Dwight Yoakam Turns It Loose at Ryman

Dwight Yoakam raced through two hours of music Tuesday night (July 24) at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, making his ambitious set list seem almost like a fleeting medley of hits. While 28 turbo-charged tunes might exhaust a casual fan, the marathon concert certainly caused a commotion among the capacity crowd, especially when Yoakam shimmied in his tight jeans.

A huge white banner hung behind the Kentucky native, emblazoned with his silhouette and the words “Honky Tonk & Rodeos.” The only other decorative touches were three plastic chairs shaped like martini glasses, complete with oversized “stuffed” olives. Quite a change from Brooks & Dunn ’s Neon Circus tour, where Yoakam has spent most of the summer.

Leading the charge with “What Do You Know About Love,” Yoakam roared through “Guitars, Cadillacs,” “Little Sister” and “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose,” barely pausing to say, “It’s an honor to play in Nashville in this location.” Later in the show, the usually reserved Yoakam stopped several times to acknowledge the fans’ support of his career and to thank them sincerely for coming to the Ryman.

Yoakam sprinkled new material (Jann Browne’s “Louisville”) and less familiar songs (“Heartaches Are Free”) among favorites like “Little Ways,” “I Sang Dixie,” “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” and “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry.” He also tried out “Sitting Pretty,” from the NASCAR-themed CD Inside Traxx; the song is slated as a single in August.

Eighteen songs into the set, when lesser entertainers would be bidding farewell, Yoakam pumped up the crowd with a surprise appearance from bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs and his son Randy. “Borrowed Love,” a highlight of their three-song stint, appeared on the 2001 album, Earl Scruggs and Friends. Yoakam and the Scruggses co-wrote the track.

Then the shrieking resumed, even louder than before. It’s hard to say whether it was for the undeniably cool hits or for Yoakam’s signature on-stage wiggling. Either way, the place got darn loud throughout “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” “Streets of Bakersfield,” “Honky Tonk Man” and “Fast as You.”

In the countless concerts held in the Ryman, it’s unlikely that many performers have gotten such a deafening, unrelenting request for an encore. Yoakam finally obliged with “Free to Go” and “Long White Cadillac.”

In a night blissfully free of obnoxious power ballads, Pinmonkey proved a potent opener throughout a dozen songs. Short on chatter but deep on talent, the five-man band made it clear that their career is likely to last far beyond their first hit, “Barbed Wire and Roses.”

Every musician in Pinmonkey –- Michael Reynolds on vocals, Chad Jeffers on Dobro, Michael Jeffers on bass and Rick Schell on drums -– is a master of his instrument. It may remind some listeners of a bluegrass version of the Byrds. If their upcoming album on BNA Records captures their charisma on stage, expect it to be one of the year’s most compelling releases.