We are into our final days of our Tokyo sojourn, I have loved every minute I have been here but I ready to sleep in my own bed again. Before we fly back to New Zealand we have time to visit one more bootleg from Prince’s tours of Japan. This one comes from the Lovesexy tour and captures a performance at Tokyo dome. Everyone knows there are some great soundboards circulating from this tour, this recording comes from the other end of the spectrum and is an extremely poor audience recording. Its muffled, thin, the audience is overly loud and Prince is overly quiet. I have chosen this one because it is the longest concert of the Japan leg, and although the recording is terrible, the show is great. I in no way recommend this one, it borders on unlistenable, but I am a die hard and am quite prepared to listen to it so you don’t have too (and after a month of Japanese TV, this is a welcome relief).
February 5th, 1989 Tokyo Dome, Tokyo
You know what you’re in from the start as the recording captures several people chatting and clapping. At first I treat it as a pleasant scene setter, that is until I realize later that there is music playing, and the crowd is drowning it out. They clap the beat, and in the distance and can hear the all too familiar opening to the Lovesexy concerts, almost ghost-like it is so faint.
I know the Lovesexy shows very well, so even though the music is distant I can easily make out the opening “Housequake.” It sounds typical of the rest of the tour, what I can hear of it. A lot of nuances are missing on the recording, but one can easily recognize Prince’s vocals and the distinctive beat. The final half of the song is frantic, and I find I listen closely to try and catch what crumbs I can.
“Slow Love” sounds better, bigger and fuller and Prince’s vocals swell and fill the recording. This holds through the following “Adore,” and I briefly consider the recording might be as bad as I thought, especially the spoken part that segues into “Delirious”
“Delirious” again displays the recording limitations we have encountered so far. The crowd is far too much in the recording, and “Delirious” is buried under a layer of grime. The same can be said of “Jack U Off,” only the horns can be heard through the fray. I can hardly hear the lyrics of “Sister,” and for the first time I think the quality of the recording might be a blessing. On a positive note, the final flurry of guitar can be clearly heard, and inspires me to listen further.
The first strains of “Do Me, Baby” has me light headed, and as the bass pops I am in seventh heaven. It slows the medley, and I begin to connect with the concert as Prince puts the crowd through their paces. A heavenly song, it rises above any other negativity that can be heard. The final spoken part from Prince has me feeling fifteen again, and visions of ex-girlfriends swim before my eyes as he seduces with merely words.
The opening riff of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is a call to arms for truefunk soldiers, and Prince rewards with a grand rendition “Head.” “Head” has always been down and dirty, and here even more so as the recording matches it from griminess. The main riff rings out loud and clear, but again that is the only positive of the recording. Even Dr Finks solo, although brilliant kinetic, is lost in the general crowd noise. I do, however, enjoy the call and response, and Prince’s continual call of “this is now a discotheque.”
I want to like “Girls and Boys,” I really do, but on this recording it is neither here nor there and leaves very little impression upon me. On the other hand, “A Love Bizarre” is fast, frantic, and utterly compelling. Prince airs it right out, and this is one of the longest songs on the recording. The call and response briefly has me wishing I could be there, and I find this is one of the more passionate Lovesexy shows in circulation. Generally I find them almost too well staged and tight, this concert retains a looseness and a feeling that I can relate to and that makes it all the more appealing to me. The calls and response continue for sometime, although they are never boring and the momentum of the song, and the concert, is retained. Oh, and Miko is brilliant!
Prince singing happy birthday to Mr Udo (the promoter) is an interesting moment, but for me the real treasure comes next with a rough and ready “When You Were Mine” jumping out of the blocks. As always it touches the inner rocker in me, and I am just excited to hear it as the overly vocal crowd obviously are. At two minutes Prince seems to have a guitar fault, but the song and the band barrel on without him.
The arena is warmed with the first strains of “Little Red Corvette.” The rest of the song delivers on this promise of warm nostalgia, and the crowd are more than happily to sing along as required, as well as providing the necessary screams to herald in the guitar solo.
The show again accelerates from this point, with “Controversy” providing the first thrust that will carry the following numbers. It is short, and it is “U Got The Look” that continues this onward momentum. “U Got The Look,” sounds dreadful on this recording, the crowd far too loud,and the mix badly out of balance. Things don’t improve for “Superfunkycalifragisexy,” and I begin to regret that I am such a completest.
“Bob George” sounds cool, although in the Lovesexy concert it is a visual experience as much as an audio experience. It is easy to imagine what is unfolding on stage, and I find myself smiling at Prince’s dark humor.
Balanced is restored with “Anna Stesia” bringing closure to the first half of the show. It stirs up far more feelings of nostalgia than “Little Red Corvette” earlier in the setlist, I am right back in high school as I close my eyes and listen to Prince play. There is some echo, but Prince’s vocals ride over any such storms and in some ways it reminds me of the old chewed up cassette tape of Lovesexy that I used to listen to over and over.
