Chris Isaak brings pompadour to Calvin Theater tonight

By Garth Brody

Chris Isaak is coming to town tonight, so get out your spangled vests and pompadour cuts. He’s only been around since the mid-1980s, but his sound hearkens back to the earliest days rock ‘n’ roll music. Tonight at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, you can probably expect a performance replete with that classic rockabilly aesthetic, from Isaak’s reverb-happy guitar tone to the way the backing band sways in time.

The son of a forklift driver and a potato chip-factory worker, Isaak seems to have been predestined to be an American folk icon. Whether or not he has actually achieved this is debatable, but he has certainly always looked like one.

He released his first album, “Silvertone,” in 1984. It sounds somewhere between Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, which seems to be exactly where Isaak wants to culturally triangulate himself with his achey-heart crooning style. From that point on, his velvety-smooth music has been the favorite of moms and avant-garde directors alike.

His music has been featured in two different David Lynch movies (“Blue Velvet” and “Wild at Heart,” which are respectively inspired by the music and style of Orbison and Elvis), a Stanley Kubrick film (“Eyes Wide Shut”), and his instantly recognizable 1989 single “Wicked Game” has been featured in countless film and television contexts since its certified gold release.

Isaak has become so endeared to Hollywood through his music that he has actually landed several acting roles, including “The Silence of the Lambs,” “That Thing You Do!” and David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.”

As if film work wasn’t enough for the musician, he went on to star in an hour-long sitcom about a fictionalized version of himself and his band called “The Chris Isaak Show” on the Showtime network, which saw a full three years on the air, from 2001-2004. In 2009, he even hosted his own talk show on the Biography channel, called “The Chris Isaak Hour.” The show only lasted for eight episodes, but he got a chance to sit down with and interview (and usually play alongside) some pretty high-profile musicians during its short run – from Stevie Nicks to Billy Corgan.

His latest studio album, “Mr. Lucky” from early 2009, is fully in keeping with his rockabilly/surf rock style. The songs still concern themselves with two-timing lovers, lonely people, and summertime blues. The guitars are still bittersweet and full of reverb. Everything about Isaak’s music is a consistent throwback, but he does it all without so much as a wink at the audience (unless he is on stage and winking at the audience), so you can travel with him on his warm, high fidelity nostalgia trip.

Chris Isaak will be performing at the Calvin Theater tonight. Doors open at 8 p.m. Supporting him will be Australian singer/songwriter Mia Dyson. Her bluesy, gritty style has drawn comparisons to Lucinda Williams and Bob Dylan. But everybody at the show is going to be there for the guy who looks like Elvis.

Garth Brody can be reached at [email protected]