Glam Slam 27th June 1994

The years 1994 and 1995 are already well covered in this blog, some might go so far as to say they are over represented. With many of the setlists being similar, one may question why these concerts get so much coverage. It is true that the same music is heard again and again, but Prince and the band are discovering new sounds and textures, and with each song played as an extended version there is plenty of scope for surprising jams to be heard. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the performance on June 26th 1994. While researching the concert I read the Databank’s assessment that the show on the 27th was even better, and one of the best bootlegs of the era circulating. Which brings me to where I am today, headphones on, 4DF’s ‘Acknowledge Me’ in the player and I am all set to take a closer listen to what the Databank calls “one of the best of 1994”

27th June, 1994. Glam Slam Los Angeles

“The Star Spangled Banner” is the first song of the night, with its strong and forceful guitar tone Prince is making a clear signal of intent, the guitar will dominant early on. “The Ride” backs this up as it goes from it steady opening into a blazing solo that captures the listeners imagination even 20 years after the fact. Sometimes I find “The Ride” to be a plod, here it is anything but as the band turn it into a stonking celebration of Prince and his guitar abilities. As an opening number it slaps the faces of the audience, immediately snapping them into life.

Likewise, “The Jam” has a extra sense of energy and thrill to it. The recording is good at this stage, and the audience noise that is heard adds to the sense of the moment rather than detract from it. It all adds up to a version that I find I enjoy immensely, often I find I am waiting for “The Jam” to finish so we can get on to the other music, in this case I enjoy it just as much as anything else on the bootleg.

The first few songs have been good, but it is the following “Shhh” that makes this bootleg what it is. It is a sublime performance of a one of Prince most intense songs, the following minutes transport me to another world altogether. Princes vocals are spellbinding, and the guitar break is both haunting and incessantly angry at the same time. These eight minutes are the best of the recording and enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

I don’t think I have ever heard a bad version of “Days Of Wild”, and the performance here doesn’t break that winning streak. It is in its full head bobbing, heavy funk glory. However, it is the guitar break of Prince that has me grinning from ear to ear – it is sharp and forceful, cutting through the wild jungle of “Days Of Wild” like a flashing machete. The appendage of “Hair” is unnecessary in this performance, Prince has plenty of his own funk without having to dip his pen in someone else’s ink well. This is further highlighted when the bassline of “777-9311” suddenly appears, Princes own funk obliterating any memory of “Hair”

“Now” runs at a lengthy 13 minutes, turning into a long easy groove and jam. The second half is much more enjoyable, the band has a smooth way to them and the song flows easily from the speakers. Its is an easy groove that could go for hours, and even though not a lot seems to be happening it is still worth the listen. Especially catching is the chant of “Clap you hands somebody, somebody clap your hands”, which will be rattling around in my head for the rest of the day.

The next song is a live rarity. “Ripopgodazippa” was only played twice live, this performance is the second and last time. It doesn’t do anything more than is heard on the studio version, but it doesn’t have to as its seductive groove makes it another outstanding moment at this concert. Smoky and sexy, the late night groove fits perfectly in the setlist, and I can only wish that Prince had of played it more often. Again, it heightens the desirability of this bootleg and is another must listen.

Equally of the era is “Acknowledge Me”, from the opening notes it takes us directly back to 1994. The is a lively performance that stands up well to the other songs that have already appeared at the show, it doesn’t outshine anything else, but neither does it fade into the background. It’s a highly enjoyable moment that sets the baseline standard for the concert.

The following two songs are from the “Come” album and work as a nice pairing together. “Papa” is noisier than expected, it loses some of its message, but the music is undeniably good and carries the day. “Race” is a steady performance of a steady song.  It never catches fire at the concert, or on the recording, and although these run of songs are very good, this part of the show plateaus.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” restores the crowd’s enthusiasm and Prince’s performance gets a welcome cheer. The song is faultless and injects pop into a show that is otherwise a succession of funk jams. Its appearance is bright and the recording becomes energized again.

I would love to see the band get wild for “Get Wild”. It does sound like they are going all out,and even listening at home I can visualize what is happening on stage. The long jam keeps me interested, the bass and guitar parts hold me enraptured between the chanting and singing. My favorite moment though belongs to Tommy Barbarella who plays a fast and furious solo that bucks like a wild horse under his command. Every member makes an impression, and this is one of my favorite versions of “Get Wild” in circulation. This bootleg is rapidly approaching a 10/10.

That sentiment carries over to “Santana Medley” that comes next. I thought everything else so far had been great, but Prince finds a way to take the concert through the stratosphere with an epic rendition of the “Santana Medley” This is the moment where the recording almost spontaneously bursts into flames as Prince plays a soulful, yet furious guitar break. It continues to evolve and a couple of times Prince slips back into the shadows before reemerging with another solo that could strip paint from the walls. I listen intently as it spirals and turns, the world rotating around Prince for the minutes that he plays.

“Billy Jack Bitch” is a direct statement and one of the least veiled songs Prince has ever written. Prince takes on the media head on in a none too subtle attack on those that write about him. The live performance is not as venomous as the studio recording and some of Prince’s anger is dissipated by the music, in particular the swirling keyboards that provide a depth and backdrop to Prince’s sharp lyrics. It lives up to some of the other funkier moments in the concert and the final horn stabs drive the point home with a timeless funk sound.

The last song of the show is “Johnny”. Princes rap is much more relaxed, perhaps due to the recording, or perhaps reflecting his mood at this concert. The lyrics may be dated and nowhere as funny as they were at the time, yet the song still stands on its own two feet – especially as Prince’s guitar emerges from the groove with a snake charming solo that has me hanging on every note. The keyboard solo later in the song is every bit its equal and its easy to disappear into the groove and music at this point.  It is entirely fitting that the show ends with the crowd chanting “NPG” – this is very much a band performance and this final song sees them at their very finest.

This is a great release, in a year that is well covered by bootlegs, this one stands out. The quality of the recording is outstanding for an audience recording, but it is the show itself that garners the most praise. These songs are familiar to all Prince fans, and have been heard plenty of times over the years, yet here they are infused with an extra sparkle and energy. I can’t account for why that might be, all I know is that the show sounds fantastic and this is exactly the sort of bootlegs that ignites my passion. 10/10

 

Atlanta April 14th 2016, early show

Last week I finally overcame my mental and emotional block and took a listen to Prince’s final full live concert. I feel as if a great weight has been lifted, I now feel revitalized and ready to fully embrace the rest of this nights performance. Whereas the 10pm was emotionally heavy, the earlier show from that night promises to be a lighter experience, and something I can listen to without any emotional strings attached.

April 14th 2016 (show 1) Fox Theatre, Atlanta

The introduction music (“Confluence”) is a calm, serene way to begin the concert. What I notice is the sound of the ushers telling people to put their cell phones away – something I can appreciate as I recall the same experience when I saw the piano and microphone concerts in New Zealand. This introduction music is swept to one side as Prince takes the stage to the expected roar of the crowd. “Little Red Corvette” is a suitable opening number and the scene is set for what will unfold over the next 90 minutes. With “Dirty Mind” played mid song it lays the template for the evening, heartfelt ballads and stomping rhythmic piano songs alternating and demonstrating both sides of Prince’s piano talent. The one aspect of this performance that I find  uplifting is the easy way Prince has with the crowd, the stage is his home and natural environment and that is apparent through the song as he is completely at ease as he teases and talks to the audience.

The following song, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, is coloured by some wonderful piano flourishes. The lyrics may be what everyone remembers, but in this case the piano carries the day. It’s easy to sing along, but a close listen to the piano is far more rewarding.

Prince is in fine form, he speaks of his Father before giving a one time only performance of “Chopsticks”. Its worth hearing for novelty value alone, but Prince adds a musicality to it which elevates it to something much more. Trust me, you have never heard a version of “Chopsticks” as funky as this.

Without the guitar solo, “Joy In Repetition” becomes something else altogether. The  smokey opening of the song lingers throughout, without the payoff of the guitar break it stays in this sad melancholy mood, never breaking out of its foggy late night sound. I like it, I like it a lot. As much as I like the original, I find this arrangement grabs me tight round the heart and I am completely drawn into the web of music.

I am completely transported back to the ONA tour as “Muse 2 The Pharaoh” plays in my headphones. Nothing has changed in 15 years, and it is now just as it was then. The lyrics may not be to everyone’s taste (or anyones), but the music itself is fine and I am attracted to it. The fact that my head is nodding is a very good sign and once again Prince injects funk into it throw his playing. It comes as a pleasant surprise on the recording, but things about to get even better.