A light is shined into the darkness in the form of “Cross The Line,” the mood of the show already lifting as it welcomes in the second half of the concert. The white noise that introduces “Eye Know” is hard to distinguish from the general noise heard on the recording, and I inwardly smile at myself as I hear Prince say “The reason my voice is so clear…” “Eye Know” has the crowd well and truly involved and its pleasing to hear that I’m not the only one who clearly loves this song. One of the things I have found about attending Prince concerts is that you always find other like minded people who seem to cheer and appreciate the same small things as you do. Prince fans really do feel like family sometimes.
The theme of the album is maintained through “LoveSexy,” in this case giving me an urge to pull out the original album and give it a listen. There is plenty going on in this live rendition, we may not be able to hear it all, but I know it’s there.
“Glam Slam” features more audience singing, both at the venue and all over the recording. Its not as long as the previous two songs, but I still enjoy hearing it, and I especially enjoy hearing Prince fully engaged with the album he was promoting at that time.
It’s very hard to listen to “The Cross” without comparing it to the Dortmund show. That show created such a powerful visual image and sound that any recording would struggle against it, and especially so this one. In this case I like the rawness of Prince’s guitar sound, and for a while I fool myself into thinking the echo is making Prince sound better. But who am I kidding, I would rather watch the Dortmund performance of this song anytime.
There is a lightness to “I Wish U Heaven,” not just on this recording but on all performances, that doesn’t quiet work on bootlegs. As compensation we get extra audience vocals, but they aren’t as delicate, or as beautiful, as Prince’s. It is only the last half of the song where the guitar awakes that I become interested, its too little too late, but it is a nice touch.
I love the bass of “Kiss” in these Lovesexy shows, and here is no different and it both anchors the song and propels it forward at the same time. Prince is barely audible, so its just as well the bass and guitar are so divine, and I am more than happy with what little I can hear.
“Dance On” is merely the introduction for Sheila E and her rap and drum solo, something I whole heatedly disapprove of. Not because of Sheila herself or her performance, but because I think “Dance On” should get much more time than it is allocated. That disappointment aside, it is always fun to hear Sheila as she hammers away and the next few minutes I have a happy grin as she indulges me in her trademark drum style.
Finally, one of my favorite parts of the Lovesexy concerts – the piano solo. “Venus De Milo” has my weepy eyed from the opening moments, the following few minutes containing all you could want from Prince’s sweeping piano playing. “Starfish And Coffee” isn’t quite on the same plain, but it still retains the sweetness of the moment.
There is only a brief moment of “Raspberry Beret” before Prince settles into a tender “Condition Of The Heart.” I am disappointed that it is only fleeting, but there is a treat in the form of a rare appearance of “International Lover’ that more than makes up for it. Only thirty seconds, but it raises my pulse through the roof, and for half a second a hear a teenage girl squeal of delight escape from my forty-year-old manly lips.
The piano version of “Strange Relationship” is now familiar to most people. As always, there is plenty of funk and feeling in Princes finger tips, although the audience clapping takes me out of the moment. However, the following “Free” again has me in fanboy heaven, and delivers up the second seismic shock of this piano set. A rarity buried in the setlist, this is one of the reasons I elected to listen to this recording, and the sound has improved by this stage that I can actually say its an enjoyable moment.
An instrumental “With You” carries us through to the finale of the piano set – “When 2 R in Love.” I may not approve of his spelling, but I definitely approve of the song, even if it is barely a chorus and a slow fade.
I know what to expect with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and Prince gives it to me with the standard 1988/89 run through. The “go, go, go” chants leave me cold, as does the rest of the song, and although it is a sacred cow I find I dislike it.
Prince makes short work of the Purple Rain album – “When Doves Cry” is truncated, and lacking some of the bite of other concerts (more specifically, the dog bark). The audience seem to like it though, true to the form they sing loudly throughout and they are stronger than anything else on the recording.
It is a thin “Purple Rain” that makes an appearance at this show. Prince’s vocals remain distant, and its hard to know if this is a great performance or not. The guitar solo is equally lost on the recording, which surprises me as I expected the recording would pick it up much better. Of all the parts of “Purple Rain,” it is the audiences “oohhh oohh ohhh” that sound closest to what is on record, and the song belongs to them as much as Prince on this occasion.
There is no “Alphabet St.” at this concert, and it is instead “1999” that closes out the show. It is a worthy rendition with Prince at full voice as he extols the crowd to party. Its a fitting end to the show, although my ears are pleased its over. Its only in these last minutes that I let myself acknowledge just how bad this recording was.
I do not recommend this recording in the slightest. I do however wholeheartedly recommend this particular concert. It is coming near the end of the tour, and the band are razor sharp and deliver a great performance. Add in the couple of rarities and arresting moments and it makes for a curious listen. I would be far more effusive if the recording was even slightly better, but it is what it is. Not one to revisit, but it gives us an idea of the quality of some of Pricnes perforamnces at the time.
next time I will safely ensconced back home in New Zealand