Detroit 1984 Purple Rain Tour

I am now firmly ensconced in the bosom of the motherland, and surrounded by the books and records that I so dearly love. Now I am back in my comfort zone I thought it would be cool to revisit the Purple Rain tour, something I have been meaning to do for a while now. It might be interesting to listen to one of the earliest concerts of the tour and see how it stacks up against the final concert of the tour. Disregarding all the one-off shows Prince performed in the lead up to the tour, the first concert we have recorded from the tour itself is 5th November in Detroit. This is the second concert of the tour, but with the hit record and movie behind him, the sold out audience is already well primed for the performance. The recording is unfortunately incomplete, I will be listening to only the last ten songs of the concert, but these are the Purple Rain songs so I aren’t too upset. There is also some confusion over the date, the recording says the 5th, but the bonus Sheila E song comes from the following night (she states its their third night in Detroit). I am going to take the Prince songs at face value, they are tagged as the 5th, so the 5th it is.

5th November 1984, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

The recording begins with the piano set coming to a close. It is an angelic “Do Me, Baby” that is the doorway into this show. I like it, some of the vocal audience members near the microphone, not so much. I have to chuckle as one guy can be heard saying “He’s good, but he gotta play more tunes and get the fuck away from this shit.” Purple Rain concerts are well known for dragging in the middle, and obviously it’s all too much for this guy. I have to disagree, and with this only partial recording I can fully appreciate the minute and a half of “Do Me, Baby” for what it is – graceful, delicate, and heartfelt.

The audience don’t settle for “Father’s Song” and although I can hear it just fine, the crowd can be heard talking and cheering most of the way through it. It doesn’t spoil the moment, but they certainly don’t show it any respect.

After these two shorter songs, we get something substantial with Prince’s “God.” On record I like it, in the live context, although it sounds good, it never quite works. The opening stanzas a little too ponderous for an amped up crowd, and in this case even at home I feel like I am just waiting for something, anything, to happen. The audience recording though is pretty good, and Prince’s spoken words in the midsection are well recorded and seems to again connect with the crowd, that is if the screams are anything to go by.

I had hoped for an longer version of “Computer Blue,” instead Prince gives me a fiery intense four minute version that razes everything to the ground. It is a scorched earth rendition and Prince and the band burn with a incandescent rage from start to finish, something I fully approve of.

Prince concerts are often about contrasts, and “Darling Nikki” is certainly that, coming hard on the heels of “Computer Blue.” As always it is a crowd pleaser, and even though the first twenty minutes of this recording has been full of audience screams, they still find it in themselves to scream louder. At times it does sound almost like Beatlemania, but things quieten for Dr Fink’s off the wall solo, he is easily the highlight of these few minutes.

After listening to “The Beautiful Ones” across Princes career, I am always knocked out by how great it sounds in 1984/85. It is a great song, but at this time it is right for the moment, and it’s right for Prince. Afterwards it always had too much associated with it, but here is the perfect moment in time, and it is simply glorious. The audience recording is superb, and even through the audience are with us every step of the way it still sounds divine, as if Prince is channeling it from a higher plain. It is a lengthy performance, but it feels all too short as Prince howls, screams and emotes his way through the entire six minutes.

“When Doves Cry” is one of the main pillars of the show, and it is given a respectful amount of time accordingly. The recording, while good, isn’t quite good enough for my tastes. The bass, and general power of the band, is diluted. Under normal circumstances I would say this recording is great (there is no distortion or muffle), but for these few minutes I wish it was even better. Wendy’s impassioned guitar break snaps through any thoughts about the recording though, and at the end of the day the music wins through with Prince’s sheer will power and conviction in the music he is playing.

The best part of the recording is “I Would Die 4 U,” with Prince’s vocals crystal clear from the very start. The song shines in this context, and after the previous intensity of “When Doves Cry” it is pure sunlight. As always it is short and bright, and it really is a song that I have come to appreciate a lot more over the years. The final couple of minutes become looser as it becomes pure groove, and I can’t help but fall in love with Wendy a little more as her guitar rings out.

It is only the second show of the tour, but “Baby I’m A Star” is already a behemoth, The Revolution riding Prince’s energy with their own vitality and animated style. It doesn’t reach the same level as some of the unhinged jams later in the tour, but the essential elements are all in place as it twists and turns through a maze of solos, brief musical thoughts, and throw away riffs. For all the ups and downs, it stays surprisingly focused, and there is a crispness to the performance that makes it all the more captivating. The solo bestowed upon it by Prince is noteworthy, butmy the player of the day award goes to Brown Mark and Wendy, who heighten the level of funkiness present with their inspired playing.

