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Dwight Right In Melbourne, Australia - Dwight Yoakam Concert Review 
By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

It must have felt like a thousand miles from nowhere – Down Under and with a not-tried-often fan base -- when Dwight and band took the stage in Melbourne, Australia recently. He need not have worried. He was in welcomed company. With the 2000 that crowded into the Palais Theatre, St.Kilda, Melbourne, Australia for the first of his two shows – the same place he appeared on his Gone tour in ’95 -- he wouldn’t be that lonely yet.

After a delayed start, the lights dimmed on the stage, bare except for a black backdrop of projected flames, the band’s instrumentation and four low hung lights. First out was Eddie Perez. He sauntered on, flicked his mane, waved and plugged in and amped up. The roar intensified as the other band members moved into position. Then as the late show start was forgiven and forgotten, He appeared. 

Dwight. The guy who walked the streets of Bakersfield with legendary Buck was before us. The iconic hat hid the star from the overhead spotlights and shaded the eyes of one of country music’s most photographed. The created shadow only added to the aura. With a tailored marron suit (with trousers ironed so sharp they could axe a tree), and white boots and a held high guitar, Yoakam looked the country superstar we knew him to be. With the band in tow, the show kicked to life. Dwight bounced, heeled, ducked, raised a menacing leg and circled; all the while creating a felt energy that delighted the front rows and energized the back stalls. He won the crowd, and he won them early. Ten years away was too long and the baby boomer audience – those who sing rather than scream -- let him know in rowdy approval he was a returning hero.

A couple of tunes in, Dwight moved beyond the “thank you, thank you” for knowing the tune to what was to be one of several appreciations from the stage. The globetrotter with 20 acting credits in his resume thanked the loyal for snapping up the concert tickets early. “I’m gonna try to get back here more often,” he told the crowd. Tonight’s “sold out” sign on the outside hoarding proved the need to return: absence does make the heart grow fonder. 

Having seen Yoakam shunt and swagger the last time he hit town, I wondered: could the good get better? The last tour had Pete Anderson in the band. Anderson may be gone, but all’s well in the camp, thanks to Eddie Perez.

And that brings us to the band.

These guys arrived honed and fired, courtesy of a long tour which started in February. They have toured America, Canada, England, and now Australia. It’s a lot of band practice. And it’s served Eddie Perez well. While Dwight cavorted, Perez played… like a guitar god. Perez, a former Maverick, played mostly note perfect, all the while doing guitar and mandolin exchanges with a to-the-side technician. Perez is a showman. He bobbed, strutted, stood spread-eagled and at times throttled the notes out of his five onstage guitars. The guy can play. He makes it look exciting –he’s not one of those who stand in the shadows, marking time; rather, he’s energetic, out front and pumping. Dwight was right when he said he was lucky to be travelling with such guys. Mitch Marine, a well respected drummer, was thumpingly consistent, while elegantly suited bassist, Kevin Smith, got a stage nod for keeping it together during Dwight’s mentioned onstage “schizophrenia”, and Joshua Grange the band’s percussionist, tambourine, steel guitar and banjo plucker kept it, well, active.

Yoakam several times said he was grateful the crowd had remembered him. He rewarded the loyalty with over two hours (a rumored 41 songs) of hits, memories and a few that didn’t make Billboard, but after hearing them again, maybe should have. Running the catalogue from Guitars, Cadillac’s, Dwight’s stellar debut, through to the modern Blame The Vain, Yoakum had the momentum primed with a pleasing mix of ballad and hard edged twang. He also balanced the night with tributes to long-held heroes: Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.

Dwight we’ve missed you. Come back. And make it soon.

Dwight Yoakam's reissued 1986 debut, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., is out now. 

Related Links:
Official Website  
Dwight Used Records - CSO Review

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