Chris Isaak – Humphreys by the Bay – PREVIEW

There are a handful of artists whose live music is as enjoyable as their between song patter. Isaak is at the top of the list, closely followed by Lyle Lovett, David Byrne and the late great Solomon Burke. (Van Morrison would top the list of “great music yet curmudgeonly stage demeanor”).

Chris Isaak brings his nearly annual appearance at Humphreys to the venue on August 3rd. Last year he took the stage and powered through four songs before taking a break and acknowledging the packed house and the boat people floating nearby. He warned, “Ladies if this is your first date with the guy that brought you in a boat, get ready later when he pulls into the Denny’s parking lot and points through the restaurant window to let you know what you could be having inside.  Nawwww, I’d be out there in the boats with you if I weren’t up here.” Isaak then delivered another sterling concert, drawing from his impressive catalog.

Chris Isaak is slampy

Chris Isaak is slampy

Chris Isaak channels Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson and a host of influences yet remains original.

Chris Isaak channels Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson and a host of influences yet remains original.

Stockton was where Isaak was born an improbable 57 years ago; his physique still impresses the girls when he goes surfing. His first band has essentially been his only band: Rowland Salley (bass), Kenny Dale Johnson (drums) and James C Wilsey (guitar). Warner Brothers saw the potential and released his first album in 1985. Two years later I reviewed his second album for Time Out in London, and noted the sound of his gently twanging guitar sounded like it was wafting over the fields in the central coast of California on a summer evening. Isaak soon dabbled in acting, hooking up with Jonathan Demme for several small but fruitful roles. He later parlayed that acting experience for the criminally underrated and now impossible to find “Chris Isaak Show” on Showtime.

Isaak began compiling record sales when his “Wicked Game” was a breakout hit in 1990 after a memorable placement in David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart.”  Momentum followed, as did a clutch of great albums. Each mined Isaak’s obvious affinity for Roy Orbison and other denizens of Sun Studios. Isaak paid direct tribute to that sound on his 14th album, 2011’s “Beyond the Sun.”

Folks lucky enough to attend the August 3rd show at Humphreys will not leave dissatisfied.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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