Purple Rain – Worcester Massachusetts

I recently heard the newly leaked soundboard recorded at Worcester during the Purple Rain tour. It’s only 35 minutes long, and the first time I heard it I had my mouth wide open the whole time, it is a jaw dropping performance and recording and I can only hope and pray that one day we will hear the whole show. I am not always the greatest cheer leader for the Purple Rain shows but this one has me completely revaluating my feelings about them. I have to say if I heard more shows like this one, my blog would only focus on the Purple Rain tour, I could seriously listen to this stuff all day long. I don’t normally go for only part shows, but I am more than willing to make an exception in this case.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The recording picks up mid-show, and what a way to start a recording – a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even if it is mono. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.

Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.


When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.

With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.


Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.

There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.


Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.

Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.

The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.

Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.


The last five minutes of the recording features some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins, although this is where the recording ends – leaving me hoping and praying that one day the rest of it will see the light of day.

This is only a small portion of the show, and from what we can hear this is one loose and funky show. Prince is sounding incredibly relaxed, and that transfers through to the music. This is a lightness and playful tone in the music which makes listening to this just as much fun as they sound like they are having making it. This is one of those recordings that has you hitting the replay button over and over. I’m confident that one day we’ll hear the full show, until that day comes this is going to be on constant rotation.

Thanks for reading
Take care

3121 Las Vegas – Tutu

I finally got around to watching Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead” film on the weekend and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea I found I enjoyed it a lot. The show I listen to this week neatly dovetails into this, as it opens with a lengthy ‘Tutu’. Tutu maybe only five minutes on Miles Davis’s album, yet here the band do it more than justice with a seventeen-minute version that has plenty of time to breathe. The 3121 album saw Prince take a six-month residency at Las Vegas rather than touring the world, which is disappointing from my perspective as I personally loved 3121 and would have liked to see it reach a wider concert audience. To my ears it was stronger and fuller than Musicology, and could have gone even further than it did with a full tour riding on the back of the momentum created by Musicology. The Vegas shows do however offer a variety of listening experiences and this show from early morning 31 December is interesting not only for the Tutu that starts things off, but also an outstanding instrumental of Te Amo Corazón. With these two pieces in place the show is looking very appealing indeed, and although I am no great fan of Eye records I do appreciate having this release to listen to.

31 December (am) 2006. 3121 Jazz Cuisine at Rio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

As I mentioned above the show does begin with the lengthy Tutu, and although there is some audience chat early on it does settle down to an excellent sounding audience recording. Beginning with the Mike Phillips Jazz Trio, the opening minutes feature some easy piano playing and a bass. There is there slightest of crackles as the bass plays, but it’s nothing worth worrying about as later other players are added to the mix and the bass sound slides to the background. As the horns play any thoughts of the quality of recording slip from my mind as they begin to weave their magic. From a slow start the horns build up in intensity as does the song with the steady pace of the bass and drums locked in while the horns swirl and eddy in an excited flight. The second half of the song is given over to some clean guitar playing, and its every bit as good as the horns that come before it. Then to top it all off the piano comes back with a final flourish before a final down swing ends the song.  All in all, an excellent start to the show and the recording.



Shelby comes to the microphone to belt out Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You). With the band swelling and rolling beneath her, Shelby rides the wave and brings it home with a soulful rendition that does the song justice. I am listening to these shows first and foremost for Prince, so cover versions sung by his backing singers isn’t normally something I gravitate towards. However, I do find I enjoy this immensely, as I do the next song, and for the next few minutes I don’t mind at all that I can’t hear Prince.

I Never Loved A Man was good, the following cover of Mother Finest – Love Changes is even better with Shelby playing her part well with the added bonus of a couple of very Prince sounding solos in the song. The band has covered a lot of ground since the opening Tutu, and here they are rocking out with Shelby’s voice leading from the front. Prince’s solos are noteworthy and a highlight of the song, he is sounding strong and in complete control as he plays his solos, they aren’t fast but they are very bold.


Maceo is to the front for his excellent Shake Everything You’ve Got that does indeed have me shaking everything I got. I ignore the audience chatter that is audible mid-song, and instead wallow in the sound of Maceo’s horn and the fat sound of Greg Boyer’s trombone. There is a richness to the sound, and again I can’t stress enough how good this all sounds for an audience recording, despite what I have just said about the audience chat. Some clean guitar and drums play off each other in a mesmerizing few minutes that lures me into a false sense of security before the band all come in with a renewed enthusiasm that carries the guitar solo and the song through the next few minutes before we quieten to keyboards and the eventual conclusion.

Only two Prince songs are played at the show, the first being this an instrumental Te Amo Corazón. It starts of seductive and low with Prince playing a very melodic guitar. The opening minutes of Princes guitar set the stage for what will follow, with the horns picking up where he left off with some playing in a similar vein. The band take their turns to shine in the song, and Renato Neto is well and truly in his element with a piano solo that carries the mood and feel of the song. The song is a delight to listen to, and before I know it has passed by as light as a breeze on a summers day.


Shelby returns, as does the cover versions, as the steady rumble of Crazy begins. Its enjoyable enough, it’s hard to dislike this song, and the band do a fine rendition of it. Shelby does her thing, but it’s the guitar solo of Prince that has my ears pricking up, its guttural and primeval which adds some bite to the song. The rest of the song is as you might expect, although you can still hear Prince’s guitar chugging underneath threatening to bust out at any moment, which makes it all the more disappointing when he sticks with only one brief moment before the song ends.

Some proper Prince funk makes a welcome return with Get On The Boat, and Maceo sets things off in fine style with a burst on his horn. Along with Greg Boyer, it’s the sound of the horn section that nails down the song early on, while the band do their funky best in the background. This is a fantastic way to end the show, and the band is at their best throughout, mostly lead by the horn assault, although Prince adds some guitar flavour late in the song. Like everything at this show it’s over before I know it, and I am left with a smile on my face as the recording ends.


This recording is short – barely 70 minutes (although it is part of a massive Eye Records six CD set), yet it is one of the most enjoyable shows I have heard for a while. There is plenty of funk and jazz in the mix, and the band play to their strengths with a short sharp show. Some may quibble about the lack of Prince songs played, but that is irrelevant with a performance as polished as this, and things are even better when we take into consideration the quality of the audience recording. 3121 is a great album, and while this recording only has a couple of songs from that album, it is a nice document of the era.

Thanks for reading,
Same time next week


Studio 54 MGM 1999

With not many shows played in 1999 there isn’t much to listen to from that time. My collection is thin from 1999 and consequently so is the blog. I intend to right that wrong by taking in a couple of shows from that year. I have already taken in the Mill City festival, and today I will listen to a show from the beginning of the year at Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas. This from a Sabotage release, and also covers another couple of shows, but it is the show from January 2nd that interests me most. An eclectic mix of songs sees some strange bedfellows, I Would Die 4 U bumps up against Get Yo Groove On, and the show is short for a Prince show so I am hoping for something infused with plenty of energy. It looks good on paper, fingers crossed it delivers.

2nd January 1999, Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas

We ease into the show with an easy Push It Up. It takes some time to make itself known, but that’s no problem at all as I enjoy it right from the start. With a steady beat and the band chanting “push it up” the funk is slowly added by the slightest of guitar. With Prince intoning “The funk keep on rolling” he, in a couple of words, sums up the exact mood of the song, it does indeed roll. The song stays with a low roll and even as Prince sings the chorus it doesn’t rise to anything more, it stays low in the groove all the way. Things do become more lively with the introduction of Jam Of The Year, with the groove still locked down it’s the lyrics that raise the excitement levels and some added keys is certainly a plus.

