Chris Isaak, sequined suit and all, returned to Houston last night to play House of Blues and promote his first Greatest Hits album. It's been four years since the singer last played H-Town at Arena Theater and 33 years since he released his first studio album with Warner Bros. in 1985. Along the way, he's released 12 studio albums, had 12 singles, two Grammy nominations, starred in a handful of films, and had his own TV series.
Opening the show with the upbeat "American Boy" from the 2002 album, Always Got Tonight, Isaak, who grew up in California, described himself as "the original American boy." As usual, he was backed up by Silvertone, the band he formed in the early 1980s.
Their set contained diverse musical styles including rockabilly, country, blues, and surf rock. A common denominator was Isaak's lyrics swirling around themes of anticipating new love and losing said love. Easy to listen to and get lost in, but kind of hard to believe that an intelligent, funny, handsome guy who's great at playing guitar and writing songs would have such a hard time at the game of love.
When he delicately picked out the opening arrangement of his 1995 hit song, "Somebody's Crying," the crowd erupted in cheers. Since when did the sound of a full grown man literally begging for the unrequited love a woman ever sound so good? "And if you like those unrequited love songs, we've got the mother load right here," Isaak joked.
The band paid homage to their 1989 album, Heart Shaped World which contains their biggest commercial hit: "Wicked Game." If you ever watched MTV at all in 1990, then you are familiar with the gorgeously shot, sexy, black-and-white video starring Isaak frolicking on a beach alongside the scantily clad supermodel, Helena Christiansen. Fashion photographer, Herb Ritts directed; Ritts was wildly famous at the time for his black and white portraits of models and celebrities. The song also got a boost after being featured in the 1990 David Lynch film, Wild at Heart, starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern.
This wasn't the first time Isaak and Lynch worked together. Two tracks from Isaak's first album Silvertone, "Gone Ridin" and "Livin for Your Lover" were featured in the 1986 neo-noir cult classic Blue Velvet. Two years later, his song "Suspicion of Love" appeared in the 1988 film, Married to the Mob directed by Jonathan Demme. This in turn, led to Isaak having a bit part in Demme's 1991 Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs. Look for Isaak as the SWAT commander in the scene where authorities are rushing in on what they assume is a maimed Hannibal Lecter.
The greatest hits kept on coming and even included a few covers. "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison and "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash. Both tracks were included in Isaak's 2011 album Beyond the Sun, an homage to Chris's biggest influence, the music produced in the famous Sun Studios of Memphis.
Isaak and his band came back out for an encore that began with understated ominous guitar plucking of the hard rocking, "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing." During the filming of Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, Nicole Kidman was listening to "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing," to rehearse for her upcoming striptease scene. Kubrick loved the song so much he asked Isaak for permission to use it in the film.
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If the blindingly bedazzled suit Isaak donned all night wasn't flashy enough, he didn't disappoint with an entire suit covered in little squares of real mirror. Isaak stated in an interview with the Daily Herald in 2013 that, "it weighs about 35 pounds. I love to sing but I also love to give the audience a show, so we dress up like it's Liberace's birthday."
Isaak's life and career seems something of a Hollywood Highlight reel. Collaborations and friendships with upper crust musicians, photographers, directors, actors/actresses, and supermodels. At 62, he still comes across as playful and young, always joking, always rocking, One of his final songs of the night, "Can't Do a Thing to Stop Me," pretty much sums it up: "Here I go again, dreaming...Here I go again...Can't do a thing to stop me now." It doesn't seem likely that he'll be stopping anytime soon.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Big Wide Wonderful World
Christmas on TV
Go Walking Down There
Ring of Fire
T for Texas
Livin for Your Lover
Let Me Down Easy
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
San Francisco Days
Notice the Ring
Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing
Can't do a Thing to Stop Me
Last month of the Year