ATN's Surreal Zone: Chris Isaak At A New Zealand Mall

And where else would expect to find Chris Isaak performing when he heads downunder?

Ever wonder what your favorite artist does in between albums and

tours?

Well, if you're Chris Isaak, you get invited to bring your band down

to New Zealand for a cushy gig appearing as the token "International Artist" at

the "New Zealand Music and Entertainment Awards."

And if you can get a

little surfing in, all the better. One thing that wasn't on Isaak's itinerary

was a full-on concert performance. But wait, there are signs all over my local

mall announcing an appearance by Chris Isaak on Monday afternoon (May 5) at

12:15 PM! Since I have the day off and since the mall is only a few minutes

away and since it also happens to be my wife's birthday, we're definitely

there.

We get to the mall at noon and are thrilled to find that this is no

lowly in-store acoustic gig, but a full-band,

real-stage-and-PA-in-the-middle-of-the-mall performance. Since school is in

session, the audience is comprised mostly of housewives carting babies around

along with quite a number of over-60's. There are a few rock 'n' roll types

sprinkled throughout the crowd in fact, directly behind me are two girls who

have obviously spent some time in the mosh pit (various pierced bits and purple

hair) both toting baby carriages.

Isaak takes the stage at about 12:30 and

runs the band through a brief instrumental (no chance for a sound check), then

kicks into "Blue Hotel." The sound is surprisingly good in the mall and the

band looks like they're having fun. Isaak is looking good in his patented

rhinestone and sequin suit. With his name spelled out in beads on the back and

various guitar designs and surfing scenes decorating his pants and jacket, U2

have nothing on Chris Isaak when it comes to tackiness.

After "Somebody's

Crying," guitarist Hershel Yatovitz starts picking the unmistakable opening

riff to "Wicked Game" and a collective sigh runs through the crowd. A

diminutive (under 5 ft.) older woman (she has to be at least 60) pushes her way

to the front of the crowd to get a better shot at a photo and babies have been

hoisted on their parents' shoulders for a clear view. This is not exactly what

you have in mind for a happenin' rock 'n' roll environment, but hey, it works.

After "Think Of Tomorrow" and Roy Orbison's "Only The Lonely," Isaak

intros a new song, "Blue Day, Black Night," a feisty little rockabilly number,

and after "Dancin" we're treated to a version of Dale & Grace's 1963 chestnut

"I'm Leaving It Up To You."

The 45 minute set wraps up with Bo Diddley's

"Diddley Daddy" and then a queue forms for the inevitable "meet & greet." While

the whole experience seems mildly surreal, it turns out to be a great way to

spend the lunch hour.

Oh yeah, Isaak mentioned that he and the band are

working on a new album that will be more up-beat than his previous Baja

Sessions; the currently untitled album is expected this fall.