Sunday, 31 May 2015

Live In 2015: Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express and The Dreaming Spires at The Tunnels, Bristol on Wednesday 27th May 2015

OK, I'll come right out and admit it straight away that I had not heard much of Chuck Prophet (to my shame) other than the last two albums, that I bought when I booked tickets for this gig.
I really wanted to see The Dreaming Spires - the band who have produced, for me, one of the best albums of 2015 so far.

But, there's nothing like the unexpected. It was my first visit to The Tunnels and hopefully won't be the last. It reminds me a bit of what The Cavern in Liverpool must have been like in the 60's - but perhaps a bit plusher and with less young ladies.

As we were queuing outside, one of the crew popped out and explained that half of Chuck's band were stuck in Brussels, trying to get to Bristol from Madrid. But at least we knew Chuck was there, so let's see what transpires.

From what I'd read and talking to Chuck's fans in the venue - I was expecting a high octane performance from the band.

However, first up was the band that I came to see, The Dreaming Spires. 

Down to the duo today of brothers Joe and Robin Bennett (drummer Jamie now living in America) - the boys had told me to expect an Everley's version of their set - acoustic and subtle. But when I saw Robin's Rickenbacker on the stage my heart skipped a beat. The Spires are known among their fans for their Rickenbacker based sound.

The brothers are now on album two with Searching For The Supertruth, which is a beauty.
They opened up with House On Elsinore from the EP Darkest Before The Dawn, that preceded ...Supertruth earlier this year. 
Their harmonies were spot on and it didn't take long for the boys to get into their stride. With the late start for Chuck, while he waited for the band members, The Spires got an extra 20 minutes which was great news for me.

They had the opportunity to perform some of my favourite songs including the title track of ....Supertruth, the great opening track I Still Believe In You and a first live outing for Strange Glue.

The lovely We Used To Have Parties, which on the album has the delectable Sarah Cracknell from St Etienne on vocals, was another highlight with the brothers harmonies sounding like only sibling harmonies can.

Their first album, Brothers In Brooklyn was also represented with the title track and an excellent version of Everything All The Time.

The Spires are part of Clubhouse Records, one of the best independent labels in the UK and who, a few years back, produced an album that covered all of the Bruce Springsteen album Nebraska. The boys played a stunning version, with Joe taking lead vocal duties, of their cover from that album - Atlantic City.

The set closed with one of the highlights from their new album - the mighty Dusty In Memphis, which even kept it's power despite the lack of drums. And gave me a chance for a bit of singing - nothing like a Welshman belting out 'You Know We've Got Soul'. If you get a chance to see The Dreaming Spires, get there. You won't be disappointed. 

So, a great set and a nice build up for Chuck Prophet.

As I stated earlier, I have never seen Chuck Prophet live but have enjoyed the last two albums, Night Surfer and Temple Beautiful since I bought them about two months ago.  I was expecting an upbeat, uptempo show today. But it's funny what life throws at you as an experienced gig goer.

Firstly, the missing half of Chuck's band had not arrived by his 9.30pm start time, so Chuck decided to split his show into two halves. The first half was to be a solo acoustic 'Storytellers' type experience.

Although this wasn't what I, or his Bristol fans, expected, I thought it worked really well. Especially being new to Chuck's music, I got the opportunity to hear what half of the songs were about and to witness the man's personality for myself.

My first thought was how the hell I'd missed him for so long. Chuck was informative and insightful. And by God he was funny!

For the first hour of the show, Chuck went back into his intensive catalogue to showcase some of his best known songs (according to the fans next to me) - always handy to have some super fans close at hand.

With tracks such as Hot Talk and Would You Love Me, Chuck strummed his acoustic with passion - a performer totally at ease in a live performance. The songs were varied and interesting.

Halfway through the first set, Chuck brought his wife onto the stage - Stephanie Finch is also his keyboard player and vocalist. This added an extra dimension to the songs and sounded excellent.

Chuck really seemed to be enjoying this part of the show, probably because he's already made the decision to really rock it up for part two.

After about an hour, the missing bandmates turned up. Then following a 15 minute break, and the opening shout of 'Let's Do This Thing', Chuck strapped on his battered Telecaster and launched into an hour and twenty minute of a Rock n Roll masterclass. He was extraordinary. No, I really mean it.

Chuck again dipped into his extensive back catalogue and dug out some absolute gems. Although many of these songs were new to me, they seemed like old favorites.

Chuck really is a master of that Telecaster and had it singing and growling in equal measure as he blasted out some serious Rock n Roll riffs and some sublime solos. An early highlight in this second set was the opening track from Night Surfer the rocking Countrified Inner City Technological Man.

There were shades of The Stones, a touch of Bowie, a sprinkle of Tom Petty, a smattering of Little Feat and plenty of Chuck to get the crowd going. 
Throughout the night Chuck was talking to members of the audience, he said there were plenty of faces he recognised and some new ones too. 

He played many crowd favourites, as the guys around me were singing to every word. Songs such as Ford Econoline and Sonny Liston Blues really got the crowd bouncing along.

For the last song, Chuck played the obviously well known You Did, where he decided a little one on one time with the audience was called for, much to the delight of the crowd.

So an unexpected and spectacular night - nothing like I expected but one of surprises and revelations. I now know what to expect at the next gig - and there will be a next gig, I hope. Now time to dig back into that career and see what I've been missing!!!




1 comment:

  1. Chuck is a living legend, truly one of the best live acts around.
    Check out our interview with him.
    Will have to check out The Dreaming Spires LP, thanks for the recommendation.