(Concert Review) Chuck Prophet, Club Helsinki Hudson, 8.10.13
Chuck Prophet Club Helsinki Hudson Hudson, N.Y. Saturday, August 10, 2013 Review by Seth Rogovoy (HUDSON, N.Y.) – For those who perennially need their faith restored that rock 'n' roll music can be intelligent and entertaining, thoughtful and fun, Chuck Prophet comes around at least once a year to demonstrate that it can and does, as he did on Saturday night to Club Helsinki Hudson. With the expert assistance of his five-piece band, the Mission Express, featuring his wife, Stephanie Finch – "the brains behind pa," as he puts it — on keyboards and backup vocals, Prophet played a generous set of his smart, catchy brand of rootsy rock that, importantly, never draws too much attention to itself nor takes itself too seriously.
It did, however, please the brain and the ears – as well as the part of you that makes you want to dance. There are lessons to be learned here. Aspiring rockers may want to study Prophet's stage performance, as well as his songcraft, to see how it all gets put together in the post-Beatles, post-modern era. Prophet entertains with a bemused nonchalance that belies an awesome talent. His songs – drawing equally on blues, country, pop, and soul — range from cinematic stories to sociocultural critique to confessional heartbreak, but always with a clever narrative strategy. His narrators could well be the spawn of Randy Newman's narrators, and like that elder master of pop irony, he gives voice to them with a jaded, arch delivery that is as much persona as it is personable. That he doesn't look the part, also much like Newman, also makes his live shows even more of a treat.
Packed and Potent
Chuck Prophet at Natasha's Bistro: Likening the sold-out, coffeehouse-flavored atmosphere at Natasha's Bistro & Bar to "a PTA meeting," Prophet stripped away the voltage but not necessarily the rockish electricity from his music for his 90- minute solo acoustic performance. Although it was his first Lexington outing without a band, the West Coast songsmith presented what was essentially a rock `n' roll show for a sit-down crowd. And it worked.
Sure, the quieter strides of ballads like Would You Love Me? and Whole Lot More already had enough folkish ingenuity to fit readily into the solo format. Other works opened up enough for Prophet to color them with playful narratives. Before Sister Lost Soul, for instance, Prophet recalled when he and pal Alejandro Escovedo went in search of a recording studio in the aftermath of an Austin, Texas, ice storm ("Where it got cold for, like, 10 minutes"). Then there were the less-than- complimentary remarks about CNN journalist Anderson Cooper that more curiously prefaced You and Me Baby (Holding On). And let's not forget Apology, which Prophet proudly dedicated to Mel Gibson.
But the real riot involved more purposefully rock-directed fare that packed a potent and resourceful wallop even without a band. Among them: Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You), which revealed a cool yet pensive groove, and I Bow Down and Pray to Every Woman I See, with its sly, Tom Petty-ish framework.
Sure, there were a few songs that really made fans miss the homemade firepower of Prophet's Mission Express band. Diamond Jim, for instance, sounded great, but one couldn't help but yearn for those fat, Kinks-style power chords that the band version possesses.
But hearing a long-lost relic like Lucky recast as a wily acoustic yarn, or the radio hit Summertime Thing as a suitably seasonal sing-a-long? Those were the products of a crafty pop mind that can locate a rock `n' roll vibe in the most unassuming of performance venues.
This was a rock show even the PTA could love.
Review: Chuck Prophet at the Continental Club
Chuck Prophet likes to wax sarcastic in between songs. His first wisecrack during a monster Saturday set at the Continental Club — the second of back-to-back nights — was a riff on virtual reality.
"Go home tonight and check your Friendster page," Prophet said. (Don't you mean Facebook?) "How many friends do you need? How many people would actually pick you up at the airport? Now, get rid of the rest."
Then the San Francisco slacker and his four-piece band, including wife Steffie Finch on keyboards and backing vocals, laid into a cover of Alejandro Escovedo's "Always A Friend," which Prophet co-wrote, along with the majority of Escovedo's triumphant "Real Animal" album.
Prophet is perhaps better known for his collaborations with other musicians, including Austin's Kelly Willis, than he is for the nine solo albums he's put out. But "Soap and Water," from 2007, yielded an appearance on David Letterman, and this year's "Let Freedom Ring," a 25th anniversary update of the American Dream proffered by Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," has garnered critical acclaim.
Prophet played heavy doses of both albums Saturday, in a dynamite display of workmanlike rock. Prophet stabbed his trusty Fender Squier like a hoodlum in a knifefight, as he grunted and winced through his character-driven songs, vacillating between a traditional mic and one that made his voice sound like it was amplified through a blowhorn.