It is still the epic high point of the show, but “Purple Rain” doesn’t scale the same heady heights heard later in the tour. The animalistic snort of guitar in the introduction bodes well, but the rest of the song is still by the numbers. I don’t say that as a negative, this is “Purple Rain” played on the Purple Rain tour, and as such it has a majestic and regal aura of purple about it as Prince guides us through his most beloved song. Thirteen minutes is short by “Purple Rain” standards, but Prince has all the key milestones in place throughout the song (you can practically check them off as the song progresses) and anyone here for the Purple Rain album experience would leave happy. Even though this concert recording is short, it feels like we have come a long way since “Do Me, Baby,” and with “Purple Rain” it does feel like the end of a journey.

This audience recording was much better than I expected, and even though there was some audience talking early on, the music was still the key feature and remained at the forefront of the sound.  The Purple Rain tour is well covered in the world of bootlegs, being the breakthrough tour that it was, but not many of them are as good as the recording we have here. It is short, but that works to it’s favor and the concert plunges through the Purple Rain album. Don’t be put-off by the audience recording, this is still worth hearing.

Next week, I will take a listen to the final show of the Purple Rain tour, I am curious to see how it evolved from this early concert to that final showcase.

Thanks again
Hamish

1984 Birthday show

Sometime ago I rather rashly stated that the 2002 Copenhagen recording was the greatest of all Prince Bootlegs. I have been forced to swallow my words many times since then as I listen to my collection and some of the gems contained therein. There are quite a few recordings that could lay claim to being ‘the greatest’ and today’s show I would guess to be atop of many peoples lists. The 1984 birthday show is something very special. It oozes quality at every level, a brilliant sparkling soundboard recording that sounds better than the recording on many of his albums, the quality of the performance itself, and of course those unforgettable songs played to the hilt just as Prince was to ascend to his greatest heights. Yes, this one well and truly lives up to the hype, and I’m itching to take another listen to it today.

7 June, 1984, First Avenue, Minneapolis

prince-1984-birthday

The recording starts with the PA sound, and it serves as a nice soft opening. It gives a better feel for what it would have been like to be there, and we don’t have a hard jump straight into a song. There is a classic spoken intro of an announcer saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Prince, and the Revolution’, and then we are off into it. 17 Days sounds just as good here as I have ever heard it. The recording is so sharp, to my ears it sounds even better than it did on vinyl. The first thing that strikes me is the bass. It’s got an elastic feel to it, and it’s a beautiful big groove that comes out of the speakers at me. It’s almost like riding a wave, it’s so full and washing over me. The second thing that I really notice is Princes vocals. His singing is so clean sounding, it’s hard to believe it’s in a live setting. Generally I try not to gush about what I am listening to, but in this case it’s very hard not just to sit back and listen to it and be a fan. It’s oh so good. Brown Mark just grooves along underneath, and there is some nice moments when I hear Wendy playing with him on the groove. By the time the song finishes I am wondering how they could have relegated something so good to a B side.

Our Destiny starts slowly. I am not immediately won over as Prince starts singing, but when that chorus hits me I am fully converted. The keyboards are the hero of this particular song, whether it be the twinkling sound under the verses, or the muscular stabs driving the choruses. Prince’s vocals are a little more casual for this one, and some of his character shines through. Also worth mentioning is the drums in this song. Not the obvious beat of the bass drum, but instead the rather glorious sounds played on the cymbals. They seem to add just the right feel at just the right moment, and serve nicely as punctuation to Princes vocals.

The band are obviously very well-rehearsed as they move easily into Roadhouse Garden. Like the previous song it is an unreleased classic.  There is an excellent crisp guitar picking away, and it gives a sharp sound while Prince and the girls sing some nice full vocals. Listening to it now I realize there isn’t really too much to the song, the keyboards are barely heard at all, there is a solid bass line, but most of the interest is coming from the guitar sound and the girls singing. Prince tells the audience “you going to have to excuse us, we just jamming’ and it does very much sound like one of the jams that the band plays endlessly at rehearsal. It does have a good feel to it, and at no point does one member of the band get the spotlight, it’s very much a band thing.

Prince takes time to chat to the audience next, and I like it when he takes a moment to tell them “you’ll came in here expecting to drive Princes red corvette, that’s not going to work. We just going to play a few numbers, some of them you’ll gonna know, most of them you won’t” Then follows one of my favourite moments of the show, Prince says “Wendy wants to live forever. Maybe she will” and the band rip into a storming version of All Day, All Night.  The bass line is heavy and right in my face, and the whole band ride on it and it’s got a feeling as if they are playing as one, as a single entity. Every aspect is so tight and interwoven, it is an absolute joy to listen to. I could quite happily just listen to an instrumental of this, I feel like getting up and dancing as the introduction plays on. Prince comes with the first verse, and he is sounding excellent, as he is throughout the show. I love the way the groove lets up just a little at the end of the chorus so the guitar and music can take a few little steps up. Bobby Z gets a moment, and plays some hard electronic sounding drum rolls, which add to the overall pulsating feel of the song. If fact the whole song feels like it galloping a long, and when it suddenly ends it’s like a sharp intake of breathe.