Talkin Loud And Sayin Nothin has the band changing gears and cutting into their work, with Larry Graham doing his best to get things going. Hand waving, and some funky music has me feeling it, although Prince does pull things back a couple of times and breaking the flow. Mike Scott delivers a quick solo as the party begins in earnest with an action packed keyboard solo following close after. Its funky and something I would normally expect later in the gig, nevertheless it gets things moving early on and sounds great.

Rosie Gaines singing Carwash is perfectly in keeping with what has come before and it is seamless in setting the party vibe already set. It follows right on the heels of Talkin Loud And Saying Nothin, almost as a medley- the groove never stopping. It may sound dated, but it is of its time and is very 1999.

Likewise Let’s Work comes after, without pause or let up. It does lack some crispness, whether it be the recording or the performance I don’t know. After years of listening to Prince bootlegs I know that it does lack the fire and passion that was present in the performances of the song in the early eighties.

Delirious also harks back to the early days and it fares better at this show than the previous Let’s Work. It still has a brightness and a bounce that carries the day, and the best moment is the brief piano solo that appears midsong bringing a smile to my face. Rock N Roll Is Alive (And Lives In Minneapolis) is played as an instrumental coda, leaving the song finishing on an energized high.


There are plenty of great live versions of Purple Rain in circulation, this is not one of them. It has a dreariness about it, and sounds uninspired throughout. Even the guitar solo that is usually uplifting is instead laborious and for the first time in my life I find myself counting the minutes until it ends.

The gentle swells of Little Red Corvette restores my faith. With the guitar delicately emphasizing the rise and fall of the keyboard it has a gentleness to it that washes against me. It is a somewhat unusual arrangement, after an extended introduction Prince sings the opening verse and chorus before Mike Scott takes the solo and the song suddenly ends. Even in this truncated form it is still a classy few minutes and worth it just for those opening minutes alone.

I Would Die 4 U sees the crowd cheering and gleefully singing along. The next few minutes the songs come thick and fast, and this is a fine introduction that gets the crowd involved. It’s only played very short, and as such has a brightness to it that keeps things moving as Prince quickly introduces the band with Get Yo Groove On before the segue into I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.


I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man has a pounding beat as Prince toys with some guitar playing. A minute of teasing and the song kicks into the familiar riff as Prince sings. Of course it’s all about the guitar, and it isn’t long before Prince dispenses with the singing and heads straight for the guitar solo. The solo isn’t as long as I want, and it slows to some interesting guitar noodling which shimmers and swirls before occasionally flickering into life.

The intensity levels drop as Rosie Gaines takes the microphone for Redemption Song. It’s not a bad rendition, it’s just that it is not Prince. I try to get something out of it but it never sweeps me up. The song goes by without me feeling engaged or actively listening, it serves well as a backdrop without any demand.

Rosie stays on the microphone for Ain’t No Way, and this time I am much more engaged. Her voice with the keyboards underneath, gives it a soulful nostalgic sound and I wallow in the song for several minutes, enjoying all of it. With a full warm sound this is better than the previous Redemption Song and I find myself falling for Rosie all over again.

It’s no surprise that Prince and Rosie next take on Nothing Compares 2 U, and this lifts the show to another level as they belt it out for maximum effect. The organ solo is the heart of the song and gives it an emotional base. It is obviously hitting the right buttons with the audience as they actively sing through the song and give plenty of warm appreciation at the end of the song.

I forget that Come On was less than a year old at this stage, and at this performance Prince plays it in full, with plenty of loops and beats keeping it hopping. The singing comes across well on the recording, and it does have its own charm. I may not like it when Doug E Fresh does his thing, but I do enjoy hearing the crowd sing and chant along with him.

I was curious to hear 1999: The New Master live, until it actually started. It’s a mess, with beat boxing from Doug E. Fresh, and lots of rapping and crowd participation. Some people may like it, for me it’s not really what I want to hear from a Prince show. It does run for ten minutes which can make for hard listening, and I must admit late in the song I stopped paying attention as I wasn’t enjoying it in the slightest.

The loop of Gett Up has me perking up, but we stay with Doug E Fresh for the first minute before Prince hits the main riff and things get started. It’s not the greatest version, but there is no denying the ear-worm of a hook, and the guitar has me listening intently for the couple of minutes the song plays. The final couple of minutes it switches to Gett Off(housestyle), something I wouldn’t normally like but this evening I find myself liking it despite myself, and even Rosie’s scat raises a smile.


The final Release Yourself is where Larry Graham and Rosie Gaines shine. The song is such that it is a natural fit for them, and with Larry’s bass rumbling underneath there is another chance for Rosie to sing. The song is yet another finale jam that runs for some time as an upbeat instrumental with plenty of organ and bass. When the singing does begin its as with the key players each taking a part, although Rosie is easily the strongest. Despite this, Larry is recorded best on the recording, a shame as Rosie is going for it near the end even though she is quieter on the recording. It is the finale and there is no surprise as it ends with a flourish.

I was overly optimistic when I set out to listen to this show. I knew 1999 wasn’t a great year for shows, yet I thought some of the songs would offer more. There was some good songs and moments in the show, but they weren’t strong enough to make up for the not so good songs. A run of shows like this and I would quickly lose interest in listening to bootlegs, luckily I know there are plenty more good shows from other years without having to dip into shows like this. An interesting enough experience, but no something I would want to do again any time soon.

Thanks again



1994, Roseland Ballroom New York

Following on from last week’s blog, this week I will be listening to another show from 1994 -the soundboard recording from the Roseland Ballroom New York. On the surface it seems to be similar to the show from the Palladium earlier in the year, but a preliminary listen the other day reveals that this one has raised the bar higher, and with some additional songs in the set list it offers a different listening experience. I know I spoke highly of the show last week, and I somewhat regret that now that I have heard this one and it’s even better.  There is a lot to be said for this one, so I guess I had better get on and say it.

12th December 1994, Roseland Ballroom New York

The recording opens with an incomplete Endorphinmachine. The first portion of the song is missing and the recording picks up just as Princes guitar solo is in full flight, before he slips into the spoken word breakdown. Its wonderfully clear, and even incomplete it is well worth the listen. Prince isn’t setting the world on fire here, but he is sounding strong and clear, something that bodes well for the rest of the recording.

I have previously often written of my ambivalent feelings toward The Jam, the version played here leaves no doubt in my mind, it sounds fresh and light and is great introduction to the band leaving me completely sold on it. The keyboard solos are lighter, they lift the song, and the guitar line underneath is well served by the recording, every nuance is recorded and easy to hear. Normally I enjoy the first organ solo, then drift off as the rest of the song plays, today is different and I listen enraptured to every moment. I enjoy all the different elements, as each member plays I listen to them with enthusiasm and never once do I lose interest.


Last week I wrote that Shhh was the highlight of the show. This week’s performance trumps that, it is hands down one of the best versions I have heard. A lot of this has to do with the recording, its silky smooth, and I can feel the song as much as I can hear it. Prince’s performance sounds steamy and the recording is so good I can almost hear the sweat dripping off him as he sings. There are two aspects to the song, firstly the vocal performance which is sensual and full of desire, and then the guitar breaks which start with a smoky stutter before becoming full blooded and soaked in passion. Both parts of the song are beyond compare, and as Prince wraps it up with the guitar crying I decide that this is my new favourite version.

Days Of Wild also benefits from this soundboard recording, it has a lightness and clarity as it squelches across the soundscape. Without the heaviness Prince’s vocals can be heard clearly, and every syllable enunciated has been captured by this fantastic recording. The groove continues it’s roll, and even as Prince sings Hair, the underlying Days Of Wild rumbles along before we return to the chorus. The song has a couple of twists and turns which keeps it interesting, as well as the heavy funk there is a lighter guitar break that drops out of nowhere, before it closes with the crowd chanting.

