Yup, Chuck Prophet is back on the "Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins" tour at The Garage: one of the two London venues he's played most over the years and as you'd expect the place is packed.
I arrived during the support set by Max Gomez who is a young American Folk-blues singer/songwriter with a good guitar tone and a decent voice whose material passed me by a little bit. It reminded me of the time when I was introduced to a member of Doctor's Children while he was playing and he was telling me how they were support on the Green On Red show where Steve Earle was the main support. I wanted to get to tell him that actually I clearly remember Doctors Children's set but had pretty much forgotten seeing Steve Earle! So if Max falls into that category he will do OK!
Of the songs I heard him play, the best one was Joe, about a friend with some serious drug problems. I wouldn't mind hearing that one again. The song about what he'd do if he ruled the world was OK too but as good as his guitar playing was he ended up being more background than anything. He's in a club that seemed to have members of several classic support acts such as the Seers, The Jacobites and The Rockingbirds as well as the bloke from The Doctor's Children all ready to see The Mission Express again.
Chuck came on and opened with the title track of the current album Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins. It's a great tune about the premature death of one of El Paso's greatest exports and originators of Punk. The Mission Express featured the same line up they did the last time round and sounded great. After a few "hello's" to the crowd and Chuck working the room in full on street preacher mode they went into Ramona Say Yes, the old Chuck Berry tune which featured some ferocious guitar from James DePrato to really get us going.
Lonely Desperation included a little word or two about the state of the world before they kicked into it and made sure none of us felt lonely, with Stefanie Finch's keyboards adding some cool touches. Bad Year For Rock & Roll reflects on the horror show that was 2015 and live it really came to life and the crowd really got going to it.
Chuck gave another cool little speech before Temple Beautiful. This was underpinned by one of Kevin White's strongest bass lines and everyone sang along to the chorus of a great song about falling in love at a gig, ironically enough.
James De Prato switched to a 12 string for a righteously angry take on Alex Nieto: a song about a bright young kid who the police killed for wearing a 49ers shirt as he was a fan walking in the wrong part of town. Well his own neighbourhood. This is the sort of modern protest song everyone needs to hear and live it really ramps up the anger as we remember Alex was both a pacifist and a 49ers fan.
Barely Exist calmed things down a bit and included some good interplay between Chuck and Stefanie to move things along nicely before we got onto the frankly brilliant Jesus Was A Social Drinker. That one went down a storm and had Chuck playing acoustic guitar like he was in a revival tent on the outskirts of Tucson rather than a black room in Islington.
They then got the place to go mad and sing almost every word to You Did (Bomp Shooby Bomp), one of Chuck's bigger hits in recent years which allowed him to really work the crowd while playing some stunning guitar. Not that we needed much working, really.
Then it was time to pay tribute to Alan Vega with In The Mausoleum during which Stefanie did her best to make her keyboards go all Marty Rev on us but without the volume or distortion. Nonetheless, it's a great tribute to one of many recently fallen musical heroes. They then brought the fun back with Ford Econoline: a tribute to the now discontinued classic ford touring van and the road adventures Chuck had in them over the years.
Coming Out In Code was next and took us back to the theme of much of Chuck's recent music being protest songs, or songs filled with social commentary, if only it was ok to come out without any codes being needed. A fine tune either way though.
Chuck then dedicated We Got Up And Played to Dan Stuart and the years in which no matter how wasted they might have been they still got up and played. It reminded me of the shows at the Garage where Chuck would be smoking crack backstage and lord knows what we were smoking in the audience to get that fog just right for him to play for us. The cleaner, healthier Chuck still has that look like he'd really like to be able to be as out of it as we all used to be.
They then did some swapping of instruments so that drummer Vicente Rodriguez played keyboards and Stefanie Finch played Tambourine with Chuck back on Acoustic guitar for a cool cover of Leonard Cohen's Iodine which reinforced the fact that the Mission Express has hit a purple patch of being a very cool and tight band.
Even though it was a chilly evening it was time to party on down for Summertime Thing which went down a storm or should that be like a clear blue sky? Countrified Inner City is a wry look at all the country music-loving folk who now live in big cities like, well, London. It also had some great guitar bits by Chuck. Wish Me Luck sounded great, not that Chuck needs it with a band this good but it can't do any harm right? Go on, wish him luck and he'll wish you luck too.
They closed the set with Willie Mays Is Up At Bat about the old Baseball legend. This had an intro about how much Chuck has watched both Cricket and Snooker and is still baffled by them like most Brits are by Baseball. It went down very well with the group of fans wearing football kits including the shorts and boots as these days Chuck seems to have a good sports fan following.
Of course they got an encore. This opened with a cool version of Bobby Fuller's Let Her Dance with Max Gomez as special guest, which was a relief as it meant good old Dave Kusworth would just remain in the audience and not repeat the farrago of a couple of years ago at Dingwalls.
They had most of us singing along before they closed the show with You And Me Baby (Holding On) which made me want to say hold on Chuck, we need a few more songs. But really this was a great end to another really great Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express show. As the tour continues through the year they are really worth catching if they come close to your town.