WITH no new album to promote nor anniversary to celebrate, rock’n’roll crooner Chris Isaak was touring simply for the love of playing with his trusty band. Silvertone, who gave their name to his debut album, have been Isaak’s wingmen for 32 years, exhibiting such a relaxed rapport that they seem to converse through music as much as the gentle, witty chat and interaction which habitually peppers an Isaak show, and even spawned a quirky sitcom in the early 2000s.
Chris Isaak, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow ***
For this Hallowe’en outing, Isaak was suited, booted and spangled like a “scary figure skater”. He and his compadres may observe a dress code but all was unhurried informality about their throwback blend of country, rock’n’roll and Tex-Mex flavours, invoking the spirit of Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Ritchie Valens and particularly Roy Orbison, who was celebrated with faithful cover versions of Oh, Pretty Woman and Only the Lonely which dovetailed perfectly into Isaak’s set.
At times, it was almost too comfortable, like snuggling down in a favourite dressing gown – the audience needed to be invited to their feet for the more danceable numbers. Judging by the generous show of hands when Isaak inquired who had seen him play before, his was a soothing, avuncular familiarity his fans wanted to experience again.
Ring of Fire was preceded by a toasty Hallowe’en yarn about a forest encounter with resolutely non-threatening keyboard player Scotty, a happy man in the land of whisky, but repeat customers may have been slightly disappointed that Isaak only made one of his famous forays into the crowd, following guitarist Hershel Yatovitz as he went walkabout in the stalls.
Back on stage, Blue Hotel was a tremolo-laden treat, with some bonus box step choreography, as was his sublime hit Wicked Game. Both are beautifully stylised moody torch songs but only part of Isaak’s mellow oeuvre, which also encompassed Worked It Out Wrong, a slow rhythm’n’blues sashay about the grey areas of relationship breakdown, Down In Flames, a spry rock’n’roller about going out in style and the low-slung boogie Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing as well as an intimate campfire country set with accordion.
Even when Isaak returned to stage in a quite spectacular mirrored suit, there was nothing flashy about the encore, just an innate feel for American musical tradition in the bittersweet country
ballad The Way Things Really Are.