Montreux 2013 Revisited

“I’m back, and I’m harder than a heart attack”

It’s been six weeks since I last updated the blog, but I’m pleased to say I’m back and happy to be doing what I love most; listening to bootlegs and writing about them. Sorry for the extended break, I was exhausted and gave myself a couple of weeks to catch up, which became a couple weeks more as my oncoming wedding loomed into view. The wedding is still a couple of weeks away, but I’m on top of it all now and looking forward to listening to Prince.

I have covered the 2013 Montreux shows previously, but in light of the now circulating video I feel there is a need to revisit them. The video of the shows highlights different aspects of the performance, and for me feels completely different from the audio recordings of the concerts. I enjoyed both immensely, the video of the first two shows greatly elevating them in my opinion. I’m not going to go too in depth about the shows, I feel I have already covered them adequately, I will instead touch on the key songs and moments in the shows that I feel are worth looking at closer.

Montreaux Jazz Festival 2013

1.Count Basie Vs Jimi Hendrix

These shows highlight two different sides of Prince; Prince the band leader and Prince the guitar God. The first two performances sees Prince fronting a large band, a band he leads and guides through the show with ease, while the third night sees Prince strap on the guitar and deliver a night of fierce guitar performances that sees him alone in the eye of the storm. That one man could do both is amazing, and that he does both to such a high level is simply incredible.

The first two nights are full band performances, the stage crowded and cluttered with singers, dancers, a full horn section and the core band. Days Of Wild at both shows is the song that shows the band and Prince at their full potential as they bulldoze through the song. It has the feel of a circus maximus, everything and anything goes and the stage is awash in a confusion of bodies and sounds. On first viewing it is a busy scene, with the band and Prince creating a sound jungle, the music dense and tangled. Subsequent viewings show Prince to be a man in total control. There may be twenty people on stage, but all of them have their eye on Prince as he controls them with a glance or simple hand gesture. It speaks not just of Prince’s control and understanding of the band and the total sound, but of also the band themselves and their level of professionalism as they hang on Princes every move. Every eye on stage is following Prince as he commands not just the core band but also the extended horn section in a masterclass of band leading.

The third night has Prince stepping back from the large band and taking the spotlight on himself as he unleashes the full force of the guitar upon the audience. Again he is the centre of things, although this time attention is firmly focused on him and his guitar wail. Forget the leaden opening of Let’s Go Crazy, it’s the following Endorphinmachin that contains the real highlights, as Prince sets the stage ablaze in screaming guitar. With its lively energy it is a celebration of music and guitar heroics. Prince takes multiple solos, each one taking Jimi Hendrix as a starting pointing before stretching across all genres and decades in search of the right sound. There is plenty of good old fashioned seventies rock in the mix, and Prince is playing tribute to the past while searching out new sounds with his axe. This guy was leading a horn section the night before, now he’s laying waste to the arena with his guitar playing alone. Untouchable, we shall not see his like again.

2. I’m with the Band

Prince maybe leader of the band, but he also is part of the band. He may dominate the spotlight, but there are moments when he steps back into the shadows and plays well within the Band. This is never more apparent than the performance of She’s Always In My Hair from the third night. Yes, he’s in front, and delivering plenty of sparks early on, but this is offset by the guitar solo that Donna provides (while leaning in the crowd). A moment that could have been easily taken by Prince, he instead adds to the performance with another colour added to the palette by Donna. During this song Prince is seemingly all things to all people, starting as a rocker, before subverting the sound and become a soulman for the latter part of the song.

This again sees another band member take their moment,  as Prince plays the breakdown he is seized by the music,and the moment, and pauses to let Ida play. It’s worth it too, as she provides some funky bass that fizzles and pops with energy, taking on a life of it’s own. These are only two moments, but they highlight how important it was for Prince to be part of a band. And it was an opportunity for 3rdeyegirl to have an identity of their own. Of the Prince songs they played, She’s Always In My Hair was  the one they took and made their own. With an emotive performance this moment is a great record of them as a band, and serves as a fine way to remember the times they played together.

3. The man is music itself

The final moment that struck me most is the encore of the third night. Beginning with When Doves Cry, Prince plays a sampler set with the band backing him, the horns and extended band joining him on stage. This brings all the previous strands I have written about into a single performance in which Prince’s true character is revealed. He maybe a star, a performer, a band leader, but at the heart of it all he is just a man who loves playing music. Everything else is irrelevant, and that is never more apparent than this final encore. Darkening the stage for When Doves Cry, Prince makes the music the most important aspect and deflects attention from himself. This is heightened further as the encore progresses, first members of the audience come on stage to dance, then the extended band, until Prince can be barely seen at all. He sits at his keyboard, cocooned by the band and equipment. Head lowered over the keyboard, the performance is secondary to the music, he is in the moment and nothing else matters but the groove and the music.

 

As A Love Bizarre plays he is a man who looks content and happy, one feels that if the crowd and arena suddenly disappeared he would still be perfectly happy playing this groove to himself. Love brings the band closer to him, and surrounded by the horn section Prince is at the centre of a small, intimate gang. Prince is buried by the crowd as Larry takes on a bass solo that is so funky Ida looks as if she might burst into tears.

Equally funky is the horn solo provided by Sylvester Onyejiaka, as Prince holds the microphone for him he plays up a firestorm of a solo that comes dangerously close to making the room spontaneously combust.  Housequake has Prince again riding the band, the horn section out front while Prince pulls the strings from behind. There is a moment for Hannah to shine, before Prince calls for Ida to commit. The is the final hit out for the band and the show ends in the best way possible with a solo from Donna and Ida before Prince brings the show to a close.

These three shows are really what Prince is all about; funk, rock, the band, leadership and music. Above all music. He has played larger arenas, bigger concerts with more spectacle, but this show boils it down to his essence. Prince was music. Music was the reason he existed, he lived music, he breathed music, he sweated music. These concerts have something for everyone as Prince gives all of himself in these performances, these were the moments that impacted on me, but I am sure there is many other moments in the concerts that others related to.  A superb bootleg, it was worth the wait.

