You may of not given it much thought beyond seeing John Lydon on those butter ads, but tonight gave us an answer of sorts to what happens when Punks grow old. They keep their heart emblazoned on their sleeve, they still rally against the world and a certain orange leader. Both of tonight’s acts have their roots buried deep in the (respectively) East and West coast US punk scene, at some point they strapped on an acoustic and found that they could be heard just as loudly and passionately.
Bringing full New Yawk charm was opener Jesse Malin. Now eight records deep into his solo career, his address book/guest credits reads like the who’s who of east punk and rock. He’s duetted with Springsteen, Billy Joe Armstrong, various Ramones, played everywhere from CGBGs to Madison Square garden. Tonight in a room of seated people, armed with a well used guitar and a trusted piano/guitar foil, Jesse gave us an set that stretched across his career from early tracks such as ‘Wendy’, ‘Turn up the Mains’ to new plays of tracks off his forthcoming Lucinda Williams produced album, due early next year.
Holding my hand up, this was possibly the seventh or eighth time I’ve seen Jesse, but the first in around four years. Tonight was no different, or any less captivating, from the first time I saw him support his close friend Ryan Adams.
His hour slot flew by, he told us tales of uber-vegans, and by the final track had the room on its feet, a rare case of support getting a welcome as large and warm as headliner.
Chuck Prophet sauntered on, dressed like Neil Young at the Ole Opry. His voice belied any illness, (we’re later told he had to ‘man up’) its rich and deep tone sitting somewhere between Velvets Lou Reed and a plaintive Petty. When melded with his wife and keyboard/guitarist Stephanie Finch, they harvest the same brimstone as Johnny and Rosanne Cash once did. Covering Dylan’s ‘Abandoned Love’ and took us to a place 1000’s of miles way out west from a Monday night in Southville. Prophet has over thirty years of this under his belt, and he was nothing but the unhurried, punk troubadour as he clearly started to struggle, shrugging off unwanted feedback, and growing more pale as the set went on.
He still regaled us with playing Letterman with Green on Red, and his parent’s anti climatic reaction. Or Jello Biafra on the front page of a San Fran newspaper. Then of four years spent on a barstool, before the elegant and demure Stephanie came and sat next to him. Tonight she was the secret weapon. Near Meg White quiet, but beholden of a crystalline voice, that harmonised perfectly with her husband’s and towards the end held us in rapture as Prophet slayed away full in Crazy Horse style on his guitar. Like Malin, Prophet’s set covered his long and rewarding career, including recent ‘A Bad year for Rock’n’Roll’ and ‘Doubter out of Jesus’. A quick encore of ‘You Did’ a clearly spent Prophet bade us a warm farewell.
Tonight showed that you don’t need to plug in to be powerful, impassioned and marvellously entertaining. Alone, both acts are worthy of seeing on their own. On a bill, such as tonight you had a truly memorable and special evening.