Live Review: Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express + Kris Gruen, The Fallen Angels Club @ St. Lukes, Glasgow – 9th June 2023

The huge wave of applause which greeted Chuck Prophet as he appeared on stage, arms outstretched, said a lot for the love felt by this sold-out Glasgow audience for an artist making a much delayed return to the city, stymied first by Covid and then a serious health problem. It was almost palpable and Prophet surfed on this wave of goodwill throughout the show, turning in one of his best performances this reviewer has seen.

The sparks were flying from the start as Prophet and The Mission Express slammed into ‘Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins’ and they didn’t let up for the next 90 minutes. Prophet, like a rock’n’roll fairground barker, introduced songs and cajoled the audience while strumming his guitar or having the band vamp behind him, there was never a chance to catch your breath as the songs tumbled out. ‘Bobby Fuller’ was rapidly followed by ‘Fast Kid’ and then a pulverising Stax like delivery of Dan Penn’s ‘Come On Over’ which included the first of Prophet’s addresses to the audience. As the band laid down the song’s riff Prophet introduced himself and the band and informed us to expect “A family-friendly programme, we’ve got a set list, very professional.” He also told was what not to expect, “You’re not going to hear any backing tracks, no autotune, no gimmicks.” True to his word there was none of that throughout unless you count as a gimmick coming across as one of the hippest, coolest dudes in the rock’n’roll world right now, a man who surely knows the true meaning hidden within the greatest of all rock’n’roll lyrics, “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, A-lop-bam-boom!” If so, then Prophet is guilty as charged.

A brace of songs from Prophet’s latest album’The Land That Time Forgot’ were unveiled, the first being ‘High As Johnny Thunders’ (dedicated to the god of all fuck ups) along with ‘Best Shirt On’, given a great Brill Building delivery with Stephanie Finch on fine form, and ‘Nixonland’, a song inspired by a school trip to Nixon’s actual office which Prophet introduced in a hilarious style. Most rousing of all was the vocal parrying of Prophet and Finch on the propulsive ‘Marathon’.

Older favourites also came fast and furious. ‘Killing Machine’, a call for gun control, was quite chilling while ‘The Left Hand And The Right Hand’ saw Finch pick up her accordion on the first of a few vintage songs which the crowd lapped up. An emotive ‘You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)’ found Prophet wringing out the notes from his guitar and, in an electrifying close to the show, ‘In The Mausoleum’ was a smorgasbord of guitar riffs which had Prophet and Finch singing together before, in a great piece of stagecraft, the band froze as Prophet wailed away on his guitar, eventually coaxing them back into life.

By now the seated half of the audience were on their feet along with the rest of us, bopping away. An encore was duly demanded and we all duly participated in the sing-along of  ‘Willy Mays Is Up At Bat’ which allowed Prophet and guitarist James Deprato to indulge in their dual guitar sparring.  A quite glorious end to what, for a live music fan, was a truly life affirming experience. No hyperbole here, it was that good. Long live rock’n’roll and long live Chuck Prophet.

Opening tonight was Kris Gruen, playing solo with just his acoustic guitar (although he was joined on several songs by Kendall Jane Meade, ex of Mascot). He’s an engaging songwriter and songs such as ‘Heaven In A Car Ride’ and ‘The Painter’ went down well. He spoke of his father, the famed rock photographer Bob Gruen, recalling childhood days spent in the company of luminaries such as Joe Strummer. This led to him singing his versions of two iconic songs, Strummer’s ‘Bank Robber’ and Johnny Thunder’s ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ with ‘Bank Robber’ quite enjoyable but the oh so delicate delivery of the Thunders’ song just didn’t work for this reviewer.

About Paul Kerr 430 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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