Gig Review – Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express – ULU London, 17 November 2017

Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins

Open Up Your Heart 2017 European Tour

Tonight’s gig was at ULU (University of London Union), basically the student’s union bar for SOAS/Birkbeck/UCL.  Now given the fact that this is generally known as left-wing central the bar prices (£5 pint in a plastic glass) were definitely not Students Union prices.  So a bit of capitalism is OK when profit is concerned eh?  Minor rant over!

I must admit I love Green On Red and have all their LPs, but up to this Saturday night I had no Chuck Prophet stuff at all.  So, this was a gig into the unknown and as it turns out has been writing wonderful songs on his own since 1990 and I’m now a convert! I did some research on his back catalogue which is pretty extensive and it looks like I have hours of listening to look forward to.  And I found a glorious YouTube video of ‘You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)’ and was sold instantly – boy I just love this song!

Tonight’s gig with the “Mission Express” (named after a bus line that runs through Prophet’s neighbourhood in San Francisco) concentrated in his more recent output with nothing prior to 2002.  Obviously, the majority of songs were from his current LP ‘Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins’, of which I bought a copy on the night and Chuck kindly signed for me – so good was the gig.

So, from my position Chuck was going to be an unknown quantity but as it turns out his songs still mix Country with Alt Rock injected with wry lyrics and observations.  He’s probably got an element of evangelism in him given the various songs with Jesus mentioned, even if some of the lyrics are mischievous.

The band

  • Chuck Prophet: (Guitars)
  • Stephanie Finch: (keyboards) and Chuck’s wife!
  • Kevin White: (bass)
  • Vicente Rodriguez: (drums)
  • James DePrato: (guitars)

He started with a foot stomping band intro “It’s great to be back we come in peace” which led into the infectious ‘Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins’ (a bit of internet research turns out that Fuller died mysteriously in his car outside his Hollywood apartment in 1966 – queue conspiracy theory).

A ‘Bad Year for Rock and Roll’ mentions Bowie and is his response to all the R’n’R deaths in 2016 – well we did lose rather a lot of irreplaceable artists!  Then a few slower country and acoustic based songs before the standout song of the night an extended version of ‘You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)’. Chuck even gave out a public health warning for all the oldies in the audience “this song could be dangerous to your health” – quite right too given the virtuoso guitar solo – glorious stuff indeed.  Then a mix of new and old classics as the set list below.

Set list (follow links to view my videos from the evening)

  1. Intro
  2. Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins [Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, 2017]
  3. Fast Kid – [Night Surfer (Ext Ver only), 2014]
  4. Rider or the Train – [Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, 2017]
  5. Bad Year for Rock and Roll – [Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, 2017]
  6. Temple Beautiful – [Temple Beautiful, 2012]
  7. You and Me Baby (Holding on) – [¡Let Freedom Ring!, 2009]
  8. Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You) – [Soap and Water, 2007]Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express ULU London, 17 Nov 2017
  9. Jesus Was a Social Drinker – [Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, 2017]
  10. You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)[Age of Miracles, 2004]
  11. In the Mausoleum (for Alan Vega) – [Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, 2017]
  12. I Felt Like Jesus – [Temple Beautiful, 2012]
  13. Open Up Your Heart – [Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, 2017]
  14. Summertime Thing[No Other Love, 2002]
  15. Countrified Inner City Technological Man – [Night Surfer, 2014]
  16. Wish Me Luck – [Night Surfer, 2014]
  17. Willie Mays Is Up at Bat – [Temple Beautiful, 2012]

Encore:

  1. Shake Some Action (Flamin’ Groovies cover 1976)
  2. Mr. Pharmacist (The Other Half cover 1966)

Chuck writes beautifully crafted songs held together with rather impressive, multi-textured guitaring.  He worked the crowd like a seasoned pro and gets the loyal audience singalongs going frequently.  He is after all very much preaching to the converted!

There was humorous banter in-between songs e.g. “loonies in charge of the world, well you started it” (Brexit joke) delivered with the aid of his prompts which were resting on his floor monitor.  He also told a story of when he was a kid going to gigs with the Flamin’ Groovies really impressing him. So much so that 10 years later he’d be in their apartment doing coke with them!

To summarise, Chuck lead his talented band of musos for about 1. 45 hours with them constantly looking at him for interplay leads to where next in the songs.  The pretty much capacity crowd (mixed audience mainly 50+ who looked like they had been on the journey with him from day 1) were highly entertained with his Alt-country rock and roll songs.  He was genuinely smiling from ear to ear through the entire set and looked like he was loving being on stage – it must be a great feeling to bond with an audience like that.  It was like all the audience were old friends whom he hadn’t seen for a few years, but could instantly bond once again.


I’m currently on a real downer watching big bands play big venues where you are miles from the stage up in the gods.  This venue was ideal, smallish and almost full (not excessively loud – well we are all getting a bit deaf as years pass) where you could get right up to the front and literally touch Chuck.  His infectious on-stage presence just adds to the intimacy.

He came across as a really nice genuine guy and luckily I managed a quick chat, photo, signed LP (now on my wall) after the gig.  I broached the subject of ‘Green On Red’ doing some gigs and he mentioned that he was still in touch with Dan Stuart and who knows! My fingers are firmly crossed!!

You simply can’t get better value for £20.  Chuck I’d happily pay double that to see your band again!  To the die-hard fans spread the word and help Chuck make the world a better place.

Marko – 19 Nov 2017

PS – We had great chats with the guys from the support band, the mixing desk and the merchandising stall. As it turns out the merchandising guy was from West Bromwich, so we mulled over the area (I lived in the ‘black country’ for many years) and to make a great night even better Chelsea stuffed W. Brom the following day!

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