July 5, 2012

Isaak puts on a show in Freeport

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Chris Isaak’s concert is from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Discovery Park in Freeport.

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CHRIS ISAAK

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Discovery Park at L.L. Bean, 95 Main St., Freeport.

HOW MUCH: Free

INFO: llbean.com/shop/retailStores/100thcelebration; (877) 755-2326

Chris Isaak likes things that are made well and last long.

The fact that he's doing a free concert at L.L. Bean in Freeport on Saturday as part of the retailer's 100th anniversary celebration reminded him of the Bean boots he had years ago.

"I liked 'em so much, I bought some for my brother, because we're just a couple of rednecks who love to spend a lot of time in the mud," said Isaak, a native Californian who lives in San Francisco. "Those things really last."

Isaak also owns a 1964 Chevy Nova, which he loves because it's easy to fix and he's been able to keep it on the road a long time. He picked up some mechanic skills from his dad -- though he doesn't like to tell people that for fear they'll ask him to fix their car.

He also picked up another passion from his dad that has been long-lasting and beneficial -- a love for classic rock 'n' roll from the 1950s, specifically the stars of Sun Records: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The influence of those legends can be heard in much of the music Isaak has made during his nearly 30-year career in music. And their songs can be heard on his latest album, "Beyond the Sun," which contains songs originally recorded at the famous Memphis recording studio almost 60 years ago.

Talk about long-lasting.

"Those were all my dad's favorites. Some people rebel against their parents' music, but I've always loved it," said Isaak, 56. "I'm just glad my dad got to hear the album before he passed away (earlier this year)."

Isaak's career took off around the time two of his songs, "Gone Ridin' " and "Livin' for Your Lover," were featured in David Lynch's 1986 cult classic film "Blue Velvet." Isaak is known for his good looks, smooth voice and a combination of moody ballads and lively rock tunes. His best-known songs include "Wicked Game" and "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing."

It may be fitting that Isaak's concert is the finale -- along with a giant fireworks show -- of L.L. Bean's 100th anniversary celebration. L.L. Bean is a company that rose out of a small manufacturing town and is known for durable products that people can depend on. Isaak is the son of working parents who was raised in the gritty port town of Stockton, Calif., and has clearly been shaped by the ideas of hard work and putting the best you've got into everything you do.

He's very proud, for example, of the work he did as a young man. He hauled bags of sugar and other cargo off ships on Stockton's riverfront, and worked with his father on a variety of skilled-labor jobs, including roofing. He became skilled enough at it that even after he became a full-time musician, folks around Stockton would seek out his services -- as a roofer and handyman.

"Even after I had put out a record, I'd be back in town, maybe playing a gig, and people would call my mom and say, 'Can Chris re-roof our barn, or can Chris throw some hay?' " said Isaak. "I'm very proud of that."

Isaak is also proud of his stage show and of the work he puts into it. He doesn't want to just "sing pretty songs" on stage; he wants to put on an entertaining rock show with his band, the same band he's had for more than 25 years.

When asked whether he would wear his famous "mirrorball suit" in Freeport, he said he was planning on it, and was glad to be asked about it. He added that his band likes to dress to impress as well. "Their clothes look like stuff Liberace gave away because it was too flamboyant."

Besides the mirrorball suit, which looks like a reflective disco ball made into clothing, Isaak loves to use outrageous props in attempts to wow his audience. He's got one right now that is a giant inflatable figure of a pin-up girl and measures about 25 feet tall. It inflates on stage as the band plays.

"If I ever retire, that thing will be the ultimate pool float," he said.

Isaak said his desire to put on a good show goes back to old-fashioned notions passed on by his parents -- work hard, look presentable and give people what they pay for.

"It drives me crazy when I read about some of these (musicians) who show up late in dirty Levis, looking like they didn't shave or sleep, and all they do is look at their feet all night, read charts and go home," said Isaak. "What we do is put on a show."

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

 

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