I think I have probably seen Chuck Prophet, either fronting his own band or as part of Green On Red, more than any other artist. I estimate all the time I’ve spent standing in front of stages watching, listening to, and enjoying Chuck’s playing and singing amounts to about two days of my life. (I realise this is as naught compared to dedicated Springsteen followers or Deadheads who probably can count weeks of their existence spent in front of their favorites, but it is a significant time for me).
What that means is I’ve seen performances of varying intensity and enjoyment over the years. There is a group of friends I go to CP gigs with, and we’ve been in agreement that his last couple of London gigs have been rather lackluster. When I was sorting out the tickets for this gig, people were actually questioning whether we wanted to go.
That won’t happen next time because this was a fully energised, fun-loving, concentrated, dedicated, brilliant performance.
The band came out, started up, then Prophet bounded out, a huge grin on his face. They played an intro, something of an overture – I definitely heard a snatch of “Willie Mays” in there – which segued into “Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins.”
It’s a set dominated by the last three albums – Temple Beautiful, Night Surfer, and Bobby Fuller… – with a few older songs in the mix.
“You Did” comes quite early in the set. In recent years it has tended to be the set climax. It’s a cracking version, but Prophet continues to play it as his piece de resistance rather than entering, as has happened in the past, a guitar duel with co-guitarist James dePrato.
DePrato gets a number of chances to shine, none more so than during “Summertime Thing,” when he unleashes a blistering slide solo. He’s on top form and the rest of the Mission Express are too. Kevin White and Vicente Rodriguez are as tight a rhythm section as any operating, while on synth, holding it all together, keeping the boys in line, is Stephanie Finch.
This was as good a Chuck Prophet and Mission Express experience as I’ve had. He was back, rocking the house; the band were tight and brilliant and we in the audience did our best to let them know how good they were. I’ll even applaud the participation of us in the audience doing the woah oh oh oh, oh oh ohs on “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat.” Man, we were hot.
A great gig. Next time around no one will be questioning whether we want to go, and I’ll start racking up the hours towards three whole days watching Chuck Prophet.