@ The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Chuck Prophet was once half of Green On Red but he’s been doing the solo thing for a long time now. Green On Red were once famous for being unprepared – giving performances that varied from fabulously spontaneous to unfortunately shambolic – Chuck now makes himself detailed setlists with all sorts of scribbled additions – like a work of art taped to the stage floor. And it works great.
Backed by a four-piece band, Chuck puts on a well constructed and moving show. Not a selection of hits old and new; it’s an evening that has been put together to entertain and it succeeds in the way that troubadours like Bruce Springsteen do. Chuck talks confidently and honestly to the keen crowd, introducing songs or sharing insights into touring the UK and as the evening passes he becomes more and more inspired, heading off into his own personal train of thought. The songs are classic tales of love, loss, street life, anthems for the dispossessed and storytelling. They drag you in till, after a quarter hour, you are enthralled. And seeing as the show is a couple of hours long, that’s a lot of enthralling…
Prophet opens with You Could Make A Dollar, stretching it through a variety of changes and getting more driven as it goes on. He follows up with a very rocking blues then the other guitarist breaks out a double-necked guitar, boasting a total of 18 strings – it takes me a few minutes to stop grinning at this pompous instrument, won over by the playing. The bass burbles, lazy and organic, behind; the keys add colour and Chuck wrings out angular notes from his Telecaster. As the evening wears on he gets more and more into Neil Young mode on the guitar, even going as far as adopting some of The Godfather Of Grunge’s physical tics. Since I find that style expressive and exciting, I’m won over as Chuck’s preternaturally long fingers work the fretboard. Skinny and carefully spoken, he cuts a figure with his neckerchief and lanky hair.
Prophet mentions bootlegging and warns of the promoter’s physical skills, going on to add: “If you are bootlegging the show we hope you’ll show us the respect of including the next song off the new record – it’s hard to get the shit out there!” Hot Talk is another winner then we get a lament for the rise of the Travelodge and a wish for the landmarks of a passing Britain – quaint B&Bs, weird small hotels, the Happy Eater on motorways. Naturally, it’s an introduction to You’ve Been Gone – a song about returning to the old home town to find it changed. The promoter leaps on an errant crowd member. As the two grapple, Chuck calmly advises the jumpee to “go with it, son” and make it easy on himself.
Dying Too Young hymns three absent friends. I Wanna Run has a “schoop schoop” girly doo-wop chorus for variety, along with surf guitar, a guitar duel and quotes from Wipe Out. The variety continues with Man Of Few Words and its Jean Genie glam strut. Holding On is an epic anthem and announces the beginning of the end as we move into the epics. Chuck takes it all gospel and starts testifying about Eric Clapton and Otis Gibbs, playing with the audience by getting them to agree with a contradiction of something he said earlier then challenging them. He’s a sparky character and there is often a cunning twinkle as he speaks. Let Freedom Ring is another singalong but sung solo and acoustic the detail becomes audible and moves into Neil Young Rocking In The Free World multi-verse territory.
The full band plays a fun rocker – Queen Bee – off an old record before You Did – practically a song of love to the crowd: “Who put the bomp in the bomp-de-bomp? / You did”. The song twists and turns till the band drops to a plod and a very Neil Young solo is unleashed, making everyone very happy. Wrapping it up with a silly pub-rocker by Alex Chilton - “Bangkok” (yes, the pun goes like you’d expect….) – is a nice way to finish and a tired audience search their pockets for their car keys. It’s been a journey and an evening with genuine emotion and a sense of connection – it’s good to see an act that makes a show of it.
More Chuck Prophet on Vanguard Online:
Album Review – October 09