533 quiet days
Dwight Yoakam ends Rialto’s live music drought
By Steve Metsch
The celebration went long into the night Sunday when – after 533 days without live music – the beautiful Rialto Square Theatre in downtown Joliet welcomed back bands and fans.
Headliner Dwight Yoakam, with his incredibly tight and talented band, strode onto the stage to thunderous applause after a promising new band, Tennessee Jet, warmed up the near-capacity crowd.
Yoakam made mention of the long stretch without live music, thanking the fans for sharing their night with him and saying “it’s an honor” to be the first headliner on the Rialto stage since early 2020.
And the headliner delivered the goods in fine fashion, as usual, playing most of his hit songs and also covering songs by Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley and others.
In a touching moment, he paid tribute to music legend Don Everly, who died on Saturday at the age of 84.
Yoakam and his band then played a terrific version of “Bye Bye Love” after his sharing what The Everly Brothers mean to pop music, noting their influence on The Beatles and others. Even Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was influenced by the guitar playing of Don Everly, Yoakam said.
The Everly Brothers were in the first group inaugurated into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Legends.
And so is Yoakam in the world of country music.
His 64-year-old voice sounds as great as ever. His guitar playing is top-notch, too. And, he was clearly having fun on stage, noting that “in the past 18 months or whatever it was” he spent a lot of time sitting and thinking at his home. Yep, just like all of us.
There were many great moments in the show, but a few highlights included “You’re the One,” one of the saddest and bitter broken heart songs ever recorded; a rollicking “Guitars, Cadillacs;” and a scorching version of “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” They rocked a cover of Elvis’ “Little Sister.” Buck Owens, an idol of Yoakam’s, would’ve been proud of their take on “Streets of Bakersfield.”
In the night’s funniest moment, Yoakam talked of a discussion with Willie Nelson, waving his hand through the air, pretending that a cloud of pot smoke prevented him from seeing Nelson. “I reached out and grabbed his beard. I think it was his beard,” Yoakam said and laughed.
He then asked Nelson which Merle Haggard song was his favorite. Much to his surprise, with its conservative lyrics, Nelson said “Okie from Muskogee.” And the band played it quite well.
As mentioned, the band, dressed in glittery jackets to match the guitar strap of the denim-clad Yoakam, sounded outstanding. They played off the energy of the crowd which seemed ecstatic to once again be in the 95-year-old theater.
Before the encore, Yoakam addressed the reason for the long drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and deftly offered the advice that people should talk to their doctors and do what’s right for them. He wasn’t preaching. Rather, simply advocating that we take caution and do our research. He noted the planet and people been around a long, long time, offering a bit of hope.
He then said the encore song’s was fitting for the pandemic, and led the band into a fantastic version of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.” Long a staple in his concerts, this take sounded fantastic.
Yes, live music is back in the Rialto Square Theatre, folks. And you see go there next week.
The Illinois Rock & Roll Museum Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 31. Scheduled performers are REO Speedwagon, Ides of March, Jimy Sohns of the Shadows of Knight and the Millenials with a video appearance by Chicago.
Inductees include REO, Buddy Guy, Chicago, Muddy Waters, The Buckinghams, Cheap Trick, deejay Dick Biondi and his compatriot, the late great “Super Jock” Larry Lujack. Tickets are available on-line and at the box office.