We have another long funk workout next with Now. It’s the latter part of the song where things get interesting, the band go into a long extended groove before Ninety-9 joins them and begins to rap. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is interesting to hear something different, personally I’m not overly enamoured by it although it does keep me listening. However there is no denying the pulse of the organ groove under it, and this is what keeps the song and me moving forward.

With the quality of the recording and a slight echo Prince sounds ethereal as he sings The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. The music is fine, but it does sound of this earth while Prince’s vocals seem to come from someplace else entirely. This is the hit song of the year and was played constantly, yet here it is as fresh as ever, its pure pop sound undiminished by constant rotation. With the keyboards showering the song in their colourful runs, it ends on a high that has me smiling for several minutes after.

Princes vocals sound somewhat detached from P.Control, although it is held together by the music. The vocals are clear but not as loud as I expect, maybe the recording is too clean for its own good. The band are very tight through the song, and there is not a loose moment in the whole thing, it is play as straight as can be. It’s a good moment in the show, without exploding into anything more.

Letitgo has Prince talking about his contract for the first minute before the band slips into the easy groove. It has a seductive slide to it which gets my head bobbing from the start. The song lacks any real punch; it stays on the gentle side of a groove with the wheeze of the organ carrying the versus before the song opens up for the chorus. It’s an enjoyable few minutes although like the previous song it doesn’t punch things to the next level.


We get a treat next as the band plays the first live performance of Pink Cashmere. The stabs at the beginning add some sharpness to it, although to be honest it is Prince’s singing that is the main attraction of the song. There is added interest in way of a jazzy interlude which briefly takes the song to a different plane. Overall Prince keeps it relatively straight and this song is the biggest benefactor of the soundboard recording, Prince vocals sound great as do the keyboards and drums through the whole song.

A minute of guitar noodling leads us into a version of The Ride that seems to be slightly faster. Prince doesn’t dwell on it as is his usual way, instead the song moves along at a steady pace allowing him to quickly cut into this work on the guitar. The normal slow burning guitar is replaced by something quicker and sharper, there is still a buzz to it but the notes come in flurries rather than being drawn out. The song is shorter than normal, the final minutes dominated by Prince talking to the crowd as he plays.

Race has things moving, and like other songs on this recording it gains a lot from the soundboard recording – Prince sounds cleaner than I have previously heard in live versions of this, and the song gains an extra level of energy. It rattles and rolls without settling down, and Tommy’s solo keeps it off balance, it never feels like it settles into a groove. That is until Morris plays on his organ, and it is at this point that the song and the band hit their straps and drive it home. There is some excellent keyboard sounds from all involved in the final minutes of the song, and at that point it becomes looser and more of a jam.


I was looking forward to hearing Superhero, it is a great NPG song that deserves more coverage. The up-tempo beat and quick groove gets the energy levels up, especially midsong when the drums begin to pound with the Superhero refrain. Things get wild from this point on as the keyboards go off piste with some very cool solos that lead naturally into Outa-space. We are fully into the jam at this point, with plenty of different sounds coming at us thick and fast. The groove however remains constant, and I find that I have to resist the urge to get up and dance to it. The final few minutes bring the greatest surprise, with Morris indulging in some playing that has come straight out the church while the rest of the band fall silent. It’s an interesting moment, and although I am use to the God and religion in Prince’s music it is still a surprise to hear such a church moment at this stage.

The organ sound returns as the final song of the evening begins, and the first couple of minutes are all Morris Hayes before Get Wild kicks off proper. Its bright and shiny, with the keyboard playing horn parts and giving it some extra sparkle. Things become much more serious as Prince unleashes some heavy guitar. It’s brief as it ushers in the next part of the song, plenty of loose solos provided by all. Princes vocals are again sounding detached in the mix, luckily it’s all about the band and the music for this final hoorah. The highlight is certainly the bass, as the song plays this is the moment I look forward to and it doesn’t disappoint at all with some thick yet sharp bass playing.  The disappointment comes from the fact that this is the final song, and as it wraps up I am still hungry for more.

It’s refreshing to hear a show such as this in soundboard, and in years to come I am confident it will be highly regarded. Prince and the band are lively and play a tight and enjoyable show. I have only listened to this a couple of times, and I will be listening to it plenty more times in the years to come. A great show, a quality recording and a beautiful cover, you really couldn’t ask for anything more, this recording deserves all the coverage it gets.



Palladium 1994

Here I was thinking I was running out of quality shows to write about when not one, but five new soundboards from 1994 drop upon us. With these new found jewels I am spoilt for choice, and for this week’s blog I am having a listen to the one that immediately appeals to me, the Palladium show. Featuring guest appearances from two of my other heroes – Vernon Reid and Lenny Kravitz, I am sure you can already see the attraction of such a line-up. Vernon and Lenny only play on two songs in the show, but those two songs are guitar heavy and my mouth is already watering in anticipation. So, enough of the words, give me the music.

14th July 1994, The Palladium New York

Firstly, this is a beautiful soundboard recording, it’s all I can do to refrain from writing “soundboard, soundboard, soundboard!”  The whole thing sounds great right from the first moments, and the fact that the first song is Gold only heightens the experience. The song shines and shimmers like its name, and although Princes vocals do sound quiet, the rest of the song is bold and full. The guitar that plays later in the piece is easily the strongest moment, and it adds some muscle to the performance which is lacking early on – I am in no way saying that earlier in the song didn’t sound good, but the extra push that the guitar adds gives it that little bit extra that is required to take it to the next level.


Prince sounds more forward as he introduces The Jam, but after the initial shout out to New York he takes a back seat as the music takes centre stage. There is a guitar that slips in and around the keyboard, and this gives it a sharper sound, and as previously mentioned the recording catches every nuance of it. Asides from that, the rest of the song follows as we have heard plenty of times before with each band member adding their piece. As always Michael B’s drum solo gets the crowd briefly excited and involved with the show. I do find that as the song progresses I get a lot more out of it as it’s a soundboard, and it’s very easy to hear the quality of the band members.

I Believe In You is a stable of these 1994 performance, so I register zero surprise when I hear it next. It does have more life to it than other performances I have heard, the keyboards are again strong although Princes vocals are still quieter than everything else on stage. He does make up for it with some wailing the guitar which is noteworthy and the final minute of the song has some interplay between the bass and keyboards which is also a pleasure to listen to.

There is no scream at the beginning of Endorphinmachine, but there is the shriek of the guitar which amply compensates. Things don’t stray too far from this, it’s the guitar that is all over this that I listen to, while Princes vocals remain low. The guitar has plenty of momentum and drive to it, and it carries the song along. The song remains fun throughout, and everytime Prince touches the guitar everything lights up.  It’s never heavy, but it is energetic and lively.

Space is spacey sounding and lowers the energy levels with it’s easy shuffle. Prince’s vocals float across the music and it propels itself along nicely. It’s hard not to like it, and Prince performs it effortlessly with a summertime groove to it. The song makes such an impression that I want to go back and listen to the original which is always a good thing. There is yet more to get excited about with some guitar work coming through for the last minute which is subtle yet fast. The song ends much too soon, and it’s the surprise of the recording so far.

There is a sense of urgency to Days Of Wild, it is lacking the heavy swell of other performances, but Prince performs it as if it was the most important song in the world, you simply cannot fault his passion. He has me completely sold on the performance, and although the guitar solo is thin, Princes vocals are the strongest they have been so far in the recording, and just in time too. The song bounces, rather than steamrollering over everything, and it has plenty of energy to it.  Hair is thrown in for good measure, which doesn’t excite me, before the appearance of the 777-9311 bassline has me getting my hopes up, only for Prince to dash them again with “We don’t play that shit, Prince is dead” The bassline only played for half a minute, and it is easily one of the best parts of the first half of the show. Days Of Wild continues it’s unstoppable groove, and it hammers home the heavy funk of Prince at this time.

