Thursday, July 21, 2016

Concert Review: Chris Isaak at the Pantages Theatre

Chris Isaak, forever cool.

Chris Isaak's most recent album, 2015's "First Comes the Night."
On Tuesday night Chris Isaak brought his usual flair to the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis. I’ve seen Isaak in concert several times before, and he always brings his A game. (I’ve previously reviewed Isaak concerts in 2009 and 2012.) He’s a really fun performer, you can tell he really enjoys performing live, and he’s very funny and witty. Isaak promised the audience “semi-professional entertainment,” and he and his band more than delivered on that facetious promise. 

Isaak’s band is excellent. 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. The relative newcomers are Scotty Plunkett on piano, organ and accordion, lead guitarist Hershel Yatovitz, and Rafael Padilla on percussion. Scotty is the butt of several of Isaak’s jokes, and he tore up “Great Balls of Fire” when given the chance. Hershel Yatovitz effortlessly reproduces the gorgeous mid-century lead guitar sounds that Isaak is known for. Isaak has a fantastic rapport with his band, and they’re just fun to watch.

Isaak looked sharp in his blue suit accented with rhinestones, and he changed into his mirrored suit for the encore. Isaak turned 60 last month, but he still looks and sounds exactly like he did 25 years ago, when he burst onto the scene with his hit “Wicked Game.” Oh, and yes, Isaak can still hit all of the high notes on “Wicked Game.” On his opening song, “Dancin’” he held a note at the end of the song for about 15 or 20 seconds. It was so cool. 

The setlist was a great mix of some of Isaak’s best songs. I was really thrilled that he sang “Two Hearts,” which is one of my favorites of his. He hit all of the high notes on that one as well. Isaak sang a fantastic version of “Forever Blue,” which he performed mostly solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. It’s such a beautiful, haunting song, and to hear it with just his voice and guitar made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Isaak sang just three songs from his most recent release, 2015’s “First Comes the Night,” which is an excellent album. 

Isaak walked through the crowd as he sang “Don’t Leave Me On My Own,” and he even made his way up to the balcony. If you like retro rock and roll and you want to see a great live performer having fun, see Chris Isaak the next time he comes to town. 

Somebody's Crying
Two Hearts
Don't Leave Me On My Own
Oh, Pretty Woman
Down in Flames
San Francisco Days
Wicked Game
Go Walking Down There
Go Scotty Go (Scotty Plunkett solo)
Running Down the Road
Forever Blue
Pretty Girls Don't Cry
Only the Lonely
Let Me Down Easy
Take My Heart
Can't Help Falling In Love
Great Balls of Fire
Don't Make Me Dream About You
Blue Hotel
Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing/Bye Bye Baby

Big Wide Wonderful World
The Lonesome Fugitive (Introduction only)
The Way Things Really Are

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