Concert review: Chris Isaak at Humphreys Concerts By the Bay – San Diego, CA – July 17, 2017

Published on July 21, 2017 by JB
Review by Sylvia Borgo
Chris Isaak must love San Diego, and his fans in San Diego love him right back. Isaak played at Humphrey’s By The Bay on July 17 for the 27th time – his career with Humphrey’s dates back to 1994. The only other artist to top that record is Air Supply who have appeared at Humphrey’s 30+ times. The nearly 1340 people in attendance were treated to all of Isaak’s hits and all of Isaak’s jokes. He does know how to give the audience a good time.

What makes Chris Isaak magnetic enough to pack the house year after year? Betina Tasende, a fan who has seen Isaak in concert multiple times explained, “His vocal range is amazing. His sense of humor is great.  He doesn’t give us the same jokes. He has a tremendous ability to tell good stories. And of course, he is gorgeous.” Isaak indeed was known as a huge hearthrob back in the 1990s, after filiming the super sexy video for “Wicked Game,” with mega model Helena Christenson. But, in my opinion, he really should be known for his genuine congeniality. He told the crowd, “Thank you so much for coming out and supporting live music. You guys are killing it, if this was a tv show, you’d be a great spinoff. You are sitting there watching us, but you didn’t stop to think that we are up here watching you. You are such a great audience that bands should just could come and watch you.”

Mary Malloy, a long-time Chris Isaak fan sitting front and center with her friend Rose said, “Chris Isaak is authentic.  He brings back great music. I love it when he plays songs written by Roy Orbison. He is so loyal. He has never strayed away from his band; these guys, they are like family. I’ve been a fan for a over 30 years. He is a gem.” This is the first time Mary and Rose catch Issak at Humphrey’s Concerts By The Bay, but they’ve seen him play in Los Angeles at the Greek Theater, in Pasadena, and recently at a very intimate show at the Thornton Winery in Temecula. Isaak treated the crowd to several cover songs. Not only did he play Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” But he also played Johnny Cash’s 1963 song “Ring of Fire,” and James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy.”

You can tell that Isaak loves his band members who he introduced after the third song of his set as the “less sequined members fo the band. “ Kenny Johnson, Scottie Plunkett, Roly Salley, Hershel Yatovitz, and Rafael Padilla have been together for 32 years according to the band historian, Kenny Johnson. The bond between the band members is that like the one between brothers. So much so that they frequently take good natured jabs at each other. Before launching into “Ring of Fire,” Isaak set-up the song by saying, “Imagine for a second that you are not in this beautiful setting by the water, but instead you are in a more bucolic setting and you see a church. You walk into the church and you suddenly feel the energy, you feel more centered. You look over in the back of the church and it’s just you and one fellow on the piano. For a second you make eye contact with this fellow and notice it is Scottie. And that in brief second you make eye contact, you feel creapiness and that’s because he is about to bring you down into a ring of fire.”

Linda, and fan since the early 90s said, “He is an amazing showman, his sparkles, his choreography, and his voice. I feel like I’ve seen him grow up, hearing about his heartbreaks and his relationships. I love that he still likes playing the small venues.”
Besides the classic Johnny Cash recording, other crowd favorites were San Francisco Days – which he changed the words to and sang as “San Diego Days.” “Wicked Game,” which prompted couples to start slow dancing aisles and canoodling in their seats. Even though the song is about heartbreak and a toxic relationship with someone you know is not good for you, the sex appeal of the song is undeniable. Even when intorducing songs about heartbreak, he can’t help but make jokes. Addressing to the people gathered on their sailboats in the bay he said, “If you like songs about heartbreak, we could be here a long time. I hope you people on the boats brought crackers and a sandwich.” Don’t worry Chris, as Humphrey’s By the Bay’s favorite son, you can crack your good-natured jokes as much as you please, San Diegans will welcome you back year after year. 

Isaak is on tour supporting First Comes The Night, his first release in the last six years.

San Diego native, Kinnie Dye, fresh off her summer tour, opened up for Isaak. Her genuine sweetness was obvious as she said to the audience “It is nice to stand up here and play for such a good looking crowd.” A crowd favorite was Dye’s “It’s Gonna be Okay,” which she explained came to her very quickly on a day she was feeling out of sorts, and confused about what to do. Dye said that the power to heal oneself through the power of music is something she does not take for granted. She explained that she loves to go into the mountains not far from San Diego to write her songs.


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