Chris Isaak captured the audience’s attention Friday night at Billy Bob’s Texas the moment he walked onto the stage. He was wearing a blue sequined suit, after all. But wardrobe aside, the Sun Records influenced troubadour and his band of thirty years dazzled the crowd throughout their 28-song, two-hour set. A set that featured classic Isaak tunes, tributes to the legends of Sun Records, and even a surprise guest that had long time local music lovers on cloud nine.
Isaak started the show with the Elvis Presley rockabilly flavored “Gone Ridin’,” followed by the ’50s pop influenced “Somebody’s Crying” and “I Believe.” Isaak then thanked the audience for coming out to support live music. “Without you, I’d just be wandering around Fort Worth in a sequin suit with nothing to do,” he said. “People would come up to me and ask, ‘Are you a figure skater?'”
Though Isaak didn’t have to wander around town aimlessly, he did wander out into the audience to perform “Don’t Leave Me on My Own.” Making his way to the back of the crowd, Isaak took time for handshakes and pictures, and then mentioned that an old friend of his was in the crowd. Johnny Reno then stood up with his saxophone in hand. Reno had played in Isaak’s band for a while in the ’90s, and before that was an original member of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. Reno played along with Isaak as they strolled through the crowd, but the real treat would come later in the show when Reno re-joined the band on stage.
The middle part of Chris Isaak’s show at Billy Bob’s Texas featured the singer’s more contemporary tunes including the bossa nova and rock mash-up, “Notice the Ring.” Followed by “Let Me Down Easy,” “American Boy,” “Wicked Game,” and an energetic, chant-filled “Goin’ Nowhere,” after which Isaak proclaimed, “Let your freak flag fly, Texas!”
A standout moment of the show came when Isaak performed the torch song, “You Don’t Cry Like I Do.” The tune’s haunting lyrics (“You don’t want me, you don’t love me, and that’s what kills me.”) and Isaak’s velvet voice made for a stirring performance. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and picture Roy Orbison on stage.
Near the end of the set, Isaak welcomed Johnny Reno back for four songs that were as eclectic as the performers on stage. Reno shined on the instrumental “Harlem Nocturne” and added a bit of swagger to “Blue Spanish Sky.” Isaak then asked Reno to join in on a song the band hadn’t performed in a while, “Diddley Daddy.” The rockin’ Bo Diddley-esque number had Isaak grinning ear to ear, and featured a scorching organ solo by Scott Plunkett. It was easy to tell that the band was having a blast at this point.
“Wow! I forgot what I’m supposed to do now,” Isaak said following the rousing performance of “Diddley Daddy.” Luckily, he regained his composure to launch into Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Isaak and band would also cover Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” (complete with a smoking piano and Isaak clad in a silver-plated suit).
Throughout the 28-song late night show, the energy level at Billy Bob’s Texas never dropped. Indeed, just as dazzling as his wardrobe, Chris Isaak’s performance was downright captivating.
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