I am not normally a big fan of Now, this version has me flip-flopping and reconsidering my opinion. It must be the quality of the recording, I am enjoying every single moment of the show. Now starts off on the straight and narrow, before taking off into outer space with a bare beat and then a long interesting jam. Some space age sounding keyboards lead the way and things become even funkier as Prince address the crowd and the keyboards become even more extreme in their sound. It’s one of the longer jams on the recording, and not a minute of it is wasted.

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World is the complete opposite, it is short and full of pop and sparkle as it plays. It shines brightly in contrast to the previous two songs, and even with Princes vocals still remaining low, it highlights his lyrics and singing. The audience become much more audible near the end of the song as the recording changes to an audience recording for the next four songs. It’s not a bad audience recording, but it is noticeable after listening to the clean soundboard for the first part of the show.

I always enjoy Billy Jack Bitch, and here is no different as Prince delivers up an impassioned rendition, backed all the way by the audience. Prince’s vocals are stronger sounding on the audience recording, it may not be as clean, but he is certainly a lot louder. Prince gives a great performance and his blazing guitar adds to the venom of the song. Morris Hayes gives the song some depth, and along with the audience singing the show takes on a different feel.

Papa is faster than on record, and sounds more disturbing than the album version. Prince sounds deeper and darker, and injects something extra into the performance, and nowhere it’s an intense and interesting performance. The guitar adds fuel to the fire as the song ends on a high. One of the shorter songs at the show, it nevertheless delivers a punch.

We slide back to the soundboard recording with Love Sign, and its notable for it’s smooth sound and the appearance of Nona Gaye. It also signals the return to Prince vocals being quiet in the mix. The song itself is smooth as velvet, and is faithful to the recorded version. If not for the moment when Prince calls “New York” I wouldn’t have noticed a difference.

Shhh comes from another world, it is so glorious sounding. Prince is in complete control as he works the song and the audience. With lyrics that positively drip in sweat and lust he works his way up towards the searing guitar break that closes the song. It is without doubt the high point of the show, and of the recording.  A masterful song, it takes on new life in the live setting, and hearing it in this pristine soundboard is truly a joy. Clocking in at ten minutes it is unmatched by anything else on the recording.


I finally get to the moment I have been waiting for as Prince is joined on stage by Lenny Kravitz and Vernon Reid. For such a line-up of guitar heroes, it’s surprising that the first moments are all about the heaving keyboard. That wrong is soon righted as the band groove on Mary Don’t You Weep and Prince encourages Vernon to solo, before turning it over to Lenny. Both are recognizable in their unique styles, and Prince is correct as he sings “I don’t have to introduce my friends”. As good as the guitars are, there is plenty of space for everyone, and Prince takes the time to let the keyboards play extended solos as well. They all add layers to the music, giving it a timeless sound that will stand up to repeated listens. I am surprised by how little guitar there is for most of the song, but Vernon more than makes up for it in the final minutes as he adds his crunching guitar sound.

No Of Your Business sounds sharp and crisp, with plenty more organ and keys at the beginning. Of course the guitars to enter the fray, they know their place and stay low key early on before adding more sparkle later in the song. Vernon Reid and his guitar is front and centre, and the song is just a stepping off point for plenty of funk and roll. The guitars don’t solo, but they do drive the song in their own ways, and I get a kick out of hearing Vernon Reid adding his sound to Prince. It is the party jam that you would expect at this point of the show, and it’s got a celebratory feel through the entire song. It not a song full of guitar solos as I expected, but Vernon Reid’s sound is present in the whole song, and a real highlight.

Get Wild is a fitting song to end the show with, and once again we have an upbeat funky jam. Morris Hayes adds his weight to the song, and with Tommy contributing there is plenty of keyboards underpinning the song. Tommy plays almost as a horn player, and his playing gives a brightness to the song. With drums coming like gun shots, and the keyboard of Tommy Barbarella adding a sharpness, the song is a funky weapon, and then a weapon of mass destruction as Prince layers some furious guitar over it. With a screech and howl amidst feedback of the guitar the song ends in the only way possible, and with the ringing in my ears the recording too ends.

I am pleased to look back and see that I haven’t just written “soundboard” over and over for this blogpost. Trust me, it was very tempting to do so. This is a most welcome addition to the collection, and I most pleased to see it appear. Although the set list was routine, the performance and guests were not. Every song was played with plenty of heart, and with the soundboard recording there was plenty of new things to pick up on. Lenny and Vernon appearing was a definite bonus, Lenny was disappointing and quiet in the mix, while Vernon was unmistakable and his sound was all over the songs he played on. With some top notch performances of the songs of the era, and the great sound, this is a great addition to the collection. Hopefully we will get plenty more of the same in the coming months.

Thanks for reading,
Take care


Cabaret Metro

This week I am digging back to a recording that I used to listen to a lot, but haven’t heard for a few years now, the show from the Cabaret Metro Chicago in 2000. It is worth the listen as Prince and the NPG play a show with the aid of a couple of guests’ appearances, namely Macy Gray and Common. The show starts with very little Prince, initially it is Macy Gray and her band playing before Prince slowly eases his way into things. By the end of the show however, he is fully engaged and playing just as hot as ever. It should be good to revisit this old friend, hopefully it lives up to my memories.

17th November (am) Cabaret Metro, Chicago

The show starts with Macy Gray and her band playing without Prince. Common is on the mic free-styling as the band run through a jam that includes Voodoo Chile (slight return), Sexy M.F. and D.M.S.R. Considering Prince isn’t anywhere to be heard, its surprisingly enjoyable and something I could easily listen to again. Of course without Prince and the NPG playing it does lack intensity, it meanders easy in it’s on way without ever being taxing to listen to.

Things finally start on the Prince front as Macy sings a sweet sounding Forever In My Life. I find her voice to be a good match to the song, and for the first few minutes she makes the song her own. She’s unrushed, and sings in a style that is unmistakably hers while the band quietly bubble along behind her.  A happy cheer greets Prince as he arrives mid-song to sing his lines, and he promptly reclaims the show. As good as Macy Gray sounded, there is nothing quite like hearing Prince sing it, and when he sings his lines there is no mistaking whose song it is.

The show moves up a notch with The Bird. It’s not immediately recognizable, but there is an increase in tempo and beat that signals something more funky is coming our way. With Common and Macy hyping the crowd the wave builds with the bass and organ adding momentum. That wave never crashes, and the band keeps on grooving, with the bass being the tracks that everything runs on, it sounds great on the recording and has me reaching to turn it up. I am underselling it a little, it is a fantastic jam.

With a funky guitar and a steady beat another jam starts, this time more downbeat and easy. There are also the contrasting sounds of some bright sounding horns, some squealing guitar and the shine of the organ. It all comes together in a mix of sounds and colours that keeps things moving, and I am very surprised as it ends in a sudden stop after only a few minutes.


Prince next tells us that Macy will sing a country song, so while the band plays a country sounding beat she sings for a minute “baby, baby, baby”. There’s nothing to it, it is barely a minute long, but it does show the easy nature of the show, and as Prince and Macy talk it’s obvious they are just hanging out and having fun.

