Generations of homegrown legendry teamed up at the GAMH Friday night to show young and old (and quite old) alike how roots rock is served. Alt-country hero Chuck Prophet, who emerged in the 80’s with Green on Red and has never let up, and Roy Loney, former front man for 70’s power pop progenitors The Flamin Groovies, brought their respective ace backups, The Mission Express and The Phantom Movers by for the show.
Loney blasted his way onstage, brandishing his lifelong insistence that roots rock is not a novelty. He hasn’t lost his mastery of the “goofy monster” punk persona and the fidelity to grinding, two-chord or 12-bar blues structures that had such an influence on label mates The Ramones, just for starters.
As a rock lifer, Loney also clearly understood how to make the best of a big crowd and venue. He and the Movers kept the pace tight and the energy high. The salt-and-pepper crowd, along with a smattering of the beard and horn rims set, were convinced. If you can rock the house, it doesn’t matter how clever your compositions or sound textures are. And if you can’t rock the house, it matters even less.
Loney’s sense of his moment was underscored with a thrill when Groovies’ leader Cyril Jordan came out to guest on the final two songs.
The crowd was feeling it.
So the bar was set surpisingly high for the comparitively green headliner. Prophet responded from the first note, calling on his band to bathe the darkened house with a roiling G-chord.
His sound, after the swampy pounding of the Movers, came across as meticulous and detailed, owing more to Tom Petty than Chuck Berry. They recreated the sound of their new album, Temple Beautiful, with both clarity and urgency – no mean feat.
Temple Beautiful is a love letter of sorts to our home town. Prophet’s affection for San Francisco and curiosity about human stories was clear not just in his music, but also his affectionate and inclusive attitude towards his audience. Like Loney (who probably wanders through the landscape of Temple Beautiful somewhere), he showed that rock veterans know the difference between a gig and a big gig, and can serve it up accordingly.