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.

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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.

prince-palladium-1994

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
-Hamish

 

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-2000

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
Hamish

 

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
-Hamish

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!
-Hamish

 

Paris 1981

It’s been quite some time since I last went back and listened to some shows from earlier in Princes career, and today’s blog taking in the Paris show from 1981 is well over due. I have previously written of shows from earlier in year, the shows in March at both Sam’s Minneapolis and the Ritz New York, as well as the opening for the Rolling Stones later in October of the year. This show today falls right between those and neatly shows how quickly Prince is evolving. There is a lot more evolution yet to come, but here we see his look becoming a little less raw, and the overall show becoming more focused. There is still a long way to go, as we’ll see, but he is definitely progressing forward at a great rate.

4th June 1981, Théâtre Le Palace, Paris

As the show begins Prince is looking all cool and calm, it seems his look has been toned down, certain from the raw look he had at the Ritz show. I wouldn’t go so far as calling his look polished, but it certainly would be more acceptable to my Mother. Do It All Night matches the look of Prince and the band, it sounds smooth and polished, even if the lyrics give a clue to what lies behind this facade. The band is together on the small stage, shoulder to shoulder, and this too can be heard in the music, the band is tight and playing as one. Sonically it’s the bass that I am drawn to most, it’s got a life to it that lifts the song, and it helps that Andre Cymone looks dead cool as he’s playing. In fact, with a front line of Andre, Prince, and Dez it’s hard to say who’s the coolest, and all of them are worth watching closely.

Paris 81

Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad sees Prince stalking the front of the stage, guitar slung at his side ready for action. After the first verse he delivers, and along with Dez there is a nice clean rock sound that comes across as warm rather than dangerous. That feeling changes as the song progresses and Prince becomes more impassioned and bolder with his guitar playing as we get deeper into the song. Initially its Dez striking the guitar hero poses but soon enough Prince is again centre of attention as he has his guitar howling and crying. Even as the three of them stand shoulder to shoulder playing it is still Prince my eyes remain glued too, guitar in hand he is electrifying to watch. The last minute even more so as he plays out the last minute of the song solo, every note stretched for maximum effect and emotional value, and I know that as a teenage boy the final pose of him atop of the amps shredding was about as good as it gets.

Paris 81a

The teenage me would not have been quite as excited by Gotta A Broken Heart Again that follows, however the more mature me finds plenty to like about it. Eyes closed, gripping the microphone, Prince is in the moment and putting his all into the vocals. I haven’t seen this DVD in years, and watching it now I am seeing it with new eyes, Prince isn’t working the guitar or the audience, instead he’s pouring it out into the vocals and as a listener the reward is great. It’s not a song that I would generally rate for the vocals, today I am in a different frame of mind and it’s all I hear as he sings.

The announcement that “this is a new song, Jack U Off” has me again paying attention closely, Jack U Off seems to have been around for ever, but even it was a new song at some stage. The audience is fairly muted (as they are throughout) and it’s up to Prince to compensate with his dancing and energy onstage. His dancing is still at a primitive stage, its Dez who gets all the cool points here with his guitar god moves and poses. The song finishes with a flourish, before something more serious and well-known follows.

Prince loses another layer of clothing as When You Were Mine soars into view. The song sounds sprightly, although onstage there are times when the band look like they are going through the motions. They get a new less of life after the breakdown, and the second half of the song is played with great gusto. No matter what is happening on stage, it always sounds good in my ears, and never once do the band drop the ball in this respect. The final moments see Prince knelt at the front of the stage playing guitar in a visual image that always sticks with me.

Paris 81d

Paris 81c

I never thought of Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) as a fully-fledged rock song before, but here it is rocking my socks off. The bass and drums and beautifully locked in and Dez provides some sharp edged guitar buzz to it the has my inner rocker all a shaking. The only thing that pulls it back is the shrill keyboards, the rest of the time it’s all macho posing and Dez’s deeper backing vocals add a much manlier sound to the mix. Prince derails this somewhat with his effeminate dancing and overall provides a cool balance to it all, especially as he and Dez engage in some interplay with their guitar playing.

Andre is back to the forefront of things as Sexy Dancer begins, and his bass certainly adds a lot more weight than what is heard on record. Prince, Andre and Dez perform some rather rudimentary moves, although it’s hardly necessary on a stage as small as this, and instead it’s the music that carries the day. The part of the performance that does catch my attention however, is when the three of them stand in a semi-circle playing to each other. Although they don’t make eye contact you do get the feeling that they are listening to each other and playing off each other.