The show settles as Macy sings her own I Try and it’s on her own song that she really shines. The band provide a strong skeleton for her to sing over, and as she sings it easy to feel the warmth in her voice. I am so lost in the moment that it ends before I realize it, and a moment of horns carry us through to some heavenly guitar from Prince, playing in his clean sound as he solos around No Woman, No Cry. I thought Macy Gray was good, but this is even better, and takes the show to another level altogether. He doesn’t play fast, or make it scream, his carefully chosen notes carrying all the expression and emotion he needs. As the music rocks back and forth Macy sings lines from a few Prince songs (Take Me With U, Anotherloverholenyohead, Adore) but its Prince’s guitar that holds my attention, injecting beauty and heart as it plays. As Macy sings Take Me With U the music increases in intensity and with the guitar still playing we reach new heights in the song, and if not for some distortion on the recording it would be an unforgettable moment.

With Prince on guitar and playing so well, it’s only fitting that the next song should be The Ride. It not as dark as sometimes heard, the groove is lighter, as is Prince playing. After an initial bluesy run he swirls for a time, before returning to the bluesy tone. From here on Najee plays his sax for a time, bringing in a different sound to a song so familiar. Najee doesn’t get a lot of love from Prince fans, but he does a fair job and it is fun to hear him bringing something different to a song I have heard so often. Prince finally sings some lines, before he cuts loose with the guitar in the final minutes, really making it sing. Just as expressive as his singing voice, it more than lives up to the previous song, and Prince is bringing all his guitar skills out for the final part of this show.

With a quick drum rattle Prince turns everything up to ten for his final Santana medley that will close the show. As always he is on top of his game, but still provides plenty of space for the keyboards to fill out the song. There is some distortion, mostly from one of the keyboards, but for the most part it’s a clean recording, and Princes guitar sounds clean and strong all the way. The band chase each other round in a circle of riffs, as the intensity rises and falls. Again Najee gets a chance to contribute, his sound unusual for the Santana medley, yet I enjoy every moment of it. Despite being a band performance, it is Princes final guitar solo that leaves the lasting impression, as he duels Najee blow for blow before laying the matter to rest with a scorching run that can’t be matched. I am surprised (although I shouldn’t be) by how good they sound playing off each other, and although this is far from my favourite band, they turn on a great performance that ends the show in style.

The recording is very short, and the songs only a few, yet it was the jams and the guest appearances that made this recording an interesting listening. Hearing Prince interact with Macy Gray and Common was a different perspective, and with them putting their twist on his songs it added something interesting and new to the show. Najee too contributed late in the show, and his sound with Prince worked well, something I hadn’t considered for an aftershow. All in all, a short but sweet aftershow and there was something for everyone in it. Far from a classic, yet worth a listen.

Thanks for reading


Act II Aftershow -Zurich

“A funny thing happened to me on the way here today” begins the old joke, only in my case those words do ring true. A funny thing DID happen to me on the way to writing today’s blog, and the show I will be listening to is not the one I originally intended. I have been meaning for some time to take a listen to the Paris Club Rex show from 1993, but I never quite get around to it. I thought that this week the time had come, and I was looking online for more information about the show when I stumbled across a forum where someone recommended this show from Zurich in the same year. Although this show is equally well known, it too remains waiting for me to write about, and since it was closer to hand than the Club Rex show it will be the one I will listen to now.  I am fooling myself that I am living life spontaneously, but really it’s just more effort to find the Club Rex show in the archives.

30th August 1993, Kaufleuten Zurich

This recording has been circulating for years now, in many guises. I am running with the 4DF release, mostly because it has been cleaned up somewhat to move the audience noise back to their rightful place -the background. On first impressions I immediately like the set list, I see Blue light listed (many don’t care for it, I do), plenty of funk jams, and then what looks like a rock fuelled ending.

The recording lives up to my expectations from the opening moments, a rising horn riff and the crowd on board from the opening seconds. They introduce themselves as The New Power Generation, and that is borne out by the following performance, it is a complete band performance with Prince being very much band orientated for the bulk of the show. Deuce And A Quarter is right in line with this thought, Tony M does the speaking, while it up to Kathy J to provide the early initiative on the horns. She is of course ably assisted by Michael Nelson and his trombone solo. With the band swinging, Tony M does his best to hype the crowd, and I am most surprised to hear it’s working for him. The party is already starting in style.

Deuce And A Quarter may have started the party, but its’s the following Black M.F. In The House where things take off. The band plays as the first song, only more so. The horns are brighter, the band funkier, and Prince sings his lines with great relish. It’s hard not to like it, and I find I am singing loudly here at home, at least until my wife comes in to see what the heck I’m signing about. As the crowd gives a rousing cheer it feels more like a house party than a concert, the audience and the band are already connecting.

Prince keeps in theme with Race following naturally enough after. The recording does give a wobble at this point, it’s no real problem, and Prince and the band are still chewing it up on stage. Race isn’t as intense and full on as I sometime hear, it’s more relaxed and flows easier. The band are playing brilliantly and keeping it in the pocket without ever pushing the song, I think I prefer it this way, and I am thankful the recording is sounding as good as it does.

I haven’t used the word ‘intense’ yet, but that is about to change with the introduction of The Undertaker. With its creeping bassline and misty horns swirling there is a feeling of impending seriousness. Prince delivers that seriousness in his lyrics and with the backing singers it does lose that party vibe as it slips into darker territory. There is the much admired guitar break, but what demands listening from my point of view is the Tommy Barbarella keyboard break that pulls us deep into the swampy sound. Its thick and all enveloping, a juicy warm sound that you can lose yourself in, and that’s exactly what I do for the next ten minutes. The final coda sees some funk enter the picture, and we are left on an upbeat groove that contrasts all that has come before.

Some guitar and keyboard interplay, and before I know they are playing Six. What a great song to be able to pull out at a moment like this, and with the horn section on board it gets a work out in the full sound it deserves. It’s the keyboard and guitar that leads us into it, but come the chorus the horns make themselves heard, and they are the key component for the rest of the song. I can’t stress enough how good this all sounds, the song and the band are a perfect match, and this is certainly one of the standout songs of the night.

The horn section stays at the front of our minds, and the sound mix, as they next tackle Intermission. It’s lively and sharp, something I enjoy, but at only a couple of minutes it’s much shorter than anything else heard at the show.

I was surprised to see Delirious clocking in at over seven minutes, but all is explained as I listen, it’s played as a swing-time jam, with plenty of horns bouncing back and forth, and long guitar break by Prince that keeps in this theme, and a joyful sing along by the crowd. The mood and tempo is kept up the whole time, and it’s adds a lot of lightness and fun to the evening.  Prince does very little singing and instead it’s the band that gets all the shine as they play.

Typical, I was looking forward to hearing Blue Light then when it starts I don’t immediately recognize it. After the beat and a few seconds of lead guitar it settles into the groove I recognize, especially as the horns begin to play. It has an easy way about it, and flows easily in and out as Prince and the crowd sing together. The horns give it the sunshine feel, and with the crowd singing along it seems to work much better than it does on album.

Come gets things moving again, with its smooth sound much more driving than the previous Blue Light. There is a slippery guitar underneath which I always listen for, and the crowd clap and chant their way through the song. They aren’t intrusive at all, and the overall effect is one of unity between the band themselves and the crowd. All in all, it’s a very smooth and clean performance, something I could easily listen to again.

A pounding drum, a scream and the opening riff of Endorphin Machine opens the next part of the show in style. The guitar isn’t right to the front as perhaps most would like, but that hardly matters as Prince sings the lyrics, his guitar sawing back and forth underneath. It’s bold and energetic, and as Prince launches into the guitar break I am sold on it. He sings with a hint of venom as he spits the lines before his guitar flies, it’s captivating even on an audience recording listening here at home.

Peach starts slowly, before Prince turns everything up to eleven to give us a rendition to remember. His vocals are full throated, and only matched by the full blooded guitar sound he gets out of his axe. There is some interaction with the audience, but we are all here for the guitar pyrotechnics, and Prince delivers on that front bringing out the best of his playing. I’m not always a big fan of Peach, this one has me all in.