Prince birthday 1984 c

Things slow down next as Prince plays a gentler sounding Free. After the dense sounding All Day, All Night, it’s very sparse sound, and it serves the song well. Princes vocals are back to being the main focus, and he delivers beautifully. I thought the Free sounded light on the 1999 album, but here it is much stronger sounding. A lot of the corniness is stripped away, and it no longer has the over the top finish as heard on 1999. All in all I much prefer this arrangement, and I am glad we get to hear it. Prince ups the ante with his singing near the end, before the song closes with the solo piano again. This is not the best song on the recording, but it is a very pleasant surprise.

The drums take a few bars to find a steady beat for the next song as a funky sounding rhythm guitar begins to play. As good as it sounds, it is a little misleading as the song takes a sudden turn. Prince dedicates it to Shelia E, and the music takes on the smooth sound of Noon Rendezvous. Again, this is another song never released by Prince, and that’s a shame as it does have a very alluring sound to it. The guitar is playing just enough to draw me in, and the rest of the band create a smooth velvet sound. There is a guitar solo, but it’s in no way disruptive to the gentle groove, and it’s well tucked up inside the song. The second lead guitar break is slightly louder, and Prince is playing more of what I might expect from this time. The girls enter with the soft refrain of “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby”, but it’s not as drawn out as we hear in rehearsals, and the song ends soon after.

Things are much heavier almost right away, as a hard drum beat begins, and some rock lead guitar. It’s quite loose sounding, but after half a minute the band come on board and things immediately tighten up as they play Erotic City. Although not as bass driven as it sounds on record, it is still very strong sounding. Some of the sparseness of the record is sacrificed, but what we get instead is a lot more guitar, and a lot stronger vocals from Prince. It also sounds faster to my ears, and doesn’t sound as dirty and funky. It’s a fair trade-off, but only just. With the intonation of “all the critics love me” we get plenty more guitar of Prince, and I can hear Wendy step up the funky guitar she is playing. The band is heavily in the groove by this point and Prince becomes a lot wilder sounding on the guitar, but always returning to the All The Critics Love U riff. The keyboards also get stronger as the song progresses, and as time goes on it becomes denser and louder. It increases in intensity until it eventually comes to an end at the eight minute mark.

Birthday 1984

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) has a great dark beginning. The cold keyboard initially starts before a brooding guitar riff from Prince. He asks the crowd “alright if I just play for a minute” as he then proceeds to do just that. It’s atmospheric in sound, and suitably slow and mournful. When Prince begins to sing he captures the lonely feel of the song perfectly, especially with his “does not compute, does not compute” There is even a moment when he sings “what’s the hang-up, bitch” which adds a hint of desperation and feeling to the song. The song is without the drum machine rhythm heard on record, but that barely matters as Prince is sounding so emotional, yet the music is cold and detached, much like the woman the protagonist in the song is singing to. Later in the song Prince lets his guitar do his talking. It’s not right in front in the mix, but it does sound very good, and worth listening carefully to. This song is played right out and every minute of it is worth listening to.

Birthday 1984 b

When Doves Cry is the standout track on this recording for me. Right from the first moment it has a clean sound, and the drum line is so familiar. Dr Fink plays the lead line a couple of times, before Prince comes to the microphone. At first he blows the first line, he mumbles “how can you…” before he catches himself and quickly covers with “come on, have you heard this before?”  It’s very fast and smooth, and a great recovery. He then asks the crowd to get on board, before calling for Dr Fink to play the lead line gain. He then implores the crowd further to “get down” before calling for the lead line once more before singing the first chorus. The longer intro actually works well, and I like hearing him talk to the crowd like this. Once the song starts, I notice that Wendy and Lisa are very strong on the vocals, they are much more prominent than heard on record. It’s not bad, just different. Wendy gets her moment to shine on guitar, and its good sounding, but perhaps not as clean sounding as everything else. The best is yet to come, as the band play on, Dr Fink plays a cool solo, and then there comes a great scratch guitar. I’m not sure if its Prince or Wendy, but it’s my favourite part of the song. It plays on and on, and I never tire of it. The band sing “Don’t cry” over and over as that beautiful guitar line just loops again and again. I don’t know how long it goes for, but it feels like forever, and it encapsulates the Prince sound I first knew and loved.  And just on a side note, my girlfriend told me she thought this part was boring and repetitive -looks like I might be single again soon! This last half is a song unto itself and the recording is excellent just based on this alone.

Birthday 1984 a

Of course there is the obligatory Happy Birthday sung by the audience, before the band turn up the funk levels with Irresistible Bitch. It’s not as dark as I have heard elsewhere, but it’s still a nice version. The band are playing incredibly tightly, and it’s the guitar that mostly holds my attention. It’s so crisp sounding, and the song revolves around the guitar riff. There is a keyboard solo that sounds good to my ears, but it’s a little low in the mix, I would have of liked to hear it much more. Near the end Prince stops and starts the band several times, and as always they are right on the button.

