Chris Isaak – A Sure Thing at Humphrey’s

You know we are moving toward a more normal concert scenario when we are back at Humphrey’s and Chris Isaak is holding court. This time he only waited two songs instead of the usual three songs to start discussing the boat people, anchored just outside the venue. As always, he warned the ladies therein that they were in for a cheap date, but eventually admitted he would like to be out there too. 

Isaak kicked off the evening with his ostensible theme song, “American Boy,” which also opened the mysteriously disappeared Chris Isaak Show. The TV series is overdue for a comeback, perhaps even with new episodes.

The evening at Humphrey’s was remarkable, Isaak worked up a sweat running through many of his energetic numbers and throttled the pace admirably when he brought the band forward for a series of acoustic numbers.

But before they sat down, guitarist Hershel Yatovitz unleashed many scorching leads. His versatility was apparent when he pivoted to more fluid stylings on the cool, watery “Wicked Game.” Isaak in one of his many sterling between song patters indicated that he did nothing during the pandemic, other than puzzles. He ran down a hilarious update of life during Covid, indicating that he and the band were “the last responders, so coming out tonight you know it’s safe.”

But Isaak was busy the last year, and introduced a suitably effective new song called “Pandemic Blues.”  

Drummer Kenney Dale Johnson has never been better, the Texan’s drum work is crisp and the crack of his snare is as sharp as ever. Holding down the other half of the engine room was bassist Rowland Salley, whose fretwork was excellent as always. Isaak’s vocals still display an impressive range, whether channeling his inner Johnny Cash on “Ring of Fire” or reaching for the soaring high notes in “Two Hearts.” 

Granted two-thirds of the band proved their thespian chops on the aforementioned brilliant, underrated and sadly unavailable Chris Isaak Show. But they all certainly exude a sense of having real fun onstage. 

There are only a few sure things when it comes to live music, but a great Chris Isaak show is one. 

Salley, Isaak and Johnson – the longest running members of the band

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.