"Steve, who I guess is head of security here," Prophet said, presumably referring to Continental owner Steve Wertheimer, "says there's been a lot of bootlegging lately. I'd only ask, because this is how we make our living," Prophet continued, feigning seriousness, "that you film this one. Because no one likes new songs."
That disclaimer about identity theft was followed by "Hot Talk," a song about a shady impersonator, with Dire Straits undertones. Meanwhile, "Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You)," about a treacherous vamp, conveyed double-meaning when Finch repeatedly sang the outro at Prophet, "You could make a doubter out of Jesus."
But for my money I'll take the opener, "Sonny Liston's Blues," wherein Prophet echoed the words of the boxer in the lead up to his memorable bout with Muhammad Ali. Prophet sang them as if to dupe you into thinking he wasn't the smart aleck he seemed: "I'm a man of few words, baby/ I think by now you've heard `em all."
Chuck Prophet at the 8X10,
End Of the World Blues: Chuck Prophet at the 8X10, Nov. 30
By Geoffrey Himes | Posted 12/3/2009
If Randy Newman had grown up not as the heir of Hollywood composers but as a scruffy garage rocker and had recorded an album about the United States in 2009, that record might have sounded like Chuck Prophet's Let Freedom Ring. It would have had the same untrustworthy third-person narrators and bitterly comic commentators; it would have had the same perky melodies arranged in the same passed-by styles of the past; it would have had the same sharp powers of description and the same barely constrained outrage.
Whether he's singing through the persona of a barely articulate boxer, the mother of a foolhardy child, an unemployed husband, the ominously quiet kid at school, or the couple on one last credit-card spree, Prophet inhabits each character with just the right diction, just the right guitar riff, just the right mix of anger and hope.
It's one of the year's best rock'n'roll albums, and it brought out a good-sized crowd to the 8X10 to see Prophet on a Monday night. The tall singer-guitarist, with his scarecrow hair, baby-cheek face, and black blazer over a black vest, began the night banging out garage-rock chord changes on his cream-colored Telecaster. He took his time getting to the vocals; assuming the voice of Sonny Liston, he finally mumbled, "I'm a man of few words, baby," allowing his strangled guitar to say what the boxer couldn't. Then suddenly all the noise fell away and the mumble landed on a lovely melody as Prophet/Liston sang, "What I'm trying to tell you is how much I loved you in that dress." This moment of grace was soon swallowed up in amplifier distortion again, but its memory lingered.
So it went all night, moments of unguarded feeling and melody would surface amid the roiling waves like strange deep-sea creatures, only to submerge again. His choice of cover songs included Iggy Pop's sardonic "I'm Bored" but also Bruce Springsteen's valentine, "For You." His choice of his old songs included both an anthem of alienation, "Automatic Blues," and an anthem of possibility, "Age of Miracles."
The selections from the new album included the dystopian title track, a vision of capitalism run amok: "Let there be markets," he snarled over a knotty guitar riff, "let `em run wild/ all the lost brothers can drink themselves blind." But he also sang the new album's best song, "You and Me Baby (Holding On)," named after a Newman number and borrowing Newman's curdled Tin Pan Alley delivery. Prophet began bleakly, "Marriage on the skids and the folks ain't doing well," but rallied for the chorus, singing, "We can still dream like it's Saturday night/ we're holding on," to a major-chord glimpse of sunshine.
The evening was marred by Prophet's constant bickering with the soundman about the monitors, but his backing band (guitarist James DePrato, bassist Kevin White, drummer Todd Roper and keyboardist/singer/wife Stephanie Finch) sounded terrific in the house speakers whenever a song finally started. The highlight of the evening came early: a rampaging, hook-laden version of "Always a Friend," the tune Prophet co-wrote for Alejandro Escovedo's album last year—the best Rolling Stones song of the decade.
Review: Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express, Fibbers, York, Monday
"HEY, can anyone tell me the last time we were at Fibbers?" asks Chuck Prophet, his Californian rasp convivial from the start.
No one answers, despite Prophet being an American roots rock icon to (mainly) men of a certain vintage in the crowd, fans since his Eighties junkie days in Green On Red. One had seen him no fewer than six times.
"Are you sure?" he teases, in the silence. Chuck thinks it must have been 30 years ago - pre-Fibbers in reality - but the truth is June 20, 2003, and it is hard to believe that anyone could forget a Prophet gig.
