Thomas Rhett who appeals to a very different audience but for a man with such a majestic track record, Yoakam simply did his thing and he did his “thing” very well.

You are not going to get someone who engages massively with the audience. Some of these songs have been around since the mid eighties and apart from a smattering of tracks from his new album ‘Second Hand Heart’ it was almost like listening to Dwight Yoakam’s greatest hits. They needed no introduction.

We were treated to an hour long set of 14 songs. His early hits ‘Honky Tonk Man’, ‘It Won’t Hurt’ and his signature song ‘Guitars Cadillacs’ were all very well received by an audience who respectfully listened to a performer clearly taking all of this in his stride.

Unlike many of the US artists who were sampling a UK audience for the first time, Yoakam is an old stager who had seen and done it all previously.

The difficulty for a performer like Yoakam when playing to a mixed crowd is that the younger section of the audience weren’t familiar with his material. Nevertheless, he was welcomed with open arms and the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy his set.

He didn’t actually say very much throughout the performance and started the next song as soon as the polite applause had died down.

His sheer professionalism, vocals and guitar playing could not be faulted however. The true Yoakam fans would not have been disappointed and I suspect that he rather impressed some that had gone along to the festival not expecting too much from him.

He started his set with ‘Dim Lights Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)’ a cover of a song originally recorded in the 50’s by bluegrass duo Flatt and Scruggs and featured on Yoakam’s 2012 album ‘3 Pears’. A sure fire rock and roll foot stomper that had the audience singing along.

He is a prolific and successful songwriter, and his self penned ‘Please Please Baby’ followed which highlighted the immense musical talent of the guys that made up his band.

The rock and roll continued with another cover. This time Elvis’s ‘Little Sister’. Dwight had a top 10 hit with this song in 1987.

One of Dwight’s first number one country singles ‘Streets of Bakersfield’ and ‘It won’t hurt’ continued the traditional country feel to the set before we had the first of Dwight’s newer songs ‘The Big Time’ from his latest album ‘Second Hand Heart’. It would be fair to say that the newer songs were not as well received as his classics but we really enjoyed the title track from that album with its immense guitar riffs and Springsteen-like chorus.

Dwight’s first mid-tempo song was ‘Ain’t That Lonely Yet’ from his 1993 album ‘This Time’ and a song that went on to win him a Grammy award for the Best Male Country Performance. His vocals live were impeccable and the delivery of this song would have greatly impressed the fans who would have been with him over the 23 years since this song was recorded.

We returned to the latest album for ‘Liar’, an up-beat country rock song that is a throwback to the classic 50’s guitar driven rock and roll tunes. It went down a treat here.

‘Ring of Fire’ is a song that requires no introduction. Dwight’s version of the Johnny Cash classic is more rockabilly than the original and this traditional feel continued with ‘Honky Tonk Man’ two songs that had the audience on their feet and raised the atmosphere up a notch.

The country slide guitar featured heavily on ‘Always Late With Your Kisses’. A song that we didn’t expect him to perform as it wasn’t one of his bigger hits.

The one song that everyone was waiting for was his 1986 hit single ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’, probably Yoakam’s greatest hillbilly song with its twangy guitars and pure country sound. A real highlight.

His set ended with ‘Fast As You’ from his ‘This Time’ album released in 1993.

His performance was faultless and we suspect that he gained a few converts. He doesn’t inspire audience participation but a man who has such a peerless track record and significant album sales doesn’t have to concern himself with all of that.

The Dwight Yoakam fans would have been very happy with his set and he was a fine addition to this year’s impressive Friday evening line up.

Setlist

Dim Lights Thick Smoke
Please, Please Baby
Little Sister
Streets of Bakersfield
It Won’t Hurt
The Big Time
Second Hand Heart
Ain’t That Lonely Yet
Liar
Ring of Fire
Honky Tonk Man
Always Late With Your Kisses
Guitars, Cadillacs
Fast As You