A few thoughts about Chris Isaak’s performance Tuesday night at the packed Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis.

  1. He’s a very funny guy, equal parts corny and cool (as in old-school cool). Example: He said if the audience didn’t show up, he’d be walking down the street in his fancy Western suit. “The kids would go: Mommy, look at that figure skater.” Then he continued by saying he provided semi-professional entertainment. “We’re not Beyonce or Lady Gaga level. We’re state fair level. That’s corn dog.” Isaak is so humorous that he should have his own talk show. Oh wait, he did a few years ago.
  2. His royal blue outfit had so many rhinestones that he could have loaned a few to Dolly Parton and he would not have missed them.
  3. At 60, Isaak still has a versatile voice, capable of everything from falsetto to warm croon to rock ‘n’ roll shout. But he sang with restraint, never over-singing.
  4. The sound guy must be very sensitive because nothing was too loud – Isaak’s voice, any of the backup musicians’ instruments, etc. Earplugs were not necessary.
  5. From the beginning of his recording career in 1985, Isaak has acknowledged a debt to early rockers like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. He covered hits by all three. The King’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” had couples spontaneously slow dancing. Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” was perfectly lonely even without the glorious high notes of Orbison. And pianist Scott Plunkett tore it up on Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire." Isaak also gave a brief nod to the recently deceased Merle Haggard with a taste of Hag’s “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.”
  6. Even though it was performed a mere half hour into a 1¾-hour performance, “Wicked Game,” Isaak’s big MTV hit from 1991,  remains unstoppably sexy. Props to Hershel Yatovitz for the subtle surf guitar that was as sexy as Chris’ croon.
  7.   Isaak’s five-man band not only had the instrumental chops to fit his style but they perfectly complemented his comic tone, especially drummer and frequent foil Kenny Johnson.
  8. No matter how many times you see it, the mirror-covered suit that Isaak wears for his encores makes you smile. (See photo above.) The human disco ball. It sooo fits his wickedly dry humor.
  9. Three numbers from last year’s made-in-Nashville “First Comes the Night” had noticeable country seasoning, a new wrinkle to Isaak’s vintage rock sound. “Down in Flames” was fueled with twang. “Running Down the Road” was a roadhouse boogie, with a vintage country feel. “The Way Things Really Are” was a cry-in-your-beer, honky tonk ballad, a curious number on which to end the satisfying concert.