Chuck is back on the second European tour to promote the excellent Bobby Fuller Died For Your sins album this time due to popular demand that sees him playing one of the biggest shows he's played in London since Green On red split over 25 years ago.
I got into ULU a venue I used to go to all the time in the 80's and 90's but this is only my 4th visit of the new millennium and the problems this venue still have soon became all too apparent when I saw the queue to get a drink as although this was a packed show they only had one poorly staffed bar open which meant I spent most of the last half of support act The Curse Of Lono's set queueing out of eyeshot to try to find a drinkable beer from a very poor selection.
From what I heard of Curse of Lono and the sound got better the closer to the bar you got surprisingly was that the curse they suffer from is to be rather easily forgettable and the sort of band that very easily became background noise to a lot of thirsty punters who were soon realising they would not be getting too many drinks at this gig. My one beer took over 30 minutes to buy!!
Still I was in place near the front in good time for Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express and the sound in ULU is excellent if a tiny bit bass heavy. I was also looking to see if I could spot any students in the place as it's now known as Student Central and the answer was I don't think so as most of this crowd were 40 plus.
They opened with an intro piece that riffed around the Bo Diddley Beat before Chuck said good evening to the folks living on the angry island and they launched into Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins and almost everyone around me was singing along before we got to Chucks first guitar solo of the evening that warmed Chuck up so much he took his jacket off at the end of it.
Fast kid was such a blur I barely noticed it before they were singing The Rider Or The Train that had some of Stephanie Finches synth magic helping to take the song to another level.
Chuck gave a good almost preacher man style talk to us before they did Bad Year For Rock & Roll about the terrible losses rock and roll suffered in 2016 that harshest of years. That led into the triumphal celebration that is Temple Beautiful a song just about the entire audience seemed to be singing along too while seeing how much fun Chuck was having trading licks with James DePrato on the other guitar.
You and Me Baby (Holding On) was aimed at the people that have made it so hard for so many of Chucks friends to keep on keeping on so they end up just about Holding On, Chuck milked everything he could out of the lyrics while getting us all to sing the chorus back at him, the break down where Chuck really laid it out for us was poignant but didn't forget to lead into a great instrumental build towards the end of the song.
Chuck dedicated The Left Hand and The right Hand to the half of the Davies brothers he and the band had been hanging out with while in London yes some guy called Ray who might not get along too well with his brother Dave. It was as ever a tour de force for the band and went down a storm.
Chuck then switched to Acoustic guitar for the first half of Jesus Was A Social Drinker that had Chuck punning away at us both before the song and during it hamming up the songs great lyrics and of course we all sang the chorus even before Chuck switched back to Excalibur for the instrumental bit after the second chorus.
It was then time for a full on preacher man dance sensation on the now classic You Did (Who Put The Bomp) that had plenty of hamming it up both from Chuck and the rest of the band as they just turned the place into a great big party. Stephanie Finch then came out front to share lead vocals and play cowbell on In The Mausoleum (For Alan Vega) simply put a great tribute song played brilliantly.
Not totally sure what the next song was called I Felt Like Jesus is what setlist.fm has it down as which is better than my notes that look like the Albion smells danger either way Stephanie stayed out front to play tambourine for the first half of it before going back to the synth for the freak out part even if Chuck stayed on his acoustic throughout.
Summertime Thing has really become one of Chucks anthems over recent years and went down the storm you'd expect with chuck switching back to Electric halfway through as they took it to the next level and we had a full on chant of the chorus while Chuck kind of preached and hammed it up in between it was great.
Then after the band intro's we got a pretty cow punk version of Countrified Inner City Technological Man probably the fastest song of the set with some great soloing between James and Chuck. Then Chuck was pleading for us all to Wish Him Luck that was full on preacher blues with an extended breakdown as Chuck listed the things to wish him luck too and Stephanie went wild on the Synth.
They closed with Willie Mays At The Bat that was a great way to end a pretty great Mission Express set.
Of course they came back for a well-deserved encore and after half-jokingly asked if Ray Davies was coming on as special Guest they played a frantic sing along classic written by one of Chucks old Coke dealers who he first saw play Shake Some Action at the Temple Beautiful. This was a great version of a true classic song. They then finished by going proper Garage rock on Mr Pharmacist and coming off like they were halfway between The Other Half and The Falls versions of it, with Chuck being easily deranged enough in places as they left us all wanting a little bit more.
Even if it didn't leave me wanting to go see anyone at ULU any time soon not even the weekend's other big student act Martha & The Vandellas!