What a wicked game to play, booking a summer tour with Chris Isaak and Lyle Lovett like this. Lovett and his broadband open the Las Vegas concert at The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, but obviously they can’t both titles. Their own tour is double-counting, with the two music mavericks alternating between top turnovers and occasionally parting ways to play single bill dates along the way. For longtime fans of both artists, this is an unmissable dream concert and you have to wonder why it took so long to happen.
If you liked Isaak, chances are you were partial to Lovett while both were in the early stages of their careers. Isaak had a photogenic good looks similar to Elvis Presley’s, while Lovett’s distinct profile made him impossible to forget. Isaak appealed to listeners who appreciated rockabilly and surf music. Lovett’s distinctive musical style was, and is, a broth of country music flavored with western swing, big band, gospel, blues and folk.
Together they are the surf-and-turf option on this summer’s live music menu. Isaak, who last played in Las Vegas in 2019, expressed his desire to go out and perform via his 2021 single “Pandemic Blues: I Can’t Take It!” He indulged his love of seasonal music by playing Christmas concerts leading up to last Christmas, but returned to playing marathon runners which on any date can include covers of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison mixed in his extensive catalog of classics such as “Baby Did a Bad Thing.
Although there is little news of Isaak’s recording plans at the moment, his discography finds a way to stay in the top spot. (Late guitarist James Calvin Wilsey, best known for creating the creepy riffs on “Wicked Game,” is the subject of an upcoming bio four years after his death in 2018.) Lovett, meanwhile, is promoting the album. June 12th. He plays the delicately strummed title track deep in a set where he leads his band through chestnuts like “Bears”, “Here I Am”, “Cowboy Man” and “Church”.
Lovett has a way with covers, always ready to play a Townes Van Zandt melody or Burt Bacharach if he hears it. In addition to being an iconoclast in his choice of material, Lovett is an inimitable vocal stylist with a knack for grace notes and a smooth delivery like the sound of a pedal guitar. It is impossible not to be moved while he is heard performing live.
With Isaak, it’s more about being taken for a ride in a classic car to a secret surf spot where the waves crash perfectly, and it’s cool enough after dark to start a romantic fire. Isaak’s singing is ideally complemented by the high-pitched high-pitched sound of a Stratocaster hooked up to a dreamy Fender Deluxe amplifier. Wilsey’s presence is palpable whenever songs from Isaak’s early albums are played, but Isaak himself prefers a unique, hollow-bodied Gibson guitar that goes well with his combed headphone and beautiful couture.
There will be an abundance of musical authenticity to be absorbed in an evening after Isaak and Lovett enter the theater. It’s great to see them both in one place, but almost overwhelming. Evil in a good way.
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, 8pm June 18, starting at $ 35 plus taxes and fees. Axs.com
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