Chuck Prophet and Mission Express
Jumping Hot Club, Newcastle
22nd October 2014
Only three months ago Chuck Prophet performed his TEMPLE BEAUTIFUL album alongside the Royal Northern Sinfonia string section as part of the SummerTyne Americana Festival five miles away at Sage Gateshead; and here he was back ‘by request’ at his favourite club in the UK.
Sadly the first ten minutes or so were spoiled by sound problems; with the singers microphone performing intermittently; but thankfully Prophet is a pro; and as he pointed out while swapping gear with the guitarist “We have played plenty of clubs with worse sound systems than this… the show must go on!”
Once satisfied that everything was OK; they launched into what sounded suspiciously like Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Heart complete with thumping bass-lines and tub thumping drums and the show was well and truly on the road.
While TEMPLE BEAUTIFUL is only a year old tonight’s set was mostly based around TEMPLE BEAUTIFUL even though his new album, NIGHT SURFER was on sale in the venue making this the third time most of the audience had heard them played live; so when they heard the opening chords to Wish Me Luck the reception sounded like a small explosion from the packed ‘mature’ crowd; and when they went straight into Sonny Liston’s Blues straight afterwards there wasn’t a face in the room not sporting a big smile.
In fairness, and Prophet would be the first to agree, as good as he is, Mission Express including his wife Stephanie Finch who glides seamlessly between solid band member and exceptional virtuoso on keyboards; are all rock solid and bring the best out in the main man; who absolutely revels in his role in the centre of the stage. This might sound odd; but it genuinely is a rare sight to see someone as established as Prophet still enjoying himself on stage.
Highlights? Where do I start? Little Girl/Little Boy featuring the husband and wife duetting like Dolly and Porter stands out, as does the call and response Temple Beautiful complete with squealing guitar solos and Ms. Finch’s earthy keyboards; and; let’s not forget the chord crunchingly exciting White Night/Big City which ended with a crescendo of guitars and keyboards that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Punk gig in 1977, which had Prophet grimacing and snarling while throttling his ancient Stratocaster.
Stephanie also got the opportunity to show what a good voice she has when called to the front to sing Different Drum much to everyone’s delight.
The band only performed a couple of tracks from the new album and the slow and moody Guilty as a Saint was as good as I’ve ever heard from Prophet – and I’ve heard a lot. As it faded to a close, they suddenly cranked up the amps for Left Hand/Right Hand which was dedicated to the Alvin Brothers who are appearing at the same venue next week; then, as my pulse began racing like a steroid induced sprinter; they swung into my current favourite song, Willie Mays (is up to bat). I could have listened to them for another two or three hours.
After a short charade of leaving the stage Mission Express returned to blow the roof and several wigs off with a blistering Shake Some Action and fan favourite You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp) leaving nearly three hundred fans (of a certain vintage) exhausted and sweating on a chilly Autumn night.