July , 2012
Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
Cleveland, OH USA
Review by David Brais
Photos by David Brais
Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express
Amidst a 56-city tour of the U.S., Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express appeared at the infamous Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio to support their latest release, Temple Beautiful.
Wearing a red and white striped shirt, the former guitarist for the ‘80s cosmic rock group Green on Red, picked up his Fender Squire, looked out into the audience and launched into the first cut off the new album, "Play That Song Again." The tune was like a personal invitation to the crowd to get up and dance. Prophet was backed by his superbly sharp band, Mission Express, named after a bus line that runs through his San Francisco neighborhood. The band includes his wife Stephanie Finch on keyboard, guitar / vocals; James DePrato, guitars; Kevin T. White, bass / backing vocals and Derek Brown, drums / percussion.
Prophet is in incredibly underrated guitarist. He supplied an endless string of precision-like, ear popping leads throughout the evening. It made all guitar aficionados in the audience stand up and take notice. Often, after the band had performed a song, I could hear whispers exclaiming, "How in the world is this guy not better known?"
As a songwriter, this California native has the uncanny knack, like Ray Davies, of painting a complete picture with his words then punctuate it with music. His compositions create so much imagery, thought and soul, it's understandable his level of talent has been overlooked for years. In fact, when I presented this assignment to Jam Magazine editor David Huff, he emailed me back, "Who's Chuck Prophet?" Perhaps in a way, it's that lack of notoriety that makes a musician of this caliber a treasure to behold live.
>One of the luxuries of playing smaller venues is the personal connection an artist can establish with an audience. Throughout the evening, Prophet would often take a few moments to address the audience and fill them in on the history and conception of the music he was performing. One example was "Temple Beautiful". This song is centered around a building on 1839 Geary in San Francisco, which was once a Jewish community center that later became the home of the ill-fated Jim Jones People's Temple. The building was later taken over by a rock and roll promoter who turned it into a punk rock venue called The Temple. It was finally destroyed in the 1989 earthquake.
Another tune with an interesting history was "The Left Hand and the Right Hand." This song started out referencing the infamous Mitchell Brothers of San Francisco who helped pioneer the pornography and strip club business the city in their infamous club called the O'Farrell Theatre. Jim was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter charges for his brother Artie's death. Prophet asked the crowd to yell out names of other feuding siblings in rock and roll that had issues. Immediately the names Van Halen and Ray and David Davies were shouted out amongst others.
It was intimate moments like the examples above that made Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express a memorable experience. One audience member in her 60's said she had never heard of Chuck Prophet, but her 43 year old son and daughter in-law promised her she would love the show. She did.
Prophet rocked and rolled his way through an 18-song set list that included a tribute to baseball Hall of Fame great Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants. Ending the evening with "You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)," brought a thunderous ovation from the crowd and the band back out for two more songs. Afterwards, though he looked a bit worn and frazzled from his energetic show, Prophet returned to happily sign autographs and chat with fans. It was the perfect encore to a great night of music.
Play That Song Again
I felt Like Jesus
Always A Friend
You Been Gone
The Left Hand And The Right Hand
Willie Mays Is Up At Bat
1Doubter Out Of Jesus (All Over You)
Just To See You Smile
Count the Days 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
White Night, Big City
Sonny Liston's Blues
Would You Love Me?
You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)
I'm Not Talking (Yardbirds cover)
Shake Some Action (Flaming Groovies cover)
I'm Bored (Iggy Pop cover)