There’s a case to be made that musicians often draw on their acting skills as performers and that actors channel their inner Rock star when working a crowd. Chris Isaak has totally blurred the line between those two constructs. The Roots Rock singer/songwriter has established himself as a musical icon over the past 27 years with a dozen studio albums (including his latest, last year’s cool cover project Beyond the Sun), two live albums and a greatest hits collection. Some of Isaak’s songs have worked their way into the public consciousness by way of radio exposure or their placement in a variety of offbeat films (“Gone Ridin’” in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, “Wicked Game” in Lynch’s Wild at Heart, “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut) which has led to Isaak’s interesting side career as an actor.
That’s where the blur occurs. Isaak has had quirky roles in cultish movies (Married to the Mob, A Dirty Shame), a few big films (Silence of the Lambs, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, That Thing You Do!) and similar television experiences on Friends, Ed and HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon. In 2004, Isaak naturally portrayed Roy Orbison on an episode of the short-lived but excellent American Dreams; Isaak and Orbison have been cross-referenced due to their similar reverbed guitar sound and quiveringly passionate vocals.
Isaak also played himself, sort of, on Showtime’s The Chris Isaak Show, a fictionalized version of his life and career, and he even hosted The Chris Isaak Hour, an interview/performance show featuring guests like Stevie Nicks, Glen Campbell, Smashing Pumpkins and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).
But strap a guitar on him and put him in front of a microphone and the real Chris Isaak will stand up.
CHRIS ISAAK performs Wednesday, Nov. 21 at Taft Theatre downtown. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.