Speeding into the Winstar Casino & Global Event Center like a (slightly lost) bat out of hell, I stumbled through valet at 8:47pm, for a 9pm show. Thirteen minutes and counting to hit Will Call, hit the concert hall and be ready in the pit for the opening song. Why? Because Thackerville is in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, where the biggest attraction other than the Casino is the happening Sonic just down the road a step. No amount of leaving early could’ve prepared us for the nowhere-land of Thackerville.
So off we ran, frantically searching for Will Call. No will call sign. Finally we spotted the “Box Office”, with a line to the end of damnation. Panic began to set in, as I grew increasingly afraid that we were going to miss the first three songs. Minutes later we received our passes (at 8:51pm) and thanks to the kind staff of the Winstar Casino & Global Event Center, we entered inside the venue with plenty of time to spare.
Within minutes I was in the pit, camera’s 1 and 2 set and ready, when the lights dim, the stage goes to blue, the fog blows in, and here’s our band. I knew from prior education that the musical genius of Silverstone, Chris Isaak’s band was something to behold. Seeing the emergence of these men instantly set a smile on my face.
I was not prepared for what was to come next. A few seconds slid by and a tall slender silhouette rose from the platform and stepped onto the stage. Well groomed with a to die for red suit meticulously decorated with embroidered vines and flowers, topped off with what I can only describe as a mass of sequins and awesome. The ensemble was complete when he stepped into the light to reveal his shining blue eyes, gold rings and piercing smile. All that was missing was the cowboy hat. Was I looking at Hank Williams or Chris Isaak? I wasn’t entirely sure, but either way I was a happy fan. With a quick fist-bump to the drummer, we were up and going with Chris Isaak’s catchiest tune “Dancin’”.
For those who don’t know: Concert photographers often are in “the pit” along with many others. We have to share space and be super careful not to trip over one another or step in front of the other’s lens. It’s part of the job, and it’s not a big deal. In fact it’s fun to be in the dungeon, while watching what everyone else is doing from the peripheral side. We have three songs to get our shots. Unless the band is opening with Stairway to Heaven, that’s usually under 10 minutes to get everything we possibly can.
If you’re lucky a band member will acknowledge you or “play” to you for a second. The challenge is to not only catch the band member doing it (as we are normally focused on the lead singer) but to be in the right range of the lens with the camera you are holding to get the shot in focus. This can be more challenging than you might think. However, this venue was kind of the perfect situation for the shots I wanted of Chris.
I had a feeling Chris would play to me. And he did. More than once. My photographer voice was in my head celebrating with joy as he looked and pointed, and even posed for me. I was acknowledged for sure, and he did this all without missing a beat. The band sounded so fantastic, that at many times I wanted to put the cameras down, throw my hands up in the air and dance around to the only white girl moves I had. These guys were JAMMING. They sounded so incredible.
In the weeks leading up to the show I of course did my research on Chris’ new album “Beyond the Sun”. The album was great. Nothing less than what we’d expect from the Isaak sound we know and love. This album travels back to the roots, back to the unique formation of the foundry that I believe somehow turned Chris Isaak into what he is. I had never seen him live. This man in the red sequined suit was not what I was expecting. If Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams and Roy Orbison had a lovechild, spattered him with a bit of glitter, this would be our guy.
Chris did not disappoint. He stopped for a bit to chat with the audience after the third song. In these moments of quick wit and hilarity I am reminded of how I miss his old TV show. Seeing Chris live, it’s clear that he is so down to earth, so real, and vastly UNDER-rated.
And it continued for Twenty-Eight songs. 28 songs! There was no break for Chris until 25 songs in, when he stepped offstage for less than two minutes to change into an even more amazing suit. It had something to do with being covered in mirrors- a definite staple for all mens wardrobe. But since I couldn’t shoot it, these moments will just have to live on strongly in your imagination.
If you like Chris Isaak just a little bit, go see this show. If you like him a lot, do not miss this show, and make sure you get seats up front. He’s hilarious, sings like a siren, plays like Johnny B Goode, and just makes you forget life for a little while. And in case anyone is wondering, I’m voting Chris Isaak for President if he were to run in 2020 against Kanye. I mean, between the red suit, the good looks and the fact that he was class president all through high school, I feel he’s more than qualified.
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