 

 

December 2016 update

Hi all,
just a quick update about the blog. I haven’t updated it the last two weeks. This has been a long and difficult year, and to be honest I am completely burnt out, there is no gas left in the tank.

I’m going to give myself some time out, and hopefully have the blog back up and running mid-January.

Thanks for all your support through the year, all your kind words of support drive and motivate me more than you’ll ever know.
-Merry Christmas, Hamish

La Cigale 2009

Prince didn’t play a great number of shows in 2009, there was no tour, only a selection of one offs scattered throughout the year and throughout the world. The shows he did play are smooth and streamlined, and surprisingly interesting. Of the twenty or so shows played that year I have already covered almost a quarter of them in this blog. Notable shows of 2009 include his  Nokia  trio of shows, his appearance at Montreux, as well as the Oscars afterparty. He also played a string of shows in Paris in October, and that is where today’s recording hails from. The show at La Cigale is fairly typical of shows of 2009/2010, a setlist peppered with hits and some not too challenging covers. The newish songs that feature are of the greatest interest, and any show that features Shhh is a show that I want to hear.  The show also runs at more than two and a half hours, so I am look forward to losing myself in the music for the next few hours

12th October 2009, La Cigale, Paris

The show begins with the misleading introduction of Purple Rain. It does sound rich and luxurious, but there is only half a minute of intro before Prince and the band kick the show off proper with Old Skool Company. With a solid groove the song is a better representation for what will follow, and as I listen I can feel the my feet begin to shuffle and move with the music, always a good sign. Frédéric Yonnet is present,and it is his harmonica sound that elevates the song early on before, after an extended introduction, Prince begins to sing. The groove isn’t heavy, but it is insistent and keeps the song moving for the eight minutes it runs for.

prince-paris-2009-1

The following Crimson And Clover could have been lifted from any show during this time period. With the rise and fall of the music, the band pushes forward and back,  never demanding even as Prince injects his Wild Thing lyrics into the song. I find I enjoy it greatly, without being able to explain why. It doesn’t rock, it lacks any sort of sharpness or vitality, yet I find I listen to it easily and enjoy the performance of Prince and the band. Perhaps its the clean guitar break that Prince plays that makes it all worth while.

Stand! is uplifting, and with the band playing clean and smooth its a feel good song that the audience responds to, especially as they sing the chorus. The song changes towards something more interesting in the final minute, the pop subverted by some extra funk from Prince which in turn brings Turn Me Loose to the set-list. Prince gives a funky guitar break which underlines his funk credentials before it takes a u-turn into the pop realm again with a surprising cover of the Jackson Fives’s I Want You Back. The only time Prince played this, it immediately elevates to the show to a more interesting status, and even more so as Shelby scats over the back half of the song. The dry sound of Prince’s horner guitar is what I focus on most, bringing more of his own sound to someone else’s song.

The following two songs are also notable for being rarities. Dance 4 Me has only been played once in concert in its full form, and here it is. It becomes even more interesting as Prince plays with it and stretches it out. His first guitar break is Santana-esque, while his second guitar break is full blooded and more of his own. Naturally I love both of them. With Shelby singing (Not Just) Knee Deep and Frédéric Yonnet adding harmonica, there is a feeling that anything goes, and the song has plenty of satisfying twists and turns before Prince finishes with a neatly manicured solo.

We stay with rarities as the band play No More Candy 4 U. It’s a joyful romp, the band play with a bounce and a grin, something summed up as you can hear Prince laughing on the microphone. It’s not taxing, and although light I find myself listening carefully due to it novelty value.

prince-paris-2009

Things change with some smoldering guitar work by Prince eventually giving way to a high powered performance of Shhh. The crowd obviously enjoy it as much as I do, they sing the verse from the first moment, leaving Prince silent for the first minute. When he does sing, it’s with a glassy smooth sound, before the crowd join him again, singing word for word. As much as I enjoy Prince, I do find the audience singing enjoyable, they are of the same mind as me and it’s hard not to sing along with them. Prince’s initial guitar break stutters and falters, but he returns with a jagged, electrifying solo that puts his mark all over this song.

 Like The Jam, Stratus is often used by Prince to introduce the band and give them an opportunity to solo. Here is no different, as Prince runs through the band as he has plenty of times before. I have heard this done plenty of times over his career, with Stratus and The Jam, that I don’t get the pleasure from it that I once did, and although it’s a fine performance, there is a part of me that wishes it would be over so we can move onto something sharper.

The following jazz infused rendition of Girl is much more my thing and I find it to be a lot of fun. So too does the audience and Prince, as he engages them with some encouragement to sing along. Its a quiet acoustic performance, with just a bare accompaniment of a guitar Prince sings this somewhat lost B-side. The mood of the recording changes as Prince sings and I wonder what direction the show will come next.

Forever In My Life is fabulous in everyway. With the stripped back beat Prince gives a performance of this beloved song, again accompanied every step of the way by the crowd. The guitar arrives for later verses, adding some richness to the performance and the sound. Even with the audience singing it is a showstopping performance, this is easily the highlight of the show thus far. The late twist of Shelby singing a furious Single Ladies is completely left field, as well as the best thing I have ever head from her.

Shelby J continues to rock the mic, with an equally furious Baby Love that has me reaching to turning it up louder. I’m not a big fan of her calls to “put your hands up”, but I am completely onboard for everything else she does, and even as Prince blazes out another guitar break it is still Shelby that holds the spotlight. A beautiful strong and independent voice, she adds a harder edge to a show that is sometimes just a little too polished.

prince-paris-2009-3

There seems to be an extra energy and life in Peach, perhaps the bonus of so few shows in the year is Prince playing with extra enthusiasm and energy. Peach certain bounces along, and the guitar breaks rocket by just as quick. It’s not as long as other renditions in circulation, but it does provide an extra shot of adrenaline into the show.

Sexy Dance has a similar energy, it comes at a quicker pace and has plenty of singing and dancing in the mix. The audience is again singing under Princes command, and Frédéric Yonnet can again be heard adding his contribution to the song. The band is relaxed and having fun, something that translates into the recording, it feels just as relaxed and fun on the recording years later. The All Day, All Night, chants that end the song underline this and ends the first part of the show on a high.

