ROCK / Review: Mirror shades: Jasper Rees on Chris Isaak and his amazing performing suit at the Apollo

Jasper Rees
Wednesday 30 June 1993 23:02

CHRIS Isaak has been touring Britain with two disco globes. One dangles where you'd expect it to, sending a thousand tacky points of light to all corners of the auditorium. The other, dismantled and reassembled, is a suit. At first, this looks like a smack on the wrist for those who dismiss the man as no more than a pastiche of a pop singer. You'd never catch Presley or Orbison, or any of the other all-American crooners of whom Isaak is apparently a composite, in one of those. And yet, as garments go, it was kind of fitting. What suit could more appropriately clothe a musician whose songs are a perfect likeness of other songs than one made out of mirrors?

It must have been hot under there, but Isaak still delivered something somewhere between cool and cold. As was evident from 'Wicked Game', the sinister hit that hitched his wagon to the film director David Lynch and made his name, this is music from an innocent age re-packaged for the knowing Nineties. Even the hysteria that greeted Isaak's arrival was strictly tongue-in-cheek. And when, after a languid opening, the singer flouted the Apollo's security by inviting everyone up front, the venue's heavies turned a blind eye, doubtless because it was all done not in earnest but in irony.

Issak's music is a vehicle that takes you where you want to go, so long as it's backwards. When he kicked off his first encore with 'Blue Hotel', all the other shades of blue that coloured an ancient decade sprang dreamily to mind, when Issak's spiritual fathers crooned of blue moons and suede shoes and velvet. He also did 'Blue Spanish Sky' and, borne on the wings of Johnny Reno's swooning saxophone, you were practically there. When he closed with 'Vada Con Dios', you could have sworn you had relocated to Acapulco.

He handled the timewarp with the help of hardly any covers - Neil Diamond's 'Solitary Man' was a booming exception. The reverse gear is partly in the cheekbones and the quiff, but mostly in the voice, a beautifully timbred instrument that grumbles and yelps and howls as if the 60s, 70s and 80s never happened. No one sings as seductively as that any more, especially not the Silvertones' drummer, with whom he briefly swapped places near the end. Isaak called for bedroom lighting during one sultry chanson d'amour, but he hardly needed it.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments