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Pulling into a cut-down Verizon Arena for a Sunday night show in North Little Rock, Dwight Yoakam reminded anybody with ears why the former Nashville heartthrob and hitmaker has lasted beyond early success (his debut album -- Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. -- hit the market in 1986) and carved out his own unique slice of modern American music.

Yoakam, who spent many years out in Los Angeles for film and TV work, hasn't lost his ability to rev up music fans here in the middle of the country.

Verizon calls the setting for Yoakam's concert The Theatre @ Verizon, with a small contingent of floor seats and a few filled-up sections of the lower bowl totaling an attendance only slightly north of 2,500. The crowd, however, was no less enthusiastic as Yoakam -- who even at this stage in his career sported a stage dress of an oversized cowboy hat, jean jacket and painted-on jeans -- took the stage flanked by young bandmates donning sparkly sequined jackets. Other than a few colored lights, spectacle was at a bare minimum; clearly the focus was on the music.

For the next hour and half, Yoakam ripped through a catalog of mostly fast-paced songs -- honky-tonk, conventional country, bluegrass-flavored tunes and spaced-out rockers. A number of the songs weren't his own, and it felt as if we were getting a guide through the man's record collection.

He did go into a dissertation on the Bakersfield sound, a strain of country music from California (but originating in part from Arkansas, he duly noted). Then he played his tribute, "The Streets of Bakersfield," and later Buck Owens' "Act Naturally." Yoakam, who didn't banter much at all with the crowd (who didn't seem to mind, especially as it seemed to mean more music), also told a quirky story about Merle Haggard's early hits being written by an unlikely source.

Any music artist with a career that stretches out the way Yoakam's has must practically apologize for any new songs that are played. He did so as well with "Pretty Horses," a lovely, light number that needed no early warning. Toward the end, he strung together his most well-known songs including "Honky Tonk Man" and "Guitars, Cadillacs." The young man's hits were well-served by the older man's voice -- Yoakam retains the power in his tenor.

Oh, and he also has no problem giving the crowd plenty of looks at his old honky-tonk shimmy. Many women made sure he knew it was appreciated.

Metro on 02/20/2019

Print Headline: Yoakam's no-nonsense show delights crowd of 2,500 in NLR

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