January 23, 2008
Better Than: Doing your homework and going to bed early.
Download: “You Could Make a Doubter Out of Jesus” is Prophet at his most intense and lyrical.
Chuck Prophet is a wizard, and every wizard needs a special hat. As the edgy San Franciscan took the stage, his never-before-seen skid lid was The Topic in our group.
“What kind of hat is that?”
“I wouldn’t call it a hat, I’d call it a chapeau.”
“It looks like something one of the lowlifes would wear in Dick Tracy.”
“It’s the Jon Dee Graham thing.”
My lawyer friend shakes her head. “No, look, it’s a Caddyshack hat!”
Whatever it was, it gave Prophet the perfect musing hipster-artist look most rockers would plan for endless days to achieve. And that little gray hat was about all the edge Prophet needed on a cold, bitter, sleet-spitting night; from there, he let his killer band, amazingly supple voice, and some of the hippest lines in rock today (“the Dairy Queen where it all went down is now a halfway house out on the edge of town”) carry him the rest of the way through an absolutely torrid set that included a dedication to Anna Nicole Smith on the dreamy “Would You Love Me.”
One of those people who has trouble staying still, Prophet shuffles, jitterbugs and mugs his way around the stage like one of the kids in his song who’s “strung out on Ritalin and color TV.” For true aficionados, Wednesday’s set list was Grade-A Choice filet mignon: the salacious rocker “Freckle,” a psychedelic twin-guitar scream on “A Woman’s Voice Will Drug You” followed by a scorching set of rockers that sucked the air from the room with “Let’s Do Something Stupid,” “Who Put the Bomp in Bomp Shoobie Doobie Bomp,” “I Bow Down and Pray to Every Woman I See” and “You Could Make a Doubter Out of Jesus.” Pausing barely long enough to take a breath, Prophet took it down a notch with “You’ve Been Gone” and “After the Rain” only to wind the engines up again for the final run with the oft-requested “Summer Time Thing.”
Returning for an encore, Prophet shocked even the faithful with a blistering version of Bob Dylan’s “From a Buick Six” as he shrieked “I’ve got this graveyard woman, she keeps my kids” like a spirit that has lost its body. There was no way to ask for more after that.
Prophet introduced himself by opining that he was glad folks had come out on Wednesday night “because I’m still not sure whether Tuesday night or Wednesday night is the most depressing night of the week – I’m sure you folks are going to help us figure that out tonight.” Prophet has always had trouble drawing in Houston, so we had sent a few emails and made a few calls trying to get people out to see him. One Prophet newcomer, former clubowner and now a local dealer in rock posters and historical paraphernalia (he’s got one of Pete Townsend’s smashed guitars) Gary Brandenberger, came up to testify that he had no idea how intense Prophet’s show would be.
“Man, my wife is mesmerized,” he said. “She’s flipped for this. I don’t understand why I’ve never heard of this guy.”
Another friend who brought a group of lawyers from her office gave a thumbs-up as she left: “I had nooooooo idea. Wow.”
That’s pretty much the way I’ve felt about every Prophet show I’ve seen. For my money, if Prophet is not the coolest guy in America he’s probably willing to star in the pilot for a new reality show based entirely on finding out who that guy is. Don’t be surprised if Prophet is crowned, even if the crown is a gray skid lid.
Personal Bias: Anyone who can get that many screams and cries and that much mileage out of $119 Squire guitar probably majored in economics. Prophet is the exact opposite of all these guys who need six guitars in a rack on stage to make it through a one-hour set.
Random Detail: Prophet is rumored to be working on a project of recording Waylon Jennings’ classic 1973 album Dreaming My Dreams in its entirety. This rumor is probably true, since Prophet was selling T-shirts emblazoned with “dreaming Waylon’s dreams” last night.
By The Way: Recent upgrades of the sound system at the Continental are paying off. The sound was right on for both bands. – William Michael Smith