Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Concert Review: Chris Isaak at the State Theatre

Chris Isaak, 2012. Photo from Cincinnati Enquirer.

Last night I saw Chris Isaak and his band at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. It’s the third time I’ve seen Isaak live. I previously saw him at Mystic Lake in 2009 and at the O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in 2010. The only reason I missed Isaak in 2011 is that his Twin Cities tour date fell on the day of my wedding. I felt that my nuptials were just slightly more important to attend. Isaak always puts on a great show. It’s easy to see that he loves performing and he’s a natural front man with his matinee-idol good looks and his wicked sense of humor. Not to mention his amazing voice. Isaak looks and sounds amazing; it’s tough to believe that he’s 56. Isaak is always entertaining, whether he’s pogoing across the stage on one foot while playing guitar or telling jokes to the audience. 

Isaak’s band is fantastic, and you can tell they have a great rapport with Chris. Kenney Dale Johnson on drums and Rowland “Roly” Salley on bass have been with Isaak since he first started recording in the mid-1980’s. Isaak even let Salley sing a solo song, “Killing the Blues,” which Salley wrote and which was memorably covered by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their terrific album “Raising Sand.” (I knew of the song, but I had no idea that Salley wrote it.) Isaak also gave prime solos to piano and organ player Scott Plunkett, who tore up “Great Balls of Fire,” and lead guitarist Hershel Yatovitz, who played tasty solos all night. Rafael Padilla also did a great job on percussion, but he didn’t get a featured solo. 

Isaak sang most of his big hits like “Wicked Game,” “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” “Blue Hotel,” and “San Francisco Days,” hitting all the high notes, as he always does. He also sang some Christmas songs, but only about 3 or 4. He strolled out into the audience during “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and even ran up to the balcony. I thought I might be able to give Chris a high-five as he walked by, but he stopped about 15 or 20 feet away from where we were sitting and turned back. Shucks! My other close encounter with Chris was 2 years ago, when I was about 2 feet away from Chris when he sang “Love Me Tender” to a woman sitting in the row right behind me. Isaak also sang several songs from his most recent CD, the excellent “Beyond the Sun,” his tribute to Sun Records recording artists. (You could argue that Isaak’s entire career has been a tribute to Sun Records recording artists.) Honestly, I didn’t feel that the crowd was terribly enthusiastic last night. The State wasn’t quite sold out, and people didn’t stand up during the show unless Chris exhorted us to. Maybe the balcony was just a little sleepy, and perhaps things were more rockin’ down on the main floor, I’m not sure. The show ended with a three song encore of “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Big Wide Wonderful World,” and an a cappella version of “Worked it Out Wrong,” which is a great song, but not a very up-tempo number to leave on. I would have liked a couple more songs; a rocker like “Speak of the Devil” “Like the Way She Moves” or “I’m Not Sleepy” would have been a great finale to the evening. But that’s a small complaint to have, and I finally got to hear one of my favorite Chris Isaak songs “Notice the Ring,” which he did a terrific version of. Isaak was quite loquacious last night, teasing his band members, kidding around, and making fun of himself. One of my favorite things Chris said was “I know you’re not supposed to take pictures in here, but go ahead. I didn’t dress this way to NOT have my picture taken!” It was a fun show, and I’ll be looking forward to the next time Chris Isaak comes to town. 

Set list, in not quite correct order:
American Boy
Blue Hotel
I Want Your Love
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Christmas on TV
Washington Square
Wicked Game
The Best I Ever Had
San Francisco Days
Notice the Ring
Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing
Somebody’s Crying
Ring of Fire
Dixie Fried
Can’t Help Falling in Love
Killing the Blues-Roly Salley solo
It’s Now or Never
Miss Pearl
Live It Up
Doin’ the Best I Can
Great Balls of Fire
Oh, Pretty Woman
Big Wide Wonderful World
Worked It Out Wrong


Anonymous said...

I was at the show and appreciated Isaak's showmanship and energy level. He was only out done by the woman who got up on stage to dance with Roly during "Bad, bad, Thing" and did the splitz. I loved how she bounced right back up and continued dancing!

Blue Sky Hotel said...

In our lobby this song is the most listened! We love Chris and his song.