What Is Hip? is intriguing from the start, with plenty of horn work (obviously) and a very funky guitar, it is constantly moving and evolving. Morris Haynes playing a swirling organ solo is an added bonus, and without Prince singing again it highlights how much of a total band performance this show has been.

Prince is back on the microphone for a final stomp through House In Order. With a call of “everyone go to church y’all” there is definitely a church vibe as the crowd claps and the band swings. The first few minutes are great, but it’s the scat and funky guitar that appears midsong that floors me, they slip between gospel infused singing to funk in a heartbeat. Prince keeps the crowd just as involved as the band, and as you might imagine there is plenty of chanting, singing and clapping in the final few minutes, Prince always leaves the crowd finishing the show as if they are very much a part of it.

And just like that it’s over. I wasn’t 100% confident about this recording, but the show is yet another good representation of the aftershow experience. The real surprise was how little Tony M was heard on the microphone, and how much the audience noise had been toned down. This recording has been around for a long time now, and I’m glad I gave it another listen with fresh ears. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

The Palace, Melbourne 1992

I have had a fair number of down-under fans contacting me of late, so it’s only right that this week I listen to a show recorded in Melbourne, Australia 1992. This is a nice little aftershow from the Diamonds and Pearls tour, and serves as a period piece of that era. With plenty of horns, and the rapping of Tony M it is instantly recognizable as being from the early 90’s, a period that hasn’t always aged well. The recording itself is interesting, it is an audience recording, and there is certainly plenty of crowd noise, but the band itself is recorded very well, everything sounds as it should.The extra audience noise isn’t right next to the microphone, it gives the recording a lively sound, and it’s easy to listen to and picture yourself there.

22nd April 1992, The Palace, Melbourne

There’s only so many ways you can start a show, and Prince’s “Australia…..1,2,3,4” is as good as any. Things are off to a hectic start as all the band jump in with Tony M and we get a breakneck The Flow. I don’t normally gravitate to this song, yet somehow I get swept up by this performance, and as the crowd screams and squeals I find that I am just as into it as they are. The horns round out the sound with a full clean sound that is the opposite of Tony M’s rap which is deep and fast, although I hardly have time to register as the song zooms by.

Call The Law rolls over the crowd, and me here at home. The first minutes roll easily by with a fat groove, before Prince is heard playing lead guitar for the first time in the evening. He is sounding great right from the start, but keeps it short as Tony M raps some more. Upon his return with the guitar things heat up considerably, and the final minutes are filled with an intense guitar sound that has the crowd screaming. Prince makes it wail, and this is shaping up to be a great show, there is plenty of funk and guitar being brought to the fore already.

Prince Oz 92 b

I can’t quite get used to Tony M doing the spoken word introduction for Housequake, although that is a minor quibble. Despite some crowd noise, this is upbeat funk infused version, with plenty of rhythm guitar and brassy horns for those of us that enjoy such things. Being an aftershow this gets the full treatment, firstly it is sometime before Prince sings, and then when he does he stretches and pulls the song in a few different funky directions. The horns are uplifting, while the main beat is almost a stomp, it is something that most people would find irresistible to dance to, and you can tell the crowd is feeling it as they chant loudly along with it. It deviates much more later in the song, as first a funky guitar then some great horn work takes us to the stratosphere. The world slips away as the band jam effortlessly for some time.

When You Were Mine seems to come from an entirely difference place, and it’s hard to believe I am actually hearing it after the funkfest of Housequake. The band sounds smaller suddenly, although the horns play they are much quieter and Prince and his guitar is alone out front in the sound. There are some interesting adlibs (that my Mum might not appreciate) before we get the coolest moment of the song – a soulful horn solo that lifts the spirits and carries us to the end, it’s a wonderful moment and a great finish to it.

They follow this up with an extremely laid back jam, which is serves as a backing tracking for some rapping by Tony M. He adjusts his style for this, and his deeper slower raps sound better in this context. It’s an easy groove that floats on by, until the sound of Prince’s guitar cuts through the air. As with the other guitar he has played at the show he has a fantastic wail on it, and there is plenty of sustained notes as the crowd cheers after every burst.

Prince Oz 92

As the crowd claps the beat the band slowly build to the next song, first the beat, then a touch of guitar, topped with some horns before it all comes together and bursts out into Gett Off (housestyle). Its impressive how quickly Prince can get the lines out, as is the moments when the crowd sings the chorus with him as one. I love how tight it is despite the speed they are playing, this is a definite heart starter. The only respite we get is a the solo from Levi, he plays quick but the music pulls back and makes room for him. The recording is full of sound next as the horns return to the fray, and they put their mark on it for a good few minutes. Prince returns but it’s the trumpet that gets the final say as it plays the last few minutes, competing with a keyboard solo for the highlight of the song.

Purple House takes a few minutes to warm up, or perhaps, if I’m being honest with myself, I am impatiently waiting for the guitar soloing to begin. The horns are the most noticeable instrument, they dominate whenever they play, and Prince’s vocals seem very quiet in comparison. The guitar that I am expecting never comes, there is some beautiful guitar played midsong, although it’s short and not nearly enough for my taste. The song however is a fine rendition, and well recorded, and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Things slow even further with the ever so gentle Damn U. It glitters softly in the back ground as Prince croons to the delight of the ladies in the audience. Prince sings so well that it’s easy to forget that this is a live show, except for the sound of the audience. The horns too play their part, and there is certainly some magic woven as Prince seduces the audience, and the microphone, with his vocal performance.

Prince Oz 9 c

We change tack again next as Prince begins the self-aggrandizing My Name Is Prince.  As the “Prince” loops play over there is a very interesting opening with plenty of percussion and other loops in the mix. It’s all worked in extremely well, and even without Prince singing for the first minutes it commands attention. The horn rises build the sense of anticipation before Prince hits the microphone and punches out his opening lines. The song flies, not only do we have Prince and his lines, there is also more Tony M (sounding good) and a great horn solo that leads to some scratching, something I had not expected to hear. As the crowd chants “do that, do that” I am with them every step of the way, the song is a jam and I never want it to stop.

With plenty of encouragement from the audience the band is finally persuaded back for an encore of Sexy MF. Prince introduces it as a love song, although it’s anything but with a greasy guitar sliding us right into the Sexy MF chorus. There is plenty of whoops of delight from the crowd and they sing the chorus with plenty of enthusiasm. Its stronger and funkier than on record, it’s a shame that something is lost in the album version, that bit of extra fire and passion goes a long way. With plenty of horns, Tony M and the crowd, its everyone in for the final hurrah. It’s a great ending to what has been a great show, even I have been surprised how much I enjoyed listening to it.

This show has been a revelation to me. It’s not an era I listen to often, and being an audience recording I had previously shied away from listening to it often. The performance however was fantastic, and I found I even enjoyed Tony M in places. A great show, a nice recording, this one deserves more love than it gets, and I have been just as guilty as anyone for not giving it more praise. All in all, another good bootleg experience.


Club Black 2004

If you fall off a horse the best thing to do is get back on it, and that’s exactly what this week’s post feels like after listening to last week’s recording from 2004. It was an assault on the eardrums, and I need to get back to listening to other shows from 2004 to reassure myself that not everything is so tough to listen to. This week’s show is just the tonic, recorded a month later it is a joy to listen to, both the recording and the performance. The show at Club Black is recorded at the aftershow coming on the heels of the Rock N Roll hall of fame induction, and is well regarded in the fan community, and from my initial impression I can see why. It’s got crowd noise, like all recordings, but the band is heard crystal clear through the whole show, and they are playing a great set. This one is a breath of fresh air, and I feel refreshed as soon as I begin to listen.

