Well, I did well with my four gig May/June mini-festival, getting two posts up at all (given recent form) is something of an avalanche. But now… alarmingly, I find myself a whole three gigs behind – not too fussed about Young Fathers or last night’s Everything Everything events: neither band, although well-fancied, were up to much (and don’t get me started on EE’s needy keyboard player…) – but last month’s Chuck Prophet, I should’ve got onto before now…
Chuck Prophet at the Tunnels Club
I do know of at least one punter who could with some justification be a little miffed at this delay. A friend of mine who is one of the grizzled cohort I stand with at Kingsholm on a Saturday afternoon, apart from being a textbook Springsteen fanatic, is something of a Chuck Prophet … devotee. One afternoon, he mentioned that the man himself was on tour, playing in Bristol and did I fancy it?
For those of you who might need reminding (I was one), during the eighties and nineties Prophet played in Green On Red, one of the “Paisley Underground” bands to come out of the States and were one of too few bands of the day who passed my stringent “quality control” guidelines, being both backwards-looking and still using guitars (in an age when they seemed at times to have been quietly shelved). I certainly had some fun rediscovering their back-catalogue and that coupled with the chance to glimpse the twilight world of an obsessive was more than I could resist…
Prophet has a whole catalogue of his own, mind, which doesn’t sound a whole lot like GoA, but his two most recent records “Night Surfer” and his portrait of hometown San Francisco, “Temple Beautiful” are pretty good, with some real highpoints.
The talk on arrival the Tunnels Club was of Prophet’s band, Mission Express, being stranded elsewhere and that a solo set was a possibility. In the event, I completely forgot about this as the evening developed, and a set that started solo (with support from wife Stephanie Finch), included an intermission and concluded with a full band section actually seemed a perfect balance. It allowed you to appreciate Prophet’s expressive, sometimes melancholic song-writing and then kick off your shoes and soak up the more energetic, boisterous run of songs that he completed the evening with.
So we got two sets from Chuck, both about an hour long, with a short break in between (presumably for his band to put down their cases and shake the biscuit crumbs out of their wrinkled suits). In the first half, we were given carefully performed versions of 12 songs, mostly drawn from the two records I’ve mentioned, all of which was intertwined with Prophet’s charming, lengthy introductions and stage banter, which was genuinely interesting and often very funny. Highlights were a plucky “Wish Me Luck” and a wittily introduced “Would You Love Me?”
By the time, we got on to part two, I was getting tired and this affected how much I enjoyed what the recording confirms was a cracking set of tunes, including a rousing cover of the Flamin’ Groovies “Slowdeath” and again many tracks from the two records I knew. I enjoyed Night Surfer’s exhilarating opener “Countrified Inner City Technological Man” and “Ford Econoline” which he paired with Jeff Beck’s “I’m Not Talking”.
It was a pretty great night, really – hot, sweaty and clever – with plenty of audience participation (I usually hate that sort of stuff but Chuck’s an engaging character…). The Tunnels is a pretty good place for recordings, it’s turning out, and although the audience were a little over-familiar at times, the songs I’ve got here are a good taster of a winning evening.