Prince birthday 1984d

Possessed is equally funky, but with a dash of pop thrown in the mix. After a Vegas sounding opening the band open up a rapid groove, again the rhythm is king here, the only melody coming from a simple keyboard line. Prince’s vocals aren’t quite as clear as they had been earlier in the show, he is a little more in the mix, but that’s not a negative at all, and the second verse I can understand his lyrics much better, so it maybe my problem more than his. There some further interesting keyboard jamming later, again it’s a too quiet for my taste and I have to listen carefully to appreciate all of it. Prince does a scat about ‘big ole soul sisters’  and its very tightly in the rhythm, so I give him a pass despite the corniness. I think that the band are going to play this one as a long funky jam, so I am very surprised when it stops suddenly and Prince tells the crowd that they got to go.

There has been a lot of talk about this soundboard recording since it first surfaced, and I can fully understand why. This show is mindbogglingly good, and deserves all the praise heaped upon it. If someone was to tell me that this was the best recording, I would have very little argument with them. This one is excellent in every way, and a must listen for any sort of fan.

Thanks again for reading
See you next week
Hamish

 

 

Noon rendezvous rehearsal

I am rare to listen to rehearsals. I admit that they are great, and show off another side of Prince and his talent. But they don’t have the same intensity as a live show, and that’s what I enjoy most. However, without that intensity we do get some very cool arrangements of the songs, often being drawn out and just letting the band do what they do best -play! Today’s rehearsal is from May/June before the birthday show of 1984. There are a few rehearsals from this period, and I think this one exists in several variations, but this is my favourite and the one I play most.

noon-rendezvous

Noon Rendezvous Rehearsal May/June 1984

As I mentioned above, there is a couple of variations of this rehearsal circulating, the major difference being the sequence of tracks. I am listening to the FBG release, which opens with I’ve Gotta Shake This Feeling Baby (Purple Rain), and I have to say that right from the start it grabs me and any reservations I have about listening to a rehearsal are immediately laid to rest.  Over the familiar beat of Purple Rain, Prince lays down some very raw, yet beautiful guitar work. There is very little in the way of lyrics, just Prince singing “I’ve gotta shake this feeling baby” over the top of the Purple Rain music we know so well. He does ask for a longer echo at the start, but I can’t hear where it is applied. The rest of the band are a solid base on which Prince lays his guitar work. Some of the phrases and melodies he plays are familiar, and some are new to me. The best parts are for me when he reins in the guitar and plays it tightly in the song. The quality of the recording is very good, and all the other instruments can be heard clearly, especially the piano, which I enjoy. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy this, and what a complete surprise it is to me. I was planning to sit down one evening to write this blog post, but truth be told I played this several days in a row, dumb struck, jaw on the floor, before I finally was able to find the words. It’s a great listen, imagine the second half of the Purple Rain song doubled in length, and that pretty much what we have here.

The treats keep coming as without pause the band play an electrifying version of Noon Rendezvous. Although the music does have a gentle sound to it, what is attention grabbing is once again the raw guitar sound of Prince in the mix. The lead guitar isn’t over powering, but it does give it a rock edge. The guitar does pull out and Princes singing is light and ethereal, and blends in well with the overall feeling of the song. It is an intoxicating song, and before I know it Princes guitar sound is back in the mix as we get a brilliant lead break. For the longest time I couldn’t understand the fuss over this song, but in recent years it has really grown on me. I always loved the version on the 1984 birthday show, but I can’t quite decide if that one or this is my favourite. On any given day it may well be the one I am listening to here. As the song continues on and Prince is “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby” I am in heaven. And even better, this goes on and on, there is no audience, no time constraints and it feels the band is playing on and just enjoying the gentle groove. It’s just brilliant, and oh, did I mention it goes for almost 20 minutes?!

Prince 1984 (2)

There is then what I more associate with rehearsals, checking to get the sound right, some tinkling and crashing of instruments and the like, before a steady beat is taken up, the piano plays and then we settle into Free. Free consists of just a drum beat, a piano, and Prince and the girls singing. I find the drum a little plodding, but I do like Princes vocal performance on this one. He sings around the melody, and plays with it. And the girls sound excellent, and once again it only highlights how great Prince, Wendy and Lisa sounded together. The song doesn’t get played on as much as the previous two songs, and it remains reasonably faithful to what is on record, sans the big finish.

Things take a serious turn next as we hear the strong drum pattern of Erotic City, and some equally erotic sounding guitar from Prince. I wonder what kind of heavy arrangement he is going to play, the vocals begin and it reverts to it familiar sound. I rate this song just as highly as the first two songs on the recording, it’s fantastic. After sticking with the song for the first couple of verses, Prince then unleashes his guitar, as well as a line from All The Critic Love U. The guitar has a howling whining tone at this point, and it gives the song a harder, darker edge. The guitar becomes more intense as the song progresses, and Prince is really working it in the latter part of the song. As brilliant as it is, it’s almost relief when it finishes, it was so intense. Yet another highlight in a recording full of highlights.

