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John Lamb, Published July 30 2013

Dwight Yoakam brings the honky tonk to Moorhead

MOORHEAD – With its big arches and bowl seating under a blue sky, no one will confuse Moorhead’s Imagine Amphitheater at Bluestem Center for the Arts for a honky tonk, but that’s exactly how it sounded Tuesday night.

Dwight Yoakam shimmied and twisted across the stage, crooning and yelping out enough hillbilly tunes to appease those in the crowd that won’t be going to WE Fest this weekend.

The singer/guitarist showed why he’s experiencing a bit of a resurgence with his latest album “3 Pears,” opening with the energetic new “Take Hold of My Hand,” bringing the crowd of 1,530 to its feet.

The new tune may have lost some fans, but the veteran came roaring back with older gems “Please, Please Baby” and “Little Sister.”

At 56, Yoakam hasn’t lost a step, or rather a twist. Each of his side-shuffles in those tighty Dwighty jeans brought cheers from the crowd and even with his trademark cowboy hat pulled down low you could see he was having fun. He threw in a few pelvic thrusts leading into the seductive new “Waterfall” for fun.

He jokingly broke into Buck Owens’ “Streets of Bakersfield” to play to the crowd and drop “Minnesota,” then a few seconds later again to a slightly more specific, “Greater Fargo.” He later noted it was finally nice to play Moorhead.

He paid homage to the architect of the Bakersfield Sound he adopted, breaking into “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose,” to play Owens’ “Act Naturally.” Later, he added a chugging “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash for good measure before returning to the new with “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke.”

Fittingly, he started winding down the set with his first hit, “Honky Tonk Man,” before his signature “Thousand Miles From Nowhere” sounded as fresh as when it came out 20 years ago.

After a trio of bar room tunes – “It Only Hurts When I Cry,” “Little Ways” and “Guitars, Cadillacs” – he closed with the barn-burner, “Fast as You”.

Dale Watson was a fitting opener for the evening, getting the show off on the right foot, or boot. The Bard of Austin, Texas, bars spun out a series of humorous trucker tunes and drinking songs.

He also paid tribute to those who paved the way for him with a Merle Haggard song, a detour through ZZ Top’s “La Grange” and an homage to the late George Jones (“Jonesin’ for Jones”) that name-checked a number of the legend’s songs before the chorus, “George Jones is gone/ Thank God his music lives on.”

The same will be said of Yoakam some day, but last night he was as lively as ever.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

John Lamb at (701) 241-5533