It was a full house at Sydney’s beautiful and historic State Theatre on Wednesday night for the first show of Chris Isaak’s Beyond the Sun Australian tour. Chris is a regular visitor to our shores and has never made a secret of his love for this country and its people. And Australia returns that love ten-fold.
As if it wasn’t enough to spend the evening with the man with the velvet voice, we were also treated to a one hour set from the amazing Jon Stevens. Seated on a stool and strumming an acoustic guitar, with just two guitarists to back him, it was a far cry from Noiseworks but his powerful voice still filled the theatre as he played a selection of his own solo songs as well as a good sampling of Noiseworks’ hits, the most popular of which was surely the emotion-charged ‘Take Me Back’ which Jon dedicated to friend and respected music industry figure, Aaron Chugg, who had sadly passed away only a few days earlier; a touching gesture and one that drew loud approval from the audience.
A Chris Isaak concert is always a special event. For those of you who have never had the privilege of seeing him perform ‘live’, I’ll let you in on a little secret… you are really missing out on one of the very best and most entertaining shows around! Chris Isaak is not just a singer, belting out a series of classic hits on stage. Chris Isaak is an all-round entertainer. Yes, he most definitely has a voice like smooth velvet. Yes, he has a repertoire of songs that everyone knows and can sing along to. And yes, he is certainly easy on the eye… but there is so much more to Chris Isaak than that; more than the music, more than the eye candy. And if you were at his show at Sydney’s State Theatre on Wednesday night, you will understand what I am saying.
Dazzling in a bright red suit, The American boy kicked off his set with the song of the same name, of course substituting those lyrics at one point with ‘I’m an Australian boy’, and the crowd was eating out of his hand from the outset. It was only about the third or fourth song into the show when Isaak left the safety of the stage to wander through the crowd, getting up close and personal with his fans. He even visited the fans upstairs and, if you have ever had to climb those stairs to the balcony and mezzanine levels of The State Theatre, you would know that is no mean feat, especially while singing and wearing an acoustic guitar around your neck. The crowd lapped it up and there were quite a few very happy fans around the theatre that night.
Even guitarist Hershel Yatovitz had a stroll through the audience later in the show, playing his guitar to a few lucky fans along the way. It all added to the intimate atmosphere of the evening. Hershel is part of Chris’s long time band, also featuring drummer Kenney Dale Johnson and bass player, Rowland Salley, pianist Scott Plunkett and percussionist Rafael Padilla. Isaak’s band is an integral part of his show. Not only are they all outstanding musicians, but the rapport between the band and the singer is something that only comes with years of working together and bonding both musically and personally.
As always, the comedic timing and style of both Isaak and his band was brought to the fore throughout the night as they made us laugh and dance and become truly swept up in the magical atmosphere of what was a totally entertaining and uplifting show, full of great music, light-hearted humour, superb showmanship and, ultimately, a lot of fun! Chris asked the audience if anyone had been to one of his shows before. When the response was positive, he noted that Australians are ‘very forgiving’ and assured us that, this time, we had come to a ‘good show’. His self-deprecating humour might have been a little hard to take from anyone else in his position but, from Chris Isaak, it was somehow endearing.
The set included songs from his latest album, Beyond the Sun, some old favourites like ‘Blue Hotel’, ‘Dancing’ and ‘San Francisco Days’ as well as covers of some classic tunes like Jerry Lee Lewis’s ‘Great Balls of Fire’ where the piano seemed to burst into flames; 'It's Now or Never' and a breathtaking rendition of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ (my personal favourite Elvis song).
But it was his biggest hits that got the loudest cheers. Isaak’s superb falsetto sent shivers down my spine in ‘Somebody’s Crying’ and that haunting slide guitar opening of his sensual super hit, ‘Wicked Game’ filled the room with the silence of a crowd in awe. By the time we heard the rhythmic bass driven intro to ‘Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing’, there was already a throng of fans dancing in front of the stage and one of those fans was lucky enough to be dragged up on to the stage to join her idol and danced beside him as he sang. Not satisfied with sharing the stage with just one female fan, the singer pulled three more lucky ladies out of the crowd and they all continued to dance and make the most of
their short-lived but memorable moment of fame. One lady in particular took full advantage of the experience. I hope someone took a photo to remind her of what she did that night as I have my doubts she would have remembered much the next morning.
For the encore, Chris returned to the stage in a flashy reflective suit, resembling a rather large disco mirror-ball. The crowd jumped to their feet for ‘Pretty Woman’ and Isaak was joined by his band, on heavenly harmonies in an almost gospel ‘Worked it out Wrong’. But I’m sure that everyone there on Wednesday night would agree with me when I say that Chris Isaak worked it out right… so right, in fact, that Chris and the band will be coming back to Sydney at the end of this tour to do their bad, bad thing for us one more time at The Enmore Theatre. If you miss this one, you will be sorry!
by Sharyn Hamey
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Chris Isaak is in the country until 9th April. You can still catch him at the following venues:
Tuesday 26 March *
Melbourne Sidney Myer Music Bowl ticketmaster.com.au 136 100
*With Kasey Chambers
Thursday 28 March
Byron Bay, Bluesfest bluesfest.com.au
Saturday 30 March
Deniliquin, Deni Blues & Roots Festival ticketek.com.au 132 849
Sunday 31 March
Thredbo, NSW Snowy Mountains ticketmaster.com.au 136 100
Tuesday 2 April
Rockhampton Great Western oztix.com.au (and venue) 1300 762 545
Thursday 4 April
Cairns Cairns Convention Centre ticketlink.com.au 1300 855 835
Friday 5 April
Townsville Townsville Entertainment Centre tecc.net.au 07 4771 4000
Monday 8 April
Caloundra Events Centre theeventscentre.com.au 07 5491 4240
Tuesday 9 April
Sydney Enmore Theatre ticketek: 132 849