“U Got The Look” has Prince’s spoken “Here we are folks, the dream we all dream off” introduction, immediately it draws attention.  Without the drive of the guitar it isn’t as forceful, Prince instead using to the spaces in the music to make it a slow and rhythmic hip swinger. It isn’t as 2-dimensional as the original sometimes is, and I applaud Prince for adding new dimensions to a familiar classic.

It is “Pop Life” that follows and it moves in the other direction. The pop is missing out of it and this performance sounds labored and heavy. The audience do their part singing along, but it lacks color and to my ears it is a weak moment in the concert. The redeeming feature is the piano that rolls across the soundscape like an early morning mist across the fields.

Prince continues to craft atmosphere in the arena, his piano sculpturing and shaping the music into a mood. “Elephants & Flowers” has a rugged charm, the vocals following the piano into an ethereal pop dream. Criminally short, Prince again channels an all enveloping warmth through his instrument.

The show becomes a more traditional as Prince takes on “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”. As the piano rises and falls Prince delivers an urgent vocal delivery, each line coming as a jab out of the darkness. The lyrical content is highlight by Prince an his piano flourishes, the keys weeping as the female protagonist tells her story, before becoming  melancholy with Prince’s response of “I could never take the place of your man” It is a vivid demonstration of the power of music, and the ability to evoke emotion through both words and music.

“Under The Cherry Moon” is a delicate introduction to what is the heart of the concert. “A Case Of U” is played with a stark intimacy, Prince naked and vulnerable in this performance of one of his most endearing covers. The lyrics may be Joni Mitchell’s but the performance is pure Prince, the song climaxing with several raw shrieks that turn a love song into a jagged wound.

There is a familiar warmth to “I Feel For U”. Like oak paneling it is both warm and homely, without ever raising a level of excitement.  As always it is more than welcome in the setlist, but as far as challenging the audience, it is about as threatening as wet spaghetti.

The following “Controversy” is equally familiar, but its energized in the skeletal form. The expected funk is generated purely by Prince and his piano, a more natural funk than what is heard in the full band performances later in his career. There is an extra buzz as he threatens to go off script and deliver the whole Lords prayer,  the tension is palpable as he sings the first line, but he reins it in and ends the song. A shame as that would have sent the whole thing over the top.

There are limitations to “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”. Prince’s vocals are stressed and one feels its not coming to him as easy as it once did. His lower register is much more rewarding, for both him and the listener, and it is at this point the song becomes a vivid tribute to all those beautiful women in his life.

I dare you to listen to “I Would Die 4 U” without a huge smile on your face. A glorious pop song, after 30 years its time in the sun surely should have passed – yet it hasn’t and on this recording it sounds just as evangelical and uplifting as it ever has.

“Baby I’m A Star” draws energy from the same place and the crowd are soon whipped up into the frenzy that Prince’s concerts are renowned for. Without a full band it falls on Prince to provide the impetus and drive for the song, there is no doubt that he more than rises to the occasion. With a jolt of energy he plays a spirited and intoxicating rendition that sounds just as good on the bootleg as it does at the live show.

One vinyl David Bowie’s “Heroes” is a sonic storm that makes the ordinary extraordinary, small moments becoming heroic gestures as Bowie buildings everyday life into triumph of man. Prince’s cover, although well intention, is none of these things. Whereas Bowie had the metallic whine that spoke to the grimness of everyday life before reaching the life affirming chorus, Prince has piano flourishes and runs that come from a musicality rather than emotional space. David Bowie ends “Heroes” in near hysteria as he sings his vocals from the end of the world. Not once does Prince dig deep into this same emotion instead he gives the song a light touch, electing to highlight the joy of the piano as he replaces the intensity with a soulful performance that sounds as if its being played in a church. It is a beautiful moment, but it can’t come close to the raw-nerved performance of David Bowie.

After the briefest of breaks it is the line of “this will be the day” that draws the biggest cheer of the night. This opening is merely the entree, Prince pausing to let the crowd appreciate what is coming before he  resumes. Each line shines brightly as they quickly fade, the song itself barely a minute as it ends with the crowd singing choir-like the final line, a fitting end as the concert is about to become a revival meeting as Prince brings out some of his finest material.

Prince knows he doesn’t have to try too hard with these final songs, the crowd isn’t here for the full architecturally sculptured renditions, they just want to know the song was plays and have a few lines to sing along with. The opening line of “Adore” is enough to send the crowd into raptures before they provide back up to Prince as he sings the first verse. With pause the song becomes “The Beautiful Ones”, the crowd still very much involved as Prince lingers on the lyrics. Listening at home is a frustrating experience as Prince swings back to Adore after a few lines, each song uniquely beautiful yet neither is satisfying as Prince cuts and pastes them into the show.

Much more nourishing is “Do Me, Baby”. The song is only a couple of minutes, but Prince plays a traditional arrangement with verses and chorus appearing as they should. It is short, but it there is much more to sink our teeth into compared to the previous songs and at this point the concert resumes a familiar format.

“I Wanna Be Your Lover” gets the same respectful treatment as “Do Me, Baby”. Although it too is short, Prince plays as one might expect with a spring in his step and a the crowd matching him word for word. The audience are a little too much in places on the recording, but it is a live concert and I can fully appreciate they are in the moment.

The final song of the evening is “Kiss”. For the audience it is one final flourish, although Prince’s piano playing is rather rather workman like, the audience provide the spark and enthusiasm that is missing from the piano. It is a surprising end to the performance, the show never reaches the expected climax and instead stops suddenly instead of going out with a bang.

I wanted to like this show a lot more than I actually did. The pieces seem to be in place for a great show, the songs are certainly there, and Prince sounded great early on. I found myself waiting for a big moment, a big moment that never came. By the time the end of the show arrived I realized that the best pieces of the concert had passed and I didn’t even notice them. It’s hard to be too critical of the Piano and Microphone concerts, I applaud Prince for doing something different, but in this case I found the abridged versions too light for my taste and left me hungry for more. No doubt this will get played plenty more as a companion piece to Prince’s final performance later that night, but as a concert I would choose to listen to, I’d probably pass.

Thanks for reading
-Hamish

Atlanta, April 14 2016 – Final show

Prince’s final concert. I had intended to write about this a couple of weeks ago and post it before the first anniversary of his death. I prepared myself to listen to it several times, but in the end I just couldn’t. Even though I have these recordings in my hands for sometime now I have never managed to bring myself around to listening to them. I knew that hearing them I would have to acknowledge that these are his final performances and that he is no longer with us. Twelve months on and I can’t bring myself to do it. Deep inside of me I want to believe that there is more, that somehow this is all a dream, an alternative reality. I have experienced plenty of pain and loss in my life before, yet the passing of Prince has shook me to the core and I haven’t properly dealt with it as yet. I keep pushing the feelings away, turning the music up louder, thinking that I will process it at a later date. Part of that process starts now, as I sit with my headphones on, prepared to listen to his final show. The music of Prince has always been comforting to me and I hope the music will carry me through these days and weeks as the finality of his passing hits me. The next hour and a half I will both mourn and celebrate his music and life as I lose myself in the music.

April 14th 2016 (show 2) Fox Theatre, Atlanta

A heavyweight performance of “When Will We B Paid?” begins the concert. It has a sombre air to it, Prince making the lyrics real to him and the audience with an emotional performance that balances between melancholia and a deep anger. This song was played plenty of times over the years, but none punch as hard as this solo performance that distills 300 years of slavery and mistreatment into a gut wrenching four minute piano performance.

Lyrically “The Max” is completely different. The piano playing stays with the dark tone, a touch more funk in the keys, but it is the colorful lyrics that lift the concert. With plenty of encouragement to be heard from the audience, I am reminded that this is an audience recording. Its not a bad recording, but there is plenty of audience to be heard and I feel that as Prince’s journey is coming to an end so too is mine – the recording dragging me back to the first bootlegs I bought as I reflect on my own history through Prince’s music.

The change to “Black Sweat” is barely perceivable, the funk grows stronger with the piano gaining some intensity. Prince is in full flow at this point, the music and lyrics streaming from the stage to an appreciative audience who lap it all up and respond the best way they know how. Although the music is as sharp as ever, there is a looseness to the performance itself, the music serving as a bridge between the audience and Prince as they celebrate each other.

 

One of the first B-sides that I gravitated to as a teenager was “Girl”. I don’t know how many times I spun it on my turntable before I eventually dubbed it onto a cassette tape with some other B-sides so I could listen to it on the go. To hear it performed at this concert is a treat to the teenage me who still resides deep inside of me. It may not have the bump and pop of the recorded version, but here Prince lets it percolate in his off kilter piano playing, infusing it with a hint of jazz that appeals to the more mature 40 year old me. It is not the best song of the recording, but it does serve as reminder of all the genres and influences that Prince brought to his music.

