Review: Chris Isaak @ State Theatre (Sydney)

Chris Isaak played State Theatre (Sydney) - image ©
Grace has been singing as long as she can remember. She is passionate about the positive impact live music can have on community and championing artists. She is an avid animal lover, and hopes to one day own a French bulldog.

It's a slightly chilly autumn night around Sydney's State Theatre, but inside is cosy and warm just like the voice of our leading man.

Chris Isaak comes out to 'American Boy', his sequinned jacket shimmering like stars in the night (10 April). He playfully blocks guitarist Hershel Yatovitz from being visible to the crowd before doing the Elvis leg and hip thrust. He smiles charmingly and we're in love.

'Somebody's Crying' comes up next and Isaak's ability to match infectious melody with heartfelt lyricism shines. Piano and bass solos end the song.

"We've played a lot of places, but this theatre is just so beautiful," Isaak marvels. "You're lucky because if this was in America, we'd spray paint it. Having a place so beautiful and you maintain it, hats off to you.

"Who's seen us before?" he asks. "Thanks for coming back. We've cleaned up a lot of the adult language." "Bullsh.t," drummer Kenney Johnson says.

Isaak points out a couple he had breakfast with yesterday and sings to them, before making his way through the crowd collecting high fives and back pats. He's clearly a man who adores his fans.

Chris Isaak.2
Image ©

He makes his way to the upper balcony, a decision he later regrets remarking: "I should have paced myself. "Thanks for coming folks," he says. "That show was so good it went by in a second," he jokes. "It's nice to see the band from the balcony. From here Kenney, you're a good-looking man."

He stays in the mezzanine for an entire song, before beginning a story about how he asked the label to meet James Brown. After fan-girling to Brown, he was responded to with one word, "eh". "I built a foundation on that," Isaak jokes. He's clearly having a good time.

'I'll Go Crazy' follows, the smooth, soul bass sinking down into your veins. Isaak's voice is impressive, perfectly pitched. "I want to do something I'm not supposed to do.

"The fire warden asked me if I was going to do this song and I said, 'is it a fire issue?' and he said 'no, it's just not very good'. I said, 'Let me explain something about showbiz to you. My band have been practising their dance moves. You wanna see them?" he asks. The crowd agrees.

The moves are funky and fun under streaming red lights. It's nice to see a frontman having this much fun. They transition unexpectedly and subtly into 'Wicked Game'. One patron sneaks through the seated darkness to the front of the stage and is momentarily serenaded.

The theatre remains in darkness apart from singular blue beams on the stage. Isaak encourages the crowd to stand up and women stream to the front of the stage, but the attentive theatre staff shoo people back to their seats by the time the song ends.

'Speak Of The Devil' and 'One Day' follow before Roy Orbison's 'Pretty Woman' sends the theatre into ecstasy. A real treat.

Calls of "I love you" ring through the crowd. "Don't think you can say I love you with impunity," Isaak warns, "I can find you," half ominously, half charmingly.

Chris Isaak.3
Image ©

'Forever Blue' is sentimental and Isaak's voice calls to the deep in you. "How long have we been together Rolly?" he asks bassist Rowland Salley. "38 years. . ." Rolly begins, taking it right down to the number of seconds. "When we hit 40 years, do we get some sort of government benefit?" Isaak asks.

'Two Hearts' features astonishingly high vocals from Isaak, before he stops mid-song in Jon Steele's 'My Happiness' declaring "that's bringing me down".

"We started playing 40 years ago in a little town Sacramento," Isaak continues the stories. "The Wagon Wheel was the bar. I said, 'where's our dressing room?' The manager said, 'right here' and opened the urinals."

He shares about opening for Roy Orbison, calling him "one of the nicest people I've ever met". 'Only The Lonely' follows under golden curtains and purple lasers. It's a beautiful moment in time, as Isaak gives his all to rapturous cheers.

Isaak humorously tells of his early slummy days watching Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' on his tiny TV on Saturday mornings and how they played his record and the audience hated it. 'Livin' For Your Lover' plays.

Isaak then brings out Jess and Matt from 'X Factor' for Boudleaux Bryant's 'Bye Bye Love'. Isaak sits one out as Jess and Matt play their original, 'Home Out Of Home'. The pair are stunning, their harmonies hair raising. They are an amazing pair to look out for. They remain for 'Can't Help Falling In Love' and make their exit.

'San Francisco Days' is a tropical dream, before the band exit, returning with 'Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing' stealing the show. Isaak has donned a metallic suit that blinds with light. He invites patrons onto the stage to dance vigorously, much to their delight.

Thirty songs later, the show comes to an end. Isaak is clearly a man of stamina, a man who adores his fans, and a man born to live on a stage. Charming, full of stories, and loving towards his crowd, Isaak endears himself well.

However his voice, a voice which came through in glorious flashes throughout the show, is truly, ground-shakingly incredible. I would warrant more than one patron will be returning for his second Sydney show tonight.

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