Last updated on January 16th, 2024 at 12:36 pm
Chris Isaak proved age is nothing but a number as the 40-year music veteran played to a packed house in a concert filled with laughs, dancing, and good old guitar-centered rock.
Isaak’s It’s Almost Christmas Tour performance delivered a 23-song set that combined his iconic hits with rocking favorites and holiday songs. And It’s Almost Christmas was apropos: only seven songs were Christmas or holiday-themed, and they were mixed in throughout the evening.
Isaak took the stage with his trademark flashy style, sporting Western boots and a red suit with sequined holly and snowflakes. The set was initially light on holiday decor, but that would change later. The lighting was mostly red, white, and blue for the opening “American Boy.”
After the second song, Isaak joked that he passed on a more elaborate holiday set in favor of Costco supplies. “What can’t you find there?” he joked. And by the third song, the talkative frontman was in the crowd for “Here I Stand.”
His foray into the audience included traversing the balcony levels of The Fitzgerald Theater, where he joked with the crowd, passed through aisles, and launched the first holiday song of the night, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” But other holiday songs wouldn’t come until five songs later in the set.
Since Isaak often draws Elvis comparisons, it was only fitting that he covered “Blue Christmas” to perfection, even adding a few of his own lyrics. Prior to singing his original “Almost Christmas,” he shared that the song lyrics were inspired by shopping for presents at the absolute last minute.
At the time, the holiday songs seemed a bit scattered, but then the band moved into a stripped-down, sit-down segment that drove things home. “Washington Square,” a song inspired by being away from home on a USO visit, preceded “Holiday Blues,” and Isaak joked that the solemn mood was “bringing him down” before cutting the latter short.
The holiday portion closed with the upbeat but cautious “Gotta Be Good” and the whimsical “Dogs Love Christmas, Too.” Between those, he brought a dog on stage to discuss his partnership with the Bissell Pet Foundation to reduce pet shelter populations, and then he encouraged the crowd to bring home a dog for Christmas.
As the holiday lights glowed, a singing and dancing Santa decoration (likely from Costco) sang along, almost stealing the spotlight.
At various points, Isaak shared stories with songs, including one about a fire inspector asking him to not play “Put Out Your Hand” during a sound check. The band proceeded to play that song, with the guitarists showing off coordinated dance moves and no signs of slowing down.
But despite storytelling, joking, and playing within the crowd, Isaak’s most iconic hits needed no narrative introduction. After “Put Out Your Hand,” only audience applause preceded the instantly recognizable guitar intro to “Wicked Game.” Ironically, Isaak does not play lead guitar on his biggest hit, so he relinquishes the honor of playing one of the most identifiable riffs to ever grace a love song.
“Blue Hotel” also needed no introduction as it led the stage reset after the stripped-down portion of the evening. And by the opening notes of “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” the crowd was on their feet as Isaak entered with a new suit reminiscent of Steve Martin’s character Jonas Nightingale from Leap of Faith. Commenting that a concertgoer was “sparkly like me”, he had a woman in a sequined shirt join the band on stage.
When finished, it felt like one or two more holiday songs would have been nice. Perhaps closing with his cover of “Pretty Paper” to wrap it all together nicely? But in the moment, the star delivered his patented and treasured rockabilly sound to wind up on everyone’s Nice List.
Check out Isaak’s latest holiday release, Everybody Knows It’s Christmas.