Prince 1984

I am used to hearing guitar heavy arrangements of Something In The Water of late, but this one offers another dimension. Sure, it’s full of guitar as he has recently played it, but here he is backed by the Revolution, and they give it a cold remote feeling behind Princes guitar playing. Prince’s voice is in fine form, and although he doesn’t scream, he does at one point give a nice long howl. As the song gets to the refrain of ‘must be something in the water you drink’ the guitar again comes to the fore. I know Prince is a good guitarist, but even after being a fan for 30 years I still find myself shaking my head as I listen to some of these recordings. He plays some much, it’s everywhere, and he plays on and on. Even today I still think of him as a song and dance man and listening to his guitar playing is always a headbuster. I didn’t think this rehearsal could get any better but as the song moves past the 12 minute mark I realize that I underestimated this recording by a long way.

When Doves Cry begins very faithfully to what we know so well. After the main hook is played a couple of times, Prince is straight into singing the verses and chorus. Even though it is played as per record, it does have a harder sound to it. Obviously it’s not as polished, but I do love the sound of it here, it is a much stronger band sound. Later in the song we do hear Wendy’s rhythm guitar, which I always enjoy immensely. And my smile becomes even broader as Wendy launches into her guitar solo, it’s impossible not to enjoy her and her playing. After Dr Fink plays his equally cool solo, and Prince gives a fairly impassioned scream, he’s not holding anything back for this rehearsal. The rest of the song is pure groove, and for a few minutes I forget to write as I sit enraptured by the music.

Prince 1984c

A couple of James Brownesque grunts and ‘huh’ and the band play the equally James inspired Irresistible Bitch. For the first time on the recording I find it lacking the intensity of earlier. This is a great song live, but here it’s missing that sharpness and quickness. There is a Dr Fink solo, which has all the qualities you would expect from such a thing, and it’s at this point that I find my interest in the song reinvigorated somewhat. I am very impressed at how well drilled the band are, and how well they respond to Princes call. But I’m not really surprised as I know how much Prince rehearses his bands, and the Revolution are one of the greatest bands he has put together. I thought that this song would have been ripe for the long jam, but it’s played very straight, and Prince ends it sharply after a few stops and starts with the band.

As far as rehearsals go, this one has forced me to reassess my feelings about listening to them. This is far from a rock rehearsal, yet there is plenty of Princes guitar on all the tracks. If anything, it only served to highlight what a well-balanced and versatile band The Revolution were. They have plenty of funk, but rock when they have to. As I said in the beginning, I am rare to listen to rehearsals, but if I was going to take a listen this would be one of my first choices.

So that’s a rehearsal for the birthday show, I guess next week I better listen to the birthday show to see how it all plays out.

Take care
Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Lonely Christmas Live

I don’t often listen to Purple Rain gigs. I know that’s unusual for a fan of Prince, after all it is the Purple Rain tour, movie and album that made him. But I find the concerts lack the intensity of the early days, the variety of the later days and I always have that nagging feeling that I have heard it all before. Of course a big part of this may be that in 1980’s I played everything Purple Rain over and over at the time, and I have overdosed enough to last me 30 years! For all that, Purple Rain gigs are enjoyable, fun and still sound good today. There are points of the show that I find aren’t as strong as they could be, but that’s a small quibble. So today I am listening to the Christmas show of 26 December 1984

26 December 1984, St Paul

As you might guess from my first paragraph above, I was cynical about this show before I listened to it, however as soon as Prince says “My name is Prince, and I have come to play with you” any such thoughts had vanished. I was immediately transported back to the teenage me, and all those feelings of excitement and anticipation welled up inside of me. This is how to open a show! Prince delivers the opening lines of “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” solemnly, and the crowd can’t help but react. It should sound corny, hell- it does sound corny, and yet I feel myself getting caught up in it all. I have heard the beat of Lets Go Crazy, and guitar too many times, but here it still sounds energy filled and passionate. With a whoop the band all kick it, and the recording really comes alive. The recording itself is very nice, an excellent soundboard recording, with not too much crowd noise, just enough to give you a feel of being there. The song is not drawn out too much, Prince doesn’t go overboard with the guitar, it follows the same arrangement I have heard throughout the tour, and ends with a flurry of noise and drum rolls.
Prince Purple Era

A long drum roll and keyboard fill leads us into Delirious. This is one song I have never got. It’s pleasant, but feels a little light to my ears. Its better live, I will give it that, and I really enjoy Princes keyboard break in the middle of it, then more groove and I assume dancing. It’s a shame it doesn’t sound this good on the original record. (For the record, 1999 is my favorite album, so not slight intended on it from my end)

Another 1999 songs follows (most of you could recite a Purple Rain set list by heart, I’m sure) with the title track itself, 1999. The guitar seems to be lot louder on this recording, and guess what, I like it. There is the funky guitar rhythm, but also a heavy guitar occasional grinding, for the start at least. The crowd is often heard, and these songs are obviously a crowd pleasing opening for the show. The breakdown is great, with the crowd singing ‘Party’ over some great funky guitar. If I could sample this section, I would play it all day.

