The Real Music Club at The Errigle Inn, Belfast
26th July 2017

You know what you are going to get at a chuck Prophet gig; a no nonsense, good time, vaudeville rock show. Tonight, the Californian and his band, The Mission Express are on top form.

Chuck Prophet has asked the ever-helpful Real Music Club to rearrange the room and provide a dance area in front of the stage, which he insisted is filled with revelers or – he jokes – the show is off!

With a stern request to open our hymnals to the appropriate page, the band blast into the title track of the new album ‘Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins’. The template is set for the rest of the evening. A frenetic, guitar driven blast of witty, melodic rock. ‘Bad Year For Rock And Roll’, a paean to stars lost in 2016, and he adds, to the loss of democracy in his own country.

The current album is quite politicised in nature dealing with prejudice and gun control. “California Noir” as the singer himself calls it. But tonight there is little preaching or posturing. Tonight, it seems Chuck and the band are just out to play rock and roll and enjoy themselves, and it shows.

Apart from some hackneyed amateur dramatics involving guitarist Jamie DePrato feigning a heart attack – theatrics that Springsteen wouldn’t have touched – the show bounds along at a pace.

Chuck’s partner Stephanie Finch is brought more to the fore and shares vocals on a couple of songs; ‘In The Mausoleum’ and ‘Amanda Ruth’.

‘Always A Friend’, a co-write with another recent visitor to the Errigle, Alejandro Escovedo, really connected with the energised crowd. Mainstays of The Real Music Club displayed their sometimes questionable dance moves.

The band has been together in its current line-up for a number of years now and it shows on stage. The two guitar assault of Chuck and DePrato is solidly backed by Vincente Rodriquez on drums and Kevin White on bass. Stephanie Finch performs duties on keyboards, backing vocals and cowbell!

The crowd was thoroughly entertained during Chuck’s little forays into the audience as the 53-year-old showman used all the tricks learned over nearly forty years, to taunt and tease. The party now in full swing.

Old favourites ‘Temple Beautiful’, and ‘Summertime Thing’ are are given an airing before ‘Willie May Is Up To Bat’ draws the set to a close.

There’s a quick return for an encore of soul classic ‘Shoot ’em All Down’ and a great cover of The Flamin’ Groovies ‘Shake Some Action’ ends the night.

Mention must also go to the sterling support act John Blek. The Cork man might be better known as a frontman playing with his backing band The Rats. Tonight however, he is playing his own high-quality material solo, as a folk singer, and splendid he is too.

Highlights include the deep brooding ‘Ruby Blood’ and a beautiful acapella version of ‘Needle And Thread’ that silenced the whole room.

John is due back in Belfast on 21st October 2017 to play No Alibis book shop on Botanic Avenue. On the evidence of tonight, tickets for that gig will shift fast.

As I said at the start, you always know what you’ll get at a Chuck Prophet gig… in a good way. On the back of three of the strongest albums of his career, he continues to replicate that excitement and intensity in a live setting.

2016 may have been a “bad year for rock and roll” but tonight is a great night for it.