Photos by Gene Knapp
The smart money packed upstate New York’s coolest quirky club, Helsinki Hudson, for a night of rock ‘n’ roll and relaxed repartee. Guitarist and vocalist Chuck Prophet’s been around for years, penning solid rockers, but he’s been coming into this own in the last half decade and hopefully his new CD, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (Fuller: “I Fought the Law and the Law Won”) will push him into the majors to stand alongside all the heroes to whom he pays tribute on the album.
Prophet’s mix is the Reese’s Pieces of rock ‘n’ roll: sweet and salty, a little crunch but mostly it melts in your mouth; loud but not deafening, strong percussion without being clangy and notably spectacular guitar riffs that don’t usurp the song itself. Not an easy line to walk, but accomplished with grace and panache.
Introducing one song with “This is the heaviest thing you’ve ever heard. If you have a heart condition, take a breather,” Prophet launched the band into Leonard Cohen’s “Iodine,” an opportunity to show off Prophet’s own sparkling guitar skills, clean and easily comparable to Dire Straits’ John McLaughlin. Prophet gave the enthusiastic crowd a good dose of the Bobby Fuller Died CD, including “Jesus Was a Social Drinker” and “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” as well as a few nuggets from his previous 11 albums, notably “Wish Me Luck,” a personal favorite from Night Surfer.
Chuck Prophet brings to mind many James Spader characters: beneath his mild exterior lies a wide streak of naughty, a fundamentally good heart and some serious, serious fun. We got all of those and more, at Helsinki Hudson.