A Chris Isaak Adventure: Gentleman and Enigma...
...or Bfth Did A Bad, Bad Thing (not really!)
I think I'm a pretty good writer...or at least a pretty good blogger/writer. This post may not be my finest because my brain has turned to slushy mush. You'll read why...so bear with me as I try to put together my thoughts in a semi-coherent way.
First off: Chris Isaak. If you don't know who he is (sadly that's a possibility), Google him. Then get past the incredible good looks (no getting lost in those deep blue eyes and heart melting smile) and listen to his music. You may know "Wicked Game" or "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing." They are great songs, but I encourage you to go a little further. If you want your knees to buckle, I'd recommend "Kiss Me Like a Stranger" from his 2015 album, First Comes The Night.
Second: I'm a fan. (I guess that's obvious right?) Not his biggest fan and I don't even have all his albums (hangs head in shame?). His role as Chet Desmond in Fire Walk With Me makes the first portion of the movie my favorite. (I'm still bummed that we don't know what happened. If Phillip Jefferies could come back as a giant tea kettle like object, we certainly deserve to know what happened to Chet! I know plenty of people who are begging for a season 4 of Twin Peaks). I adored The Chris Isaak Show when it aired in the early 2000s. (And how do I get copies?) However, I have never seen him or his band (most of whom have been with him not for years, but for DECADES.). I have wanted to (really wanted to!) and last year I came close, but...
This year I was determined! Since hubby likes his music, but is not that big of a fan, I was flying solo. And if you're going to fly solo, you might as well do it right. That means I bought into the VIP Nation package, which according to the email I got meant:
· One premium reserved ticket in rows GCA, GCB or A-J in Orch*
· Meet & Greet with Chris Isaak (The WHOLE reason you're buying the package!)
· Individual photo op with Chris Isaak (What YOU NEED!)
· Personalized autograph (1 item per person) (More of what you NEED)
· Exclusive Chris Isaak gift item (Ummm...)
· Commemorative Meet & Greet laminate (Seriously?)
· Pre-show merchandise shopping opportunity (BUY!!!)
· On-site VIP host and ticket pick up (This is a perk?)
Sounds impressive? Ummm...more on that later!
The day of the concert was a day with severe storm warnings. Just what you want when you are driving to a venue you don't know AND you want to look your best. (It's Chris Isaak! I got a haircut the week before because...Chris Isaak!) The drive time from my office (since I had to work the day of AND the day after...a no no in my book, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do) was less than an hour, but I gave myself an hour and a half which was DEFINITELY needed. The second wave of the storm came in just as I wanted to head to my car. I tried to wait a few minutes to see if it would let up, but...
Pouring rain; rush hour traffic (is there ANY hour that is NOT rush hour?) and the narrow and somewhat confusing streets of Morristown stressed me out a bit. (Ok, if you've read ANY of my posts, you know that stress is my middle name!) Then I needed to find a place to park. There are plenty of lots and walking is not a problem for me, but with the weather...
I was blessed however. I pulled into the Vail Mansion, right next door to the venue, which has a public lot. When I inquired, the guy told me there was one spot left and I took it! Then I had to figure out how many hours I needed and how to make the machine work. (It is clear that I am getting older...I needed to pull out my readers to figure it all out.)
By the time I figured everything out, the rain had pretty much let up. I still needed an umbrella though, but since the walk wasn't far I was only partially windswept.
When I got to the Mayo Performing Arts Center, I could see that there were already quite a few people there. (Had been told to be there between 5:25 and 5:45...I'm guessing by the time I got there it was close to 5:45.) What I REALLY wanted was the ladies room, but I couldn't do that until I checked in. I didn't want to jump the line, but I DID really want to get to the ladies room. (REALLY!)
The wait actually wasn't that long. I got my ticket (didn't even know where I was sitting until I actually went into the theater later), my swag bag (which I was not very impressed with and from the people I spoke with, NO ONE was impressed) and had my bag checked (cursory glance really...you call this security?) and finally made my way to the ladies room. By the time I used the facilities, got all my stuff together (sweater, swag bag, purse, umbrella...what a mess!) and went back out to the lobby it was time to take the group (and there were MAYBE 20 people there...I didn't count but I'd say it was between a 12 and 20) to the backstage area, which was set up like a lounge/informal bar.
We "marched" single file in and were told we had to stand in a semi-circle. The woman in charge then ran down the rules. I just want to be very clear, I KNOW there have to be rules. I know this is just another night for the staff (I'm not including Chris and the band in this), but the whole thing was done in a very cold and impersonal way. Again, this is NOT a reflection on Chris Isaak or any of the band. I've done meet and greets before and this by far was the most regimented, cold and unfriendly one I've experienced. Rules included what you could have signed (only purchased merchandise, promotional items or albums/cds...no guitars or tickets or anything else.) You were expected to go up, get your item signed and then get a photo. ONLY the VIP Nation photographer could take the photo: no selfies and no other photos (so you couldn't even get a friend to take a photo of you). And if you were there with a friend or a group you could get a group photo, but then someone in the group would not be able to get a solo photo. Not really warm and fuzzy. I wasn't thrilled with this, but what I am really not happy about is that the photos will go up on the secure website after the event; probably within a week! In this fast paced "NOW" world; a week? And to make it even more unnerving, one of the women there had done a meet and greet previously and the password she was given to see the photos of the event she attended DID NOT WORK! Again, this has NOTHING to do with Chris or the band, but VIP NATION: GET YOUR SH*T TOGETHER! For most of us (I'd think all of us) in attendance, this was a special moment and a special night that we'd paid a premium for. I have no problem with paying a price, but don't make the experience so chilly. (I have yet to get into the website and don't know when the photos will go up. I'll keep you posted.)
