Whether you hear Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” for the first time or the 50th, it is still unlike any song from 1989 or 2014. And to see Isaak performing this and any of the dozens of songs he has created or covered is a must-see. I finally caught him on Friday at the Keswick and was as ecstatic with the show as the rest of the nearly sold-out crowd.
“Wicked Game” is a good starting point for a reflection of the show. Nestled within the main set, accompanied by gloriously dramatic lights, the song shimmered as Isaak and his crack band hit every note. It was surely the most serious note of the night, if only because of its universal recognition as a modern classic. And the rest of the show certainly lived up to the greatness packed into “Wicked Game.” A few songs earlier, Isaak had ventured into the crowd to mingle with fans and sing directly to them. Then there were other brilliant renditions of his originals like “San Francisco Days,” complete with dual drum solos, and a haunting “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.” His covers are just as accomplished, from “Oh, Pretty Woman” to “Ring of Fire.”
Isaak’s music exists in an alternate reality without The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or any other rock from the mid-1960s onwards. He takes on this persona completely, from flashy suits to a pompadour, making him the complete entertainment package circa 1960. And he and his audience embrace this fully, adding to the pure fun of the show.
Isaak is the complete package. Beyond his vocal and wardrobe prowess, he delivers quite a bit of fantastic banter. With such classic quips as “hold your applause for another band” and turning a fan’s call of “I love you” into a little ditty about him stalking the catcaller, he is an entertainer at heart. And as an entertainer and rock ’n’ roller, Isaak provided the perfect beginning to a fantastic September weekend.