16th March, 2004 Club Black, New York

The sharpness of the recording is apparent from the very first note that is heard. There is a considerable cheer from the crowd, but once they sit back and listen you can hear the band just fine. The opening song is a showcase for the horns and keyboard, a full and clean Footprints is the first song of the evening. There is some sax work, be it Maceo or Candy, to begin with, and this is well worth the time it gets. Not to be outdone, Greg Boyer blows up a storm on his trombone, it’s got a big bounce to it and fills out the sound. The best is saved for last however, with a piano solo dominating the final third of the song. A great moment early on, this is the cue to close your eyes, sit back and take it all in. Already the memories of last week’s blog are receding.

Prince 2004 a

Prince gives Musicology plenty of hype from the get go, pausing the band early on to tell the crowd “you’ll ain’t ready”. After the obligatory applause the song starts proper, Prince has the band in his pocket, everything is smooth and fits together perfectly. There’s no fire in the performance, the band is too cool, and they glide through the song with ease. The saxophones do raise the levels somewhat, but for the most part it’s smooth as glass.

Things do morph, and Maceo plays us into Tighten Up. Maceo never lets me down, and as the crowd chants “Don’t stop Maceo” he blows up a storm. As he steps back, Mike Scott steps forward with a guitar break that is distinctly his. With the guitar sounding so clean and funky, Mike is in his element. The consummate bandleader, Prince keeps everyone involved with firstly a piano break, and then another chance for the rest of the horns to play. As an easy jam this song works, and it’s a great chance to highlight the band early on.

Shhh is introduced as “a quiet ballad” which greatly undersells in what is in all honesty one of his greatest songs. The band keep things low-key and the song belongs to Prince and Prince alone, firstly with his vocal performance, and then with his guitar break that starts with a lone whine, and ends several minutes later in a howl. Normally it would be Prince’s guitar playing that would have me waxing lyrical, and although the guitar here is of his usual high standard (the second guitar break in particular), it’s the vocal performance that gets under my skin, Prince still sounds as if he means every word even after all these years. The final workout on the guitar leaves us on a high before we get funky with the next song.

Mike Scott always sounds great playing D.M.S.R, his guitar tone has a sharpness and gives the song a new lease of life. Prince too seems to be sharper, he sings with a freshness that belies his age, and the age of the song. The horns add some sparkle, the song suddenly sounding brand new again. I Like The Way You Move is seamlessly brought into the mix, and Prince acknowledges OutKast as the crowd chants and sings. The band hit the groove as the crowd join them and the next few minutes are the perfect storm where the show becomes a party. With the horns and guitar all jamming and adding different lines it becomes an irresistible dance, time seems to slip away as I am caught in its funky web.

House Party continues on right where D.S.M.R. left off, it’s down low steady funk keeping the band locked in tight to a groove. Its slower and heavier, and keeps the heads bobbing as the band play. It’s for the most part a showcase for the horns, they play plenty over the steady groove, and they sound brighter against the low heavy beat.

The flurry of A Love Bizarre and Glamorous Life run us into a sprightly sounding I Feel For You. Princes vocals aren’t the sharpest, it’s up to the horns to inject the sunshine and brightness into the song. They are everywhere, their clean sound elevating the song wherever they riff.

We stay firmly in the Eighties with the appearance of Controversy. The guitar is initially low key, before it explodes out of the gate at the one-minute mark with some fabulously funky sounding playing. Prince and the band play well, and it’s an enjoyable listen, but when the rhythm guitar plays it becomes something else altogether, the moments are short and easily the highlight of the song.

The piano interlude by Renato is light and undemanding. It’s a tasty morsel between courses, and at a minute long it doesn’t out stay its welcome before we return to something special from Prince.

That something special is a soulful rendition of The Beautiful Ones. The song flows easy, firstly with some piano, and then some sax playing that has wings. For a while I forget that this is even The Beautiful ones, with the sax playing for some time, before we return to some cascading piano playing for a couple of minutes. All of it is classy, and it’s even better when I consider that Prince has yet to sing. And sing he does, when he does appear on the mic it’s with a gracefulness and measured performance. He sings beautifully, seemingly without pushing himself. There is emotion in his vocals, not over wrought, and well balanced performance that demonstrates his experience, showing us all that sometimes less is more.

Nothing Compares 2 U is noteworthy for the contribution of the Candy Dulfer. Prince’s vocals are as to be expected, but it’s the sax solo that soars and lifts the song. With no female counterpoint to Princes vocals, it’s this saxophone sound that provides colour and contrast to the performance, and it’s only fitting that the sax is the last thing we hear as the song fades out.

Prince pours it on for Insatiable, and gives a vocal performance that befits the subject matter. I have heard plenty of great performances of this song before, and I can safely add this one to that list. Prince’s vocals are smooth as butter, and have a creamy thickness to them that washes over you as you listen. Prince does deliver a spoken thanks to a list of people midsong, he’s very gentle with it and it doesn’t interrupt the mood at all. The transition to Call My Name is equally smooth, he called for the lights to be turned down low early in the song, and it still retains that late night dimly light through the whole 7-8 minutes. Call My Name is softer than on record, and Prince’s lyrics are dripping with passion and lust as he sings. As Renato plays some piano I reflect on Princes vocal performance on the last few songs, he has been sublime throughout, and this really is a master class.

prince 2004c

The rhythm track of Sign O The Times has a heavy dose of funk in it, and the introduction takes on a more dance-able tone as Prince hypes up the crowd. His vocals come quick and clearly, before the horns again begin to raise the heat a little. In fact, with the horns and piano playing it becomes an entirely different beast altogether, the seriousness of the song washes away and we are left with a funky little jam.

The balance is restored with a low key The Question Of U. Prince gives us plenty with this one, his guitar early on sounds as good as it ever has, there are some nice runs and fills that keep us engaged, before the song strips back for some guitar noodling. Things get even better as he sings new lyrics over the quiet music. It’s refreshing and intriguing, I find myself listening closely as he sings these words. I can’t believe how fantastic the last 30 minutes have been, and Mike Phillips puts his spin on things with a solo that easily matches every else thus far, this band is on top of their game right here. His playing in the last minute is outstanding, it demands listening.

The One and Fallin’ come together, intertwining with each other, and fitting well. The One has always been a song I look for in setlist, the version here is good, but it can’t compete with all we have just heard. Prince does come back strongly on the guitar, at first it doesn’t grab me, but it does get stronger and stronger and soon enough I am swept up by it and carried away.

Things change direction as Prince calls for the house lights and the band groove into Let’s Work. The bass isn’t as loud as I would like, and it does sound brassy with all the horns playing. In some ways it loses it attraction for me because of this, it doesn’t have the sweaty sound that I normally look for. The band do give it plenty of energy though, and soon enough it becomes U Got The Look.

U Got The Look has an electric sound to it, the guitar isn’t strong at all, and it has a more interesting sound because of this. That is until Prince calls “Turn me up Scotty” and begins to solo, crisp and clean in this case. The crowd come to the party with some singing that doesn’t add much to it, but does sound like fun.

It’s at this point that it becomes a jam and a party as Prince begins to call people on stage and the band begins a medley of party songs. All the usual suspects are in the mix, Talkin Loud And Sayin Noting, Life O The Party, and Hot Pants are prominent, as is Princes ‘Uptown up’ chant. Things move quickly, the beat and the dancing being the most important things. Soul Man adds some brightness, and seems appropriate for the performance that Prince has thus far delivered. Chance Howard takes on the vocal duties, leaving Prince to party up and keep things moving. It all ends with a crisp and poppy sounding Kiss. The horns and the guitar outdo each other to be heard, and the song is full and bright sounding. The guitar has a superb tone, and for me is the star of the song, I could have done with the song being a whole lot longer. Prince ends with a simple good night, and suddenly it’s all over.

