Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express at The Hamilton (Washington, DC – Nov. 16, 2014)
Sizing up the room, Chuck Prophet described how he uses smell and broken glass to find most of the bars he plays in. Surveying the Hamilton, he described it as something between “The White House and a PTA meeting.” Could he get the crowd involved and energized at this seated show? You bet he could. The man is a professional showman and his band, a well oiled machine. The rhythm section of bassist Kevin T. White and drummer Vicente Rodriguez are rock solid, as is the blend of guitars, keyboards and harmonies.
The songlist featured many songs from his new Night Surfer album, with a mix of Temple Beautiful, a few older tunes (“Summertime Thing”) and some covers (a brief intro of CCR’s “Lodi” and Alex Chilton’s “Bangkok”). Speaking of covers, Stephanie Finch (the “leader of the band,” according to her husband) sounded like Linda Rondstadt, singing Michael Nesmith’s “Different Drum.” Prophet’s new album translates well live with lots of opportunities to stretch out. He and James DePrato sounded like Dickey and Duane as they wove guitar solos together.
The band wrapped up with three sing-alongs: “Willie Mays Is Up at Bat,” then, in the encore, the Flaming Groovies’ “Shake Some Action,” and the great closing song, “You Did.” The crowd was fully engaged, singing, up on their feet.
I recently read about Chrissie Hynde complaining to the crowd about their constant filming and picture-taking with mobile phones. How did Prophet handle it? He reached down (mid-solo) and playfully swiped the device, passing it back to the band. Then again it was a low stage. (Careful, Chrissie).
Recent No Depression comments have focused on Chuck Prophet’s inability to make it to the big stage, given his talents. The show last night was certainly a step up to a larger room (about 300-350 people in attendance), and Prophet was up to the task. So, perhaps he will get there. He certainly works hard, touring endlessly.