- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Perhaps Dwight Yoakam has sung so many lovesick songs he has little left to share with fans while on tour.

Mr. Yoakam, who wrapped Wolf Trap's 2001 summer concert series Sunday, avoided engaging the adoring throng through much of the muggy evening.

Instead, he barreled through his greatest hits with unerring efficiency while peering out from under his perpetually low-slung hat. The set itself wrapped in about an hour and a half, with one curt encore to extend the abbreviated affair.

The short running time, and the dearth of onstage banter, dulled the luster from an otherwise crackling performance.

Dressed in a maroon cowboy shirt and jeans tight enough to threaten circulation, Mr. Yoakam intermittently dazzled with hits old and new.

The first few numbers, many of which came from his newest release, "Tomorrow's Sounds Today," felt like he was a factory worker trying to make this month's quota. Each song had a rushed, perfunctory quality, as if he had played the material for decades, not months.

It took the Kentucky native a few songs to warm up to his bucolic surroundings.

Once he blistered through "Little Ways," an otherwise pedestrian track from 1987's "Hillbilly Deluxe," he found his groove.

The only time Mr. Yoakam addressed the crowd, beyond an obligatory hello, was to set up two tracks from his forthcoming soundtrack album, "South of Heaven, West of Hell," a film he also directed in and stars. One of the two, a standard country weeper, he says was co-written by the man who penned "Honky Tonk Woman," Mick Jagger.

Talk about strange bedfellows. But Mr. Yoakam has routinely added spice to his curious career by pairing up with unexpected singers and material, often with stirring consequences.

Countrified covers of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" helped Mr. Yoakam sidle up to mainstream audiences. He acknowledged their impact by playing each with a vigor unmatched during the rest of the show. The audience, in kind, gave the songs a mostly joyous reception.

For the Queen tribute, Mr. Yoakam shifted tempos, swatted at his guitar, then embraced it like a lover in a rare theatrical moment.

The singer's penchant for Elvis Presley covers produced the faithful "Little Sister," along with Mr. Yoakam's sly lyric readings and slurry growl. His mannerisms, by now etched in stone, are a constant tip of the cowboy hat to the late rock 'n' roll legend.

As a performer, Mr. Yoakam has a limited number of dance steps at his disposal — or perhaps those jeans only permit a shuffle or two. But he stiff-legged his way across the stage with abandon, shaking his acoustic guitar by his side for occasional emphasis.

Numbers like the somber "Home for Sale," "Ain't That Lonely Yet" and "It Only Hurts When I Cry" each earned the singer's undivided attention. "Fast as You," one of his more recent hits, was played out at a slightly moderated pace, taking the wind out of its venomous sails.

Most songs were reproduced note for note from their studio incarnations. "I Sang Dixie" proved different.

Mr. Yoakam caressed its pained words, his yodel-like delivery breaking at all the right spots.

Longtime collaborator and guitarist Pete Anderson supplied the electrified muscle to anchor Mr. Yoakam's acoustic strumming. Fiddle play by Scott Joss made the melancholy moments even darker.

Opener Allison Moorer, a slight and striking singer with a soulful wail, gave Mr. Yoakam's tight jeans and lovestruck warblings a pleasantly feminine balance through her tight set.


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