Chris Isaak at Centre in the Square – July 3, 2013

Photographs by Lee-Ann Wylie

Some may know Chris Isaak from his TV show, “The Chris Isaak Show” (2001-2004), or from one of numerous TV appearances, or from his film career in movies like, “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Married to the Mob”, “Twin Peaks” etc. Or heard one of his albums, the latest being “Beyond the Sun” (2011). Or perhaps you’re just like me and you’ve heard only a few of his songs.

Well, on July 3rd 2013, I was given the chance to review the man with the velvet voice! The man with one of the more recognizable falsetto voices, next to people like Roy Orbison, at the wonderful venue, Centre in the Square, in Kitchener. I suggest checking both the performer, and the venue out!

If you haven’t seen Chris Isaak, then treat yourself and do it! Spending an evening with him was not only a great musical experience but also entertaining. The show was polished, flashy and most of all funny! Very Vegas-y (this is good!)!

The evening started with Chris Isaak performing his original work, with the second half being cover tunes. During the second segment, he had everyone singing along with and dancing in the aisles. You can see where his influences come from by his cover selections: Elvis to Jerry Lee Lewis to the late great Roy Orbison. And a special note to the ladies, he’s not hard on the eyes. Every hip gyration was applauded and backed by screams of appreciation!

The evening started around 8:15 with the intro music, as his band of 30 years performed “The Best I Ever Had”. They were then joined by the buff 57 year old Isaak. From the silver glittered guitars to the sequin laden outfits you knew it was going to be a flashy show. Isaak and original guitarist, Herschel Yatovitz, took turns standing in front of each other during the first song, trying to upstage each other.  After going into “Speak of the Devil” and “Two Hearts” Isaak left the stage and went into the audience while performing “We Got Tomorrow”. By this point, everyone was eating out of his hand!

He asked if anyone had seen his show before and then went into a mock scenario…should I see Chris Isaak or go to my hair removal appointment.  He thanked everyone for choosing him! Then Isaak got everyone on their feet, dancing to “All I Want” while the guitarist and bassist danced to choreographed moves.

The joking continued as Isaak would fire off one liners while talking about the band. No one was safe! From keyboard player, Scott Plunkett’s drinking problem to bassist, Rowland Salley’s shyness and funny habits. He introduced drummer Curt “Kirkee B” Bisquera and when people clapped Isaak said, ‘Don’t clap, you only encourage him!’  His long time drummer Kenny Dale Johnson  is currently battling cancer and couldn’t be with them on this tour. All are hoping for a speedy recovery.

He asked people to take his photo as said he didn’t spend all that money on a flashy suit for nothing!  I could write a review on just the jokes of this show.

The set list continued with his amazing falsetto voice in “San Francisco Day” and followed by “You Don’t Cry Like I Do”, “Cheaters Own” and “Somebody’s Crying”. Then a silence fell over the crowd as the band started the spine chilling intro to “Wicked Game”. This song is off his third album, “Heart Shaped World” (1989) that director David Lynch chose an instrumental version for the 1989 film “Wild at Heart”. The song went up to number six on the Billboard charts in 1991. You had to be at the show to understand how it felt when the haunting guitar started, followed by the vocals! Then he performed “Go Walking Down”, “One Day”, and “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”. This song was made popular in Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film “Eyes Wide Shut”.

Next Isaak invited a few lucky ladies on stage. He was trying to find a girlfriend for the bassist! He wasn’t successful but he gave the audience a lot of laughs! From this he moved on to the second part of the show: the cover tunes.

Some of the covers that followed were “Only the Lonely”, “Ring Of Fire”, “Can’t Help falling In Love” and “Pretty Woman”. He finished off the set with Jerry Lee Lewis’s monster hit, “Great Balls Of Fire”. Smoke poured out of the keyboard while the solo was going off.

Isaak appeared for the encore in a mirrored suit and sang another four songs: “Super Magic”, “Blue Hotel”, “Big Wide Wonderful World” and “Western Stars”.

One thing that impressed me was something I think not a lot of people would have even noticed. At the end of the encore, the Lap Steel was not working. And, not missing a beat, guitarist Yatovitz pointed to his guitar and used it to play the Lap Steel parts!! I won’t get into this technically but let’s just say, PRO!

The Chris Isaak is a master entertainer with a well oiled show!

In closing I would like to thank Rob Sonoda and Karen Lorenowicz from Centre in the Square for the opportunity to see Chris Isaak! THANK YOU!

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.