woensdag 12 september 2018

Chuck Prophet & Stephanie Finch with Jesse Malin. Q-Bus, Leiden Tuesday 11 September 2018

Photo by Wo.
It seems the moment Chuck Prophet sets foot in The Netherlands he drives his vehicle in the direction of Leiden to set up gear in the Q-Bus. I've seen him play totally jet-lagged, stressed as the instruments had arrived too late in the port of Rotterdam and totally relaxed, like yesterday, with broad smiles and happiness all around.

There was one main difference though: The Mission Express was left at home. Just Chuck, his acoustic guitar and Stephanie with keyboard or guitar playing each other's songs and a few covers. The Q-Bus was packed and ready for it. Mr. Prophet obviously has many fans around Leiden on the basis of his songs and great shows.

The show started with Jesse Malin, the New York singer-songwriter who is often associated with Bruce Springsteen on acoustic guitar and Derek Cruz, playing Roy Bittan like piano parts, lead acoustic guitar and singing heavenly harmonies. The ideal side kick, were it not that the two wrote several songs together over the years. Through the years I have checked two or three of Malin's records, but always ran into the fact that I thought them not to stand out enough or perhaps too U.S.A. to my taste.

Photo by Wo.
Enter this Q-Bus show. There was not a single weak brother to be found in between the very various songs. Influences from Bruce Springsteen to Paul Simon and Live came by in strong and powerful songs or songs full of expression and emotions. Malin proved to be a slightly cynical optimist who preaches PMA, Positive Mental Attitude, and Carpe Diem. I can live with that. Without we are all lost. So meet you "at the end of the world" indeed, Jesse. It was one of those evenings that I was pleasantly surprised by an artist I did not expect much from, just the steppingstone to the headliner. So, thank you Jesse Malin and Derek Cruz for a great show in your own right. And thank you for that beautiful rendition of Big Star's 'Thirteen'.

Chuck Prophet played a won match before he entered the stage. Several of his songs have proven themselves over the years to be true earworms. Each of his albums contain several of them. In fact there is something like a Chuck Prophet song, recognisable in thousands. Yes, in part that starts with his typical voice I can listen to for ages, but there is more. A part is the expression of melancholy for things passed or lost, a part is keen observational skills and then there is a part irony about the state of the world, where you can hear the questions marks being accented. Prophet captures that all in his lyrics and his music. All of them well-crafted with little unique turns and licks, setting them apart, with his voice giving off these already mentioned hints. A true songsmith.

Listening to this set, with songs, from over his whole solo career in a bare setting, it is clear that progression is not necessarily necessary to make records containing songs that come close to perfection. The basis was there from the start, Chuck Prophet just became better at honing his skills for sure.

Together Stephanie and Chuck sang songs they are attached to, Dylan, Bowie/The Merseys/The McCoys. The pleasant surprise of the evening was that the songs of Stephanie Finch easily stood her own in the whole of the evening. Different, more subtle, containing small hints to decades of serious pop music. It made the evening even more special it already was. The Q-Bus was turned into a large living room filled with, mostly, strangers. The show was very intimate, with all the interaction possible between artists and audience.

One person was slightly disappointed though. She had come to hear 'Jesus Was A Social Drinker' live and that did not happen. Next time around, Mr. Prophet?


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