Chuck Prophet will never make the cut. He's not going to make the top 100 list of songwriters. And I'd bet a mono copy of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends"...if I had one...that he wouldn't make the top 100 list of guitar players. And he should. He should be there among the Dylans and Lennons. He should be there among the Claptons and Becks. Chuck Prophet is that special. After seeing him perform last night, I'd like to put him in the Top 20 of both.
Prophet brought his Mission Express across the country from San Francisco to N.Y.C., aiming to put "New York City back on the map." (Oh yeah, his wry sense of humor? Top 20, as well.) Last night's performance made the usually stiff but pleasant Joe's Pub, arena-like. I blame his damn band. Holy $16 panini Batman, what a band!
And they are...
James DePrato (guitar)
Stephanie Finch (keyboard, vocals)
Kevin White: (bass guitar)
Kyle Caprista: (drums, vocals)
For 100 minutes, give or take a minute, Chuck Prophet delivered songs and stories, jangly chords and harmonies, funky grooves, dual guitar solos, heartbreak ballads and, like "something I saw on a live concert DVD once," plenty of audience participation. He played at least half of "Temple Beautiful." With the halfway mark of 2012 about to bite, that record is getting my vote for Best Of The Year. Songs like "Willie Mays Is Up At Bat" and "The Left Hand & The Right Hand" are mini-masterpieces, with the latter being dedicated to "brothers everywhere." Phil and Don (The Everlys), Phil & Dave (The Blasters), Ray & Dave (Do I need to?), and Liam and Noel (the Oasiseses), but it really is about so much more.
Chuck Prophet told a story about playing in the San Francisco airport to mostly disinterested travelers, except for one who recognized "Always A Friend," the song he co-wrote with Alejandro Escovedo which became a minor hit as a duet between Escovedo and Bruce Springsteen. The man remarked, "Good choice of covers." He headed for his flight before Prophet could tell him he wrote the song. "He wouldn't have believed me, anyway."
"Would You Love Me" from 2007's "Soap & Water" was the most moving moment of the night. A song about unrequited love, Prophet's lyric demands your attention, not so much for its complexity, but for its subtle beauty. This knocked me out.
The band's encore included "Summertime Thing," a song you could say is Prophet's "hit," as well as two more "good choices," the Flamin' Groovies "Shake Some Action" and Bruce's "For You."
I've always been a fan of Prophet, but mostly from afar. "Temple Beautiful" is such a good record, it motivated me to see him live, and that gave me a real opportunity to listen with focus. I've been converted.