The All Day, All Nigh chants continue for a couple of minutes until Prince returns to the stage for a slower and enchanting rendition of I Want To Be Free. Prince’s opening sprinkle of guitar sets the tone, before singing an impassioned take on the lyrics, suitably accompanied by Shelby, Liv and Elisa all the way. The guitar solos come from another place altogether, a completely different feel from the lyrics and verses, nevertheless they are enjoyable and add an extra element of interest to the song.

The next section of the show is the usual run of Sly and The Family Stone songs. Sing A Simple Song has an extra brightness to it that the crowd responds to. The following  Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) is equally popular with the audience, especially one woman who is close to the recording device and gives several earsplitting shrieks as the song begins. I can forgive her however as the song is indeed a great rendition that has the speakers pumping here at home.

prince-paris-2009-2

Be Happy is all about the band and the audience, with Prince taking a back seat on vocals the girls lead the way, before the audience pick up the “All day, all night’ refrain again with great gusto. Things are shaping up to go on for sometime,so it comes as a complete surprise as Prince wraps it up with his “Vegas” call.

I wasn’t expecting too much from 7, so I am pleasantly surprised by what we have here, a couple of minutes that are faithful to an old hit. It does segue into Come Together, another song that got more than it’s share of concert time in the late 2000’s. This version is much as it is usually heard, although the speech by Prince mid-song is interesting and revealing. Talking about America he mentions that his music is no longer on the radio, and says America wants to make him a slave. I’m not sure exactly what to make of it, but it is interesting to hear.

Dreamer follows on, and it is similar in style to the preceding Come Together.  It does gain from some louder guitar and more harmonica, but asides from that it doesn’t make much of an impression and ends before I can really get a feel for it.

I am re-enthused with hearing The Bird, not only does it push my nostalgic buttons, it also sounds like a lot of fun. The crowd is feeling it as much as I am, and the guitar has plenty of funk. The final minute has me smiling as Prince speaks with a repeat effect on the microphone, which has him saying “turn this repeat off, what are you doing?”

prince-paris-2009-5

Jungle Love has him asking “Who wrote that” before playing a version that makes it quite clear. A short, sharp version it has plenty of punch to it, and I am surprised by how strong the guitar solo is. It maybe short, but it is efficient and conveys plenty in the time it plays.

The performance of Glamorous Life is one of the most satisfying parts of the show. After first taking some time to get the sound right, Prince tells the audience that he wants to live in France, because it rhymes with his favorite word “dance”. The band live up to the moment, and once again I am turning them up louder. It sounds classic, live, and fun all at the same time, and although Shelia E is missing it still manages to capture some of her sound and influence.

3121 returns with a steamroller of a  heavy groove that is mind crushingly good. Ten minutes of heavy, and heavenly, funk follows- only lightened by the reappearance of the harmonica. All Day, All Night chants, soul claps, lyrics that hint at something dangerous, and unhinged harmonica all add to this behemoth of a song, all killer groove and funky rhythms. The audience do become intrusive on the recording, but I am prepared to overlook this as the song rolls on in its own unstoppable way. This the moment where I am finally swept away by the music and I truly lose myself in the moment.

And suddenly we are back to where it all started with the the soft drizzle of an introduction to Purple Rain. The recording has been good until this point, but it’s now that it finally loses some of its polish with some mild distortion and crowd noise. Maybe it’s the crowd noise that ruins the levels, it is as the crowd sings that the distortion is most noticeable. As for the song itself, it’s a humdinger, with Prince electing to go with the guitar saturated version rather than drawing out the verses he cuts straight to the chase early on. This makes the distortion of the crowd singing all the more frustrating, especially as Prince revisits the verses and sings with a whole-hearted fullness.  With the vocals and the guitar being top notch it really is a shame the recording lets it all down at this stage. Still, it is what it is, and the show ends just as good as it begun.

prince-paris-2009-4

Another excellent show from 2009 and what is proving to be a very fruitful year for bootlegs. All the shows I have heard from 2009 are clean sounding and offer plenty to the careful listener. This one had plenty of high points, and even at two and a half hours it never let up, giving plenty until the very end. The Paris crowds are always knowledgeable and fun, and Prince acknowledges that with another show that is outstanding. I had doubts before I listened, I thought it maybe too clean cut, but it has proved otherwise and is a great listen. With a cold beer in hand it has been the perfect way to end the week.

Take care
Hamish

Return to First Ave 2007

In 2007 Prince played three shows in a day at his hometown of Minneapolis. I have already taken a listen to the matinee show at Macys and the main show at the Target Center, so to round out the trifecta today I will have a look at the aftershow at First Ave. It’s notable in that it was the first-time Prince had played there in 20 years, and anticipation was at an all-time high with queues snaking around the block with fans desperate to see their hometown hero. The show doesn’t disappoint. There are some uneven moments, but it is beautifully recorded (the bootleg sounds great) and the opening 3121 is so enormous in its heavy funk that any other weaker moments are immediately forgiven. I have listened to this show a couple of times this week, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

8th July 2007(am) First Avenue, Minneapolis

3121 has a steamroller of a groove that rolls heavily over everything from the first moments.  It’s hard and heavy and reminds me of Days Of Wild on a good day. With an insistent bass and horns early on, it puts me in mind of the performance of Days Of Wild from Belgium in 2002, dark, heavy and feeling like it might roll on for days. 3121 builds with cheers from the crowd before some chopping guitar heralds the arrival of Prince. His vocals emerge from the fog of the music, ghost-like yet full and with a darkness of their own.  It’s as hard as nails, with Prince’s guitar adding plenty of venom later in the song, it too emerging from the morass of music with a piercing whine. The song rolls on for ten minutes, I could happily put it back on repeat and listen to it all day long, the show is worth listening to just for this song lone. It encapsulates all that is great about the aftershow experience and puts me right in the moment.

prince-macys

We go from dark to light, with a bright and sharp Girls And Boys following immediately after. With plenty of honks from the horns and keyboards it keeps the show moving at a clip, each stab adding to the momentum. Prince himself is sounding great, and I must again point out that this is great sounding recording. It may be an audience recording but it is full and rich sounding, with the crowd audible but not the least bit intrusive.

