Last Night: Chris Isaak At House Of Blues
Aftermath would like to get a look at Chris Isaak's business card sometime. We're assuming he has one. Mostly, we're wondering what it would say underneath his name: "Musician," "Entertainer" or perhaps both.
Based on Isaak and longtime band Silvertone's career-spanning two-hour set at House of Blues Sunday - which tossed in a handful of covers from Roy Orbison and Elvis (twice) to James Brown and Texas icons the Sir Douglas Quintet - Aftermath would put our money on the latter. As much as it matters, "Entertainer" would come first, too - and not for alphabetical reasons.
That doesn't mean Isaak is a hack. Far from it.
His voice can still raise the hairs on a vampire's neck, and 25 years after releasing his first album, his catalog is deep enough to allow him to dispatch biggest hit "Wicked Game," gracefully and hauntingly, a mere 30 minutes into the show.
Closer to the truth, we would say, is that Isaak realizes what a talented crew of musicians he has around him. His gentle needling of keyboardist Scotty Plunkett and guitarist Hershel Yatovitz and Martin-and-Lewis repartee with drummer Kenny Dale Johnson, it seemed to us, was his way of reflecting the spotlight that would naturally find someone with such wholesome matinee-idol looks onto the guys who do the real heavy lifting.
Plus, whenever you do things like walk out in the crowd during Elvis' "Love Me Tender" or bring a couple of ladies onstage to dance during "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing," it's not like you're hurting for attention in the first place.
Besides being one of the few rock and roll bands left with a genuine ear for jazz, Johnson's fluid brushwork and a few of Plunkett's organ lines in particular, Silvertone is equally adept at country. "Western Stars," which Isaak asked his band to "try to at least tie" the version recorded by k.d. lang, moseyed in from some lost Gene Autry movie about three-quarters through the set.
And as for blues, besides the come-hither boogie of "Bad, Bad Thing," we got a real treat when Isaak stopped Jimmie Rodgers' "T for Texas" about halfway through. The singer wondered "Why am I singing the Texan song?" - just one of several times his deadpan banter reminded Aftermath of another Texan, Steve Martin - and allowed Johnson to revisit his '70s Austin roots via Alvin Crow's tongue-in-cheek "Nyquil Blues."