The humour, with the droll delivery of a story-telling comic and an always apt phrase, sets him apart from tongue-tied British front man, making each preamble a joyful surprise as he banters with audience wags while tuning or trying to tame the misbehaving sound system.
"Is that a speech impediment?" he inquires, when encountering a particularly persistent Geordie voice. Prophet has a swagger, from his pinstriped waistcoat to the way he holds his Fender Stratocaster high to his side.
Fronting a cool five-piece, he has good cause for that swagger: his songbook of worn country rock, sun-dried blues and mournful ballads has been bolstered anew by last year's Soap And Water.
His seventh solo album elicited the night's high points - in the company of Cake drummer Todd Roper and keyboard-playing co-vocalist Stephanie Finch - from Something Stupid to Would You Love Me. Unforgettable!
Best Single Set:
Chuck Prophet at the Ale House, 11 p.m. Friday. That the room was about two sizes too small for the crowd—and for the increasingly ambitous scale and scope of Prophet's music—only served to amplify and intensify the glorious performance turned in by Prophet and his four-piece band. While he's always been a compelling live performer, Prophet seems to be stretching beyond himself these days, reaching heights he's never quite hit before. The vocal balance between him and keyboardist Stephanie Finch is precisely on target, while the rest of the crew just keeps driving all the dramatics and dynamics and grooves of Prophet's songs to tighter and trippier end-results. The peak moment: "Let's Do Something Wrong", a mission-statement for breaking the daily grind that had the crowd chanting along by song's end: "Let's do something wrong, let's do something stupid!"
Late-Night Follies: Chuck Prophet's Christian Rock
WHO: Chuck Prophet
WHAT: "Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You)" (The Late Show With David Letterman)
WHY: Another 2007 album unceremoniously and undeservedly ignored by both normal people and - surprisingly - many critics was Chuck Prophet's wide screen roots-rock epic Soap and Water. The record found the journeyman songwriter expanding his sonic palette, slyly adding a children's choir to songs about casual sex and employing machine-made beats. On the album, this song is an ominous oddity full of chiming bells, chintzy drum blurts and Prophet's cryptic and wary words about a certain female who holds a god-like power over him: "You could make a doubter out of Jesus," he repeats, eventually accompanied by the evil-sounding kid choir. On Letterman, the song's creepy strings are replaced with boisterous horns as it's transformed from a writhing warning into a full-fledged rocker. Prophet is a scarily solid old-fashioned songwriter - he's the type of artist the Grammys should love. Unfortunately, Soap and Water was released one week after the Grammy deadline last year. Maybe next time.
Alejandro Escovedo Trio/ Chuck Prophet; March 8, 2007; High Noon Saloon
Alejandro was just in Madison in November, and it was a great show. But since I am one of those people who think he's good, not great (I know, blasphemy), I probably would have skipped this show. Except that, like so many times before, I couldn't miss the opening act. Perhaps only the Pernice Brothers have a better track record than Alejandro for choosing openers, and they kind of blew it with the love `em or hate `em Elvis Perkins. Past shows have featured David Garza, the Drive-by Truckers, Jon Dee Graham, and Jon Langford, while the last show was opened by an un-missable solo Robbie Fulks. Tonight he went one better with a solo Chuck Prophet, who is usually thought of as a great electric guitar player with a stellar band.
Prophet ranks third on my "cool list" behind only Andrew Bird and Joe Terry, and tonight he made a strong case for moving up. He claimed he hadn't played a solo acoustic show in over a year, but it was hard to believe him as his amazing opening set just got better and better. I sat there the entire time with the biggest, goofiest smile on my face. He introduced a song from his last record Age of Miracles by saying it addressed one of the biggest questions of the universe. Suddenly serious, he added that he wasn't sure we were going to be able to handle it before playing the delightfully goofy "You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)." Asking questions like "Who put the bop in the bop shebop shebop?" or "Who put the ram in the ram a lama ding dong?" Infectious and ridiculous, it was anything but profound.
Most songs came from his last two solo records, No Other Love (2002) and Miracles (2004), both of which are pretty amazing. He opened with the syrupy sweet "Just to See You Smile," and included "I Bow Down and Pray to Every Woman I See." The latter included an uncomfortably hilarious lecture on premature ejaculation. He finished his far-too-short set with the modest hit "Summertime Thing" which got regular play on Triple M back when I still listened to the radio. Thankfully it seemed everyone was as enchanted as I was and the crowd-demanded encore brought him back. Since I was right in the front row and very visible, I had resisted the temptation to video even though I was dying to. When he said that the last song would be "After the Rain," I couldn't resist any longer. He told me after the set that he had been on his best behavior, "I saw that camera," he said with a smile.