I Feel 4 U is sprightly, with Shelby adding her infectious energy to the show. She is reasonable restrained, and nicely focused. The song itself is short, and as Shelby begins to call “Put your hands up” things quickly move onto Controversy.

In recently times Controversy has been played with and thrown into crowd pleasing medleys, and I am happy to say that the rendition here is faithful to the original. It may not be the bare funk of the album, the band is bigger and fuller, but the song is the same arrangement, at least until the final minutes as Prince calls for the audience to jump up and down. It’s not my favourite part of the song, but there are plenty more positives I enjoy listening to, especially the frenetic horn solo that adds a sense of urgency to the song. The closing guitar break from Prince is equally fine, it takes a while to get to it but it is well worth the wait.

Things slow for Beggin Woman Blues.  The groove is the steady sound of Satisfied, as Prince sings Beggin Woman Blues. The lyrics are hilarious, and the crowd are quiet as they listen carefully to catch the jokes. The real surprise is Princes vocals, they sound fantastic, especially the first few minutes. There is plenty to enjoy on the keyboard front too, with both Morris Hayes and Renato Neto taking solos before things really cut loose with a wild sax solo from Mike Phillips. Prince brings us back as he returns the song back to its roots with his vocal delivery of Satisfied. Morris Hayes does a great job of filling the sound out behind him, and it highlights Princes vocals further, his high squeals contrasting with Morris Hayes deep organ swirls.

prince-2007-orange

I can’t say I am overly impressed by Down By The Riverside. It’s a breather, and a chance for me to grab another drink (this is thirsty work).

Gotta Broken Heart Again is a standout moment. It has a stillness to it, with Princes vocals being the back bone of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocals, they are outstanding and listening is a reminder to how much of a pure singer Prince was. He even matches the horns for shrill and intensity as the song reaches its climax, an impressive feat.

Shelby takes on Love Is A Losing Game, a tough job as it is a song that in my mind is indelibly associated with Amy Winehouse. I’m not sold on the performance, although Prince provides several guitar breaks that do elevate it, but not quite enough. The guitar does sound sweet and has a zesty sound to it, on another song it would be a whole lot more.

I enjoy Shelby’s performance of Love Changes a whole lot more. She is soft when she needs to be soft, strong when she needs to be strong, and I think it is a great match for her vocals and personality. Prince adds his input with some more guitar work, and this hits all my sweet spots, they complement each other well and this is further highlighted as Prince sings alongside Shelby. It may not be a lot of peoples’ cup of tea, but for me this is as good as anything else heard on this recording. Princes guitar in the final minutes underlines the performance and seals the deal.

We have all heard Thank You (Falettinme  Be Mice Elf Again) plenty of times, and this rendition contains no surprises. Larry Graham adds his deeper tones to the song, and it does have an energy that is sometimes missing in these performances. Things heat up near the end as Prince stops the band and we get some real rumble out of Larry and his bass.

prince2.111694.jpg

This rumble settles into Hair, and with the keyboard playing a retro sound we are cast back to the Seventies. Larry starts out on vocal duties, but he gives way to Shelby who doesn’t do a bad effort of the song herself. It does become a medley with some funky guitar running things into Sing A Simple Song before things quickly change again, this time with Everyday People. Everyday People ends the medley on a high, it is feel good through and through and one can almost hear Larry Graham smiling as he plays and sings.

Alphabet St may start off as expected, but soon enough it is spinning off into all sorts of weird and wonderful places. Greg Boyer is present for a trombone solo, before Larry Grahams bass settle things back into a groove. Shelia E playing percussion is easily the highlight, she is the right person at the right time and her input is timely and welcome.  It’s unfortunate that things come to a sudden end (due to curfew restrictions), but it is a fine way to end the recording, as Prince thanks the crowd as he explains why they are stopping, demonstrating that he is a law-abiding citizen through and through.

I had heard good things about this bootleg, but to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from it. On the surface it seemed to be the same old songs brought out again for the aftershow. I was caught off guard by the funk of 3121, and the appearance of Larry Graham wasn’t what I had come to expect, the show had a lot of energy when Larry arrived on the scene and provided his input. Of the the three shows from this day I would easily rate this as the best of the three. A short, sharp show played with intensity and energy, and I can’t really ask for better than that.

Thanks again
Take care
Hamish

 

7-7-7 Target Centre

Several weeks ago I wrote of the Macy’s matinee show from 2007, and it’s only right that I now return to have a listen to the other shows from that day. The main show from the Target Center in retrospect can be seen as a precursor and warm up show to the 21 nights in London that will come in the following month. The set list  here being typical of these future shows, with Prince airing most of his hits in the show. The real drawcard of this show is the appearance of Wendy on several songs. I would like to say I recognized her sound immediately, although to be honest I’m not sure I would have picked up on it without being told. However, I will be listening carefully to see if I can pick her style on the songs she appears on.

7th July 2007, Target Center Minneapolis

We don’t have to wait long to hear Wendy, she appears on Purple Rain that starts the show, and this is entirely appropriate as this is the period most fans know her from. Prince is up to the occasion -a hometown show, Wendy on guitar, and he gives a stirring performance from the first minutes. His vocals are punchy and carry some weight as he sings, he does sound invested in the moment and the song soars due to this. Normally it’s the guitar break that I find myself waiting for, on this occasion I get just as much pleasure from the singing as anything else that might be going on. The guitar break however shouldn’t be overlooked, as Prince infuses this with spirit and feeling that gets the show off to a positive and highly enjoyable start.

Take Me With U maintains this momentum and good will, the recording is clean sounding with enough of the crowd noise there to get the impression that they are all aboard from the very beginning, much as you’d expect from a show in Minneapolis. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, and it comes and goes in a flash, leaving me with a smile on my face.