Paris 81e

I can’t get past the silliness of Sister, although one does have to admire the courage of Prince to stand in his underwear and sing this in front of a crowd of strangers. It’s a blessing that the song is so short, but to be fair I don’t see how he could make it any longer without really pushing things over the top.

I am much more at ease as we sail into Still Waiting. It refreshing to see Prince at this stage without guitar in hand, and instead he engages in some old fashioned showmanship and he croons and works his way through the song at the front of the stage. He moans, he howls, he croons, he falls to his knees at the front row, all the time attempting to break through to the audience. He falsetto for the final minutes is right on the money, and it’s a rare thing to hear a voice of such clarity and beauty in a raw club setting.

Guitar rattle and runs signal the start of the next movement, and initially sounds like the beginning of a blues song until Prince begins to tell the audience “Down with War” which kicks open the door for Party Up. Prince has worked himself into a lather by this stage and he is looking and sounding suitably sweaty as they bump and funk their way through the song. Andres moves behind Prince almost steal the show for me, I am fascinated by his bobbing and weaving, although Prince commands attention as he later calls on the rather flat Paris crowd to “partyup”. Even enthusiastic hand clapping from Prince fails to elicit much of a response, this is either one cool crowd or a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. Dez and Prince put their all into playing, and they look like they are feeling it, even if the crowd isn’t.

Paris 81f

Dirty Mind sees Prince finally dispense with the last of his clothes, and performs in his bikini briefs. The music is exciting and up-tempo, and the performance has plenty going for it. Princes dancing is raw, and to be honest at times he does look like he performing calisthenics rather than performing on stage. It makes me wonder if he did perhaps meet the devil down by the cross roads sometime between this show and 1984, there is night and day between the dancing of the two eras. Knowing Prince as I do, I’m sure he dedicated many hours to perfecting his dancing, and looking at his raw performance here I can see it was certainly needed. His passion for the music and obvious joy of performing it does shine through, and it’s very hard for me to be negative about any aspect of the performance, I know a lot of my moves are similar to this when I am dancing to his music. Dez’s guitar and the swelling keys give it a great uplifting sound, and the energy does leap out of the speakers at me throughout the entire song.

There is no better way to end the show than Uptown, and it is a glorious sounding version played here. Prince and the band end on a high, Andres bass and Dezs guitar sound full and fresh, as does Bobby on the drums along with Lisa and Finks keyboards. Everything sounds pushed forward and full, and I do love the full band sound playing at maximum power. Prince is back to playing guitar, mostly rhythm although he often instead punches the air or grabs the microphone. There is a great coda though where his guitar playing is highlighted, although only briefly, and then its Dez who gets a rocking lead break while Prince encourages the crowd one last time.

Paris 81g

There is no denying this is an earlier, rawer sounding Prince. He is moving in the right direction though, there is more dancing appearing and they are working on a more well-rounded performance. The sound on this recording was excellent, and seeing the band as well as hearing them is always an added bonus. Of the earlier shows by Prince captured on tape, this is perhaps my favourite, the look of the band, their sound, and the show itself are all interesting and it greatly appeals to me. This is a real band performance, I could hear each of them playing their part and contributing, I could have easily highlighted anyone of the band for special praise, and for me that says a lot for the quality of Prince’s bands. A worthy addition to any collection, this one will stand up to further viewings in years to come.

Thanks for reading,
See you back here next week
-Hamish

Paris 81b

Nighttown 1998

In retrospect I was perhaps a little harsh on last week’s show I listened to. It was a perfectly serviceable show from 1998, and it certainly had its merits, even if I didn’t fully appreciate it. Part of the problem of being a Prince fan and listening to these bootlegs is that I am constantly judging him, not against other artists, but against his own high standards. Even if I consider a show to be ‘average’, it’s still far beyond what others were doing at the time, and especially so with the aftershows. There is no other artist out there playing aftershows and these jams just for the love of the music such as Prince does. I would take an average Prince aftershow over any other musicians show any day. Today’s recording has my heart a flutter already as The War is on the setlist. I still remember the day that the cassette mysterious appeared in the mail, and although I consider the late 90’s to be bit of a dry spell, The War is a definite highlight in my book. I know its appeared at other shows and recordings, but I don’t recall hearing it before, so this will be a good chance to sit back and recapture some of that magic. So I’m all set, let’s give it a spin.