I never realized how uplifting “I Would Die 4 U” was until I heard these piano and microphone performances. With the single piano building up with layers of music, it’s hard not to be swept up by Prince’s spiritual message and optimism. After the sober opening, it comes as a blinding light, sweeping away the shadows of the first songs.

“Baby I’m A Star” comes in the same vein, all energy and celebration of life and music. The lyrics may sound egocentric and boastful, but the music is pure joy and energy for all to enjoy. Coupled with “I Would Die 4 U” , these minutes see me sitting back with a huge smile on my face, wrestling with the urge to get up and dance by myself. There is plenty of humour as he indulges in an imaginary dialogue with Dr Fink, all the while puling more and more funk from his piano. This section alone is enough for me to strongly recommend listening to this part of the show.

Although only a few minutes long, “The Ballard of Dorothy Parker” has plenty of time for Prince to bury himself in the piano playing, especially as the song segues in “Four”. There are intricate flourishes as his hands flash across the keys, the notes spinning out quickly across the recording. It is easy enough to sing along with “The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker”, but the best moments of the song are when the piano dominates – like the poster says, it is piano and microphone .

As much as I enjoy “Dark”, at this show it is neither here nor there. There is no single part of the song that stands out, it flows easily enough without grabbing my attention. It is one of the longer songs of the concert and for that it has to be commended as many other songs are truncated. However, it drifts without direction and leaves no memorable impression on me.

 

“Indifference” is the first song of the concert that has me emotional. Maybe it’s the music, or Princes spoken lyrics. As the song plays out my eyes glaze over and I feel a lump forming in my throat. This feeling is only heightened as the song ends with several audience members calling out “We love you” as Prince begins to play one of my favourite songs “I Love U, But I Don’t Trust U Anymore”. The lyrics are what I appreciate most in the song, but in this case I concentrate on the beautiful piano playing that sweeps and washes across the recording. As emotionally poignant as the lyrics are, the music is the main focus and draws just as many tears as Prince’s vocals.

I do enjoy the beginning of “Little Red Corvette”, but it is the song it is paired with, “Dirty Mind”, that I really get a kick out of hearing. With its youthful exuberance I am transported back in time, when everything felt so free and easy. Prince’s lyrics maybe pleading for more from his girl, but the music tells a different a story, a story of hope and the possibility that anything might happen. The song comes full circle as Prince returns to “Little Red Corvette” but nothing can beat the previous few minutes.

There next comes another emotional heavyweight with “Nothing Compares 2 U”. This weight of emotion is undone by the quality of the recording, for which my tear stained handkerchief is thankful. It is another classy performance, yet as I listen to Prince play and sing I can’t help but think how much stronger it sounded (and how much more emotional) with Shelby J. Without the strong female vocals to bounce off, a lot of Princes vocals seem to disappear into the darkness of the arena without finding an emotional base to land upon.

Although I am no great fan of “Cream”, it certainly brings a smile to my face. Prince toys with it, playing a stop start version that has the audience singing heartily along (after some encouragement from Prince himself). Prince tells the audience to sing it to themselves in the mirror when they get home, yet this version is all about togetherness and being in the moment as Prince and the crowd come together for a  fun filled performance that sounds just as good here at home as it was no doubt on the night.

The easy swing of “Black Muse” follows. Dedicated to the ladies, it has me nodding my head with the beat from the start. This performance highlights the ‘pop’ aspect of the song, and provides a pleasant diversion from some of the other heavy weights surrounding it.

There is very little surprise with “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” in the setlist, and in this case the familiarity of the song works against it. Most of these songs are new to the piano setting and gain from the stripped back arrangement. “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?” has always been a solo piano number and as such there is nothing new here at all. Prince is in a playful mood, the audience responding with plenty of laughter and singing along to the very end, making this an enjoyable listen without being essential.

The encores get off to a strong start with a gentle “Waiting In Vain” / “If I Was Your Girlfriend”.  “Waiting In Vain” is the more dominant of the two, and the music begins and ends with this song. It is a gentle performance, the music moves easily without drawing emotion. It is the longest song of the night, yet it moves at its own pace and never out stays its welcome. I was expecting a lot more from “If I Was Your Girlfriend” but I more than happy with what I hear.

Again emotion creeps into the recording as Prince plays “Sometimes It Snows In April”. It’s not over wrought, most of the emotion I hear is what I bring to the moment rather than the performance itself. Listening carefully, it is surprisingly light, and Prince keeps it upbeat. The music may draw from melancholia, but Prince’s sad words are delivered in an bright manner that undoes some of the emotion. It is easy to listen to, the song that I thought would be hardest to hear tonight is instead a beautiful moment that brightens the room.

“Purple Rain” has a majestic opening and for the first few minutes I listen intently, completely forgetting that I am supposed to write about it. The piano introduction has a grandeur to it which is unmatched elsewhere in the song. The arrangement from here on in is an interesting one, Prince reaches the  chorus, where he gains a strong audience singalong, before moving on “The Beautiful Ones”. “The Beautiful Ones” aches as Prince teases out the first verse and chorus. It never reaches the climax it promises, just as it seems he will take it to the epic finale it deserves he returns to “Purple Rain”, picking it up easily where he left off. It’s short-lived, another verse and chorus before “Diamonds and Pearls” makes an appearance. It’s not particularly noteworthy, barely half a minute, but it does elicit an cheer from the crowd. Prince again picks up the strands of “Purple Rain” as he returns for the climax of the song and the performance. The final minutes of the music are lost to my conscious self the thought plays over and over in my mind  “this is the last time, this is the last time”. “Purple Rain” can run on and on,there are concerts where it flows like a unending river, but here it doesn’t and its over before I am aware of it. The cold reality hits me.This is the last time.

Reflecting back over this recording my thoughts are many. I can’t untie this bootleg from the rest of Prince’s life and career. There are fleeting moments when I consider the bootleg dispassionately, its good and I want to hear it again. But mostly it tugs at my heart, my emotion. It draws tears to my eyes, and brings a lump to my throat. This recording will always come with the caveat – this is the final one. My collection of Prince concerts ends at April 14th 2016. This is the last time.

Glam Slam West 1994

I have already covered a few shows from 1994, yet I still find myself drawn to the year again and again. With Prince playing with a looseness and freshness, the concerts of this era always sound lively when listening, even if the setlists are often very similar. The concert I am listening to today comes from a recommendation from someone who was there. It was apparently quite a night and even though the setlist doesn’t reveal anything too surprising, the performance is outstanding: there is a guest appearance by Stevie Wonder and Mavis Staples that makes the recording compulsory listening. Both add soul and link Prince back to the past, cementing his place on Mt Olympics with the other music gods. With plenty of twists and turns in the music, there is plenty to appreciate with a closer listen, but like everyone, it’s these guest appearances that are the real reason I want to hear this.

26th June 1994, Glam Slam, Los Angeles

I am immediately surprised by the opening “The Jam”. A song that I often find pedestrian and overly long, in this case it is upbeat and captures my attention from the start. This is helped in large part by Morris Haynes who is first to play and gives us a solo in his typical style. The song moves quickly, no one person plays too long, and with a Michael Bland drum solo appearing midsong I find the recording has an early momentum to it. The final Sonny T bass solo isn’t anything I haven’t heard before, but it does bring the song to a stomping finish.

I have heard “I Believe In You” across a variety of concerts and the version played at this concert is one of the more memorable versions I have heard. The opening minutes don’t offer much, it is once Prince turns his guitar up that the song becomes something much more muscular and forceful. He plays with finesse rather than a fury, something that demonstrates his ability far more than a flurry of notes would. Without overworking the guitar, Prince’s break elevates the song and adds a backbone to a song that was previously meandering.

As “Interactive” begins I am transported back to 1994 and the Interactive video game in an instant. Such is the power of music to bring back memories. The version at this show doesn’t begin strongly, it is the second part of the song where all the thrills and excitement await. Prince’s guitar leads the way, with a minute of incisive and sharp playing that leaves me dizzy. It may be only a minute, but it is a thrilling ride showing Prince at his best.

