Review: Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express, Fibbers, York, Monday
"HEY, can anyone tell me the last time we were at Fibbers?" asks Chuck Prophet, his Californian rasp convivial from the start.
No one answers, despite Prophet being an American roots rock icon to (mainly) men of a certain vintage in the crowd, fans since his Eighties junkie days in Green On Red. One had seen him no fewer than six times.
"Are you sure?" he teases, in the silence. Chuck thinks it must have been 30 years ago - pre-Fibbers in reality - but the truth is June 20, 2003, and it is hard to believe that anyone could forget a Prophet gig.
The humour, with the droll delivery of a story-telling comic and an always apt phrase, sets him apart from tongue-tied British front man, making each preamble a joyful surprise as he banters with audience wags while tuning or trying to tame the misbehaving sound system.
"Is that a speech impediment?" he inquires, when encountering a particularly persistent Geordie voice. Prophet has a swagger, from his pinstriped waistcoat to the way he holds his Fender Stratocaster high to his side.
Fronting a cool five-piece, he has good cause for that swagger: his songbook of worn country rock, sun-dried blues and mournful ballads has been bolstered anew by last year's Soap And Water.
His seventh solo album elicited the night's high points - in the company of Cake drummer Todd Roper and keyboard-playing co-vocalist Stephanie Finch - from Something Stupid to Would You Love Me. Unforgettable!