Live music is special on its own, but the artist who knows how to truly entertain an audience is something else entirely. Think about any show you’ve seen; did the band simply play their songs or did they do something special to blow your mind? With a career stretching back more than three decades, Chuck Prophet could easily rest on his laurels and just play songs. Instead, he treats every show like the last he’ll ever play and provides the kind of entertainment factor that bands half his age couldn’t begin to muster. Such was the case when the veteran rocker brought his band the Mission Express to Portland, Oregon’s Doug Fir Lounge on Thursday, February 24th.
Like a priest leading a sermon, Prophet took the stage and rallied his fans right from the opening track “Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins,” a straightforward rocker that set the mood. Following “You Been Gone,” the band slid into the slowly percolating soul of “Guilty As A Saint” before the Sly Stone-like party tune “Come On Over.” They would switch gears on “Best Shirt On,” with James DePrato busting out his jangly twelve-string guitar and then unloading some dreamy country twang on Prophet’s ode to rock and roll “High As Johnny Thunders.” Fittingly, the band followed it up with the Tom Petty-style anthem “Bad Year For Rock and Roll.” From there, they only cranked things up with the lively call and response number “Temple Beautiful.”
As a real deal old school entertainer, Prophet paced the set perfectly with highs and lows, jokes and stories, and plenty of guitar shredding between him and DePrato, who even treated the audience to a mini Chet Atkins guitar clinic at one point. Other highlights included the breezy yet lyrically serious “Killing Machine” segueing into the bluesy and introspective yet darkly humorous “You and Me Baby (Hold on).” The latter culminated with Prophet and DePrato’s dueling solos, which they would cheerfully engage in throughout the night. With momentum up, Stephanie Finch stepped back from hey keyboard to lay down some impressive accordion on “The Left Hand and the Right Hand” and “Marathon” before stepping into the vocal spotlight on the “Hey Little One” with its San Francisco in the 60s folk-rock vibes. Having touched on albums from throughout his career, Prophet saved some his biggest fan favorites for the tail end of the set, with “You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)” showcasing Prophet’s gloriously unhinged guitar magic and clever lyrics, taking a duet with Finch on the surf rocker “In the Mausoleum,” and closing with more dueling guitar solos and wild frontman antics on “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat.”
Clocking in at more than two hours, Prophet and his band gave the crowd a world class performance that left everyone buzzing. Prophet was undoubtedly the frontman and ringleader of the fun, but without such a tight backing band, it might’ve been just another show. Together, they provided a much needed reminder of the soul-saving power of rock and roll.