on October 11, 2015 at 10:44 AM, updated October 11, 2015 at 6:05 PM
Dwight Yoakam may have been one of the coolest things south of the Mason-Dixon line when he brought his atypical country to the newly renovated Orpheum Theater on Saturday (Oct. 10). The multiple-Grammy Award-winning actor and singer/songwriter dished out hit after hit, performing music that spanned his 21 albums, including this year’s release, “Second Hand Heart.”
From “The Streets of Bakersfield,” “Honky Tonk Man” and “Guitars and Cadillacs” to “I Sang Dixie,” an obvious crowd favorite, Yoakam cranked out country tunes with a crowd-pleasing hint of shyness and honky-tonk cool.
Yoakam had his pale gray cowboy hat tilted over his eyes, a look he has maintained since he first started out in the clubs of Los Angeles in the 1980s, often playing to non-traditional audiences that would at times include fans of not only rock and rockabilly, but even punk. With a sound, which he describes as “hillbilly music,” Yoakam has always had a cross-genre appeal — that when he began was rarely found in country music.
A few moments in, he stopped for a moment to acknowledge the celebration of the theater’s renovation (it was flooded by Hurricane Katrina in 2005) and recent reopening.
“Thank you for joining us in celebrating the Orpheum’s reopening in New Orleans,” Yoakam said.
Throughout the evening, as is his habit, he would turn his back to the audience to indulge in a moment of cool strumming or a little boot-scoot-style dancing. The back of his jeans jacket bore a stripe across the bottom — a band of rhinestones or sequins, with a line of music notes — that felt as if it almost addressed his penchant for playing facing away from the audience.
Before bringing out “Pocket of a Clown,” Yoakam segued with a little local talk: “…while we’re this close to Bourbon Street …”
Yoakam’s show was a perfect slow build, starting with a calmness — and maybe a little stiffness — but letting the the spirit grow. As he warmed and started to really enjoy himself, so did the audience. By the time he sang “Dixie” some audience members were swaying, and by the next song, “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” they started to rise from their seats and assemble in front of the stage in the aisles of the floor for a little light dancing and a better view.
Yoakam likes paying homage with covers of songs by those who obviously influenced his attitude and sound. He included in his set Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” his rendition of which was released as a single in the mid-1990s.
The night’s opener was LANco, a five-man outfit from Nashville who were recently signed to their first recording contract. They delivered a solid set of modern country-style rock as they warmed up the audience.
The concert was one of the first held in the newly reopened Orpheum Theater. The 1918 Beaux Arts building in the CBD had sat vacant since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina floodwaters damaged its lower level. The renovation maintained the traditional look of the theater, using the color scheme that was in place in 1921. The renovation included modern seating and new state-of-the-art light and sound systems.