Live Music Review – Dwight Yoakam

Saenger Theatre, Pensacola, March 7, 2019


Dwight Yoakam started playing at 8:30 and didn’t stop until 10:30, except for the two minutes that the crowd at the Saenger yelled and screamed for him to come back for one more song. When I say he didn’t stop playing, I mean there was zero dead air during his show.


As a musician, I had a great time watching this band work. And work, they did! Drummer Mitch Marine and bassist-backing vocalist Jonathan Clark are as solid a rhythm section as you’ll find in any genre of music, and you can tell that they play many genres equally well. There were no “check me out” moments from either one. The entire show was a testament to both of them and their abilities to play just what was needed.


Eugene Edwards, totally looking the part of the sequin-clad gunslinger, left no doubt as to why he has been the lead guitarist in this band for so long. Stylistically shifting from chicken pickin’ country to straight-up rock and roll, with a few ballads thrown in for good measure, the guy can cover a lot of bases and cover them with ease.


It’s no secret to any Dwight fan that the standout member of this band has to be Brian Whelan. He navigated all the different styles of music on display with ease and managed to do it on piano, organ, accordion, mandolin, lap steel, fiddle and harmonica. He even played maracas just because he had a free hand at the time. At several points in the show, he played at least three of these instruments in the same song. He’s an extremely gifted player and it’s very obvious why he is as in-demand as he is.


Which brings us to Mr. Yoakam. He turns 63 this year and is absolutely killing it! He sounds like he could re-record all those songs from the last 35 years right now and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. As I said before, it was non-stop music for two hours, and you can tell that he’s got such a great love for performing these songs that he probably could have played another hour and no one would have cared.


It seemed like he picked at least one or two songs from almost every one of his 15 original albums to play that night, plus a few cover songs. From the early career classics “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Honky Tonk Man” to some newer material (“Pretty Horses” and “Then Here Came Monday,” the latter co-written by Chris Stapleton), it was a great cross section of his career.


He’s an obvious lover of the entire genre of country music, telling a few stories along the way, filling us all in and connecting the dots between pop, country, blues, rock and even the British invasion—a musical version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” if you will.


The only negative thing about the show is that we were sitting right in line with Dwight’s two Vox AC-30 amplifiers and he likes it LOUD! We were sitting 24 rows back and when he strapped his electric on, it ripped right through us. I felt sorry for the people up front.


This was the first time I’d gotten a chance to see Dwight live, but you can bet that it won’t be the last. Come back soon, DY!

– Tim “Bali” Prescott
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