Chris Isaak Gets Wicked in Newport's Backyard (2)EXPAND
Robert Steshetz

Chris Isaak Gets Wicked in Newport's Backyard

Summer music festivals and recurring concert promotions run the gamut from huge, loud and packed, to chill, intimate and classy depending on locale and who happens to be putting on the event. The Summer Concert Series at Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach has definitely been the latter thus far, with bookings reflecting more relaxed genres such as jazz and R&B. Friday night Chris Isaak brought an upbeat rockabilly flavored pizzazz to the proceedings at the Hyatt’s Back Bay Amphitheater, with a twangy guitar driven show that rocked but still had its tender moments too.

Presented by The Bank of the West and The Wave, the event attracted an older Real Housewives of The OC-type crowd, mostly locals, but some obvious Summer tourists staying at the hotel and nearby ones, along with music fans from various adjacent OC- neighborhoods. Newport’s ocean-side ambiance and marina-related activities are always a draw, but this event’s big name talent and focus on fine wines and food also contributed to the overall atmosphere, making for a perfect Friday evening to hang out with friends or a date.

Isaak didn’t miss a beat on stage, his rich vocals sounding exactly the same as they did when he first hit it big with “Wicked Game,” back in 1989. Hard to believe that the gorgeous ode to desire (and its unforgettable black and white video starring Isaak and model Helena Christensen) is almost 30 years old, and it’s also hard to believe Isaak has been around just as long. Dressed in a sparkling rhinestone cowboy type suit (as were his band), he looked good, and proved his charisma was more than skin-deep, cracking jokes throughout the show and good-naturedly ribbing his bandmates, whom he mentioned he’s been playing with for the past 30 years too.

Chris Isaak Gets Wicked in Newport's BackyardEXPAND
Robert Steshetz

With originals old and new, plus covers by the likes of James Brown, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, it was a soulful yet countrified performance that had the audience swaying in their seats, and embracing or slow dancing on the surrounding grassy areas and walkway. In some ways, the back of a hotel is an unusual place to hold a concert, but the organizer’s approach to set-up made it pretty cool and novel: many of the hotel’s room balconies served as “VIP sky boxes” from which to watch the show.

Isaak himself noted the atypical atmosphere. ”We’ve played here before and this is one of the strangest venues,” he said. “It really feels like you’re playing in someone’s backyard.”

The legendary Herb Albert helped kick off the Hyatt’s “backyard” series and the rest of Summer, some biggies are scheduled to follow: violinist Damien Escobar and saxophonist Mike Phillips (July 28), Sax man Gerald Albright and singer/guitarist Jonathan Butler (Aug. 4), and James Brown/Funkadelic sax legend Maceo Parker with members of Sly & the Family Stone (Aug. 18). Brian McKnight (Aug. 25) and Gino Vinelli (Sept. 1st) round the Summer line-up, but the series extends into Fall, wrapping up in Oct. See http://series.hyattconcerts.com for full schedule and more info.

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