I hadn't had much sleep this week and in comparison to Chuck's giddy set, Alejandro just made me sleepy. Every song was at least five minutes long, and even though they were all lovely and Susan Voelz's violin enchanting, I was ready for the show to be over long before it was. He covered all the fan favorites from "Rosalie" to "Castanets" to "I Got Drunk" (a personal favorite of mine), but it wasn't until he called Chuck up for the encore that it really became interesting. They have been writing songs together recently, and these were two of the new ones. Alejandro handed his guitar over to Chuck, and directed the songs, leaning into the microphone for his parts, leaning back when he wanted Chuck to sing, all the while allowing space for the violin and guitar to solo. The song was created right before our eyes, and that was a pretty cool thing to see.
Bottom Line: start time 8 pm end time 11:00 pm
Worth the drive? it's not every night that I smile like that for an entire set
Reason to move Chuck up the cool list? that orange blazer for one
Reason Joe Terry doesn't have to worry? he's Joe Terry, Andrew Bird on the other hand should watch his back
Eddie Hinton Tribute Show
Following the San Francisco screening of "Dangerous Highway", a truly motley group gathered for a drunken afternoon at Annie's Social Club on Folsom to pay tribute to the brilliant Eddie Hinton. Eddie, known for his brilliant songwriting, was not well known for his most important endeavour; turning Dan Penn on to acid. There were raffle tickets. Mark Eitzel, in all his glorious agony, won an Eddie Hinton cd. For a brief moment the wellspring of tears ever-present in his angelic eyes dissipated. There was music. Tom Heyman started off the show with some beautiful balladry and was followed by the sensitive Mike Therieau. I was confused. My soul was saved soon after by Mr. Chuck Prophet. Chuck, in all his sweaty rock and roll glory, stepped on stage with his band, threw on his beat up Telecaster and played, yes PLAYED. It was brilliant. He even remarked on stage that when he first heard Alex Chilton he wanted to make it with him. We were thrilled. We were surprised. It rang so true.
Beauty Walks on a Razor’s Edge: GOR at Koko
Green on Red, during their Eighties glory days were said to be part of a movement known a the Paisley Underground. Bands which saile under that flag of convenience tended to be le by sissies or nerds who'd gotten all excited abou The Byrds
Green on Red bore much the same relationship to this scene that William Burroughs did to the Beat Generation. With them, but not of them. Laughing at them, not with them. They knew one another, but there the connection ended.
There was nothing second division or socially acceptable about GoR's rich stew of sophistication, urban alienation, cultural ambition, or punk rock exuberance. They fitted, more tidily, into that troublesome wave of acts which included The Gun Club, Panther Burns, and Alex Chilton. These people tended to be hugely aware avant gardeists high on, amongst other things, the redemptive powers of rock music as high art.
There ended up being two versions of Green on Red. The original was Chris Cacavas, Chuck Prophet, Jack Waterson, Dan Stuart, and Alex MacNicol. I saw them live at The Buttery in Dublin's Trinity College; I don't know if I've ever seen anything better. Their 1985 album, Gas Food Lodging, is just one of the dazzling artifacts they created; it conjures up the American landscape of Steinbeck, Charles Willeford, or Horace McCoy. I like its cover artwork which calls to mind Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle.
That band came apart at the seams; sometimes the center cannot hold. A while later, Green on Red Mark 2 (Stuart and Prophet backed up by good session players) showed up in Europe, issued a batch of impressive albums, gigged their way up the greasy pole of the live circuit, and became more popular (in Europe) than the original GoR had ever been. I got to know Chuck and Dan somewhere in the middle of that phase in their lives, when they became the Phil and Don of Bukowski Rock. I also met and talked with Chris Cacavas when he passed through London playing with Russ Tolman.
All three men were significantly poignant examples of gifted musicians stranded in an Eighties world gone wrong. The leader of their particular pack, Dylan, was temporarily knocked out and loaded. U2 were writing the book on a whole new set of (tediously mind-numbing) rock'n'roll ethics and mores. Like old gunfighters in Sam Peckinpah movies, the likes of Green on Red were the last of their type, riding off into a post-nuclear sunset. To use an old Irish phrase, their sort will never come again. Just like the sort that I am myself, and the sort who used to throng their long-ago sweaty smoky gigs, will never come again.
And here they come again. That's bands for you.