1998 Prince

12th August 1998 (am) Nighttown, Rotterdam

A whoop, a cheer, the crowd clapping a beat and chanting start this one, and they quickly fade out as the guitar is heard playing a subtle, delicate, and yet funky, riff. Its par for the course that these recordings contain some audience chit chat, although thankfully in this case it isn’t too intrusive. The riff isn’t too strong, but it is a real earworm of a hook, and I can hear the band and the audience playing around it for some time. It is a slow burning, slow building take of Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothing, and the band do play various parts on top of the foundation that has been set, without ever exploding out of the blocks. I wait for things to cut loose and get wild, but that moment never comes, instead Prince and the band are happy to play as long as it takes with their slow build. The release does finally come with some funk infused keyboards, and a loud cheer as Prince begins to sing. Its music to dance to as much as listen to, and I wistfully dream I was there as the keyboards battle it out in my headphones. This feeling is made stronger by the chanting and singing as the band, and the party, begins to heat up. Things burst into flames as Prince has firstly Mike Scott and then Morris Hayes play solos, both bring an intensity to the performance that has me wanting more. I laugh as Prince admonishes the sound guy with “Was that feedback, who’s adding that to the mix, who thinks that is necessary?”. He has a point, and it’s well delivered.

Let’s Work throws me right back to the 1980’s, in both its freshness and its clean funk sound. Mr Hayes adds his warmth to it, but asides from that it’s the bass sound of the original that I cling onto. It bumps and funks along, with plenty of fat swells around the chorus. We don’t get too comfortable with this nostalgic trip, however the three minutes we get is  plenty, and it’s guaranteed to bring a smile to most people’s faces.

1998 Prince (4)

I am not so enamoured by Delirious, yet again I can’t deny it’s a nod to his past, as well as being just downright fun to listen to at a show like this. The thing I like most about hearing this tonight is Morris Hayes, his fat sound adds a more serious weight to the song, and I do feel for it more as his organ pushes the sound forward. Things take a turn towards the rock sound as a lead guitar appears and we have a coda of Rock N Roll Is Alive. They are strange bedfellows, but as always it works, and I feel much better for hearing this new sharpness added to the sound.

As we move to That’ll Work Prince takes a few moments to thank the crowd for attending the concerts, before the music begins to sing, literally, with a wonderful cameo from Marva King. Larry Graham makes an appearance at this stage, as the crowd chant him in, it’s surprisingly funky and enjoyable as the crowd chant over the music for some time like this. Larry has his thumb working overtime, and encourage by the crowd he serves up a fantastically fat sounding solo.

The sound of his bass carries us easily to the next song, which is logically enough Hair. The deepness of his bass is amply matched by the deepness of his vocals, and my head moves gently to the sound of it as he sings. I can’t tell you who is doing what on stage, but I do know that there is some fine keyboard sounds matching Larry, and the addition of Jerry Martini on the saxophone changes the sound of the band again. There is time for everyone to play, and it’s not only Larry front and centre. The guitar and organ both shine in their respective moments, and there is the feeling that this is very much a band performance rather than one or two people dominating.

1998 Prince (2)

Things slow down next as the blues takes hold in the form of Sex Machine. Its low and slow, with plenty of guitar work from Prince to wallow in. He plays very tightly and restrained, and I do enjoy hearing another style of his playing. The blues sound that he stakes out is kept with by both Morris Hayes on the organ, and Larry Graham on the bass. They play in the same manner, and keep us firmly rooted. The sax work of Jerry Martini adds a brightness to proceedings, but Prince buries us in the blues when he returns for a stronger, heavier guitar break. It’s still smoky and bluesy and even when the notes come in a flurry it still sounds dark and tightly in the groove.

The moment I have been waiting for arrives, and at first I fail to recognize it. It starts with a simple bass loop, and for me it sounds a lot like the start of Miles Davis So What. There is no mistaking The War as the keyboards begin to emerge from the background and Prince intones his “One, two”.  This song interests me in so many ways, and it is very Prince sounding in lyrical content. In many ways it points to the direction he will take with the Rainbow Children in a few years’ time both with the music and the different slant on lyric writing. The lyrics have a weirdness to them which only makes me listen more carefully, and even if the music doesn’t always have me fully engaged, Prince and his lyrics certainly do. The sax of Jerry Martini again lifts us, but it’s against the backdrop of the darker swirling sound, wah-wah guitar, and Princes spoken manifesto.  Mike Scott soars with his guitar break and things loosen briefly and we come out of the darkness. Any hopes for a 26 minute, or even 45-minute version, are dashed as Prince wraps it up at 10 minutes, ending with an appropriate macabre laugh.

