Isaak's Alternative to One-Night Stands

When it comes to performing his rootsy yet timeless mood-rock, Chris Isaak isn't big on one-night stands. Given the choice, in fact, the singer-songwriter-guitarist has opted for long-term relationships with particular stages.

After releasing "Silvertone," his acclaimed 1985 debut LP, he and his band settled in for an unusual month -long engagement at L.A.'s Anticlub, and shorter but similar stints in other cities. It's an unorthodox but carefully-reasoned approach.

"What we were trying to do was play so people could come back and see us, we could spread the word about ourselves--and we could get better," Isaak, 28, said by phone from his San Francisco home.

"So many local bands think the way to do it is, 'Well, we'll play once a month, and that way everyone has to wait to see us, and they come out and it looks like a big deal.'

"I say to hell with that. I think if you play a lot --if you get your act together--people will start showing up. And if they don't , then maybe you should start reading the back of matchbooks looking for another job."

Isaak cited another plus of the multiple-night strategy, observing that new bands are always pleading with industry people, journalists and others to come see their shows.

"The answer you get from most people is, 'What night is it? Oh, Thursday--that's my kids' bowling night,' or 'I've gotta comb my hair on Thursday night.'

"But they really couldn't get out of it with us. It was like, 'This Thursday isn't good for you? How 'bout any Thursday this month?' "

It worked. Isaak felt that his band got "a lot tighter," both the concerts and album received nearly unanimous raves, and the Anticlub residency eventually attracted quite a following.

Isaak still swears by extended engagements, even if they're becoming less practical. Before recording some of the songs for his recently-released second album, "Chris Isaak," the band tested the material during an eight-night stand in San Francisco.

For the current tour, however, he'll initially be limited to one-nighters (including a Tuesday appearance at the Roxy). But old habits indeed die hard.

"I think what we'll end up doing is go around and hit all the spots once," he said. "Then I'd like to go back and play three or four nights here and there. . . ."

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