Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express
Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express Credit: Courtesy the artist

Update 8/10: Chuck Prophet’s SPACE concert in August has been postponed till March 17, 2022. The FitzGerald’s show in October is still scheduled to proceed.

If the best parts of your classic British Invasion, 50s country, 60s pop, and pure rock ’n’ roll records could be transformed into a person, they might look and sound a lot like Chuck Prophet. For almost 30 years, this Bay Area songwriter has reliably delivered albums so pleasingly familiar that, had he started a few decades earlier, it’d be easy to imagine him outshining the likes of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Prophet (who also plays FitzGerald’s on October 26) has the charisma of an arena star, and thanks to his catchy guitar riffs, powerful choruses, and seductively casual vocal style, which could trick you into thinking he’s talking straight into your ear, his live shows always sound larger than the clubs where he plays. Other artists often cover Prophet’s songs, and many of them, including Alejandro Escovedo and Kim Richey, have turned to him as a writing partner on their albums. Prophet’s own work has only improved over the years, as evidenced by his recent run of records, from 2012’s Temple Beautiful, a tribute to the vanishing underbelly of San Francisco, till last year’s The Land That Time Forgot, which contains sharp wordplay and lovely sad songs about dead presidents and sensitive metalheads. Onstage as on his latest album, Prophet is accompanied by the harmony and duet vocals of keyboardist Stephanie Finch, his wife and long-running foil (she’s stoic, he’s energetic). Like many great troubadours before him, Prophet often writes about beautiful losers, people edged out of society by gentrification, and corrupt political regimes. But the songs on The Land That Time Forgot have a softer edge. “High as Johnny Thunders” is a testament to an unimaginable dream world where excess makes sense: “If heartbreak was a virtue, man, I’d be so virtuous,” he sings. Prophet is at a moment where his material sounds effortless and forthright. His acoustic guitar’s strings squeak as his fingers slide along the neck on “Meet Me at the Roundabout,” the most confident love song since Springsteen sang “I Wanna Marry You.” “We’ve got no obligations / No one to impress,” Prophet sings. “Go on and ask me anything / The answer will be yes.”  v