“Days Of Wild” is a 13 minute jam the encapsulates all that was good and great about Prince and the NPG in 1994. The band jam easily across the song, the insistent funk staying to the fore as they throw a variety of sounds over the top of it. The heavy squelch holds the bottom, something that I usually enjoy most, but in this case there is so much else happening I find I hardly notice it. Prince is in fine form, joking with the band as he runs them through their paces. The bass playing late in the song is the definite highlight – firstly a light solo that has me swooning here at home, then switching to “777-9311”, at which point I almost faint in child-like excitement. The song is a 10 in my book, and by the time the guitar comes with waves of bluster and bravado I am considering scoring it an 11.

As an album track “Now” is neither here nor there. Live, however, it is another great moment, and like the preceding “Days Of Wild”, it gets a 13 minute jam. As an all-in performance the song becomes a glorious live celebration, the crowd can be heard chanting a whooping in appreciation throughout. I particularly like the breakdown midsong, as the music slows and the long groove of Morris Hayes carries the song for some minutes. The song continues as a laid back groove for quite sometime, even with Prince on the microphone and guitar it still doesn’t ignite back into a song again until well past the ten minute mark. As Prince sings “Superstitious” the music stays low, his lone guitar signalling the end of the song.

Prince’s guitar stays the main focus with “Mary Don’t You Weep”. He plays a sparkling opening before the lyrics begin, and then as the music changes he returns with a further cascade of guitar. The crowd contribute their part as Prince leads then through a chorus, before the keyboards come on board with a solo from Tommy that is easy on the ear. The response from Prince is great, some mellow and melodic guitar work that displays an intricacy and emotional core. It is his guitar that carries the song to its natural conclusion, flowing easily until it dries up.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is mature in it’s sound, it lacks some sparkle of the single release, yet this mustang mix is far more rewarding and holds up well on repeated listening. It is a complete performance, Prince is playing well within the band and to my ears it is more complete and well rounded. The song is marinated in a funky adult rhythm that hints to the growth of Prince at this time and new directions he is pursuing. The is no doubt though that the real highlight comes in the final minutes as Prince calls for Stevie Wonder to come to the stage, preparing us for what comes next.

There is some mutual love between the two as Stevie Wonder opens up on the microphone about the influence of Prince and all those that came before, thus providing context where Prince’s music fits into the big picture. The following song is anything that you might expect or wish for. There is plenty of Stevie’s singing as they play “Maybe Your baby”, plenty of funky keyboards, and plenty of Prince’s hot guitar playing. He doesn’t mess around with a smoldering solo here, it is all furnace and fire as he puts an exclamation point on all that Stevie provides. This moment of the bootleg promised the world, and boy did it deliver.

The high standard is maintained for the following “I’ll Take You There” with Mavis Staples leading from the front. As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive version with Mavis’s vocals, Princes guitar and the bass of Sonny T playing up a storm together. Mavis stands head and shoulders above all else though, and her contribution can’t be underestimated. I thought the appearance of Stevie was mind blowing, Mavis comes a very close second and almost upstages him.

“Dark” comes as a smooth ride after this, it would be a let down if it wasn’t just so easy and enjoyable to listen to.  Prince again becomes the main focus of the show as the music swirls and stabs around him, not quite concrete enough to latch onto yet the stabs providing a sharpness that gives the song some shape. It may not as monumental as some of the other performances on the recording, but I find it just as satisfying.

The song does become an upbeat instrumental which, although four minutes long, serves as an introduction for “Get Wild”. It does flicker and flame for sometime before Prince calls for Mayte and “Get Wild” kicks off in high gear. It’s not terribly interesting musically, as is his way Prince uses most of the song to engage with the audience, encouraging them to sing the chorus and get wild themselves. It sounds like a lot of fun, but on the bootleg it is a flat spot.

The show ends with a raw “Peach”, introduced by the comment “This is a cover version of a song by someone called Prince”.  Its fast, full and frenzied. Prince’s guitar is wonderfully dirty and leaves very little space for anything else in the song, exactly as it should be. Peach can get repetitive, but this performance is one of the better ones and it is a bright ending to what has been an excellent concert.

This recording delivered everything it promised. As to be expected, the guest appearances were phenomenal and the rest of the show was just as spirited. There are plenty of great bootlegs from the 1994 concerts, this one would be very high on my recommendations list. I am thankful that it was recommended to me and I would happily recommend it to anyone else.

 

Thanks again
Hamish

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 2

The new Eye records release of the Uniondale shows was just too much to digest at one sitting, so today I return to the second show featured on the recording – Uniondale March 23rd, 1985. It does differ from the other Uniondale concert in several ways. There is a performance of Head that has me a gasp, as well as “Condition Of The Heart”, “Raspberry Beret” and “America” all making appearances, pointing towards the release of Around The World In a Day later in the year. Like the previous concert there are edits throughout, in particular “Raspberry Beret” is missing its second verse,  I am prepared to overlook that for now and enjoy the recording for what it is, a passionate delivery of one of Princes most beloved concert tours.

23rd March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

We’re now 32 years beyond the Purple Rain tour and yet I have still not tired of the “Let’s Go Crazy” opening. This rendition captures my imagination, the guitar touches on the raw sound that appeals to my punk rock roots and it has a similar energy. The recording is nice and clean, and this emphasizes the dirtiness of Princes guitar. I may have had reservations based on being overly familiar, yet I am sold on it from the start.

Likewise, “Delirious” gets a firm pass from me. It has never stood out to me as a great song, the performance though has me seeing it in a different like, especially as I can hear a wonderful funk guitar playing in the background. The soundboard recording is paying dividends and I get much more out of the song at this concert than I normally do. There is much more to it than I previously thought, and the bootleg nerd in me revels in all the small details I can hear.

There is a natural pairing of “1999” and “Little Red Corvette”. Although both from the same album they come from different places and “1999” is as much a celebration as “Little Red Corvette” is a sensitive moment in a concert that is otherwise bombastic. I am drawn to both of them, but at the end of the day it is “Little Red Corvette” that has me pushing the repeat button. There is plenty of great guitar work in “1999”, yet it is the synthesizer in “Little Red Corvette”  that places me at the concert. There is also some notable guitar work in “Little Red Corvette” as the song provides something for everyone and I think by the time it ends most people would be well satisfied with the preceding ten minutes.

I find “Take Me With U” to be highly enjoyable, although again, I gravitate towards the later section of the song as Prince dresses it up with some lead guitar and the hook of “All The Critics Love U In New York” Catchy and fun, this moment comes as a lightness before the following “Yankee Doodle” drags the show down.

I want the following “Do Me, Baby” to be great. I want it to ooze out my speakers and fill the room with love and lust. It shapes up well, but like most of these Purple Rain performances, it  is abridged and runs at only a couple of minutes. Despite its brief appearance, I still find it to be a highlight and it is certainly a lot better than “Yankee Doodle” that came before it.

The guitar is sharp and carries plenty of funk for  “Irresistible Bitch”. The guitar is subverted for the following “Possessed”, where the horn of Eric Leeds dominates. He is in fine form, and Prince introduces him to the crowd with a humorous “He just got out of college”. That comment belies the immense talent that Eric is as he interlaces his style all through the song, making it another standout.

The piano set at this show is a highlight and for me is the best part of the gig. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” has some very ‘Princely’ ad-libs in the final minute, in particular I get a kick out of “How come you don’t screw me, anymore?”. However, this is merely the appetizer, it is “Condition Of The Heart” that serves as the main course in this delightful treat. He may wrap it up after a couple of minutes, but it leaves an aftertaste that lasts with me long after. Prince coyly introduces “Raspberry Beret” with “You wanna hear some more new songs? Can you keep a secret?”, before the now familiar piano riff plays. Princes vocals stand out alone in front of the music, I find this adds a lot to the song. It sparkles in its freshness and Prince is obviously relishing sharing his new music with the audience. Sadly, the second verse has been edited out, but what remains still sounds good.

“Head” is introduced as “Something nasty” and it is a piano driven, rhythm and funk monster. Prince works the crowd with his chants and piano riffs as it becomes a stop start jam. With Eric Leeds playing over Prince’s bare piano it becomes different from what one would normally expect, making it something special that is worth coming back too. Even with the rest of the band, the song comes as a stripped back groove. Eric does lead it off to a lighter and more ethereal place, giving the song a lightness I have never heard before.

The band are again the focus for “Lets Pretend We’re Married”, both Wendy and Eric get a shout out. Eric can be heard all over the song, but for my money Wendy is the star. Even though she only gets the briefest of solos, she is sounding fierce and raw, two attributes I look for first when listening to guitarists.

It is hardly worth mentioning “International Lover”, barely 20 seconds of singing and a minute of crowd cheering, but “God’ follows and that deserves a much closer listen. It’s a fine rendition, with Prince taking some time with this introspection. As much as I like the song, it doesn’t fit well with the overall concert and as it gives way to “Computer Blue” there is the feeling that it is misplaced.