Prince keeps the foot on the accelerator as the segue into Guitar keeps the show moving quickly on. I did enjoy it when it first came out, since then my interest has waned somewhat so I didn’t expect too much here. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it sounds, especially the last few minutes. The verses and chorus I could take or leave, but the final few minutes is where Prince warms to his work and some great guitar work can be heard.

prince-7-7-7

My first “wow” moment comes with Shhh, a song I will never tire of hearing. Prince wraps me up in his warm vocal delivery, before an avalanche of guitar pushes this song into greatness. The contrast between the vocals and the guitar give it some dramatic tension and for me that’s what makes this song what it is. I can’t tell you how this compares to the hundreds of other performances of it I have heard, what I can tell you that at this moment it is the highlight of my week and it washes the worries of world away for the next few minutes.

Musicology snaps me back into the real world and, as enjoyable as it is, it can’t compare to Shhh. I do appreciate the sentiment behind “real music by real musicians”, but after listening to a great many shows I have found I have become tired of the phase. Musicology does provide some interest as Prince begins to sing Prince And The Band. It lacks some of the bite it had earlier on, but it’s cool to hear Prince trotting it out again. There are further highlights as Prince can be heard having fun with an audience member dancing, before Mike Phillips brings his magic touch to the song.

I have never enjoyed Play That Funk Music in Prince shows, and here is no different. The band sound good, the crowd are lapping it up, and yet listen here at home it leaves me cold. There is some fire in the guitar solo that has me regretting my words, and by the end of the song I too am won over – never underestimate the power of Prince and his guitar ability.

The cover version of Let’s Go by the Cars adds a huge dash of fun to the show and, although it is short, it is eminently enjoyably. From its catchy sing along beginnings to the scorching Prince guitar break it ticks all my boxes, and even at two and a half minutes it is a performance that leaves me breathless.

Mike Phillips certainly leaves his mark on Satisfied. I’m not feeling it early on, but then Mike Phillips arrives with his saxophone and plays up a storm. The intensity levels go through the roof, and I wonder why I don’t listen to this more often. The rest of Satisfied is as I have heard plenty of times before, but those few minutes of Mike Phillips elevates it in my estimation.

Mike stays front and centre as he and Renato Neto play an instrumental What A Wonderful World. This time I find I do mentally check out, I am here for Prince and these moments he is not on stage the energy seems to drain out of the building, and the recording. What A Wonderful World is good in its own right, but it’s not Prince.

I knew Wendy played on several songs, what I didn’t expect was her and Prince playing a solo guitar set together. This takes things to a whole other level and is easily the highlight of the show. If I had of known what was coming I would have come to this recording much sooner than I have.  The opening Little Red Corvette is other worldly, the guitars and vocals angelic as they interlace and weave their magic. Prince keeps it short, but it’s only the beginning of something special.

Raspberry Beret is a song that I feel I never have to hear again – except this version. Stripped back to the vocals and guitars it regains it youthfulness and spark. The years roll back as it plays and the sound of Wendy’s guitar is unmistakable. I am not normally one for nostalgia, but this has me back wallowing in my teenage years.

We get some Prince humour as Prince and Wendy next tackle The One U Wanna C. It starts off quickly, before Prince stops – telling the crowd that they can’t play it as its new and they might bootleg it. They then change tack and play a different version of it, slowed down and rolled with, which in my opinion makes it a lot more bootleg-able, its these different arrangements and live performances that I collect bootlegs for.  There is a downside, as the recording unfortunately captures some people discussing what seat numbers they are, but the rest of the song passes without incidence, and it sounds fantastic. This guitar set is something else, and I’m loving every minute of it.

The guitar set is rounded out by a tear-jerking performance of Sometimes It Snows In April. Its sharper and cleaner, and not as over wrought as I expect, and the performance is all the better for it. There is a purity to it that lifts the show, and the guitar flourishes are pitched just right to give it a touch of colour. It brings the guitar set to a close in the best way possible, and gives us a pause before the show pushes forward again.

prince-2007-orange

The band re-join for 7, and the show immediately becomes an up-tempo party again. 7 is an introduction for the following Come Together, and after two minutes it easily segues into Shelby singing the opening verses. Come Together doesn’t add anything special to the show, and it’s hard to fathom why it appeared in so many of Princes shows. Prince and the band never quite put their only mark on it, and for the most part it is a perfunctory run through the song. The saving grace comes in the form of Princes closing guitar break which lifts the song far above its plodding beat. If only the rest of the song sounded as good as the guitar break, it would be a different beast altogether.

The piano set portion of the show begins with a lovely sounding Do Me, Baby. Prince and piano start off easily enough, before the band do join to give the song a full, yet touching, sound. This is another moment that I find I gravitate to, and it sets the bar high for the next few piano songs.

I Wanna Be Your Lover follows in similar fashion, Prince and the piano opening the song before the rest of the band joins in.  It sounds fresh, and even here at home I am singing along with it as if it is a new song to me. The outro is played, which is a plus as far as I am concerned, and there is some funk under the pop veneer.

How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore is more in line with what we traditionally expect from the piano set. With just Prince and the piano, the next couple of minutes could have been recorded anytime over the previous thirty years. The band do join, but this signals the end of the song, rather than a fuller version.

There is only a couple of lines played from Diamonds and Pearls, before Prince plays with the crowd as he calls for his guitar. He stays with the Diamonds and Pearls album, playing a lively version of Cream. This sometimes sounds dreary to me, not tonight as Prince plays with an extra sharpness and energy. Playing to the hometown audience is bringing out the best of him, and the recording is sounding great.

There is cascade of noise and guitar work with the introduction of U Got The Look. Prince and the band romp through it, playing a boisterous, rough and tumble rendition. The guitar isn’t over worked, but it is strong, and the song is much more than the two dimension versions heard elsewhere through 2007.  It comes as an unexpected surprised, and I am pleased to hear it in this form.

The band is stronger than I expected, and they put their stamp well and truly on If I Was Your Girlfriend. There is sound and power coming from every corner as the song plays, normally it’s Prince vocals that command attention in the song, in this case all the band are vying for attention as the song plays. It gives it a fullness that is far from what is heard on Sign O The Times.

Prince

The same could be said of Black Sweat, the band swamp it in sound as the stripped back sound of the original becomes just a memory. It may not be my favourite version, but I commend the band for taking ownership and making it distinctly theirs. Renato Neto in particular has my attention with some keyboard sounds that sound alien in nature.