Original drummer MacNicol died last year. Death, especially premature death, concentrates the mind and the psyche. The rest of the original lineup got together for a gig in the States and came to London this January to do a one-off show at the Astoria.
I got offered a blowjob as I made to leave the venue by the side exit down a slimy back alley. `No thanks, man, I had one earlier.' I responded, pretty sharpish. One is always being offered blowjobs in the vicinity of the Astoria. It goes with the territory.
It'd been an emotional night of tunes suffused by a narcotic beauty. The dueling between guitarist Prophet and Cacavas on keyboards -- two real master musicians -- still seemed to be as fundamentally original a sound as anybody important has ever made. Vocalist Dan Stuart, a patrician writerly figure fronting a strident swaggering swamp of sound, was man enough to wear his heart on his sleeve and to be moved by the whole experience. I was touched by the occasion myself.
Bands reforming is tricky business. The Velvet Underground took a hammer to their pristine reputation when they did a Nineties tour. My own favorite adolescent band recently reunited dreadfully as a bunch of besuited, smiling, and middle-aged bores. The Stones' restoration started shakily but they ultimately found their feet.
You can always come back but you can't comeback all the way.
Green on Red have just finished a short tour of Europe involving gigs at festivals and clubs.
They sailed into London to participate in an itinerant festival -- Don't Look Back -- which gets classic bands to perform live an entire album deemed by armchair pundits to be their finest. Iggy and the Stooges played Fun House as part of last year's festivities. This year Green on Red did Gas Food Lodging.
I'm totally opposed to the idea of bands playing a so-called "classic album" live as if rock music has become a preserved-in-aspic art form whose best days are behind it. The concept of the "classic album" is a crock of shit too. You either like a band and you buy every last thing they do and you like the most of it or else you're just a male bozo who collects stuff and reads monthly rock magazines. The "in-concert album" phenomenon started when that abominable Republican walrus Brian Wilson started touring his allegedly "legendary" Smile masterpiece. Why won't somebody tie Brian Wilson up in a sack with a few large chunks of concrete inside, and throw the sack into the nearest river?
I don't much like Koko, where GoR were performing, either. It used to be the faintly ridiculous Camden Palace and now it's been gussied up to look like the world's biggest bordello.
Back in the Astoria in January the crowd was mainly fortyish gentlemen in black suits, some of them chomping on cigars while others sported Stetsons. Koko and the Don't Look Back concept brought in a different element. There were a lot more women, many of them glamorous. Denim was much in evidence.
It looks like Green on Red is going to be around a bit from now on. This is good. Gas Food Lodging doesn't exist as some slice of cultural nostalgia to be conjured up like a magic trick for self-styled cognoscenti. It's an album available in the shops now, still as exciting as it was in 1985.
The band's set finished, like their album did, with the old civil rights hymn, We Shall Overcome. As they played it, a filmic backdrop featured examples of American torture and abuse in Iraq. The song turned into a long, percussive, sonic throb. Its great that this band is around again, helping keep beauty on a razor's edge.
Green on Red
David Sinclair at the Astoria, WC2
Never the most reliable team of performers in their day, Green on Red have nevertheless turned out to be men of their word. Having failed to play a show at the Astoria in May 1987 - the point at which the singer and guitarist Dan Stuart was declared clinically insane and the group fell apart - the group finally returned to honour the booking on Tuesday night. They even played the same set of songs that they were planning to feature 19 years ago.
With so much water having passed under the bridge, Stuart felt obliged to preface the show with a lengthy and often comical monologue at the end of which he apologised for "all this reunion s***". This was nice, but unnecessary. For if ever there was a band that always conducted its affairs with a cavalier lack of concern for tactical or business considerations, while performing music that came straight from the heart, it was Green on Red.
The band, which originated in Tucson, Arizona, pioneered a heroic brand of Americana music before the term was even coined. They released a succession of brilliant but commercially neglected albums in the 1980s, which fused elements of country, blues and rock, while blazing an erratic trail around the concert halls of Europe. Their shows could either be a display of transcendental genius or a very earthbound shambles.
The core line-up of Stuart, keyboard player Chris Cacavas, bass player Dan Waterson and guitarist Chuck Prophet was joined by Jim Bogios, replacing the original drummer Alex MacNicol, who died last year. Older, wiser and somewhat more wizened they may be, but the years rolled away as they embarked on an opening sequence which included the perennial drinking song Hair of the Dog. Stuart, all gruff snarl and gargoyle eyes, spat out the lyric, while Cacavas leavened the mood with a jaunty honky tonk piano part.