I enjoy both halves of “Computer Blue”. Usually it is the guitar fueled first half that I give all my attention to, but in this case the song is well balanced and I find I give equal credence to the delicate piano playing in the second section. That is, of course, eventually overwhelmed by the heavier groove, but not before it has made a lasting impression on me.

Some of the heavier guitar from “Computer Blue” bleeds through to “Darling Nikki”. The guitar have an extra crunch to them which gives the song a different texture against the wall of synthesizer. The music is good enough that I forget the lyrical content, which is normally the main focus, and instead just sit back and swim in the groove of it. This is another song that is resurrected by the soundboard recording, new nuances can be picked out and the song heard in a new light in this context.

“The Beautiful Ones” may have an alluring beginning, but it is the epic finish that stands out. Prince works the audience and the song into a climax that sounds as intense on record as it must have been onstage. “The Beautiful Ones” gets plenty of credit for being beautiful, but it is the intensity of the moment that marks this one as a great performance.

It is “When Doves Cry” that follows, no surprises there. It begins and ends with a great guitar performance from Wendy, who nails her part with a rock solid drive. The opening riff and squeal throwing down the gauntlet, the song staying as a groove, before Wendy accepts the challenge with her guitar solo and a solid riff that carries the song to the end. It is much less pop than heard on record, but I for one love it even more for its relentless drive and cold percussive sound.

Three minutes of pure pop joy follows with “I Would Die 4 U”. Its lightness comes as a great contrast after “When Doves Cry” and the concert again soars as the band plays.

“Baby I’m A Star” is heavily edited. There are still moments to enjoy, just try not to think about what isn’t there. As always, Eric Leeds gives plenty over a great rhythm groove, the piano and guitar both propelling the song forward.  As much as I enjoy it, I can’t help but think about what isn’t there. An audience recording of the same show reveals it to run at a longer 13 minutes, so what we have here is barely half the song. Still lets be positive, better to enjoy what we do have and appreciate the soundboard recording.

The opening few minutes of “Purple Rain” are heaven to me. I could quite happily listen to introduction on loop for the rest of my life. I can’t put my finger on it, but it makes me feel warm, safe, nostalgic, and hopeful all at once. The rest of the is good, but it does have an obvious cut that is quite jarring (at least to my ears). I still give it a solid pass mark, however, as the song is as we know it and it is a lot more complete than the first show covered by this release.

The show ends with one final encore, a furious run through of “America”. The edits made to “Baby I’m A Star” are all but forgiven as the band jam on “America” for ten minutes. There is plenty of guitar work for those who like that sort of thing, tempered again by Eric Leeds who comes to the party with lots of honk and sass. Prince does stop the song at one point, apparently to chastise those fighting in the audience, although it can’t be anything too serious as its only briefly before the band pick right back up on their groove. The band are relentless and the guitars derive a lot of passion and drive from the strong groove. The basic sound is supplemented by a Shelia E solo, but the real star of the performance is the song itself. There is a much stronger synth sound, especially on the left, and it gives a solid backdrop for the guitar to play. The song passes by surprisingly quick and, before I know it, it ends and I’m sitting in silence.

Somebody said to me the other day that this is their release of the year. Even with the edits and tags, its hard not to disagree with them. Both shows are fantastic, and the soundboard brings the Purple Rain concerts into sharp focus. I am not normally a great fan of Eye records, but I must admit the packaging and material here is exception. One can only hope that there is plenty more where this one came from.

Until next time, take care
Hamish

 

 

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 1

There has plenty to enjoy in the world of bootlegs in the last few days. Anyone who follows the blog knows how much I enjoyed the Act I video that appeared last week. I am also equally enthused by the Eye records release covering two Purple Rain shows from Uniondale. One show is pretty exciting, but to have two (in soundboard quality), is beyond exciting. I am giddy with joy. I should wait until I have a clear head before I write about them, but right now all I want to do is celebrate the Purple Rain tour and the songs of the era. There are two shows on the release, that is a lot to digest, so I will be taking in one now and the other later in the week. OK, enough words, I’m dying to get this on and crank the volume to maximum.

20th March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

The quality of the soundboard recording is apparent from the opening number. “17 Days” is normally quite bassy on concert recordings and even though the bass is prominent, even highlighted at some points, it is the other instruments and players that the recording brings to the fore. I am won over from the start, Prince sounds great, the backing vocals are nice in clean in my ear and the saxophone work by Eddie M adds new textures to the song. I’m in seventh heaven and the rhythm guitar in the right speaker is just the type of sound I love to hear.

The introduction to “Let’s Go Crazy” is the next thing heard on the recording, a song we all very familiar with, especially in the context of the Purple Rain shows. Being the second song, it does lose some of its impact, but that is secondary as again it is the quality of the sound that is of utmost importance. Each member of The Revolution is heard, and they do sound as if they are still as fresh as ever, even this late in the tour. The girls voices are sensational and even through the cacophony of noise I find I focus on them.

“Delirious” is a pleasant division, the piano playing by Prince is always a lot of fun, but it is the following “1999” that again highlights the soundboard recording. With the band taking turns to sing and all contributing to backing vocals, there is plenty to be heard for the careful listener. However, the best moments when I stop listening too hard and instead let the music carry me away. With “1999” blowing in my sails I sail back to my youth, Prince and The Revolution providing a soundtrack that has been with me all my life. “1999” may not be the first Prince song I would reach for to listen to, but tonight it hits my sweet spot and the minutes it plays I am in another time and place.

The introduction is key to “Little Red Corvette”. Over half the song is given over to the opening and it plays as a soundscape that sets the mood. The rest of the song is the standard run through, no bad thing in this case as at this stage it is still fresh and exciting with lyrics that  demonstrate Prince’s clever use of the double entendre.

There is plenty of keyboard in the left speaker for “Take Me With U”, although this is offset by a sharp guitar in the right which gives it balance. The final minute of the song could go either way, a dance number or a guitar frenzy. In this case it is the guitar version with Prince playing some catchy riffs. I do like it, but I am surprised it isn’t louder or more forceful. Criminally short, it’s one of those moments that leaves me hungry for more.

I’m going to skip over “Yankee Doodle”, it has never worked for me and here is the same. It’s a shame that it runs for almost six minutes, while the following “Do Me, Baby” gets a scant couple. “Do Me, Baby” ends just as it was building to something bigger, replaced by Wendy playing the funkiest of riffs. This brings in the funk part of the show as The Revolution groove through “Irresistible Bitch” and “Possessed”. “Possessed” is the longer of the two, a mostly instrumental jam that features plenty of Wendy on guitar and Eddie M or Eric Leeds on saxophone. The band do play a full rendition, but it sounds so good I could easy lap up another few minutes.

Prince is at the piano for “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”, another song that benefits from the soundboard recording. Eye may have messed up the sound on the Worcester recording, but in this case they have it just right. Prince is sounding right in the room with me and ever note from the piano hangs in the air. Even his cliched speech at the end sounds thrilling and reinvigorated.

The spoken lyrics of “Temptation” serves as an introduction to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, a song that kick starts the concert back to life. This show is recorded only a week and a half before the widely know Syracuse concert and many of Princes spoken parts are the same as that concert, as too are the arrangements of many of the songs. Such is the case with “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and the following “International Lover”. Both could well have been lifted from the Syracuse show, they sound very close to those renditions. Due to this, I find this part of the show overly familiar, I enjoy these songs but could happily skip over Prince and his speaking to God without feeling I am missing anything.

The same can’t be said of the song “God”, I listen intently as Prince plays and sings what I feel is one of his most personal songs. The opening half of the song is deceiving, the passion and emotion all lies in the second half as Prince screams and shrieks his way to a climax.

It becomes a normal rock concert again as the band arrive with “Computer Blue”. It is a massacre, the guitar is Prince’s weapon of choice and he slays throughout the song, his guitar cutting great swaths through the song and lyrics. The best comes late in the song as the music changes and allows more room for his guitar to be heard alone. With an insistent drive the song comes to an end with Wendy and Lisa intoning their cold lines.

Things warm again for “Darling Nikki”, and although I can’t see it, in my mind the stage is bathed in reds. Most people come for the lyrics, but what really attracts me is the dirty guitar sound along with the uplifting keyboards. There is a contrast between both which creates a tension, something I can’t help but pay attention to.

