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Review: Chris Isaak enthrals the generations in Auckland

As he confidently walked on to the stage at Auckland’s Kiri Te Kanawa theatre wearing a dark blue suit encrusted with colourful flowers and rhinestones, a crisp white shirt and signature slicked back black hair Chris Isaak looked very much the epitome of a country star from the 50s or 60s. Yet there is something of the chameleon in Isaak in his ability to cross genres and meld sounds and moods. 

Despite his Californian birth he radiates southern charm and has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour that he at times gently applies to his bandmates and the audience. His personality is playful and he seems genuinely nice.

Isaak definitely knows his place in the world and he seems content with it as one remark illustrates: “My whole career has been me doing what makes me happy…  … but it’s kept me off the charts.

All of this has meant Isaak has achieved career longevity and a legion of fans that span multiple generations.

At 67, his voice is as clear, strong, and melodic as ever, and he can still push out that fine falsetto and hold a note for a long, long time. 

He knows how to satisfy a crowd and three songs into his set he wandered through the stalls and even up on the balcony. At one point sitting on a girls lap and saying: “I’m heavier than I look, right?

The concert was a mix of his own songs such as Somebody’s Crying; Blue Hotel; and San Francisco Days, San Francisco Nights; and covers from James Brown (I’ll Go Crazy); Roy Orbison (Pretty Woman); and Elvis (Can’t Help Falling in Love).

During Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing, he invited a couple of girls in the audience to dance on stage, but the crowd kept growing until security had to stop more joining in. It was a spontaneous and cute moment that illustrated the singer isn’t afraid of getting up close with his fans.

One other moment showed just how relaxed Isaak is on stage. He started a song he described as ‘really sad’, a couple of lines in he stopped saying: “this one’s bringing me down.” It might have been rehearsed, but it was funny.

Of course there was one song I’m sure every one was waiting for and as soon as that famous guitar twang began the crowd erupted. Wicked Game is without a doubt one of the best songs ever and he delivered it with such power and emotion it reverberated around the theatre. 

Chris Isaak represents an interesting niche in popular music and in this concert he used his stagecraft magic to weave together country, rock a billy, rock and roll, and pop with a personality imbued with old-world charm and poise. For 90 minutes in the Aotea Centre, Isaak’s expert musicianship, soulful voice and playful personality brought several generations together for one very special night. 

Photo Credit (and thanks) to Chris Zwaagdyk


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