Over the past year, the owners of Asylum tore down their outdated rock club and replaced it with Aura, a three-story, neon-lit edifice that cost nearly $10 million to build and changes the whole landscape of Free Street. Barely a week after they opened their doors, Dwight Yoakam came in and figuratively burned the whole place down with a scorching set of high-octane honky-tonk, outsized country ballads and Western swing.

The range of musical styles Yoakam played all stems from the sound of Bakersfield, California, which has flowed through the veins of the Ohio-raised artist’s music for more than 30 years. With Merle Haggard’s passing last year, Yoakam remains the most visible ambassador of Bakersfield sound, and he took the role seriously, playing a stretch of covers that started with Buck Owens’ “Streets of Bakersfield” and continued with a run of Haggard compositions, including his “Silver Wings” – one of the loveliest country songs ever written – and his iconic “Mama Tried.”

Yoakam comes from a country and American music tradition in which songs are written for everyone and meant to be shared. Essentially, one should cherish the song but demystify the songwriter, keeping them alive, in a sense, by playing their music. Yoakam did the same for the recently deceased Chuck Berry, opening his set with Berry’s “Little Queenie” before shifting into his own 2015 barnburner “The Big Time,” suggesting a direct throughline from Berry’s pioneering rock to music recorded in the modern era.

With covers including that one, the Bakersfield mini-set, and more by Elvis Presley and Lefty Frizzell (plus a snippet of the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” dropped in his own “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose”), Yoakam honored his influences and inspirations in the first half of the set, almost like a magician telling how he’s going to do the trick. In the set’s second half, composed heavily of his original songs with an emphasis on late 1980s and early-’90s material, he performed the trick. This was the portion that the crowd came to see, and they responded enthusiastically, often singing along as he stormed through songs like “This Time,” “Little Ways” and “Guitars, Cadillacs.”

Many of these songs were penned for a honky-tonk environment in which the stage and bar are close together. While there was no room for dancing, Aura supplied that level of intimacy. Asylum was a fun place to go for events, such as their local hip-hop night, but it was a cramped, cavernous room that was less attractive for touring artists. Aura is unquestionably a cleaner, fancier space, but it will take a few visits to get used to it. The goal was to get as many people as close to the performers as possible, but it’s bright and vertigo-inducing, and navigating the space initially feels unintuitive to those used to rooms that recede back from the stage.

The sound system and the acoustics of the room are phenomenal, however. The music was loud, yet every note sounded clear and robust, coming together for a full, satisfying mix. Yoakam’s band, decked out in sequined blazers, played high-energy rhythms in lockstep, and Yoakam’s singing was rich and rugged. They were the perfect act to take a brand new sound system out for a spin.

Robert Ker is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.