Reviewer: Lisa Purchase Kelly
Venue: The Temple Theatre
Chris Isaak at The Temple Theatre in Saginaw Michigan during his It’s Almost Christmas Tour on November 25, 2023
I don’t throw the word “heart-throb” around much, … okay, ever. But if I were going to, this might be the time. Dreamy Chris Isaak had the women of Saginaw eating out of his hand.
With rhinestones on rhinestones and hair that has its own fan club, Chris Isaak took the stage with his long-time band, Silvertone, and rocked a pretty full house at the Temple Theater for almost two hours. They played a list of greatest hits from Isaak’s 13 albums, including a handful of Christmas originals from the 2022 release Everybody Knows It’s Christmas, and a couple well-known covers. They played them with style, grace, humor, and musical talent that’s been polished by nearly 40 years of playing together. From the energetic opener (“American Boy”) to the country ballad closer (“The Way Things Really Are”) Isaak and his four bandmates played classic rock, country, dirty blues with a walking bass line, soul-crushing ballads, and rollicking rockabilly. They brought stellar musicianship and impeccable vocal harmonies. Every time the five of them leaned into their mics together I got goosebumps. They were one voice with five tones. As his best-known hit (“Wicked Game”) filled the venue with its smooth haunting melody, Chris Isaak’s voice shone with its golden tones. The 67-year-old Isaak’s range still swings easily into a hearty high falsetto and then digs up the richest deep tones from the basement of the building.
The self-deprecating star brought his sense of humor, apologizing for the lack of hand-puppets in the show and referenced the “Costco-designed” set that occasionally featured a slightly concerning animatronic Santa that swiveled along to the music. He brought his sense of fashion too, sporting a form-fitting bedazzled red suit for most of the show and then showing up for the encore in a suit covering in Post-It-note-sized mirrors. That man was SHINY!
At one point in the show there was a brief Public Service Announcement break featuring two dogs and their Humane Society handlers as Chris spoke about his partnership with Bissell Pet Foundation’s #EmptytheShelters initiative for the holiday season.
Chris Isaak graciously fawned over the venue and accommodating staff at the Temple Theater, and seemed genuinely appreciative of the Saginaw audience. The mostly middle-aged audience appreciated him right back. Early on, Isaak took a stroll through the audience and was met by enthusiastic fans holding up signs that said “Marry me!” or “I love you!” As he moved through the aisles, women climbed over their seat mates to wave and get selfies with him, and I saw oodles of actual little old ladies on their feet and clapping along to the beat (or not). I’m pretty sure an octogenarian reached out and grab him. I mean – not to encourage bad behavior – but, get some, sister! He gamely sat on laps, took selfies, and kissed a few happy ladies as he crooned his way through “Waiting’. He delighted the balcony crowd by wandering up there for a rockabilly “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
Things got really friendly at the end of the evening. During the encore, scores of women worked their way up the aisles and formed an impromptu dance party in front of the stage. A couple women were invited up to join the band onstage and functioned as de facto backup dancers. At which point Chris said, “Okay, that was the organized part of the show … we’ll just go ahead and do the disorganized part now.” Things got a little loose from there as Chris invited his keyboardist (Scotty Plunkett) to join him and the two of them scrambled down to the beautiful Barton pipe organ in front of the stage and proceeded to riff a James Brown cover from there, to the delight of the dance crowd around them.
Saginaw showed UP for a great artist downtown tonight. I was pleased to see when we pulled up to the Temple Theater that the line wrapped around the block in both directions (just like when I go to a concert or event at the Fischer or the Fillmore in Detroit). We all waited on the chilly sidewalk, and there was an air of anticipation rather than irritation at the wait. The lines moved fairly quickly once the doors opened, and the last of us found our seats just in time for the show to start. This Saginaw venue is really hitting its stride, bringing in popular national acts that are just right for the size of the theater and the town, while continuing to provide a home for the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, classic movies, and more. The staff seem efficient and things move smoothly for the audience coming in. I would suggest only that they might want to open the doors a bit earlier for large events, as they are potentially leaving money on the table from patrons who have to scurry to their seats and might not have enough time to get a drink or spend money on merchandise from the artist (as was the case for this audience member).
Chris Isaak continues his It’s Almost Christmas tour heading west, ending in California December 20th. The Temple Theatre continues its Christmas fare with The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (November 26), Saginaw Choral Society: A Classy Brassy Christmas & More (December 2), a showing of the film Dream Girls (December 3), NOEL Experience Christmas (December 8), a showing of The Muppet Christmas Carol (December 10), and SBSO’s Holiday Superstars ( December 12). See the Temple Theatre’s website for details on those and other events.