Chris Isaak is many things to many people: a dumb man’s Harry Connick, an even dumber man’s Lyle Lovett, a real dumb man’s Elvis. The San Francisco-based crooner manque has spent his now-seven-year-long recording career waiting expectantly for the multiplatinum seller that his manager, his friends, Bay Area journalists, even his record company told him was going to break any minute. It never has and never will, because he’s a shallow warbler whose attempt to marry Sun Session-style rock ‘n’ roll to heavily reverbed 80s studio sheen is such a misbegotten–nay, monstrous–undertaking. Isaak and his manager used to drool at the millions of albums they’d sell given just one radio hit. Well, that they had (“Wicked Game”). Isaak’s also had lots of MTV play for the accompanying near-soft-porn video, had his chiseled, lens-friendly face on the cover of Rolling Stone, and had ceaseless promotion–from everyone from David Lynch to Warner Brothers. And his new record is still already dropping off the charts. Why does any of this matter? ‘Cause it didn’t have to be this way: Isaak once had a steamy, hardworking club band, and for a while he acted as if he believed in what he was doing, managing to ameliorate his ambition with a goofy, self-deprecating charm. But as his learning curve has smoothed out the novelty of his shows has worn thin, and those once grand expectations now seem a little desperate. Saturday, 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; 443-1130 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Tighe.