Chuck Prophet & Mission Express - January 16, 2015 - Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
Prophet Makes Believers Out of Tractor Tavern
You could make a doubter out of Jesus and make a monkey out of me, but it didn’t require much convincing from Chuck and his band, the Mission Express to make believers out of those gathered on this Friday night at the Tractor Tavern.
The message that Prophet conveyed was one of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The band was ready to create seismic activity here in the Pacific Northwest.
Taking the stage, Chuck Prophet & Mission Express started the night with Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart”, paying homage to a musical influence in the same way that Chuck did with his adopted city of San Francisco with 2012’s masterful “Temple Beautiful”. The band went straight into the Stonesy “Countrified Inner City Technological Man” from 2014’s “Night Surfer”, my No. 1 album last year.
“How’s everybody doing?” shouted Chuck, “We’re trying to put Seattle back on the musical map.”
Chuck sang a snippet of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi", “Just about a year ago/ I set out on the road. /Seekin’ my fame and fortune/lookin’ for a pot of gold. /I came into town/a one night stand. /Looks like my plans fell through/Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again”. This brief snippet as an intro to “Wish Me Luck”.
The musical Prophet-cies further revealing themselves with “Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You)” and “I Bow Down And Pray To Every Woman I see”.
“Alright. We’re going to play a song now off the brand new album entitled “Night Surfer” Chuck announced. “This is a song for the memory of one of the greatest things to ever come out of Detroit, Michigan other than Iggy Pop and the Stooges of course. We’re talking about the Ford Econoline van everybody.”
It’s a long way from San Francisco to Seattle, but the Mission Express were firing on all cylinders upon exiting I-5 for a stop at the Tractor Tavern, Seattle’s Americana hub. Adding to Chuck’s battered Japanese Squier telecaster was Stephanie’s keys and beautiful harmonies, Vicente Rodriguez’s heavy drumming, James DePrato’s Gibson SG, long recognized as a near-perfect electric slide guitar and Kevin White’s bass.
Chuck would cover another hero of his with Alex Chilton’s “Bangkok”. Chuck and Stephanie would then exchange “Little Girls” for “Little Boys” between themselves with “Little Boy, Little Girl” from 2012’s “Temple Beautiful”.
It would be an hour into the show before Chuck would tell the raucous crowd that there was a couple of rules in the band, “one is that we make it a policy to not get blown away by our opening band. So if you’re listening, we’re working extra hard, it’s for good reason. That was a fantastic set by The Tripwires.”
The music from “Temple Beautiful” was prominent throughout the night. “This song’s about someone who brought a gun to a party” commented Chuck. San Francisco’s Castro District used to have massive street parties come Halloween, but those old days are long gone. DePrato’s excellence was again on display on “Castro Halloween”. Chuck talked about the album, saying that it was “written entirely and inspired about the city we come from, San Francisco, and it’s about the place and the people, the characters, the history. “Temple Beautiful” and “Who Shot John?” followed.
Stephanie was introduced and sung Michael Nesmith’s “Different Drum” as beautifully as Linda Ronstadt’s version that she recorded in 1967 when Ronstadt was a member of the Stone Poneys.
The band then rode the waves with another great new song from “Night Surfer”, “Tell Me Anything (Turn to Gold)”.
“We’re going to take you back to the summer of 2002” Chuck announced, “What is the name of this song?” That song was “Summertime Thing” from “No Other Love”. I first heard this song when I was living in Toronto and listening to Freedom, California’s KPIG. I don’t remember if it was “Uncle Sherman” or “Ralph Anybody” that played the song. All I remember is “That summer heat has got me feeling lazy/The air is warm and the sky is hazy.” Chuck starting with his acoustic before switching to the electric guitar as James played slide guitar.
“The Left and the Right Hand” is a song about brothers. “This one’s about Jim and Artie Mitchell, the Mitchell Brothers.” explained Chuck. These brothers came to believe that porn (prior to the explosion of Green on Red) was the path to wealth. They scraped together enough money and opened the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre in San Francisco. “This song goes out to anybody who came here tonight with their brother. And all the great musical brothers, take a bow ….. Phil and Don Everly, Phil and Dave Alvin, the Osmond Brothers, the Gatlin Brothers, the Stanley brothers and of course I want to dedicate it to the great Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks.” Another great song from “Temple Beautiful”.
It wasn't ‘Say who,’ ‘Say what,’ ‘Say where,’ ‘Say hey’ for the next song. It was ‘Say whoa’ for one of the greatest baseball songs ever written. This song is about “The Say Hey Kid”. Chuck was swinging for the fence with “Willie Mays Is Up at Bat”. “You guys ready to do some singing? This song is dedicated to the greatest centerfield that ever played the game of baseball.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa”,
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa”
The audience returning each of Chuck’s whoa, whoas.
The whoas continued.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh whoa, whoa, whoa”.
“Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa”.
And then the guitars kicked in, followed by “I hear the church bells ring, Willie Mays is up at bat. I hear the crowd go wild, all he did was touch his hat.”
It was five on stage, none out, under the lights at the Tractor Tavern. What a night.
A 2-song encore ended the just under 2-hour show.
“I want to thank everybody for coming out. It’s been a while since we’ve been up here at the Tractor. Here’s a song that’s not only considered the Mona Lisa of Power Pop, but I believe it’s San Francisco’s National Anthem” Chuck commented. The band covered the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action”.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we came all the way from San Francisco to try and put Seattle back on the musical map. If you have a heart condition, you might just want to get the hell out of here. This last song is hands down the heaviest thing you’ve ever heard in your entire life.”
Before leaving Seattle, Chuck would find out “Who put the bomp in the bomp shooby dooby bomp” and “who put the ram in the ram a lama ding dong”.
Those Rock ‘n’ Roll believers at the Tavern.
You could make a doubter out of Jesus, but don’t ever doubt Chuck Prophet, a musical genius.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart (Lou Reed)
Countrified Inner City Technological Man
Lodi > Wish Me Luck
Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You)
I Bow Down and Pray to Every Woman I See
Bangkok (Alex Chilton)
Just To See You Smile
Little Girl, Little Boy
Who Shot John?
Different Drum (Michael Nesmith)
Tell Me Anything (Turn to Gold)
White Night Big City
The Left and the Right Hand
Willie Mays Is Up at Bat
Shake Some Action (Flamin’ Groovies)
You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)