Although I am a big fan of the modern arrangement of Little Red Corvette, the version played here is, for me, the definitive version. The long drawn out keyboard introduction, the beautiful keyboard swells drawing me in, the beat ticking away in the background, and just a touch of piano, I can’t help but love it. It’s almost a shame when it ends and the song starts proper. Prince vocals come in just right, just a touch of vulnerability, but not pitying. His delivery is spot on. The guitar also has just enough rawness, without changing the dynamic of the song. The guitar breaks starts with Prince saying “You need a love baby, you need Princes love” before the guitar solo unfolds. It’s all very tidy, and I would happily add this to any Purple Rain playlist.

Wendy Purple Era

“Uptown, my home town” Prince tells the crowd between songs. He plays the audience very well, informing them “Be nice to me, because I belong to you” It doesn’t take much to win them over.

The next part of the show has always been my least favorite part of any Purple Rain show, the long instrumental break, with Yankee Doodle Dandy. Maybe it’s a case of “You had to be there” -unfortunately I am not. I can’t see what ever is happening on stage (Although I have seen on other shows), but sonically it’s nothing to write home about. In its defence though, I do like the bird noises. Mercifully, this section isn’t too long on this recording.

The piano set begins with Free. Free is one of those guilty pleasures for me, I know many people think it should of been left off the 1999 album in favor of Moonbeam levels, and I agree the lyrics are simplistic, but it does have a charm about it that I like, especially when played in the piano set like this. There is a crowd pleasing moment when Prince sings “Be glad for what you got, I’m glad to be home”. In only a couple of words he has the audience in the palm of his hand.

Prince Purple Era 4

Take Me With U follows, and although only short it still causes an impact with the crowd. It’s well suited to the piano, and just hearing the few lines whets my appetite to hear much more. Prince only sings a few lines, and then pauses to engage the audience.

Staple of the piano set, How Come You Don’t Call Me, is next. As always it’s the centre piece of the piano. Prince takes a pause mid song to “Stand over here until you make up your mind” before returning to the piano for some very nice falsetto. As per usual there is plenty more Prince Interaction with the crowd and he runs through all the usual phrases we have heard before. Somewhat surprisingly I still enjoy it, and maybe I am just as corny as Prince. There is some fantastic vocal gymnastics by Prince near the end of the song, and these are well worth hearing.

The introduction of Dirty Mind is a definite highpoint for me. I have always been a huge fan of this song. It’s got a great inner energy that gets me every time. Prince’s spoken intro starts like this:

“Maybe she don’t like men with motorcycles,
Maybe she don’t like men with Dirty Minds,
If you got a tambourine shake it,
If you ain’t got a tambourine clap your hands
If you ain’t got hands stomp your feet,
If you ain’t got feet shake your ass.”

The riff sounds fresh, played on the piano by Prince, and I can’t help but feel disappointed when it ends after a minute. Such is the piano set with Prince.

I Wanna Be Your Lover comes next, again it sounds great with just his voice and the piano, and yet again I bitterly disappointed when it ends just a couple of minutes in, but not before Prince demonstrates some great vocals.

The band return, and Do Me Baby is played. I have heard some arrangements with long introductions, however here we just get a few seconds of introduction before Prince starts singing. It’s nice to finally get a fuller version of a song, and even though the previous songs had more energy they were just too short. Do Me Baby gets things back on track again and the concert picks up.

Prince then delivers his spoken word introduction to Temptation. With the song yet to appear on an album, the crowd play along to Princes words, but none of them know yet that they will be hearing more of it in the future.
The spoken introduction leads into Lets Pretend We’re Married. It starts with Prince singing over the top of some very quiet music, before it explodes at the first chorus. Wendy’s guitar sounds great, and I was hoping this song would really get played out in full, but again after a minute we take another change.

International Lover was a real highpoint of the 1999 gigs I have heard. Here it is just a shadow of its former self. Prince sings a few lines, before he goes into his monologue with God. Sure he could have played full versions of these songs, but then of course the show would run for 4 hours. I feel cheated but I understand why it is this way.

Fathers song is one of those sings that I wish had of gotten a real release. It’s played only briefly here, but it’s none the less very enjoyable. Another one of those songs I could happily listen to over and over.

God is obviously one of those songs that means a lot to Prince, and he plays it with all reverence on this recording. The first half is practically beautiful with Prince playing alone at the piano, and I can’t fault it. He does however lose me later in the song when he enters into his “who screamed?” section. I like as much Prince weirdness as the next guy, but I just can’t bring myself to enjoy this long spoken interlude. It goes for quite a while, and its not easy listening.

