It was in the days that followed the release of his acclaimed The Hurting Business album in 1999 that Chuck Prophet first came to town to play the campus area haunt known as Lynagh’s Music Club.
There was debate back then as to whether or not the West Coast rocker/songwriter made his Lexington debut with that performance. A few patrons seemed to think he had been around these parts in the ‘80s with the punkish Southern California troupe Green on Red. Regardless, this post-Hurting Business concert set a longstanding personal and professional relationship with Lexington into motion.
With a singing voice that sounded like a non-Southern variation of Tom Petty’s rockish howl, a writing style that possessed a gift of narrative as socially surreal as it was literary and a glossary of pop references that gave his music – and especially his live shows – a commanding immediacy, Prophet was a frequent and anticipated presence at Lynagh’s right up until when the music club shut down in 2002.
The closing didn’t keep Prophet away from Lexington, though. He made a few stops at The Dame’s now-demolished West Main location as albums like No Other Love (which earned him a long overdue radio hit in Summertime Thing) and Age of Miracles began to expand his national fanbase.
Prophet was also in Lexington in late 2007 to help cut 13 songs he co-wrote with Alejandro Escovedo for the latter’s Real Animal album at Saint Claire Recording Company.
But Prophet’s Saturday concert at Cosmic Charlie’s has the unavoidable air of a homecoming simply because the club operates out of the same Woodland Ave. facility that was once home to Lynagh’s Music Club.
Different club. Same space. Different decade. Same artist.
Best of all, the Cosmic Charlie’s show will give us a live listen to tunes from his recent Let Freedom Ring album. The songs’ storylines mirror a bleak and battered America where faith and hope become hard won commodities
“When you got asbestos in your Kool Aid for breakfast, there’s no good way to look alive,” sings Prophet in Barely Exist. “No good way at all.”
There is a sense of irony about the album’s construction, as well. Prophet recorded it in Mexico City, which, in the album notes, he terms “the Rosetta Stone of our own urban future… it’s only three hours from the West Coast but might as well be the other side of the moon.”
Still, Saturday’s show should be a riot. Recent setlists from Prophet’s tour have balanced Let Freedom Ring material with the social twang-fest Doubter Out of Jesus, the ultra cool discourse in pop linguistics You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp) and, of course, Summertime Thing.
If you’re planning on attending Prophet’s Saturday performance – and, you know, you really should – don’t operate on “club standard time” protocol. Doors will open at 7 p.m. A full second show at Cosmic Charlie’s by Lexington vintage blues and swing specialists The Swells is scheduled to get underway at 11.
Chuck Prophet performs tonight at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. $12. Doors are at 7. Call (859) 309-9499.