1998 Prince (3)

We end on a high with a furious take on the Santana medley. Although the recording isn’t great, Prince tears it up at this stage, and his guitar rips through the songs. I would have loved to see his face as he plays, he certainly sounds like he is playing with great abandonment and plenty of joy. The guitar sings in places, howls in others, and is undoubtedly the star of the show for the last ten minutes. Even as the song ebbs and flows, the intensity is maintained throughout by Prince and his playing, and I don’t tire of it for a single moment – it is essential listening throughout. The final stabs shoot out at me, and end the show on a high that would be hard to top if they continued to play.

This show is redemption for the show I listened to last week. Last week I bemoaned the lack of intensity and fire, this show recorded a week earlier has plenty of both and delivers on all fronts. Hearing The War live was undeniably a real treat, and the highlight for me, but there was plenty more to this show to recommend it. Larry sounded great, as did Jerry Martini, Marva King and the irrepressible Morris Hayes. It would be unfair to compare this to Prince shows from other eras, but on its own it stands as a worthy listen.

Thanks for reading, have a great week
-Hamish

 

19th August 1998- Copenhagen

It’s very easy for me to overlook certain years, such as 1998. Why would I pick something from 1998 when there is so many gems from the 1980’s and early 1990’s to choose from. 1998 hardly seems like the most exciting year of Prince’s career, yet recently I have been thinking about these shows and finding there is interesting moments that I have an urge to hear. Today I am listening to an aftershow from 1998 where Violet The Organ Grinder is played. That’s enough of a hook to lure me in, and I am further intrigued by some of the other songs played as well. Perhaps not my favourite band of all time, but there are enough key players there for me to have my hopes up for another great aftershow.

19th August, 1998(am) Vega Mussikens Hus, Copenhagen

I am liking it already as Prince lays the ground work with some mellow organ as a guitar and bass flicker in the background. It is just a warm up, yet I find it an easy way into the recording before we start proper.

The warm positive feelings stay with us as the band begin to jam from the start. The instrumental is smooth and cool, and has a groove that is effortless in its cool. There is a very intimate feel as the band is introduced and a sense that we are building to something greater with the yell of  “and we got the man, we got the man!” as an introduction to Prince. The groove is locked tight with the bass, guitar and organ playing as one, in a way that only Prince and his band do. It grooves and rolls and is a fine introduction for the evening.

Prince, Larry 1998

Johnny is fantastic, a laid back jam that is almost trance-like. The guitar and organ play around each other in a delightful groove that is dripping. The lead guitar breaks things up without over playing and we stay with the summer vibe of it all. Prince sings, and the mood stays exactly the same, his vocals staying with the laid back sound. There’s only a verse and a chorus, but it hardly matters when the groove is this delicious. We have twelve minutes to wallow in this sound, and to be honest I could have easily eaten up another twelve minutes’ worth of the same. There’s even a sax solo near the end to liven things up which is a nice exclamation mark on the whole song.

The transition to Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa is every bit as smooth as you might expect, and for the first time this evening we can hear Larry Graham. What captures my attention though is the saxophone again, Tony Morris is adding a lot to this show, and it lifts it from the slow heavy groove to something brighter and it demands closer listening. The other instrument that features prominently in this song is the heavy swirling sound of Morris Hayes on the organ. The song becomes a very quiet sing along with just the faintest hint of keys and guitar as the crowd carry the song for a couple of minutes. I do like this part of the song just as much as anything else we have heard thus far, and the band work themselves steadily back to the groove for a finish in a way that sounds pretty cool to me.

larry Prince 1998

The Jam fails to fire my enthusiasm at first, there doesn’t seem to be anything new in there for me. Of course I always enjoy Mr Hayes contribution, and tonight it’s when Mike Scott comes to the party with a guitar solo that has me sitting up and taking notice. It’s short, and for the half minute it plays he has all my attention. Likewise, the sax solo has a touch of fire that has me interested, although it too is short and sweet. Mentally I tune out as Larry plays, no offense to Larry, but I have heard him for many years now and tonight he doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

The following jam is of more interest to me, and has a few different things in the mix. The steady groove is still firmly in place, and sounds almost shuffling at times. As the music moves up and down we have Prince singing Push It Up before the song becomes an all-inclusive singalong. Usually these don’t sound great on recordings, tonight I am feeling in the moment and happily listen to it and try to imagine what it was like to be there. Come On, and Acknowledge Me are also in the jam in various forms, and the whole thing works as an evolving, tumbling jam.

P 98

The change to Gett Off is subtle, and I almost miss it. The lyrics suddenly come at me, and although the music is a soft jam there is no mistaking the words and Princes delivery. The organ swells behind him, and we are a million miles from the Diamonds and Pearls version. The key hook is absent, instead we have Mr Hayes filling the spaces with his heaving organ. The hook finally appears, but only just as we swing into a jazzy Violet The Organ Grinder.

It is jazzy sounding, with Prince scatting against a jazzy toned guitar. Some noodling by Mr Hayes adds to this feel, and when Prince does sing Violet The Organ Grinder it’s with a croon that completely throws me. That’s not to say I don’t like, I love it, it’s just not what I expected right now, which is exactly why I love listening to these shows and I never tire of listening to Prince and his bands. Prince playfully returns to his scat for the last couple of minutes of the song, but returns to singing just as the scat was coming dangerously close to out staying its welcome.

After a lengthy break the music and funk returns with a long jam. It’s much faster than before but not as heavy sounding. The instruments play quick and light and it does sound quite different from earlier jams, especially with a choppy guitar sound. There is the obligatory “I like funky music” chant, yet it’s all about the music and is a mostly instrumental jam. I am surprised to hear the lead guitar sound fire up, and Prince does give us a brief solo before the song becomes Release Yourself with a chant and singing to match. Although it goes for some time, it doesn’t reach any great heights, and it’s only a brief burst of guitar that sparks a flicker of interest in me. The rest of the jam is fine, but compared to the rest of the show it is a comedown.

P 1998

The show ends at this point and I am left to gather my thoughts. The show encapsulates everything I dislike and like about this period. There are some great moments and overall you can’t really fault the show and yet at the same time there is something missing, a fire, a passion or an excitement. I get the feeling that Prince is comfortable and playing well within himself. I do like the song choices and the different arrangements keep me interested, it’s just enough to keep me coming back for more. For me this is an enjoyable ‘middle of the road’ show that is well recorded, I would happily listen to it without ever feeling the need to recommend it to anyone.

Thanks for reading, next week I’ll take in another show from 1998 that is worth a closer look at

-Hamish

 

 

Paradiso, 25 March 1995

Sometime ago I wrote that if I ever got a time machine I would immediately head back to 1995 and the March 26th show a Paradiso. Mr Herman Hagen very kindly contacted me, and said that if this whole crazy time machine notion ever played out I should say hello to him on the 26th. He would be easy to find- having a black eye from one of Mayte’s boots from the show on the 25th.  So here I am with a recording of the 25th in my hand, already to give it a listen. Obviously I will not to hear the moment when Mayte stage dives and catches Mr Hagen in the eye, but at least I can hear the show and be with Herman in spirit if not in body, after all I am still some way off from completing my time machine.

25th March, 1995, Paradiso Amsterdam

“Go Michael, Go Michael” is a great way to start the show, and Michael B does come to the party with solid pound to introduce the band and the music. The recording isn’t too bad, and you can pick up the party atmosphere of the show right away. Prince has the crowd on has side right from the get go, having them sing along with him throughout Funky. It’s hard not to like it, and I do feel as if I am there as the crowd cheers and chants their way through the song. It’s no surprise that there is something for everyone in this first song, Mr Hayes adds his depth to it, and Prince throws in some funky guitar mid-song before indulging is some fast solos near the end. We are off to a fine start, and the band is feeling hot right from the first note.

Prince 1995 fun

The last few months I have written of my growing appreciation of 18 And Over, and here is no different. Prince dwells on the chorus this time, and obviously is getting a lot of enjoyment from having the crowd sing it back to him. The house is empty so I happily sing along, safe in the knowledge that my partner is going to walk in and quiz me on the questionable lyrics. Tommy plays a light sounding piano solo, unfortunately the recording is quiet at this moment, so I don’t enjoy it as much as I should. The long guitar break from Prince has me closing my eyes in enjoyment, not a loud rock solo, but a more measured and beautiful sounding break that well suits the late night vibe of the song. The song ends on a crowd pleasing high and they happily sing the chorus under Princes guidance.

Now is much deeper sounding, and more chaotic to boot. It’s not as fast as it is on record, and for me it at times lacks a spark. The best moments for me are the chorus and the ever present Morris Hayes. For the longest time I don’t feel it, but eventually Prince and the band do get to me, and there is some hand clapping and a passionate howl from Prince that has me completely sold on it. The song becomes the inevitable jam with a chant of “go Michael, go Michael” leading us into new territory. There is some popping bass to enjoy as the song slows and spins. There is a jam to the end with that is OK to me, although I feel I’m not getting the full experience listening to the audience recording. It’s something that needs to be heard live rather than a recording of.

I Believe In You was a staple in the setlist at the time, and although I do like the squelchy bass I am not really feeling the rest of the song tonight. There is a guitar break by Prince, rather pedestrian by his standards and even as it shimmers and shakes I still don’t get that spark of energy. It’s the second shortest song of the evening however and as it finishes I look forward to returning to the jams.

But first we get hi-tempo Proud Mary, with plenty of guitar runs from Prince. Its kept to the point, and introduction verse and chorus, then a minute of Princes soloing before a return to the chorus as the song finishes with a final burst from Prince. It’s all very sharp and not a note is wasted. It wraps up this burst of shorter songs and now we do indeed return to the longer jam.

Prince 1995 fun b

And when I say longer jams The Ride is one of the first ones I think of.  The rendition here is exactly as you might expect, after a smoky start Prince and his guitar ramp up, and as he finishes his solo the crowd gives a very appreciative cheer. I can hear why too, Prince plays expressively and passionately, while all the time there is the feeling that he is steadily in control. Everything is in its place, and as it should be. A great late night burner, Prince once again delivers with The Ride.

Glam Slam Boogie comes up next, and for the first time I think of the word groove. It does have a groove to it, and I easily bob along to it, as well as sing along with the crowd and their “ow we oh”. The guitar takes a back seat for a while and we have a couple of cool sounding keyboard breaks, something a bit different to break it up. It’s so easy sounding, and is a delight to listen to, I find it very uplifting as it plays. It could have been another 10 minute jam, but Prince and the band wrap it up in half that time, a shame as I was quite happy chilling out to this one, Mayte’s tambourine solo being a definite highlight.

Days Of Wild has a different sound to it, it’s not as aggressive sounding, although it is more in tune with what we have heard already, and more laid back in sound. I still like Princes lyrics, even if he’s not spitting them hard. Even the singing of the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” sounds somewhat muted. The bass starts rolling fast as we get a segue into Hair for a verse before the hook of Days Of Wild returns again with new enthusiasm. The crowd is much more into at this stage, and the singing returns with more vim and vigour. A final burst from Prince and the band finishes the song on a high after a slow start.

Prince 1995 fun c

From one wild song to another as Prince next kicks off Get Wild. Its a great performance, and to be honest I forget to write for the first couple of minutes as I listen intently. The vocals are catchy and infectious, and Maytes input is equally fun. The party sounds full in effect now, and I could easily see myself bouncing along to this song. The crowd adds a fast soul clap to the proceedings as Prince introduces us to the “play the motherfuckin bass” chant. I want to chant along to as the band is on fire at this stage and there is plenty of intensity to the song and performance. The band do sound as if they are getting wild, and I love that the performance and music match the lyrics. Each band member takes their turn to get wild, all of them add something to the song- I can hear the wildness coming out of the speakers at me. The soul clap comes down like rain, the crowd staying involved to the end with their singing and chanting, especially as Prince begins to sing “The roof is on fire” It becomes a jam that sounds as if it might go for ever, guitar comes and goes, as does singing and chanting, the occasional chorus and some cool sounding keyboards. Things sharpens near the end of the song with a guitar break from Prince before the groove tightens right up for the end. It’s only fitting that the “ow we oh” chant carries us through to a final roll from Michael B and the finish of the show.

I have listened to a lot of shows from 1995 in the last six months, and I think I may have reached saturation point. This show was funky, and the band was exceptional and tight. For all that though, I never quite warmed to it, even though it ticked many boxes of what I look for. Like I said, I have listened to plenty of shows like this in the last six months, and I think I am ready for something new. Sorry Herman, if I do ever finish that time machine I will buy you a beer at the show on the 26th, but don’t expect to see me on the 25th.

Thanks for reading, I have been very run down and sick for the last couple of weeks, and I think you can see that in the way I write. I’ll be back next week, back at full power and full of the joy of life

Take care
Hamish

Prince 1995 fun d