This recording was better than I could have ever imagined. I had heard others speak highly of it, and although I have heard it before I don’t remember it being as good as it was. The first third was great, but the second third was outstanding, and it’s this part of the show that I found mesmerizing, Prince was at his peak with the band doing a fantastic job of supporting him. The end was weaker, but still well worth the time. I rate this recording highly indeed, and I am almost tempted to call it essential. When I think of 2004, this is how I want to remember it, a great show and a brilliant recording.

Thanks for reading
See you next week

House Of Blues 2004

The House of Blues show from early 2004 is an average recording of a great show. The sound may not be the best, but as compensation we have a show packed with interesting moments, one of the highlights being the opening ten minutes of Sign O The Times. The rest of the show lives up to the opening salvo, which makes it all the more disappointing that it is recorded in bad quality. As always I am a devoted fan, and I am prepared to listen to any quality to hear Prince doing this type of show. Its recorded just six weeks before the musicology tour, and you can hear that Prince is ready to go with the band well prepared and enjoying a couple of one off shows before the tour begins.

1st February 2004 (am), House Of Blues, Las Vegas

There are no surprises with this recording, right from the start you know what you are in for, with a scratchy distorted sound from the first moment. The band is playing Sign O The Times, somewhere behind the noise of the recording I can hear the band is sounding good, but it is hard work to listen to, and even at this early stage I am questioning my dedication to the cause, this will be one tough listen. Sign O The Times is played mostly as an instrumental, the beats and rhythms play for a good five minutes before any singing is heard. The sax attack of Candy Dulfer and Maceo Parker are in the house, they help break the cold electronic sound of the song early on, before Prince starts singing. It’s impossible to comment too much on Prince’s singing, the recording breaks up badly, but things become more settled as the crowd begins to chant and Prince sings the later verses. The best sounding part of the song is the keyboard near the end, the recording doesn’t distort so much and as Renato Neto plays the piano it finally becomes more listenable.

Prince 2004

Although The Question Of U suffers the same problems I stick with it for Princes guitar playing, and we are rewarded with a solo that has plenty of vitality to it, and lifts the recording.  The second half of the guitar break is where the real treasures lie, as the music eases back further so does Princes playing and he segues into The One as his guitar cries. It’s always a song I look for, I find the lyrics and guitar playing to be an emotional match, and as per usual Prince plays an emotive rendition. He closes out the song with the as expected wail on the guitar, and it’s a great way to bring it to an end.

I am very happy to hear Let’s Work next, even if it is accompanied by more distortion on the recording. This is definitely one for hardcore fans, even I am struggling with the quality. Prince sounds bright on Let’s Work, there is an extra bounce in his vocal, and he does add some liveliness to the show.

U Got The Look has the added bonus of the horns playing, and when Prince does begin to play his guitar it’s in a brighter sharper way that fits nicely with the horns. The riff is heavily distorted, so I find myself listening between the riff, and what can be heard is Prince and the band playing a funky version of a song that shines in this new rendition.

prince 2004c

The horns stay the centre of attention as Life O’ The Party begins. The song lives up to it’s title and the party can be heard starting, led by Prince on stage. He injects a lot of himself into the song, and the overall effect is uplifting. Likewise, Greg Boyers solo on the trombone is full of life, it hard not to smile as I listen to him play, he makes it seem like such fun. The song heats up at this point, and the rest of the song goes by in a blur, even here at home I feel I am part of the party.

We do get a couple of minutes of Soul Man next, which is crowd pleasing, but not heavy on Prince. Chance Howard takes the lead vocals, he sounds fine and is a good match for the song. As much I enjoy him, he’s no Prince, and I am happier when the song finishes and the opening of Kiss sounds out.

This is one funky version of Kiss, and for the first time the recording becomes almost listenable.  The guitars are sharp, the horns dazzling, and the keyboard is doing all it can to rival them, it’s great to digest all of it, and Prince himself gives a vocal performance to match. This is easily the best moment of the show so far.

It’s hard to dislike Take Me With U, and Prince plays it with some sincerity. The audience respond well, they can be heard making noise all through it, the only negative being again the reappearance of distortion on the recording. Prince is frisky and good-natured in his delivery, and there is a lot of joy in the song.

We get a long funk workout with the Everlasting Now, there is plenty of time for everyone to contribute and give it some sparkle. Princes guitar solo leads the way, and against a backdrop of horn swells he plays economically, before Candy comes to the party with a hot solo of her own. The song continues in this vein, Prince calls for Renato to solo, then the rest of the band, before getting the crowd involved too.

Prince 2004b

Shake Everything You’ve Got sees Maceo become the focal point. He is worth listening to, with all the years of experience you know he’s not going to let you down. The other horns all get a part to play too, it’s hard to single any one of them out, they all sound good to my ear. There is plenty of time to lose yourself in the music, they play for ten minutes, with all the horns having a part to play, along with Renato Neto. Although Prince isn’t to the fore, this is still worth the time to listen to, and the band are well in the groove.

Maceo is still the main attraction as Down By The Riverside begins. His playing is quick and lively, and I can hear him working hard on the recording. The rest of the band is in the back ground as he leads from the front with yet another excellent break.

Prince ends with a “Thank you -goodnight” but soon enough he returns for another show stopper, a luscious sounding The Beautiful Ones. The intro has an ethereal synth sound, as a piano plays for some time. The recording is certainly bad, yet the beauty of this performance still shines through. Asides from the keyboards, we also have a sax playing early on, adding its shine to the song. Prince doesn’t actually sing until well past the four-minute mark, and by that time the scene is truly set, the music has laid out exquisite carpet for him to sing over. He sounds quiet, yet his voice is note perfect, and on any other recording I would be gushing about this version. However it is what it is, even with a perfect performance the recording drags it down, his final howls lost in a wave of distortion and buzz.

Prince continues to tug at the heartstrings with a warm rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. The crowd sing the chorus appreciatively, although it’s Candy Dulfer that steals the limelight, and the show, with a blistering sax solo that has me nodding my head in acknowledgement. It’s hard to follow such a performance and after a quick chorus Prince wraps it up, but not before I am once again reminded of how good Candy is.

Prince 2004 a

Seeing America listed on the setlist was another reason that I chose this recording, and I’m not disappointed in the slightest as Prince begins the chant as the band hit the deep groove. It’s hard to make out the sound, being a heavier song the distortion again raises it’s ugly head, but I do catch Maceo setting the stage on fire with his playing, and there is definitely some funk in the house as they play. The bulk of the song is a long drawn out groove that is not served well by the recording, for long periods it very hard to work out what is happening as the beat continues.

Purple Rain sounds better, being quieter there is less distortion, and the balance of the instruments is again restored. There is an intro played on guitar that is achingly beautiful before Prince sings his opening lines, and for me the highlight of the song is right here. Most of the vocals are lost on the grubbiness of the recording, although thankfully it briefly improves during the guitar solo. It’s hard to say the recording is going out on a high when you can hardly make out most of the song, and I actually feel relieved as it finishes.

I made a big mistake choosing to listen to this show. I never wanted this to be a blog complaining about recordings, I wanted to celebrate the music and performances of Prince, however this recording was so bad it completely detracted from the show I was listening to. I let myself be fooled by an inviting looking track list and venue, and forgot the most important thing, it’s all about the listening experience, not just what was played but how it sounds. Being hard-headed, even once I realized my mistake, I continued with the blog post – it’s a lesson learnt the hard way. This isn’t even a show for the hardcore fan, be content to read the set list on the vault, and know that it was a probably a good show if you were there.

Thanks for sticking with me through this one,
Next week onwards and upwards!