Live review: Chris Isaak @ the Denver Botanic GardensBy Kristopher Coe | July 11th, 2011 | No Comments »
Not many musicians can play cross-generational hopscotch quite like 55-year-old Chris Isaak.
Isaak, who played to a rain-soaked gaggle of glitterati at the Denver Botanic Gardens on Friday evening, is that rare performer who can stitch together a catalog that you, your parents and probably even your grandparents would all find wistfully redolent. In fact, Isaak did his best to uncork the Sun Records vault with a laudable assortment of covers from the likes of Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Wages and Johnny Cash.
As ambitious of a set-list as that would seem, it proved effortless for the Northern California native who came adorned in a vintage turquoise suit embellished with sequins. As expected, his vocal splendor (the intrepid hallmark of his success) was the one thing that sparkled brighter than his suit — and also kept his throwback threads from seeming too schmaltzy.
If that weren’t enough, Isaak’s own songs were basted in their own retro-glaze. “Somebody’s Crying” and “Don’t Leave Me On My Own,” from 1995’s Forever Blue, could have easily been plucked from a bygone era. But his own illustrious classic stood-out as a timeless gem — even as storm clouds hovered and umbrellas unfolded.
Doused by a summer squall that shuttered the crowd into a one-hour weather delay, “Wicked Game” should have been renamed “Wicked Rain.” After the monsoon subsided, Isaak resumed to his set with a positive twist on the weather that helped reward the die-hards who kept their seats during the mad scramble for shelter. Rifling through “Speak Of The Devil,” “Walkin’” and “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” Isaak and his bandmates dried off the crowd with fiery charm and rockabilly vim. As a final tribute to a night of relic revival, Elvis’ “It’s Now Or Never” seemed the appropriate bid adieu.
Kris K. Coe is a freelance writer, Denver-native, and new contributor to Reverb.
Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.