Review: Chuck Prophet at the Continental Club
Chuck Prophet likes to wax sarcastic in between songs. His first wisecrack during a monster Saturday set at the Continental Club — the second of back-to-back nights — was a riff on virtual reality.
"Go home tonight and check your Friendster page," Prophet said. (Don't you mean Facebook?) "How many friends do you need? How many people would actually pick you up at the airport? Now, get rid of the rest."
Then the San Francisco slacker and his four-piece band, including wife Steffie Finch on keyboards and backing vocals, laid into a cover of Alejandro Escovedo's "Always A Friend," which Prophet co-wrote, along with the majority of Escovedo's triumphant "Real Animal" album.
Prophet is perhaps better known for his collaborations with other musicians, including Austin's Kelly Willis, than he is for the nine solo albums he's put out. But "Soap and Water," from 2007, yielded an appearance on David Letterman, and this year's "Let Freedom Ring," a 25th anniversary update of the American Dream proffered by Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," has garnered critical acclaim.
Prophet played heavy doses of both albums Saturday, in a dynamite display of workmanlike rock. Prophet stabbed his trusty Fender Squier like a hoodlum in a knifefight, as he grunted and winced through his character-driven songs, vacillating between a traditional mic and one that made his voice sound like it was amplified through a blowhorn.
"Steve, who I guess is head of security here," Prophet said, presumably referring to Continental owner Steve Wertheimer, "says there's been a lot of bootlegging lately. I'd only ask, because this is how we make our living," Prophet continued, feigning seriousness, "that you film this one. Because no one likes new songs."
That disclaimer about identity theft was followed by "Hot Talk," a song about a shady impersonator, with Dire Straits undertones. Meanwhile, "Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You)," about a treacherous vamp, conveyed double-meaning when Finch repeatedly sang the outro at Prophet, "You could make a doubter out of Jesus."
But for my money I'll take the opener, "Sonny Liston's Blues," wherein Prophet echoed the words of the boxer in the lead up to his memorable bout with Muhammad Ali. Prophet sang them as if to dupe you into thinking he wasn't the smart aleck he seemed: "I'm a man of few words, baby/ I think by now you've heard `em all."