Last Night: Chris Isaak at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre


Sayre Berman

Chris Isaak

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pompano Beach Amphitheatre

Better Than: Catching cool.

When I first caught Chris Isaak, it was on the fourth floor of a legendary New York nightclub called Danceteria and the cat was still relatively unknown. But by the time he and his Silvertones finished their month-long residency, every hipster in the house knew that it wouldn’t be long before the world caught on to his cool. Then though, amid Manhattan’s more informed swing-set, Isaak’s swagger and swoon seemed better-suited for gin joints or cabarets, places where his mug could be dug up close, and where smoke swirled around each syllable he let slide from those matinee idol lips.

So it was with some trepidation that I trekked up to Pompano for his Amphitheatre show. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was more than a little keen to catch the cat (just check my preview interview), but catching the cat out in the great wide open seemed something of an incongruity.

Boy, am I a dolt. For outside, under the stars, with a moon half-cracked and a breeze blowing politely, Isaak and his Silvertones were just about perfect.

First, of course, there’s the man himself, who could probably yawn and still cause chicks to shudder. The coif, the chisel, the baby blues – all there and all dreamy. Good thing too, because it takes that kinda combo to pull off a hot pink rock-a-billy suit.

But Isaak is no mere pretty boy, he’s an entertainer, and from the rousing way he duck-walked into the rocking of “Lonely with a Broken Heart” and “Somebody Crying,” it was clear that he was here to do just that.

At the same time he’s not one to dismiss the chicks, so for his third song Isaak ditched the six-string and strolled into the crowd for a lovely rendition of “Love Me Tender.” Yes, there were shrieks, yes, there were squeals, and yes, he left more than a few fawning females all a flutter.

Back on stage he and his Silvertones whipped-out a new track entitled “We Let Her Down” then segued smoothly into a deft, dusky take of “Wicked Game,” perhaps his most popular song. Smart of him to get it out of the way so early in the set, this way those who came just to hear that could take their leave.

Thing is, no one did. Not that I saw anyway. Then again, after Isaak incited everyone to leave their seats and come to the front of the stage, anyone walking out would’ve been trampled.

And they would’ve missed Chris blowing up Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” crooning coolly through Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s “All of Me,” and reverently delivering Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.”

In between, Isaak threw out the set list and he and the band took to stools for an intimate segment of songs that included a flapper-esque new track and something sultry from south of the border, the titles of which escaped me.

Then it was a riff-happy rollick of “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” before the man and his band slipped away, only to re-emerge with Isaak wearing that trademark mirror suit of his and blasting off into “American Boy” and “Notice the Ring,” both from his under-appreciated ’04 release, Always Got Tonight. Yet it was the crack and the quiver of his voice in the breathtaking finale, “Forever Blue,” which really summed up the night. For there, beneath a beautiful South Florida sky, Isaak proved that heartbreak is not just something to cry about, it’s something to be sung, as true and as blue as it can be.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Like I said, I saw him when, so I had a kinda proprietary interest in seeing him again.

Random Detail: Isaak’s between song banter with the band brought back the best of Showtime’s late, lamented “The Chris Isaak Show.”

By the Way: Lisa Loeb opened the show, and she is more petite than you’d think, and thrice as cute. She’s also remarkably charming. So go out and get her Camp Lisa, which has songs inspired by the kid classic Free to Be You and Me.

-- John Hood

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John Hood