I’m not really one for the spoken introduction of “The Beautiful Ones”, but the song itself has me hooked. Prince casts a spell, the vocals and music coming together in a wonderful display of song writing. Prince has written many ballads, but none compare to this masterpiece. His performance here is as good as any other, he is at the peak of his powers and the song is one of the best of the concert, if not the very best. I am a rock guy, so I don’t say that lightly, normally I am drawn to the guitar led numbers, but “The Beautiful Ones” has me in complete awe of Prince’s vocal prowess and sweeping keyboards that bath the song in soft emotion, only punctuated by Princes howls in the final moments as he ramps up the intensity.

Maybe I haven’t heard “When Doves Cry” for a while, but I don’t remember the opening guitar sounding so darn good. The guitar may lure me in, but it is the keyboard hook that lodges itself firmly in my ear and even after 30+ years I still find it as catchy as hell. Prince’s lyrics come and go and I find it is Wendy and her guitar that I am listening to most. Not just the rhythm guitar either, the solo she plays is passionate without resorting to a howl or wail. She conveys plenty of emotion while keeping the solo neatly manicured. The best is saved for last however, and the final minutes has the bass and guitar creating a funky groove that could go for days.

There is one final pop moment before the show moves to long jams. “I Would Die 4 U” never lets me down in this respect, the drum machine and keyboards creating a backdrop for Prince and Wendy to drop their melodies. It is short as always, yet just as important as any other song on the night.

“Baby I’m a Star” is the penultimate song, and it comes as a final blow out for the band. It is the saxophone that is the real hero here, as the band play their brand of funk it is to the fore providing fast and furious runs over top of the groove. I can’t stress enough, it is fantastic. Eric Leeds or Eddie M, I can’t tell, but I cling to it the whole way, it sounds beautiful to my ears. The concert is coming to an end soon enough, but what a way to finish.

The final song is obviously “Purple Rain”, although unfortunately all we get on this recording is two and a half minutes of introduction. Normally I would gush about this part of the song, although robbed of the full version it does diminish the beauty of this opening stanza. With soft, emotive guitar, it promises much more, we can only wonder what might have been.

Last time Eye records released a Purple Rain soundboard I was left bitterly disappointed. Not so this time. Prince and the band give an energetic performance that carries through well to the recording. As a record of a Purple Rain show this is a great document. However, it is not perfect. Any “Prince nerd” would notice that Eye have edited out parts of songs, the circulating audience recording of the same show clearly demonstrating the cuts that Eye have made.It’s not just one or two songs either, about a third of the songs have some sort of edit made on them.  An archivist would find this extremely irritating, a passionate fan less so. It is easy enough to over look this, sit back and just soak up the music of Prince at the zenith of his fame. It’s great to have another soundboard in the collection and I look forward to having a listen to the second show in the next few days.

Thanks again
take care
-Hamish

1993 New York – 26th March

Sometime ago I took a listen to a concert from the Act 1 tour; 24th March in New York to be precise. Now here I am a couple years later taking a look at the recently surfaced footage from the same venue just a couple of days later. The show is exactly the same, but the new footage is very well shot, especially considering it is audience filmed. Although I am well versed in the performance Prince put on throughout the Act 1 tour, this new video has me again enthused and the quality of the filming makes it a rewarding couple of hours. I cannot speak highly enough of this new footage, the years rewound as I watched it and the concert tour seems only yesterday in my mind. It’s hard to believe it is almost 25 years ago.

26th March, 1993 Radio City Music Hall, New York.

It is an aggressive looking (and sounding ) Prince who takes the stage for the opening number. 24 years on, his outfit looks slightly ridiculous, yet he owns the look and comes across as a strong character rather than a figure of ridicule. “My Name Is Prince” carries this strong image and aggression, the lyrics spit hard and the music is forceful. Tony M is a good fit in this context and I find I warm to his rap and with a guitar solo from Levi Seacer the song is forceful and bold. Add the outstanding footage to the mix and we are off to a great start.

With “Sexy M.F.” the concert slows, yet it retains an intensity. This time it is Tommy Barbarella who provides a focus, his solo is long enough to be interesting without derailing the song. Levi also provides a solo, in this case he does ‘fly’ under Princes command, the notes taking flight from his guitar as he has his moment.

“Damn U”, now we’re talking. It may not have the momentum and push of the first two songs, but it stands strong in it’s own right with Prince lounging against the piano as he sings it provides plenty of memorable images early on. Later, Prince takes centre stage as he provides a smooth lyrical delivery that is well served by the recording.

Prince puts the piano to good use for “The Max”. The music regains some intensity, and with Prince banging on the piano there is plenty of energy in the performance. However, the final few minutes are giving over to Prince and Mayte posing and preening, and the music, while staying focus, loses some of it’s drive and energy. It’s hard to complain about this though, especially as it looks so great.

One of my favorite songs from the Symbol album has always been “The Morning Papers” and I find the performance of it here delivers all I want from it. With Prince singing and playing at the piano the song builds, before Prince takes to his guitar to add some extra expression and colour to the song. The guitar never reaches the expected heights, but Prince makes up for it in the following “Peach”. Prince serves up a guitar onslaught, complete with plenty of posing and preening, that makes the next few minutes a highly enjoyable and entertaining watch. These two songs leave me, and I am sure more than a few in the audience, with a big stupid grin on my face.

“Blue Light” is as warm as a summers breeze, it never ignites into anything but it is nice come down after the guitar filled “Peach”. It is “The Continental” that has me again sitting up and taking notice, with it’s insistent guitar line and Prince’s forceful vocals, the song becomes an embodiment of the whole performance and evening, all that is good and great about the Symbol album is right here. And it’s not just Prince and his guitar that shines, Mayte takes her turn as the music slows and she provides some easy lines. This mellow vibe stays with us for sometime as Prince pulls dancers on stage, normally I would find this unsatisfying on a recording, but the visual are clean and easy to look at and I find its an equally enjoying part of the show.

The concert continues on quickly at this point, “The Flow” comes and goes, it is fresh and Prince engaging with the band, before this slow for yet another personal favorite “Johnny”. As much as I love the lyrics, I find it is the solo by Levi that captures my attention. He provides a sharpness to the mellow groove and stops the song from meandering as Prince talks to the audience and the dancers. He does take his place at the piano for the final minute and this heralds in the next section of the show.

Seated at the piano, Prince presents a gentle “Sweet Baby” before offering up his pièce de résistance of the concert – “When God Created Women/3 Chains Of Gold” I still find it extraordinary every time I see it, even if it is overworked and outside anything else Prince has ever done. It takes itself very seriously, and perhaps this is why Prince gets away with it, he is truly believing in what he is playing and presenting.

Prince gets to take a break as Mayte takes centre stage for her sword dance. It may not make for the greatest of musical moments, but it is suitably weird and typical of Prince to provide something unexpected. There is no surprise as “7” follows this. Upbeat and infectious, it is strangely out of place compared to some of the other more demanding music presented at the concert. It does provide a lighter moment and Mayte on roller skates seems a completely normal event.

“Lets Go Crazy” is equally out of place, yet it elicits squeals of delight from the crowd as it begins. I find it jarring when songs like this appear when Prince is musically in another place, but one can understand why it must be in the setlist. Prince plays a shorten version and as provides only the briefest of guitar breaks before moving onto “Kiss”. This works better as it has another new arrangement (no surprise there) and it takes it place easily among the other music Prince is promoting at the time. With the dancers fully utilized it again becomes a visual experience and one captured well by the taper. There is a completely natural segue into “Irresistible Bitch” that  jumps off from the guitar line. Prince’s funk tunes work best for this show, this song highlights the point as well as anything that has come previously.

The show becomes a whole lot more serious as Prince again picks up his guitar for a great rendition of “She’s Always In My Hair”. Of course, I am a huge admirer of this song, so any version rocks my world. This one does have an extra kick to Princes guitar playing and I can’t take my eyes from the screen as he plays. There isn’t much to the vocals, the guitar is the main focus, and rightly so when it is at this level. The song is short but serves as a punch in the face, the concert intensifying with this performance.

“When You Were Mine” sees Prince staying with his guitar jam. The song may have it’s nostalgic sound, but Princes look is anything but and he plays with a fierceness throughout. With the previous song, these are the most straight forward moments of the show and they work as the crowded stage gives way to something simpler, Prince and his guitar playing rock music.

Next comes the obvious pairing of “Insatiable” and “Scandalous”. With Prince at the piano, the show again regains a basic format, the only embellishments coming from the appearance of Mayte again on her roller skates! That’s not quite the only nod to a stage show, strings of diamonds lower from above, no doubt being recycled from the Diamond and Pearls tour. Of the two songs, I prefer “Scandalous”, but that is neither here nor there, they are both seductive and spellbinding. As Prince falls to the floor shrieking, I am completely mesmerized, this is one bootleg I will be coming back to again and again.

