Gig review: Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express

The Voodoo Rooms. Picture: TSPL
The Voodoo Rooms. Picture: TSPL
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AFTER three decades on the road – starting in his teens with cosmic alt-country forebears Green On Red – Chuck Prophet’s readiness to entertain a club-sized crowd of maybe 150 fans on this side of the Pond attests to his enduring love of the rock’n’roll game.

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Rating: ***

(And, perhaps, to an element of necessity, too, given his website bio’s account of previous record-label/management rip-offs.) Still, in these days of uncertain gig attendances, a near-capacity house on a sunny midweek night was notable in itself, while the audience demographic – 95 per cent male, at least three-quarters aged 40 and up – pointed accurately to a roots-rock sound for which PR epithets like “no-nonsense”, “honest-to-goodness” and “straight-talkin’” were invented.

Over the course of the show, Prophet’s oeuvre did prove considerably more layered and astute than such surface descriptions often indicate, comprising tautly crafted songs whose diversity of stylistic reference-points – including Bowie, the Beatles, the Stones, Springsteen, Elvis Costello, rockabilly, glam rock, blues, country and even ska – created frequent, adroitly surprising juxtapositions, sewn together with a wealth of seriously impressive, multi-textured guitar work.

Performing with his band The Mission Express, a tight, assertive quartet on bass, drums, keys and rhythm guitar, he worked the crowd like the seasoned pro he is, exhorting singalongs every few numbers, ensuring due reward for evident loyalty. All those echoes of other songs and artists invariably recalled more memorable material, however, and while Prophet’s (real) surname and chosen band sobriquet would seem to suggest an element of evangelism in his make-up, he was very much preaching to the choir.