The small group chatted amongst themselves and I made a new friend, who I will call D. She was at the meet and greet by herself, but her husband was attending the show with her. He was up the street at a pub. She graciously invited me to join them after the meet and greet (because there would still be over an hour wait until the doors to the theater opened and hanging out in the lobby wasn't all that an attractive option).
It wasn't long before Chris and band members Kenney Dale Johnson (drum) and Hershel Yatovitz (guitar) came in and gave us a little taste of what we might expect that night. It was all too brief, as Chris made his way around the room, but never got all the way to my side (bummer), although he did come close.
Chris then went to the front of the room where there was a little table for him to sign autographs. I was probably 4th or so in "line". No one seemed to want to rush. (You had to leave the room immediately after.) Some of the fans in attendance knew the band and Kenney had a good conversation with a woman to my left. Meanwhile, Hersh struck up a conversation with my new friend and I. At the time I was still in my "right" frame of mind to introduce myself and shake his hand. Unfortunately, I had to pull out of the conversation as I was next up. (I felt a bit funny about that...seemed like I was being rude. Sorry Hersh.)
Let me be completely honest here. I'd like to think I am relatively level headed. If I am not calm and rational, I can at least fake it. I got up there and became a melted bowl of cherry Jell-O. My brain turned to complete mush. I know I didn't introduce myself. (I should have; then I would have gotten a personalized autograph.) We did briefly talk. He signed my Beyond the Sun. He drew a little heart around the photo of his adorable dog, Rodney, (who is on tour with him too!), but I couldn't tell you much else.
We did have our photo taken and he (and this is why I DEFINITELY know he is a gentleman) asked if it was ok if he put his arm around my shoulder. (HE ASKED?!?!) Is it any wonder I have no memory of anything else? I just pray the photo comes out ok because I have no idea what I might have looked like at that moment other than a middle age woman who had worked a long day and crawled to the theater in the rain. I was probably a mess...I don't care. (But keep your fingers crossed that it comes out ok...please?)
Then I walked back to my "table" where I had left all of my stuff. (I wasn't going to drag a purse, an umbrella, etc. up with me). Still a shaky bowl of jelly, I would never make the Blue Rose team! I never asked what he thought happened to Chet Desmond. (Because I'm not sure anyone knows.) I never said that this evening was a belated birthday present to myself and that I celebrated just 19 days before his birthday. I never told him how much I enjoyed his Showtime series and how funny he was. I never told him how much I love "San Francisco Days" and to my ear it almost sounds like a continuation of Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking" or "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City." I never said that "Kiss Me Like A Stranger" is one of the sexiest songs I've ever heard. Opportunity missed; a big Bfth fail.
As I was gathering up my things, my new friend D came back to get her stuff and we were both asked to leave the room. I get why, but it was done in a very unpleasant manner. And because there were so few of us, I don't see why we couldn't have had multiple photos taken or even a group shot.
D and I headed up the block to the pub where her husband R was. The three of us had some wine and some pleasant conversation. We both agreed that the actual meeting of Chris and the band members was awesome, but that the experience was way too sterile and cookie cutter corporate. It was especially noticeable since Chris, Hersh and Kenney were so warm, kind and friendly while the VIP Nation staff were on autopilot.
After about 45 minutes or an hour, we headed back to the venue and took our seats. That's when I found out that my seat was 2nd row. SECOND ROW!
The show opener, Evelyn Cormier, a 2019 American Idol contestant, was pleasant enough. What impressed me the most was that from where I was sitting, I could see Chris in the wings. He obviously takes the mentor thing seriously and for me this proves once again that he is truly a gentleman. It's the little things that really made a big impression on me.
Evelyn only sang for about 20 or so minutes. Then we had another 10 or so minute break before the show really began. And until maybe a minute or so before the band took the stage, the front row was empty. Two ladies who were seated next to me on the right and I were ready to move on up if no one showed. But they showed. (How could you NOT if you had front row seats?)
I wish I could tell you what songs Chris and his incredibly talented (and tight) band did and in what order, but I was too engrossed in the music. I can't tell you all the songs or in what order but in addition to such hits as "Wicked Game," "San Francisco Days" and "Blue Hotel" he did cover "Ring of Fire," "Oh Pretty Woman" and "Can't Help Falling In Love" and made them his own all well doing justice to the original performers. (Confession: I think Chris does "Can't Help Falling In Love" better than Elvis. And it may be the time of year, but my son turns 14 in a few days and as Chris sang, all I could think about was the first time I held that beautiful baby boy in my arms.) I'll admit I did take some photos...as a matter of fact I think at one point Chris and Rowley (bassist) actually posed for me. Which is when I DIDN'T take a photo. I wanted to capture the night, but I also wanted to experience the night as well. And what a night it was.
|Yes, that's him up there
And while they obviously have a set list, they are not afraid to break from it. The lady to my immediate right obviously had not been afraid to speak up and had requested "Insects." (This might be my second favorite song on the First Comes The Night; seriously, you should listen to it! The first time I heard the lyric “Bad ideas are like bugs on the windshield of my mind,” I was hooked. This man totally gets "IT!”) Although they did not do the whole song, it was amazing to see them seamlessly just put it all together.
So what more can I say about this band and this night? It was amazing. It was good rock and roll/rockabilly/blues...just good music that made you want to get up and dance...
Speaking of which...
|Photo courtesy of A. Slevin
|Photo courtesy of A. Slevin