Dwight Yoakam Sticks to Honky Tonk and Hits at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, OR (SHOW REVIEW)

Being in a casino for a concert is a surreal reminder that, at its core, music is entertainment. Country star and actor Dwight Yoakam is a tried and true entertainer, so it makes sense that these days he spends much of his time playing the casino circuit. This is also often a sign that one has reached the status of legend or legacy act, and Dwight Yoakam is definitely the former after a long and illustrious career. On Friday, February 7th Yoakam came to the Oregon Coast – Lincoln City to be exact – for the first of two shows at the Chinook Winds Casino.

With no new album to promote, Yoakam and his band would instead focus on giving fans a tour of his country music roots alongside a handful of his greatest hits. There would be none of the theatrics one might expect from a casino show, and this wasn’t a bad thing. Yoakam let the music speak for itself, dishing out a straightforward dose of honky tonk for much of the nearly two-hour set. Proudly wearing his signature tight-as-all-hell faded jeans and heavy-brimmed cowboy hat, Yoakam kicked off his set with not a country song but a rock and roll classic in Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie”. This would set a high level of energy that the band maintained throughout the performance. Telling the crowd that “this part of Oregon is part of greater Bakersfield”, he would waste little time getting to songs from some of his favorite acts. Buck Owen’s “Streets of Bakersfield” – a song Yoakam famously recorded as a duet with Buck – shined with glittery acoustic guitar strumming and Jamison Hollister adding in the Tejano-inflected parts on accordion. From there the band turned to a trio of Merle Haggard tunes with the melancholy honky tonk of “The Bottle Let Me Down”, the high and lonesome blues of “Swinging Doors”, and the classic anthem “Okie From Muskogee”, the latter of which had many in the crowd singing along with approval. “Okie” was introduced with a hazy and humorous tale of Yoakam’s encounter with Willie Nelson and was balanced out with a lively rendition of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s classic anthem “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.”

Once Yoakam had the crowd livened up with his tributes, he got into his own greatest hits. “I’ve Got You” sounded fresh as ever with Yoakam letting the smooth and mellow chorus flow naturally. Guitarist Eugene Edwards would inject plenty of Don Rich-style guitar picking into songs like “I’ll Be Gone”, while “Blame the Vain” showcased Yoakam’s suave vocals with a jangly Tom Petty-esque rock soundtrack. The band’s poignant take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lodi” would be a standout, only to be topped by Yoakam paying tribute to a “Portland songwriter” with a soulful rendition of Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues“ (a majorly underrated tune) that was made more emotional with Jamison Hollister’s accordion playing. Yoakam would let his band shine during a medley of Buck Owens tunes, bringing it back to Bakersfield one last time and letting them show off their own country music chops. Towards the end of the set, Yoakam would get to some of his biggest hits, letting his true vocal power show on his catchy favorite “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” swinging his hips to the twangy and rollicking “Guitars, Cadillacs”, and going full Roy Orbison boogie woogie on the organ and electric guitar-drenched “Fast As You”.

Similar to artists like Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam is a walking encyclopedia of country music who also happens to have a handful of massive hits under his belt. On Friday night, he put all of this on display as he expertly balanced the music that has inspired his thirty-plus year career and the songs that have earned him a place alongside those same legends. Those expecting a poppier country show were instead give a straight-no-chaser honky tonk tour de force. By the time he left the stage, Yoakam and his band had entertained the crowd while taking them on a journey through country and rock and roll history.

CORRECTION: This article originally credited Brian Whelan on accordion, keyboards and other instruments. The correct band member is Jamison Hollister. 

Photo credit: Emily Joyce

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