The band is slightly more restrained for Kiss, although there is a low bass rumble that has me excited. The song starts off well, but it’s the guitar break that has me sitting up and paying a lot more attention. It brings some sharpness to a song that has too much happening and at times sounding unfocused.

Let’s Go Crazy on paper fails to excite me, but listening to it reveals a different arrangement, designed to engage the crowd to the full. The original opening is intact, then no verses, just a headlong rush into guitar work before Prince engages the audience in some chanting, all the while delivering guitar histrionics. The music snob in me would normally dismiss this, but like a mouth to the flame I can’t help but be attracted by the rush and thrill of it.

That rush and thrill is maintained as Prince and the band cut into one of the funkiest versions of A Love Bizarre I have heard for a long time. With Shelia E on board the song has an authentic sound, although it’s the funk of the guitar that really gets my heart going. The band are giving their all, and the song is pushed out the speakers at me with great energy and force. The trombone of Greg Boyer adds a taste of something different, and the song never once loses energy or the pure joy of simply being alive. The last searing guitar solo by Prince is the icing on the cake, and leaves me feeling like I felt the first time I saw him live.

Crazy is more like what I expected this show to be like, a gentle run through of a familiar set list, with plenty of Shelby J sprinkled through the show. It’s much more in keeping with what would be heard later in the year during the 21 nights in London, and as such it doesn’t overly excite me hearing it here. I do enjoy the guitar riff of One Nation Under A Groove that is briefly alluded to, but for the most part the song can’t compare to the highlights that came earlier.

Nothing Compares 2 U is similar, it is an uninspired run through of a song that deserves better. There isn’t the interaction between Prince and Shelby as we hear in other performances, he takes the song on himself, and the solo from Mike Phillips sounds bold but lacks any emotional pull. It is disappointing, but I can’t complain after all that has come before.

prince-2007-mat

Shelia E makes herself heard for the final song of the night, A Glamorous Life. Shelia and Prince can be heard having fun together, as they play with the song and the audience during a mid-song break down that features plenty of percussion from Shelia. I do start to lose interest, but I can’t deny it would have been great if I had been there. It is great to hear a performance of A Glamorous life, and although the song doesn’t end with a bang, the show does with this performance of a live rarity.

The show is a curious mix of the familiar and the not so familiar. Although the bulk of the show is similar to the London shows that will follow, there is enough in there for me to take a closer listen. The section with Wendy was outstanding, as was the closing with Shelia E.  Some of the other songs suffer in comparison to this, although there were moments where Prince draws from the home crowd and elevates some numbers to a higher level. This could have been a mundane show, but is saved by the guest appearances and a lively performance from Prince. Too long I have ignored this one, dismissing it as another 2007 show by the numbers. Worth a second listen, and I may have to revisit it several more times in the coming weeks.

It’s been a shaky week here, and its been a great diversion to lose myself in Prince’s world for a couple of hours
See you next week,
Hamish

Purple Rain -full show Worcester Massachusetts

Several weeks ago I wrote about a leak from part of a Purple Rain show from Worcester Massachusetts. At the time, I spoke highly of it and that I hoped for the full show to be released. Now that day is upon us and Eye records have obliged with a release of the show. After high expectations, I am disappointed in hearing the full show – it is a let-down. Although a soundboard, the sound quality is poor throughout. Not poor as an audience recording, I can hear Prince and the music perfectly well, but the overall sound is weak and all life has been sucked out of the recording. I did take the time to give it a good listen, and my thoughts are below.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The opening Let’s Go Crazy is a suitable introduction for what will follow. Prince is sounding good, as is The Revolution, although the recording is lacking any depth and feeling. Let’s Go Crazy is dominated by Prince and his guitar, everything else is in the background, and although it’s an exciting opening for the show the recording captures none of this excitement and at times sounds simply as a rehearsal for the show. Cold and sterile, I feel all my energy drain away as I listen.

PandW

Delirious is better, it does a better job of conveying the feelings of a live show, although the sound is still deadened. The keyboards and horns have a fun sound to them, and bring a sparkle to the show that Let’s Go Crazy Was Missing.

The crowd is heard for the first time on 1999, again though most of the song sounds like a cold rehearsal. There is some funky guitar in the mix that I latch onto to listen, but the rest of the song fails to excite me. I know there is better to come, yet I find I am still struggling to get into the show in the early stages. The highlight of 1999 comes as the very end as Prince delivers up some thrills on the guitar, but the recording is still thin, and it lacks the muscle of other shows I have heard.

The first minutes of Little Red Corvette sound as good as ever as the band play through the long intro, and the keyboards can be heard adding their wash to the sound. This is an early high point to the show, especially as I can hear the audience cheer at one point. It’s finally starting to sound like a live show. Prince matches the keyboards when he sings, and it begins to add up to the Purple Rain shows I know and love. Despite a thin start to the guitar solo, it still sounds good and the song ends on a high as Prince sings the chorus one final time.

prince-purple-rain-tour

The keyboards are also very strong for the opening of Take Me With U. They fill out the sound somewhat, although in contrast I can hear the bass but it lacks in any real depth due to the recording. Everything is in place, yet it all sounds weaker and watered down in the recording. The end coda lacks much of anything, and the song that started so brightly fizzles out by the end.

The next section of the show I have covered in an earlier blog post, here I will reiterate some of what I have already said previously. It is easily the best part of the show as the next thirty minutes Prince is on fire.

Next on the set list is 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 in this quality. 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.

prince-piano-85-2

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.

purple-prince

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.

There comes next a segue into 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. It’s tight, it’s funky, it’s Prince and The Revolution doing what they do best.

There is the inevitable Possessed right after, it’s not quite as tight as Irresistible Bitch, but it still has plenty of funk of its own. The keyboards give plenty early on, before the horn swells drive the second part of the song. The count of “25” by Prince is standard practice, and the band are right on the money. There is a moment of fun as Prince speaks to the band about catching them out tonight. There’s money on the line, and the band don’t fail to deliver. The horns and the stabs are throughout, as Prince sings “I’m going to get you tonight” before calling for “63”. I lost count, as did the band – Bobby Z gives a couple of extra beats as the songs gives way to a scream and several whoops, presumably from Prince as he has indeed caught the band out.

prince-p-rain

There is more fun in the air as Prince begins to play How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore and encourages the audience to sing if they can. The song itself is kept very short, at a single verse it barely registers, but it is the final song before the rest of the show is given over to Purple Rain songs.

