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MUSIC: Chris Isaak On Fire At Newport’s Sunset Music Series

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Photo: Mojo Photography

True to the concert series label, Chris Isaak is the perfect “sunset” artist. His romantic ballads and classic covers made for a great show last week in Newport at the Sunset Music Series. Isaak is multi-talented and his appeal goes beyond his music; he’s also acted and modeled over a thirty year musical career.

His slow groove is the perfect accompaniment to a warm summer evening, even on a night when storms threatened. His originals were early show highlights. The crowd enjoyed San Francisco Days, Somebody’s Cryin, and of course, Wicked Game. Things got outright bluesy on Baby Did a Bad Thing, a song highlighting his rockabilly roots.

Isaak has fun with the crowd, playing leading man, and leading comedian at the same time, pausing to “strike a pose” when the mood suits. Although the music remains front and center, he doesn't always take it so seriously. Noting the Newport tent setting felt like a state fair, Isaak offered to make balloon animals while craving a corn dog.

The Sun Sound

He also did well by the “fathers,” performing several gems from Elvis, Cash, Orbison, James Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis. If you missed Pretty Woman, Now or Never, Ring of Fire, orGreat Balls of Fire you can check out his “Beyond the Sun” album, or better yet, “Beyond the Sun Live,” to get a good feel for these tunes.

His renditions of the classics are certainly updated, with brilliant vocals and a kick-ass backing band.  He’s probably the best interpreter of the Sun Records sound out there–he does a great Elvis, a smooth Johnny Cash, and a falsetto rivaling Roy Orbison. And he seemingly does it with ease, infusing his own great voice while not sacrificing the essence of the original song.

Opening Acts

Rhode Island singer-songwriter Allysen Callery and Massachusetts native Cara Brindisi opened for Isaak. Both offered terrific performances with Callery covering several from her recent release Mumblin Sue.” The album continues to get national and international attention, receiving a stellar review in the UK–http://www.folkradio.co.uk.  Give it a listen if you haven’t already.

Brindisi, a musical therapist by day, strummed a nice set of covers and originals on the main stage, including Neil Young’s Old Man, and Little Black Submarine by The Black Keys. She throws her heart and soul into her originals; see her new video, Okay, here. Both these artists play regularly in the area –be sure to check out their touring schedules.


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