“Gett Off” doesn’t quite reach these same heights, nevertheless it is still fascinating to watch. There is plenty of Prince and Mayte dancing together, but the best moments come every time Princes fingers flash across the fret board. The guitar riff is hypnotic, and I am well and truly caught up in the song by the time it finishes. “Gett Off (Housestyle)” is a lot of fun, and although I can’t see the crowd, I am sure they are all on their feet. The song is ended in darkness as the band take it to a slow groove for “Goldnigga” Not normally something I listen to, it this case it’s only half a minute, and with Princes creamy vocals singing the lines it does have its merits.

There is quite the sing-a-long before Prince takes the microphone for the opening lines of Purple Rain. The rendition here, although not unexpected, is surprisingly good. I have heard this thousands of times, yet Prince still holds me enraptured as he sings his signature song. It is a full version that is played and Princes gives a sincere and focused vocal performance before he resorts to his guitar. Once again I feel fully engaged with his performance and despite my ambivalent feelings about Purple Rain, I am still swept up by the moment and spectacle of it.

With pimp cane in hand, Prince rips through the encore of “Partyman”, he promises to tear it up and indeed for the next few minutes he does. It is fast and furious, a lot of the subtlety of the song is lost under the heavy and quick groove. With chants of “Party up”, Prince’s intentions for this song are abundantly clear, and the party rolls on through a wild sounding “Loose” that he tacks on to it.

The band storm through “1999”, Prince is relentless as he and the music stay in constant motion, bringing the end of the show to a frenetic finish. Prince dances, sings, and plays guitar in a flurry of activity that makes me feel tired just watching. As the song evolves in “Baby I’m A Star” this momentum is maintained,Prince slows down but the band and music stay focused and forceful.

“Push” is the final song of the night, although for the most part it is an instrumental jam. Prince is an integral part, he plays the purple axxe through the song and it is a lot of fun to watch. With Prince interacting with the band, playing with them individually, there is plenty to hold the eye. Tony M has his moment, but this song is all about groove rather than lyrics and vocals. The show closes with a quick rap from Prince, before he and the band dance off the stage, bringing to a close what has been a phenomenal show.

A lot of great recordings have surfaced over the last 12 months since Prince passed away. Of the ones I have stumbled across, this is the best. Previous footage from the Act 1 shows has been circulating for sometime, but none of them come close to the quality of this one. A brilliantly filmed show from one of Princes most fascinating years, this one merits a second or third look.

Thanks again
Hamish

Shoreline 1997

I can’t even remember the last time I listened to a Jam Of The Year concert, let alone wrote about one. I can’t offer a good excuse, looking at this show now I can’t see any reason not to listen to it, or even dislike it. Yes, it does have some weak moments, but these are offset by a run of classic hits, party grooves, and a Carlos Santana guest appearance that brought me here in the first place. This show was recommended by someone whose opinion I value highly, so I do expect it to exceed any expectations I might have.

10th October 1997, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, California

The opening intro leaves me cold, I don’t really need to hear snippets of his hits to hype me up. I have always had a soft spot of “Jam of the Year”, and this performance is everything I could ask for. It is stronger than on album, giving the concert a great push from the start. The performance and concert tour hinge on this song and, although Prince does hype the crowd in the midsection,  it sets the tone for all the will follow.

The jams keep on flowing, with the band grooving on “Talkin Loud and Sayin Nothin” It is as one might expect, a solid groove that has the crowd on their feet as Prince encourages them to dance and clap. The highlight for me though comes when Mike Scott makes an appearance with a sizzling guitar solo that catches me off guard yet has me enraptured as he plays. I’m not so fussed on Prince and the crowd chanting which comes next, but the song does it’s job of enthusing the audience. A Prince piano solo ends the song on a high for me, and I find that all in all it is enjoyable few minutes.

“Let’s Work” initially has me on a nostalgic trip, but interest wanes later in the song as it begins to take on a plastic sound. The outro of “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Alive” is where the real fun is, especially as Prince provides a ferocious guitar upon it that cuts through all the groove and jams that have been heard thus far on the recording.

This loud and heavy guitar tone is maintained through the following “Purple Rain” which begins with a snort and a grunt and ends on the most epic of howls. With Carlos Santana in the building, Prince is putting on a show worthy of his influence and although its not overlong it does give one a taste of Princes guitar abilities.

Things stay in the early ’80’s as the warm swells of “Little Red Corvette” introduces the next section of the concert. Personally, I think it’s a let down. After a great introduction that had me raising my expectations through the roof, the next couple of minutes sees Prince racing through the song leaving me feeling that it was a lost opportunity.

 

I am caught off guard by how good, and downright fun, “Get Yo Groove On”. It has a lively pop to it, and would sit complete at ease on any radio station in the late ’90’s. As much as I love it from the outset, it does loose its way after a couple of minutes, but the guitar solo from Kat Dyson snaps me out of this thought, and the rest of the song is an easy groove that I would happily dance to when I’m home alone.

As much as I enjoy “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” (especially singing along) I always find that in the live performance I am drawn to the sudden stop in the song when Prince sings “How can I get through days when I can’t get through hours” The ticking clock and the way the band jump in and out of the song always has me sitting in admiration of their professionalism and abilities. As for the rest of the song, I sing boisterously along to what is proving to be a very good audience recording.

“Face Down” is one of the pillars that the concert is built around, and it monsters the recording for the next ten minutes. With its big beat and infectious vocal hook, I am am completely drawn in, the following few minutes I am in another world. Prince knows what he is about to unleash upon the crowd, the first few minutes particularly interesting as he warns those with children that they should cover their ears or take them out before he hits us with the full force of his agenda and power of the groove.  The bass comes like a tank, rolling across the land, for the final few moments, and this emphatically seals the deal for me – this is just what I want to hear.

Contrast, contrast. The following two songs not only come from a different time, but also a completely different place musically. “A Case Of U” gently grounds the performance and brings an intimacy to the arena not previously heard. The bump and grind of the opening half hour replaced by an emotional pull and thoughtful lyrics. “When You Were Mine” is equally compelling, this time the emotion replace with a simple energy that is completely natural and can’t be replicated. With Prince playing alone for these two songs, his natural abilities are spotlighted and he draws attention to this with his final comment of “I would like to apply for the position of King” – a sly reference and dig at Michael Jackson.

The arena is again filled with sound as the band rejoin Prince for “The Cross” It lacks some seriousness of earlier tours, here is it is a joyful stomp through a song that has become a celebration. This is underlined by the guitar solo that Prince brings to it, all shrieks of joy and howls of passion.

“The Cross” is more than matched  in the spiritual stakes by “One Of Us”, a song that takes the celebration of God to yet another joyful stomp. These two songs are the backbone of the evenings performance and Prince gives plenty of time to the introduction, the vocals, and the guitar solo. Each part of the arrangement is worthy of the time invested, but it is the final minute of the guitar break where the rewards are greatest, with Prince playing with finesse and power.

The band all have a chance to play as “Do Me Baby” begins, the opening minutes given over to the band introducing themselves and each playing a solo. I found this most enjoyable, but once Prince comes to the microphone the band are forgotten as he sings a timeless rendition of this seduction classic. The previous two songs may be the spiritual highlight, but “Do Me, Baby” is definitely the sexy highlight and a song I could happily listen to again and again.

The concert speeds up considerably at this point, and the next 15 minutes sees a quick romp through Prince’s back catalog.  “Sexy M.F.” starts this off in fine style. It is uptempo and fun early on, before a surprising upswing occurs midsong that carries in away from it’s initial funk. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” likewise has an element of fun to it and although it lacks the intensity of the album version, it is still a rewarding listen here.

It’s with the piano set that Prince brings an air of intimacy to recording. Although he plays a run of truncated songs, it still brings a smile to the face. “Diamonds and Pearls” begins this set, but its “The Beautiful Ones” that follows where the real heart of the performance lies. However, the largest cheer comes for “Darlin Nikki”, and one can hear why. Prince teases the opening minute on his piano, picking out the hook as the crowd cheer him on at every pause. When he does sing, he only gives the first few lines, letting the audience loudly sing the risque lines.

As much as I love “Condition Of The Heart”, the rendition here is too short for me to get much enjoyment out of. “Girls and Boys” has my head nodding in approve, and even with only the piano for accompaniment Prince gives it the required funk and swing. Again its short, but a nice moment.

