Chris Isaaks fascination with the classic era of rock n roll and country, not to mention his beautiful crooning voice, makes him a strangely unique entertainer.
It begs the question: Who would be considered his competitor in the contemporary music world?
Dont ask Isaak. He has no names.
Were really proud of ourselves, he says jokingly, phoning from his bands tour bus in Chicago. Because were so damn dumb, we have cornered the market on what we do.
Like Lady Gaga has her thing she gets a gazillion people and its kind of like Broadway meets whatever, rock n roll, theres that other stuff, Isaak, 56, says. But as far as being a traditional rock n roll band, Ive had the same guys for 27 years. We play a rock n roll show. We sing. We dont use tapes. We sing the harmonies. Everybodys playing. And we put on a stage show. We move, we dance, we dress up. Nobody does that kind of thing anymore.
More than a quarter century into a career still often defined by that sexy Wicked Game video in 1989, Isaak hasnt changed much. Hes still smart, stylish, enthusiastic and humble. He dabbles in acting and TV hosting. He also remains highly concerned about putting on concerts filled with the songs that his fans want to hear. He leaves no doubt about what sort of show he plans to put on Friday at the Eagle River Pavilion.
I love LOVE playing the stuff people want to hear, Isaak says, because you can see it on their face. Maybe its because I have an entertainers personality or whatever. Because Im happy if theyre happy.
Still, its nice to have your cake and eat it, too. Thats his latest record, Beyond the Sun.
This, without a doubt, is the most fun Ive ever had making a record, Isaak says.
It didnt dawn on Isaak while he was recording the album in Memphis famed Sun Studios last year, but its concept is borderline genius for concerts. Packed with covers of songs by legends such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, the collection shines a positive light on the words concertgoers typically dread most: Heres a new song.
You go, Ive got a new album, and people go, Ooooh, I wanna hear Wicked Game, and Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing and Blue Hotel dont play that new thing! Isaak says.
But if you go, Ive got a new album, and Im gonna play it, and you launch into Johnny Cash Ring of Fire or Its Now or Never by Elvis or Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee, people go, I dont mind this. I know this. I like this.
Much of Beyond the Sun is music by artists Isaak discovered as a kid while listening to his parents records in Stockton, Calif.
Its an album hes always wanted to make, which follows the basic law of music appreciation: That the best music youll ever hear is the music you grew up with.
If you would have come backstage and heard me playing guitar with the band or something, wed be fooling around with these songs, he says. Or if I did a soundcheck, Id play (one) sometimes. And at my house, I wouldnt play Wicked Game. Id be playing this stuff, or writing something new.
Isaaks past grips him so tightly that I almost feel bad after mentioning my first concert as a child: Marty Robbins at a county fair.
Oh, my God! Isaak exclaims jealously. Im such a fan. Man, thats awesome. Your parents had good taste.
Man, Id pay big money to have seen that. He is one of my favorite singers of all time. Its funny, because people always go, Do you love Elvis? You love Orbison? and I do love them. But I think theres other singers Lefty Frizzell, Marty Robbins, Bing Crosby, I listened to those guys until I wore out their records, you know?
Its that reverence for the ways of the past that makes Isaak so one-of-a-kind in 2012. When our conversation finally winds down, he makes sure to remind everyone precisely where hes coming from.
Let me just tell people one thing, Isaak says. If they come out to see us live, we put on a hell of a live show. We dress up. We look like we escaped from Liberaces closet with the clothes he was afraid to wear. Were flashy. We dance, we move, we sing, we get out in the audience, we mix it up, and we have a ball.
Usually, he adds confidently, its contagious.
Æ 7:30 p.m. July 20, Eagle River Pavilion, 827 E. Riverside Drive. $35 lawn, $49.50 reserved, $99.50 VIP. Ticketfly.
EATON IN MAGAZINE
Boise singer-guitarist Marcus Eaton, who recently moved to Los Angeles, is profiled prominently in the latest issue of quarterly coffee table magazine Fretboard Journal.
The issue was guest edited by David Crosby, who has been collaborating with Eaton.
It certainly is an honor to be in there with Crosby, Eaton says.
Fretboard Journal is carried at Guitar Center, among other places.
TONIGHT IN THE OTHER STUDIO
Radio personality Tim Johnstone and I will spin new music from Muse and Metric, preview next weeks Alive After Five, plus discuss the latest music news.
The Other Studio airs from 9 to 10 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.
JULY 20 IN SCENE
Æ Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises swoops into movie theaters.
Æ A restaurant review of Asiagos in Downtown Boise.
Æ Rediscovered Book Shops annual Childrens Book Festival is coming Wednesday, July 25.
Michael Deeds column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. Email: mdeeds@ idahostatesman.com. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds