Chris Isaak charms NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 9-7-14

Chris Isaak charms NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 9-7-14

American singer/songwriter Chris Isaak’s music career has spanned over three decades.  Providing audiences with a classic slice of Americana, Isaak’s modern mix of Rockabilly and California Surf Rock has been one of the most unique over the course of his nine original studio albums, a Christmas album, and his 2011 covers collection Beyond The Sun.  Keeping busy in the entertainment business, Isaak has even starred in a list of films and television series including his highly underrated Showtime series The Chris Isaak Show between 2001 and 2004.   Now in 2014, Isaak is back on the road again touring and on Tuesday September 7th he and his band rolled into NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY marking his return to Long Island for the first time since 2012.

With a very generous size audience gathering for the show, many spoke about the last time they saw Isaak at Nikon at Jones Beach back in 2011 when he opened for Hall & Oates while others recollected his 2012 appearance at The Paramount in Huntington.  Whatever the conversation was, Isaak’s connection with the Island has always run deep through the years each time he came around.  Collecting so many memorable tunes to his credit from album to album, it has been five years since Isaak has recorded a full-length original album when Mr. Lucky was released in 2009.  Now fans wonder what he would have up his sleeve for his latest showcase with so much history to go by.  Arriving on stage with his long-time band including guitarist Hershel Yatovitz, bassist Rowland Salley, and a returning healthy Kenney Dale Johnson on drums, the audience cheered joyously as they opened with 1985 mainstream breakout song “Gone Ridin’.”  They then swiftly moved into another easily recognized set of songs including “Somebody’s Crying,” feel good piece “I Believe,” and the twangy “Don’t Leave Me On My Own.”  With perfect inflection in his voice, Isaak had everyone smiling as he excitedly sang into the crowd, interacting with fans, taking photos, and even picking up someone’s dog while singing; an unforeseen surprising moment devoted listeners will soon not forget.

The hits kept on coming with the cool bass line of Salley and contiguous drums of Johnson opening “Let Me Down Easy.”  Making jokes with the audience and even poking fun of his blue suit, Isaak, as always, kept the mood personal and loose, which led into the rocking jam “American Boy” where Yatovitz really shined on guitar.  Having everyone bopping and having a blast, Isaak then went into perhaps his most recognized song in the iconic “Wicked Game.”  Transcending genres, the song has become one of the most beautiful love songs of all-time with its dark but romantic tones.  After melting everyone’s heart with powerful singing, the band picked things right back up with an exciting pick of songs including “Goin’ Nowhere,” “This Love Will Last,” newer selection “You Don’t Cry Like I Do,” and “Lie to Me.”  Certainly an offering of some of Isaak’s most well-composed songs not heard live all that often, it was easy to see he and the band made the maximum effort to keep this setlist fresh and vital.

As the extensive set went on, more fan favorites came with “San Francisco Days,” the great “Blue Hotel,” and Isaak’s homage to Johnny Cash with “Ring of Fire.”  Providing a mix of high and low notes, Isaak’s voice sounded as unbelievable as ever and his abilities to capture emotion so well was on par with legends like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Holly.  Winding down, the lengthy performance was filled with excitement all the way through “Forever Blue” and “You Took My Heart”, followed by a roaring finale of “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” and Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.”  On their feet, Long Island was no way ready to bid farewell to the relaxed band of west coast musician as they cheered them back onto the stage for an encore.  Thanking the audience, they opened the encore with another newer track titled “Big Wide Wonderful World” before ripping into Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”  Keeping fans dancing in the aisles and singing along, a blanket of calm came moments later with dream like song “Can’t Do A Thing (To Stop Me)” and an ear-tingling rendition of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

A romantic at heart, Isaak’s thoughtful and soulful compositions remind audiences of a time in music where love ruled all.  Effectively expressing the emotions of heartache and the triumph of falling in love, Isaak is a true treasure to American roots Rock.  With time on his side, a two hour set had no moments of boredom and gave fans a chance to reconnect with Isaak after his last appearances in the area a few years ago.  Pure music through and through, Isaak and his band are not a show to be missed.

 

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
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