“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” begins with Prince, but sees the reintroduction of the band. It is much longer than the previous few songs and sees the concert pull back to a more traditional format. Personally, I think the song sounds great, but there is nothing for me to latch onto emotionally and I find it drifts by me rather quickly.

I am far more engaged with “Take Me With You” that comes quickly after. Only a minute, but it is joyful rendition that warms the cockles of my heart.

My cockles are less warmed by “Raspberry Beret” that comes paired with it. I don’t have a problem with the song, but the performance at this show is luck warm and it fails to build into the explosion of pop that it promises. It is the end of the main show however, before a lengthy break before the first encore.

The song that opens the encore is the reason this bootleg was recommended to be, a 10 minute jam on “Soul Sacrifice” with Carlos Santana. After a slow build the song really kicks off at the two minute mark as the guitars rise to the occasion and blaze across the recording. Insert any superlative you want at this point, the following minutes are beyond description and make this recording indispensable. Prince introduces Carlos as his hero, and he delivers a performance to match expectations. Forget everything else I have said about the performance up to this stage, this song is all you ever need to hear and it lays waste to all that has come before it.

“Soul Sacrifice” is the pinnacle of the show and the following “Sleep Around” feels quite a let down. It does play as a party jam, albeit a very ’90’s inspired party. I like to party just as much as the next man, but following after “Soul Sacrifice” it comes across as weak and almost throw away.

There is plenty of audience interaction for “I Like Funky Music”, but very little for us to enjoy here at home. The groove works, but with out seeing the dancers on stage or being involved, it does seem like a flat spot in the concert. No doubt a great concert experience, it does play as a poor bootleg experience.

There is no surprise at all as the final songs of the recording is “Baby I’m A Star” and “1999”. “Baby I’m A Star” serves as an introduction, its energy giving the show one final boost. “1999” plays as an almost full version, with plenty “Party!” chanting and funky groove playing us out for the final minutes. It doesn’t reach the heights previous hit by other songs in the the evening, but it does close out the show on the right note.

Ignore the flat ending, and the couple of weak spots mid setlist, there is no doubt that this show is worth listening to. “Soul Sacrifice” with Santana was what brought me to this bootleg, and it delivered far more than I could have imagined. Along with “Do Me, Baby” and “One Of Us”, it formed the backbone of the show. Despite some cliched ’90’s sound in places, the show was far better than I expected for a Jam Of The Year concert. It might be sometime before I get back round to listening to this one again, but I would have no hesitation in listening to it again in future.

Thanks again
Hamish

2010 Copenhagen Aftershow

This show appeals to me for a number of reasons. It’s available on several different bootlegs, which is always a good sign of the quality of the performance. It’s also in Copenhagen and I know Prince has had a couple of other concerts there that I greatly enjoyed. And finally, looking through the setlist I can see that even though it has a couple of songs mid set that don’t thrill me, there is also a quality opening and the appearance of “Sticky like glue” has me particularly intrigued. I have no doubt that I have listened to this bootleg several times over the years, but looking at it now I have no recollection, so the best way to remind myself is have a listen now and break it down.

NB: The photos below come from a variety of shows Prince played through 2010

20th October 2010, Copenhagen

 

There is an enticing keyboard at the beginning of “Stratus” that paints it in a new light for me. As much as I enjoy the musicianship during “Stratus”, often it is a song I could take or leave. Maybe its just my mood, but today I dig it. It does its job of bringing me into the show and opens the curtain on what sounds like a fantastic atmosphere in the room. I know plenty of people in Denmark read this blog, if anyone was there let me know – there is only 950 people present and it sounds like they are having a great time. Prince drops in and out with his guitar, but what really holds my attention for the duration of the song is Renato Neto. Now I am no Renato Neto apologist, but I have to say on this particular recording he sounds sublime, and I enjoy his contribution the most.

Ida on bass and Cassandra on keyboard make “Sexy Dancer” an entirely different experience. Although Prince is singing, it is these two who make the greatest impression with their groove and funk. The song is only three minutes, but it certainly lifts the tempo of the evening and gets the blood flowing here at home.

Prince stays in the background and it is Shelby who leads us through “Give it to me Baby”. There is something humorous in Prince covering a Rick James song, and it is a great moment in the gig. Shelby gives a great performance. I don’t say that lightly, I know just as much as anyone how one can tire of her hyping the crowd, but in this case she sings and emotes just right, providing the song with a good energy and bounce. If she was like this for every song I’m sure she would be valued much higher in the Prince community. “Give it to me Baby” is the longest of the medley that it opens, “What have you done for me lately” follows quickly after before that too becomes “Partyman”. The bass is the driving force throughout these songs, and its buoyancy can be clearly through “Partyman” and the following “It’s Alright”. With both songs barely a couple of minutes, there isn’t much to grab on to, and a brief “We party hearty” rounds out this quick fire medley of firm aftershow favorites from this era.

As good as this all is, I can’t say I’m too sad when it’s over. Shelia E provides one of her trademark drum breaks, cool and without the fire that I would normally expect. The song and the show meanders at this point, but it’s about to get a whole lot better and the following songs are the real meat of the show.

The guitar solo that Prince lavishes “D.M.S.R.” with is immediately headline grabbing. For the first time in the show I feel Prince is grabbing me by the scruff of my neck and demanding I pay attention. With my attention grabbed, Prince and the band keep the groove going, without letting it become slow or stale. Renato Neto provides another electric solo, it certainly wins be me over without ever reaching the same levels of intensity as Prince’s earlier solo.

The singing contained within “I want to be free” is the sweetest moment of the concert. After Prince sings a beautiful rendition, he hands it over to his backing singers who take it to the heavens with their softness and delicacy.  I am not normally one for singing when it’s not Prince, but in this case it is exceptional and I must admit I was carried off on the vocal harmonies. This is a song that accents the nuances of a Prince concert, and at 14 minutes it gets all the time it needs to be fully appreciated here at home. For my money, this song is reason enough to listen to this recording.

I may have spoken too soon. “Sticky like glue” runs at an incredible 13 minutes and shines both in its appearance and its performance. It gets the extended introduction that it deserves and is all the better for it as the audience marinate in the groove for the first few minutes. The song does stick like glue, the beat and rhythm stuck in my head long after, at almost 15 minutes there is joy in the repetition of the beat and groove. Embellished by a light piano solo from Renato, and a bass solo from Ida, the song moves across several instruments, yet retains it’s core sound. Like the previous song, it is the vocalists I am finally drawn to, as they close out the song with several minutes of their own groove and sway. It serves as a fitting end to the main part of the performance and Prince and the band take a well deserved break at this point.

It is Prince’s guitar that introduces the band back to the stage for an instrumental performance of “Guitar”. As much as it is about the guitar, I find it is lacking a focus without the vocals and although Prince does embellish it with several solos before he eventually comes to the microphone, it still fails to fire as far as I’m concerned.

The next few minutes come as a complete contrast as a more soulful performance follows. First there is a instrumental version of “How come you don’t call me anymore” that is gentle on the ear, before the singers offer an equally soft rendition of James Brown’s “Please, please, please”. It is short, but is obviously a crowd pleaser as they continue to sing and clap the song for several minutes after it has finished. I have already praised the vocal performances at this gig, but here again they are at the fore and a real high point.

I can hardly contain myself as the band play “Which way is up”. I am normally quite restrained, but this has a serious groove to it, both Shelby’s vocals and Prince’s guitar give it some meat and it comes on hard and funky. It does become nothing more than chanting and guitar, but that’s fine with me as the groove is the important thing, and it never once lets up as the band ride it until the very end.

The concert is finished with “Dreamer” – all guitar and heavy groove. Prince signals his intent from the start with his guitar tone set to “ominous” and the song lives up to this with the guitar appearing with a murderous howl throughout. When not soloing, Prince has it riff heavy underneath, giving the song some rock credentials to match his flash on the breaks. The song does lose momentum as Prince has the crowd sing along, but I can’t fault it for that, after all it is all about the live performance rather than what I am listening to here at home. The song and the show come to a fitting end with the audience chanting for the last four minutes, which very much puts me in mind of another great bootleg in Copenhagen. Listening to shows like this I think that they really are the best fans, and I admire them for there input and love of the music.

 

Overall, this recording wasn’t quite what I expected, but like most Prince concerts I was won over in the end. The crowd was exceptional, and apart from a couple of songs early on that suffered from over familiarity, I found the remainder of the show arresting. A nice little bootleg and probably something I would listen to a lot more if not for the 100’s of others circulating. The one fact that became apparent as I listened to this, I definitely need to get over to Copenhagen sometime!

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.