The Wendy and Lisa introduction to Computer Blue brings me back. The song is rowdy, and harks back to Princes younger days, there is plenty of guitar playing, and noise. The start of the first guitar break suggests we may get more for our money, but he stays faithful to the original. The song segues into the second half and here it gets a nice rhythmic feel to it. Prince plays more, and encourages the crowd to “Wave your hands in the air”. There are a couple of stops and starts, but it’s all excellent and feels very tight.

Prince Purple Era

The song then evolves, naturally enough, to Darling Nikki. The crowd takes great delight in singing along with it, and I must admit, even I know all the words. The music is very good, plenty of nice guitar action, and Dr Fink having his moments. I once read that he say this was his favorite song to play live, and I can see why. He has plenty of time to really do his thing. The fade out is always interesting, with the background music from the album being playing forward so Prince can deliver his message of hope to us all.

The Beautiful Ones gets it more full introduction here, with Prince saying “the beautiful ones, you always seem to lose”. The lapping keyboards are sublime, both live and on record, and it’s hard not to be seduced by one of Princes greatest songs. His singing is as per album, but the spoken parts sound more mature and passionate, live this rivals the album version. Prince really racks up the intensity near the end, as always it’s the high-point of this song in every performance. His delivery is just as good as I have ever heard it, and even I feel emotionally drained by the end of the song.

Things stay on the purple vibe with Doves Cry coming quickly after. For me the definitive version of this is from his birthday gig early in the year, so anything else will always pale in comparison. That said, this is pretty good. I especially like the long drawn out beginning, with the drum beat and repetitive keyboard riff. Prince sounds a little subdued when he sings, but maybe that suits the lyrics better. I have always loved these lyrics, so it’s always something I am going to listen to carefully. When Wendy comes in for her lead break the guitar begins very loud and bold, but seems to fade a little later. Maybe the recording, or maybe some gremlins in the mixing desk, I don’t know, but it doesn’t detract too much from the song. The song ends, leaving me wanting more, but luckily it’s a false ending, and the song returns with some great sounding bass. But even when it finishes a couple of minutes later I am still greedy for more.

I Would Die 4 U sounds simple to me, and yet it seems to work. I often dismiss it as being too light, yet I can’t deny it’s an utterly enjoyable song. I have always loved the 12 inch single, I only wish we could have had something like that played out here. The song however is played as per the album, and although it sounds great, it does end after a few minutes.

Prince

The band finally gets a chance to breathe and stretch out on Baby I’m A Star. The Purple Rain gigs always feel very structured and uptight, and it’s only on this song that the band really get a chance to show what they are capable of. The song has a great tempo to it, and Prince sounds very enthusiastic when he sings. The horn of Eric Leeds makes a welcome early entry, and it adds a great tone to the song. I would have liked to hear him on I Would Die 4 U as well, but this is Princes show, not mine. The song is played as per the album for the first 5 minutes, but then after a pause Prince says “I’m not done yet” and the band are all in, slightly heavier and funkier. Prince stops and starts them several times, a la James Brown, and the band is just as sharp as you might expect. The horns come to the fore after this, and Eric’s playing is very hot and fast, I can’t speak highly enough of it. The rhythm guitar also seems to get a little louder now, and it sounds nice and chunky. A couple more breaks, then Prince breaks it right down for some “woof, woof” before the band jumps in again, and even the piano can be heard over it all playing. Things are really swinging now, and it really is a long jam.

Another Lonely Christmas 2

What makes this gig a little more special than some others on this tour is the song that comes next, Another Lonely Christmas. It’s an appropriate song given the date, and the arrangement here is spot on. It’s not as full and crowded as I expect, Prince has gone for a more gentle tone, and it sounds great. Considering this is the first, and only time, it has been performed live this is an amazing performance. The band totally nails it, and it sounds perfect. There is a very gentle guitar break, I presume its Prince, and the tone is sharp and clean. It’s very nice indeed. The song is in complete contrast with what preceded it, but it does pave the way for what comes next.

Another Lonely Christmas

Purple Rain gets the full treatment here. As per other Purple Rain shows the introduction is a full five minutes before Prince even sings. He does play some very nice lead guitar in the intro, before the louder cloud guitar can be heard. This was always the emotional highpoint of any Purple Rain show, and here is no exception. The song is played full, which I enjoy, I am a little tired of the abridged versions we hear nowadays. The guitar at the end seems to go on forever, and yet I don’t find myself getting too tired of it, he has a nice balance to his playing and its always enjoyable. There isn’t too much more that can be said about his most famous song,as it’s something we have all heard 100’s of times.

As I said earlier, I am no big fan of Purple Rain shows. However I can’t deny that they have great songs, performed by Prince at time when he was on top of the world. And this is reflected in the recordings, every night Prince went out and put his best show on the stage. I find the set lists and playing quite constrictive, and it’s only near the end that the band gets to play a little looser. Despite that, Purple Rain shows are very good. This recording was thoroughly enjoyable, despite my negativity, and I rate it highly.