God is as beautiful as to be expected, with Prince and the piano holding the audience enraptured in its charms as it plays. The band add some harmonies to the vocals which is a nice touch, the only downside being the quality of the recording- on a better sounding recording this would sound magnificent, as it is it lacks a thickness and full sound. It doesn’t matter too much as the next few minutes are given over to the bath sequence of the Purple Rain shows.

prince-purple-rain-bath

The fierceness that I have come to expect from Computer Blue is lacking, in part to the thin sound of the recording. The band though cannot be faulted, and I can hear the band playing a rough and tumble version with plenty of jagged guitar from Prince. The bass work from Brownmark is to the fore, a shame that the recording lacks the richness of the performance.

The segue into Darling Nikki is predictable and entirely enjoyable. Dr Fink is a real highlight as his keyboard squiggles are all over the latter part of the song. It shines brightly after the previous Computer Blue and up’s the tempo again as we head to the last quarter of the show.

prince-nikki

The introduction of The Beautiful Ones fades in and out, but once the song starts proper it is full blooded and Prince gives another heartfelt rendition. There are plenty of shrieks and screams near the end which aren’t served well by the recording, nevertheless they add a lot to the show and the audience can be heard responding well to what is obviously a highlight.

Another show stopper follows in the form of When Doves Cry. Dr Fink and Lisa are key players, but for me the highlight is Brownmark and his elastic sounding bass. He gets plenty of time to show us what he’s got, especially the final coda which is heavy on the bass, and despite everything going on over the top, it is the bass that I gravitate to.

I Would Die 4 U starts off with a pop bent, but the final minutes are all about the funk as it gets an extended treatment, with plenty of Wendy’s guitar to the fore. It wasn’t a song that I immediately fell in love with, but I always enjoy these live performances. Even with the coda tagged on, it still only runs three and a half minutes, and as it ends just as I am developing a hunger for much more.

prince-purple-rain-galsses

I am disappointed with Baby I’m A Star. Some nights it runs upwards of twenty minutes, this version is considerably shorter at eleven minutes, and even then there is a couple of minutes’ introduction. his is the point of the show where the band traditionally cut loose, so it comes as a surprise to see this shortened version. The tempo does accelerate halfway into it,  this gives it an unbalanced sound and as it increases in tempo I feel left behind by it all. With the horns adding their burst of excitement there is the sound of show business in the air, the band jam on but it never feels like a groove as I have heard elsewhere on the Purple Rain tour. The sax is easily the best thing about Baby I’m A Star, and we have plenty of time to enjoy it before the song loses its way with Prince’s final few minutes of train inspired groove.

It’s been a long time since I listened to a full Purple Rain show, and I find myself falling in love with the song again all over as the introduction plays and the piano gives it an extra touch of special. By the time I hear Prince’s guitar noodling I am already sold on it and I don’t care what type of performance will follow. The following Cloud guitar sound lets me down, but that barely matters as what I have already heard is good enough for me. The final solos by Prince are long and over the top, normally something I would greatly enjoy, but here they are undone by a thin sound and although they are likable they don’t quite deliver the knockout blow. It is however the type of finish that this show required, and I must admit I was smiling all the way through the song.

This wasn’t the show I was expecting. The middle section I had previously heard is easily the best part of the show, and this alone makes the show worth listening too. In fact, it makes the show much more interesting than other Purple Rain shows in circulation and if the recording was better quality it would be essential. As it is, it is a serviceable sound board recording that documents a potentially great show that loses its way towards the end and becomes just another Purple Rain show. And interesting experience that wasn’t what I wanted or expected, nevertheless it was worth the time to take a listen.

Thanks for reading
Take care
-Hamish

 

Quasimodo Berlin 1987

OK, I admit it, I didn’t do my homework this week. Things have been kinda busy of late and I never found the time to have a quiet moment and think about what recording I would like to listen to and write about. So twenty minutes ago I found myself looking at a blank screen wondering where on earth I should start. Without a particular bootleg in mind I considered what sort of show I would like to listen to and what songs I would like to hear, which brought me nicely to this weeks recording – an aftershow from Berlin 1987 featuring Housquake and Just My Imagination. The recording itself is short, less than 40 minutes, and to be honest its rough to listen to. By rough, I mean plenty of tape hiss and a muddy sound, but I have recently come to the realization that I am a hardcore fan and will listen to anything with a beat, so with that it mind read on…..

15th May 1987(am) Quasimodo, Berlin

The first part of the show is missing from the recording, there is no Madhouse or the opening two songs from Prince, and instead as it begins we catch the tail end of Redhouse. The guitar is sweet enough, but it isn’t setting the world aflame, this is the sound of it slowly winding down in the last minute of the song. The following words by Prince are completely lost in distortion, before things pick up with the horn refrain that becomes Bodyheat. Now we’re talking, despite the recording it sounds like a great show as the band lock into a riff that will cement the funk of Bodyheat. The horn riff is good, the solo it plays even better as the recording briefly clears and the show really begins to cook. Through the limitations of the recording I can hear something special as the band play the living daylights out of Bodyheat, there is no doubt that it would have been a monster to hear live. Did I say solo? I mean solo’s, as Eric Leeds plays freely over the top a couple of times, each time upping the ante as far as intensity and pure musicianship go. The keyboard heard near the end comes from another place entirely, and is the icing on top as the song finishes with some of the horns as heard in It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.

Led by a piano sound, Just My Imagination is different in this incarnation, and all the more soulful for it. With Eric Leeds giving it some extra life with his horn any other memories of the song are washed away as this version is heard in a completely different context. The spell is broken with Princes distorted vocals (its all the recording, not him) and although I can mentally fill it in and make it work, to be honest it’s a tough listen at this point. A shame as I can hear a fantastic gig unfolding before me, I just can’t hear it in a listenable quality.

