Even on a bad day when you have to trudge back on stage for an encore, it sure beats boxing.
Now, getting punched in the head. That's a treat. Though it's been years since Chris Isaak laced on the gloves, don't think the crooner from Stockton doesn't recall mashing his face against someone's fist.
"I have had my nose broken several times boxing, which may explain why I'm a singer," Isaak said. "But it didn't really hurt that much. I mean, it hurt, but on a scale of one to 10, 10 having your head caught in a mechanical rice picker, well, punches in the nose might rate a four."
So he learned early: "I prefer pastimes that don't involve a lot of bleeding," Isaak mused. "Surfing ... singing ... full contact checkers."
Whatever brain damage Isaak absorbed in the ring obviously hasn't pounded his sense of humor, which comes in handy, especially in the real world.
"I was surfing on Ocean Beach and a wave shoved me down and tore my hamstring really bad. Man that hurt," Isaak said. "I remember thinking, 'Don't pass out, stupid, not in the ocean.' I hung onto my surfboard and let a wave push me in, then sorta crawled up toward the sand. I couldn't stand. I tried leaning on the board but it just hurt too much, so I'm half-sitting up, wincing in pain, and a girl jogging by saw me and stopped.
"I said, 'I hurt my leg, can you call an ambulance?' And she stared at me a long time, then smiled and said, 'I saw you play in Chicago! You're Chris Isaak!' I didn't argue. She was right."
And so goes the eventful career of Isaak, as the 57-year-old brings "Wicked Game," "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing," and "Somebody's Cryin'" to the Uptown in Napa on Wednesday. Isaak returns to the Bay Area on Oct. 5 to play the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.
Wherever he goes, the goal is the same, Isaak said.
"People like to be entertained. They want you to put on a show and mean it. I don't think that ever changes," Isaak said. "I'm a big believer in treating the crowd like you are auditioning to come back. We never pull that 'rock star' bit where we show up late. I hate that. We show up on time dressed like we raided Liberace's closet and we put on a show."
There's always that Isaak trademark: A 35-pound suit covered with tiny mirrors. Toss in a piano bursting into flames for "Great Balls of Fire" and Isaak keeps it interesting.
"We aren't shy," he said. "I guess I always loved standing up there singing and I always will."
The Elvis influence is obvious in Isaac's music, with a heavy dose of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis.
"My parents used to shop at the second hand store for our clothes so it was always me looking through the records," Isaak said. "I remember one day finding an Elvis 45 single at a Salvation Army store. Nobody ever throws his music away. I still have the record."
Eventually, Isaak performed with Cash, befriended Orbison, and was on a Jerry Lee Lewis recording.
"Magical things happen and it isn't only in Disneyland," said Isaak, who released his 14th recording, "Chris Isaak: Beyond the Sun Live," last November. It was done at the same Sun Studio in Memphis that Elvis used.
"It was a sound and a feel I just couldn't get enough of. It really changed my life," Isaak said.
Still, "I wouldn't mind doing an album of some of the weird songs and 'B' sides we have recorded through the years," Isaak said. "I have a lot of songs that we recorded, and yet, for some reason, we never really put out there."
When Isaak isn't performing, surfing, or just strumming the guitar in bed -- "Watching TV in the daytime reminds me of when I was sick as a kid" -- he draws cartoons and sketches.
"When I'm in the hotel, I always have a table covered with pens and pencils," he said. "I can't pass a pen shop without buying a few. I draw a lot, so I figure if I live long enough, I'm gonna get better."
Isaak has two brothers. Oddly, one plays guitar and sings, the other paints and draws.
"They both are more talented than me," Isaak said. "But they don't have a suit covered in mirrors."
If you go ...
Who: Chris Isaak with guest Jeffrey Halford
Theatre, 1350 Third St., Napa
Info: (707) 259-0123; uptowntheatrenapa.
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