Thanks for reading,
Next time we go back to the early Eighties to watch a Controversy show.
-Hamish

Another Lonely Christmas Rehearsal

The best thing about Prince and his work ethic is the huge amount of rehearsal and practice he puts into his music. And one of the spinoffs of that, is there is plenty of rehearsal recordings for us to enjoy, and peak behind the curtain if you will. Rehearsals are always worth a listen, all sorts of ‘off camera’ moments happen and often they really are just long jam sessions. The recording I am listening to is the Christmas rehearsal from 1984. It’s worth listening to, for the playing of Another Lonely Christmas in several variations, and some very nice casual moments between Prince and the band. I will be listening to the main show from the 26 December next, so we can get some continuity. Merry Christmas, lets begin.

Christmas Rehearsal 1984

The recording begins the best way possible with a sublime version of Another Lonely Christmas. It’s played as an instrumental, and to me it sounds much better than the original. It’s not so crowded, or over the top, and with out the vocals the music gets your full attention. There is some great piano playing, and that is my main focus. Prince is heard talking at times, it sounds like he is joking with the band (I can invest your money, trust me, I’m a doctor). Just after this there is some very low sweet guitar playing, and I realize that this song actually has a lot of layers. The song comes to an abrupt halt, but I could happily listen to it over and over.
There is then some keyboard, picking out the main line of the song for a minute. Its sounds like Prince is explaining it to Brownmark, because I you hear him say “You have to play that, deep notes” Then the bass plays the same line.

Prince Another Lonely Christmas

Prince then says “Alright lets have vocal rehearsal first, When The Saints Go Marching In”. There is a brief moment of Prince humor here when he says “Did you warm your voice up before you came here, of course you did, trust me I’m a musician”. He then begins singing, then asks if Wendy knows it, and then if she knows the Rolling Stones. He begins to play and sing, and his bare talent is on display. He sings much lower than he normally does, and it sounds great. So different from his normal sound, and yet it sounds very natural for him. This song is the highlight of the recording for me, I have never heard Prince sing like this before, and it’s a real eye opener. Its just Prince and Lisa singing together, with a keyboard, but the sound is very authentic and has a nice homely feel to it. Again there is a funny moment later when Prince is trying to encourage Wendy to sing “Come on, sing something, anything” There is another funny moment after another few runs, when Prince turns to preacher, asking for donations “For a new wing we gotta build, on the back of my crib”

Following this there is another run through of Another Lonely Christmas, this time just bass, keyboards, and guitar. They run through the changes and progressions several times. Its interesting, Prince playing and the others playing along with him. It takes several minutes, and is an interesting insight to Prince showing the band a song.

They follow by playing a full version with the entire band, and with some vocals. Prince only sings part of it, he is often giving instructions to the band. It sounds good, but the buzzing bass does tend to dominate a lot. I do enjoy the keyboard swells, and there is some nice guitar playing by Prince. If fact, the guitar playing here is more upfront, and it does sound great. After some guitar work and singing by Prince we are left with a minute of bare bass and keyboard, and it’s a nice break from the previous guitar work, then Prince comes back for some more work on the fret board. He then calls come chords to the band, and the song breaks down and ends. Not much seems to happen, but then after a minute Prince calls “verse two, E” and the band pick it up again very nicely. This time it seems a little more delicate and when Prince sings there is plenty of room to hear him. There song changes several times, and the verse is repeated, all the time the band stay with it. It’s an excellent snap shot of the band at work. The song plays on for quite a long time, and near the end there is a lot of Prince playing guitar, no bad thing at all, he is sounding on top of his game here. The whole thing is more than twenty minutes, and worth every second if it.

Prince Flower

The familiar beat of Lets Go Crazy begins the next section. There is some keyboard work while Prince calls various song titles. But it all stops after a minute. After some brief chat the band start to jam over a beat which Prince describes as sleazy. It’s a very accurate description and sounds familiar as part of the long jam played during I’m A Star. Its starts and stops several times, and has a nice rubbery bass sound to it.

Then we are back to Lets Go Crazy, this time in a more familiar guise. The guitar and keyboard sound is prominent, and again it stops after a minute, then resumes again after a short break. There are no vocals, only the first section played a several times.

The recording then ends with several minutes of testing the Linn drum. Although interesting, there isn’t much to be said about it, and it’s certainly nowhere near approaching a song. However I do enjoy this sort of thing, I guess I am a real Prince geek.

Rehearsals are very interesting to listen to, but almost impossible to write about! I have a few rehearsal recordings and all of them are worth listening to. This one is notable for the Another Lonely Christmas being worked on, and then played later on December 26th. Fairly short, compared to other rehearsals, it’s still well worth listening to.

Next, we will take a listen to the gig played on December 26, featuring Another Lonely Christmas.
Take care- Hamish