Housequake is much more agreeable to the ears, although compared to other recordings its still rough. Prince’s vocals for the most part sound better, and the song is easily recognizable as Housequake. Eric adds his shine, but for most of the song it is the rhythm section that sounds the best -that is until his second solo, where I am forced to eat my words.

Prince Eric Leeds

The final It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night is yet another chance to enjoy the funk of Prince and the awe inspiring playing of Eric Leeds. Things improve sonically too, as the recording does become better midsong and the song can be heard in all it’s glory.  The moment right before Shelia E’s rap has me all in, as for a few moments the guitar sings out brightly in the darkness, so tight in it’s funk. The song becomes jam, and one of the better ones I’ve heard as it maintains it’s kinetic energy for the entire ten minutes. By the time the finishes I find I have forgotten and forgiven the recording limitations and I am enjoying purely the show.

Wow, that was shorter than I thought. It was also far better than I anticipated. There is no denying the recording was less than stellar, but the show itself was pure fire. Like everyone I trawl the internet looking for shows, and there seems to be the same shows circulating again and again among trading communities, leaving very poor recordings like this forgotten. I know that this type of recording appeals to a very small portion of the fan community, it is not an easy show to listen to. But part of the fun for me is listening to shows like this, with a faint hope in my heart that one day a better recording will surface of a show such as this. Final verdict:  Recording 3, Show  9.

 

Take care
Hamish

 

Macy’s Matinee, 2007

July 7th 2007 was a busy day for Prince, and a great day for Minneapolis. Prince treated his hometown to three shows – A matinee show at Macys (3121 perfume launch) , a mainshow at the Target Centre before following with an aftershow at First Avenue. The last two shows get plenty of coverage while the first show often overlooked in the wider scheme of things. It is a short show, 40 minutes, but at the same time if is a very well recorded show that provides a short sharp shock of entertainment. It’s not too demanding, and worth a second listen.

7th July 2007, Macy’s 8th Floor Auditorium, Nicollet Mall – Minneapolis

Its hard to guess that the opening When The Saints Go In is by Prince and the band, but a closer listen and you can recognize the sound of Greg Boyer on trombone as well as the rest of the horn section. They are obviously enjoying their time to shine and the show is off to a lively start with there upbeat instrumental rendition of an old classic.

Prince can be heard for the first time as his count-off introduces the steady groove of 3121. It’s not as intense, or insistent, as I have heard elsewhere, and the horns add some lightness to it early on. The chorus has me sold on it however, as Prince sings strongly and with an obvious enjoyment. Shelby J can be heard on backing vocals, although she is oddly quiet. Princes guitar break and the crowd both add a sense of urgency to the song and make it both enjoyable and serious.

prince-macys

Girls And Boys has a smoothness to it that belies its age, as Prince and the band slide across the glass-like groove. The sharpness comes at the chorus, although the twins seem to be making up their own French words for the backing vocals. The saxophone solo is replaced with a trombone solo, something that adds an element of interest to a song I have heard many times in my life. The high point for me is the solo from Renato Neto, it beams in from outer space and has a beautiful alien quality that gives the song an edge. The coda of “3121” chants sounds like a plug for the perfume, and as such I consider it unnecessary to the song.

Shelia is low key on percussion but makes herself heard on Love Bizarre. This is a great version, and there is plenty of energy heard in the performance. Shelia and Prince sound excellent together, and the recording easily does justice to the song. Shelia sings with a fierceness, I get the feeling that she is investing a lot of herself in the performance. Although only four minutes, it plays like a jam with a saxophone solo that is invested with a touch of fire, before Prince and Sheila provide some rhythm and percussion on their respective instruments. This is an excellent performance, and should not be slept on.

prince-3121-perfume

Get On The Boat takes a twist, and although the horns still drive it, its Princes guitar that catches the ear early on. It has a Santana flavour to it, and it wouldn’t be much of leap from this to the Santana medley that Prince was fond of a few years previous. This could be attributed to Shelia E, whose percussion is the bedrock that the song is built on.

Shelia E stays at the front of our minds as Glamorous Life makes an appearance in the setlist. It is fitting in this setting, and it does sound glamorous as they sing it. Prince can be heard singing, but mostly it’s Shelia that is heard, both singing and playing percussion. Her final solo is the highlight of the song and underlines her talent as it finishes.

How many times have we heard Prince say “So many hits, so little time”? Too many and he breaks it out here again. The following Take Me With U has also been heard many times, although it is a bright and fresh sounding performance here. Its  a standard run through, and the song shines even as the band sound like they are giving a perfunctory performance.

macys-prince

Guitar was the song of the moment at this time, and Prince gives a performance that suggests he is feeling it. With the vocals coming with a rasp, the chorus come and go pleasantly enough before the song lives up to its name in the final minutes. The solo may start as expected, but soon enough it becomes more interesting and raises some pulses. The fireworks are all in the final couple of minutes as Prince and his guitar finally do take over.

Things get crazy for the finish. First Shelby J does her thing on a cover of Crazy. The groove is irresistible, and Shelby sounds full and bright on the recording. She raises several cheers from the audience as she sings, a sure sign that she sounds as good at the show as she does on the recording. There is some “put your hands up” shouting, but I’m feeling generous today and I’ll give her a pass.

Things become crazier as Prince introduces Let’s Go Crazy. It has the traditional spoken beginning, but the rest of the song is wild ride as Prince solos, drawing influences from Rock Lobster, and gives Shelia E another percussion break. It goes by with break neck speed, and before I know it Prince is howling the last notes into the sky. It is sharp ending to what has been a short and sweet show.

prince2.111694.jpg

Don’t be fooled by the length of the show, at 10 songs and 45 minutes, it is just as long as his shows earlier in his career. This recording contained a pleasing mix of old and new material and Prince played a lively show to match. It may have been a matinee but it still sounded like a rock show should. Another excellent aspect of the show was the appearance of Shelia E, she definitely put her stamp on everything she played. This is a sweet little show, and something I shan’t overlook again.

Take care
Hamish

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.

purple-prince

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.

prince-piano-85-2

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.

prince-piano-85

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.

prince-piano-85

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
-Hamish

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.

3121-4

 

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.

3121-3

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.

3121

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.

3121-5

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
-Hamish