zaterdag 25 februari 2017

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express live. Q-Bus Leiden, 23 February 2017, with Max Gomez

Was it the third or fourth time Chuck Prophet played the Q-Bus and if so when was the first time? Band and audience discussed for quite some time. From the first time I remember it was the first show of the tour, after picking up gear in Rotterdam's harbour and band members being really bothered by jetlag. There was the show that the band played too loud so that the mics were cut off from the sound system. Then there was a perfect show after 'Let Freedom Ring' and a mysterious email correspondence with my son in 2012 on a Q-Bus show that apparently never came off. Otherwise it would have been five. Fact is, I was present at all four. And again, Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express treated us to a true gift in the celebration of rock and roll in the widest sense possible.

Of course the show opened with the title song of the new album, that delightfully named 'Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins'. Sweet irony. Especially in combination with that other great title on the album 'Jesus Was A Social Drinker'. It wasn't hard to spot the fun Chuck Prophet had singing these lyrics. Prophet is one of the songwriters in rock today who still has an eye out for society in general and the unfortunate circumstances of his fellow man in particular. Like in 'Barely Exist': "When you barely exist, who's gonna miss you when you're gone". At the end of the show, the encore opened with a song by Bobby Fuller, closing the circle for the evening. Time to check the guy out!

Chuck Prophet and his band know every rock and roll trick in the book. His work is full of famous licks and turns. And then come all his own. Some great riffs, fantastic little melodies in between a chord change, some great guitar solos alternated between himself and co-guitarist James DePrato, who plays some mean and subtle slide guitar as well. At this point into his music it all seems to be without effort. As if these songs have always been there. In perfection laid on his doorstep. Probably the sign that a lot of work and effort went into the conception and especially the arranging of the songs.

Perfection. I'm touching on a word here that describes best what was going on in Q-Bus. This band is so good and the songs so right. The recurring feedback problem, was the only mishap of the evening, beyond the band's control. Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express played a perfect set and from my audience perspective flawless. The sound mix was perfectly balanced. As they say the band was steaming and the audience, very and beyond middle age, enthusiastic. Which clearly went both ways, inspiring both time and again.

Again 'You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)' was one of the absolute highlights of the show. Where on record, already from 2004, years older than I thought, it isn't even a very special song, on stage it becomes a beast. With its lazy rhythm, audience participation in the "You did" part, great solos and the bluesy "I got a letter this morning" switch. It goes on for hours it seems and not one second overstays its welcome. One big smile and moving of body parts to the rhythm.

This is one way in which Chuck Prophet honours his inspirations. The second is in 'Bad Year For Rock And Roll' in which he commemorates some of the departures from life in 2016. Through a cover by Leonard Cohen he made it even more tangible. Drummer Vicente Rodriquez switched to keyboards and got to make a nice introduction, if his mike had not been stolen away from him. Nice joke. My face as well as Chuck's is starting to show why we are losing the heroes we grew up with and inspired us to listen to music and make music. The kind of music that comes out so well in his own.

There seems to be no occasion any more where an American artist does not feel to have to apologise about the politics in his country. Whether on the building of walls, emigration, the big, white, very angry man in the White House, Chuck Prophet was no exception. During 'Wish Me Luck' I thought for a minute that he has the right family name after all. "Amen", praise the free spirit and decency. Wish us all luck. Yes, we live in interesting times. Time will tell what is up next.

The show that lasted for about two hours was preceded by an artist from Taos, New Mexico called Max Gomez. One man, one guitar and a lot of technical problems on the stage itself. Although it's been a while that I visited Q-Bus, it wasn't the first time that a solo, acoustic guitar has sound problems. So what is the cause? Gomez treated us to some fine singer-songwriter tunes and stories. The highlight was a song that no producer he worked with wanted to record, but he thinks is his finest. The bluesy song, I can't recall the title, sparkled, sizzled and was played with a great attack. Indeed the one that stood out. It is hard to stand out against what is to come up next. "Who has ever seen me before?", Gomez asked rightly. One hand went up somewhere in the back. Still, it wasn't hard to notice that a lot of people gave Max Gomez their attention in a well-willing way. The right thing to do, as he played a few fine tunes and had some nice stories in between. Let's hope Trump does know his geography for the sake of you New Mexicans. And Taos? Well, Max, there's this song by R. Dean Taylor. Perhaps a reason to cover it?

Coming back to Chuck Prophet. Veni, vidi, vici, those famous three Latin words cover it all. The rest is just me not resisting to write some more.

(All pictures by) Wo.

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