Concert Review: Dwight Yoakam @ Grand Masonic Lodge, Nashville

Pierce Greenberg | February 25th, 2009

A near-capacity crowd waited almost two and a half hours to see Dwight Yoakam, Amy Lee (of Evanescence fame) and pop star Gavin DeGraw at the historic Grand Masonic Lodge in Nashville on Monday night. Song-Writers in the Round was in town taping a series of shows entitled Legends and Lyrics, bringing together songwriters of all ages and genres in a stripped-down, intimate setting.

Technical problems (including an amp blown by Yoakam during sound check) caused the long delay, and by the time the artists finally took the stage the audience was overly anxious to see how the three stylistically divergent singers would mesh.

From the onset, DeGraw and Yoakam had immediate chemistry and were easily more comfortable than their female counterpart. The pair acted like old friends, which, Yoakam explained, they are. The country legend attended one of DeGraw’s shows in California, and they have stayed in touch since. While recounting their first backstage encounter, Yoakam quipped, “You are a texting fool, too.”

“Can we move him?” DeGraw fired back.

While the between-song banter was fun and natural, the music was the real highlight of the evening. The Legends and Lyrics show is intended to draw attention to the art of crafting a song, but the real connection between Lee, DeGraw and Yoakam was in their respective unique vocal styles. Lee’s dark, haunting emotional whisper—backed by a stunning cellist—was truly chilling. Combine that with DeGraw’s rangy soulful pop pipes and Yoakam’s signature hillbilly holler and you’ve got yourself some highly distinctive voices.

DeGraw’s mostly stuck to the piano for his share of lead time, playing radio hits “I Don’t Want to Be” and “In Love With a Girl.” From a country viewpoint, the soulful runs in his voice could be compared to the vocal alterations of Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. Anyhow, DeGraw showed that he was an extraordinary talent with a truly charming character—the guy’s likeability is off the charts.

Unlike DeGraw, who maintains a regular performance schedule, Lee hadn’t done a live show in over a year and was admittedly out of her comfort zone, even having to re-do two songs because of miscues. She mostly stuck to single releases, including “Bring Me To Life,” “Good Enough,” and “Lithium.” Lee was respectful to both Yoakam and DeGraw, but claimed that she had never done an in-the-round style show—she was clearly a little sheepish.

The hardest part for Lee undoubtedly was following Yoakam—she even stated “I think I just got schooled,” after he finished his first selection. Of the three artists, Yoakam had the deepest catalog by far, but didn’t limit his set to hits. For his first song, he went back to 1990 with a stirring rendition of “If There Was a Way,” an cut that gets lost among the four top 10 singles from the album of the same name.

But the show wasn’t all thoughtful ballads—Yoakam brought along a stand-up bass and a lead electric guitar, which seemed a little out-of-place in a “stripped down” performance. Nonetheless, Yoakam did some rockin’, and it was clear how he had blown out an amp. DeGraw and Lee watched in amazement as Yoakam jolted the room with energy during “Guitars, Cadillacs,” while “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” and “Please, Please Baby” also took on uptempo beats that found Yoakam standing up from his obligatory chair and giving a few signature heel turns and hip gyrations.

For the last song in the show, Yoakam dug deep into his catalog again, pulling out a song that—as a songwriter—he said he was the fondest of. “Dreams of Clay” was another album gem of an album cut (from the 2000 disc Tomorrow’s Sounds Today) and really stood out as the best song of the evening.

Yoakam slowed the song down considerably from the album version, beautifully accentuating each syllable.

As the night came to a close—at around 12:30 a.m.—Yoakam, DeGraw and Lee all came to center stage to take a bow and wrap up the taping. While all the artists showed that they were extraordinarily talented, Yoakam left no doubt as to who was the legend in the room.

Editor’s Note: Legends & Lyrics is taped by Song-Writers in the Round and distributed by American Public Television. Check the website LegendsandLyrics.com, call your local public TV station or check local listings to find out when the show is airing in your area.

  1. idlewildsouth
    February 25, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Wow! Sounds like an incredible show. Wish I could have made it.

  2. Drew
    February 25, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I really want to see Yoakam live.

  3. Baron Lane
    February 26, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Nice! I’m going to see Dwight in New Mexico in April.

  4. Brenda
    March 4, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Wonderful review!! Knew I should have made the trip to Nashville. (Still kicking myself for not seeing Dwight play the Opry last year, too.) All the songs he played are so awesome! The beautiful “If There Was a Way” and “Dreams of Clay”? And his other hits with “heel turns and hip gyrations”? OMG!!

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