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Concert Reviews:
Yoakam, Earle and Williams make LSD Tour a worthwhile trip at Meadow Brook

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2018

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- During his encore on Friday night, Aug. 17, at the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, Dwight Yoakam told the crowd that it was the next to last night of his summer LSD Tour with Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle.

And it was clear that it's been a good trip for the performers -- and, certainly on Friday, for the audience.

Though Yoakam may seem a curious fit with the two Americana stalwarts, the LSD lineup proved complementary, playing on all three artists' maverick natures, each traveling in music's left lane, shifting between genres but certainly sharing the same spirit of American roots music. They also played well with each other: Williams dueted with Earle on his "You're Still Standing There;" Earle played harmonica during Williams' "Drunken Angel" and guitar on "Joy," which she dedicated to the late Aretha Franklin; and the whole cast, including opener King Leg, convened for Yoakam's encore of Joe & Rose Lee Memphis' "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)."

As nominal headliner and closing act, however, Yoakam was a first among equals, infusing his spirited 75-minute-set with "Honky Tonk Man" bonhomie, from the glitter on his guitar strap and the back of his denim jacket to his leg- and hip-swiveling dance moves and the tight, roadhouse-ready performances of his four-piece band. Energetic and enormously entertaining, the 18-song set was also tailored to the town, with Kentucky-raised Yoakam, an Ohio State University drop-out, cheerfully chiding University of Michigan partisans in the crowd -- even praising the Michigan State Spartans at their expense.

He also waxed about Detroit's role in helping to popularize country music beyond the South and added a pair of songs with local connection -- "Readin', Rightin', Rt. 23" and a cover of the Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling," dedicated to the late Royal Oak native Glenn Frey -- to the show.

Yoakam also saluted his Bakersfield, Calif., roots with covers of Buck Owens' "Streets of Bakersfield" and Merle Haggard's "The Bottle Let Me Down," and laced Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie," Elvis Presley's "Little Sister" and Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man" amidst three-plus decades worth of hits such as "Please, Please Baby," "Little Ways," "Turn It On, Turn It Up," "Turn Me Loose" and "Guitars, Cadillacs."

Earle and Williams, meanwhile, both touched on politics and social issues during their hour-long sets. Earle and his Dukes, bolstered by the Brooklyn husband-wife duo the Mastersons, were in tight, sinewy form, rocking hard through the likes of "So You Wannabe and Outlaw," "Lookin' for a Woman," "Copperhead Road" and a set-ending medley of "Fixin' to Die" and the blues-rock staple "Hey Joe." Earle's pre-song comments, meanwhile, added a bit of context and meaning to songs such as "The Firebreak Line" and "Devil's Right Hand."

Williams and her three-piece band, meanwhile, offered a slow-building set that started with mellow and moody takes of "Pineola" and "I Lost It" and didn't really pick up steam until her charged, tone-poem style vamp decrying hate, bigotry, violence, walls and more at the end of "Foolishness." She acknowledged the 20th anniversary of her breakthrough "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" album with renditions of "Drunken Angel," "Lake Charles" and "Joy" and finally cut loose on the pairing of "Honey Bee" and "Blessed" that closed her portion of the show.

The psychedelic-styled backdrop, including lava lap-style projections and twirling stage lights, was more appropriate to the LSD Tour name than the music being presented. Regardless, it was a night of thoughtful, at times provocative performances -- another dose of which would be welcome in the future.

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