Stuart was an amiable frontman but it was Prophet who stole the show with a succession of elegant, dramatic and tightly scripted guitar solos, most notably during the slow, bluesy Jimmy Boy and the soaring finale of Sea of Cortez.
While the danger and unpredictability that was part of their original appeal had given way to a more seasoned professionalism, it meant that the songs actually sounded better than ever. And when Stuart sang the familiar chorus line, "Time ain't nothing when you're young" from his new perspective, there was a genuine surge of affection for these unlikely survivors from another era. Let's hope it is not so long before their next outing.
Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express: Sept. 13 -- Off Broadway
Combining jangly, country-style joie de vivre with carnivorous Memphis-soul intensity, the former Green On Red lynchpin remains an engaging performer with a winningly droll sense of humor. His songs can also hinge on wonderful sing-along pop gems or total freak-out hits.
High Sierra: Chuck Prophet
"I lost control on the Miracle Mile. She had big hair and an innocent smile." There's a quite a tale hinted at in just 15 words but that kind of short-handed storytelling is the hallmark of this truly gifted singer-songwriter. With a voice full of insinuations, the twang-tastic Chuck Prophet taught the early afternoon festivarians just "What Makes The Monkey Dance."
Plying his trade with white boy funk, country nods, pure sticky pop, handkerchief grabbin' ballads and straight out barroom rockin', Prophet offered up two sets in a single Friday at High Sierra that were so well played, so well constructed, that one felt satisfied on a cellular level. Every element worked from the arrangements to the melodies to the delivery. It seems simple enough but until you actually hear somebody lay it out so well you forget how nice it is to be serenaded by a pro.
Drawing heavily from his most recent albums, Age of Miracles and No Other Love, both majorly ace platters, the band was by turns sensitive and smart-ass. One factor that separates this from the herd is an experimental fringe that keeps things lively without ever feeling premeditated or artificial. They just like screwing around with their material. That's to be commended.
What Prophet delivered in both the early evening & afternoon performances was a ringing affirmation of all the promise many of us first heard when he strapped on a guitar with Green On Red in the 1980s. He's out there doing it on stages, honing his work to a fine point that pierces things with humor & sincerity. It's a lethal combination you gotta hear with your own ears.
Chuck Prophet is a good songwriter and a decent singer, but the best moments of his live sets are when his mouth is shut. That's when Prophet is uncoiling his guitar solos—kinetic, crackling and always inventive, wading up from the swamp of Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night" and heading for the open country. There were plenty of those skin-tingling passages at Iota on Saturday night, the songs sounding far more alive than they have on his last few recordings.
"Age of Miracles," Prophet's seventh and latest solo album—he initially made his mark as guitarist for grizzled psychedelic cowboys Green on Red—serves up his usual omelet of fractured Memphis soul, country (he was alt before alt-country was cool) and Dylanesque romps. Playing off the steel and rhythm guitars of Tom Heyman and the keyboards and vocals of wife Stephanie Finch, Prophet, whose own voice bears more than a passing resemblance to Tom Petty's, dunked new songs ("Just to See You Smile," "Solid Gold," "Automatic Blues") in an agreeably gritty bath.
The 90-minute set's highlights were live-wire solos woven into songs with offbeat hooks: "You Did" (a shakin' retelling of Barry Mann's "Who Put the Bomp"), a wonderful cover of Tyla Gang's early Stiff single "Styrofoam" and the stomping, fuzzed-over hoodoo of "Shore Patrol." When Prophet put solos and songs together with that kind of raucous, bar-band energy, his home-brewed country-soul tasted spellbindingly good.
Chuck Prophet and Robbie Fulks at The Dame
This fun double bill shifted from alternative country that sprouted strong traditional roots to crafty rock and soul mischief. But it was the literary wit circulating in the songs of both artists that fueled the show's finer moments. Fulks remained a country scholar well versed in beefing up vintage covers (I Want To Be Mama'd and Bill Anderson's hardcore honky-tonk anthem Cocktails) while allowing self-effacing sarcasm to creep into the domestic cracks of his own tunes (Countrier Than Thou and Every Kind of Music But Country). Prophet, as usual, remained a rocker who addressed an uncommonly vast pop vocabulary running from the wicked cool of Homemade Blood to the noir-style setting of West Memphis Moon. But it was on 2000's Diamond Jim that all these elements converged: a melodic groove full of soulful bounce, a vocal chorus with deep R&B creases and a guitar hook that was still ringing in your brain half an hour after the concert was over.