Glam Slam, Yokohama 1992

I am currently in Tokyo for a month visiting my wife’s friends and family. To celebrate this fact (and to avoid going shopping), the next few weeks I will take a listen to some of Prince’s live recordings from Japan. Today I will start with an unusual concert from Yokohama in 1992. It is an one off show at the Glamslam club, but what makes it unusual is  the setlist that is a standard run through of songs that we would expect at an arena show. This is an audience recording, with a slight distortion just perceivable, yet I like it for the songs, and the general vibe of the show. There is a great feel to the performance that lets me temporarily forget the sound quality.

6th April, 1992. Glam Slam, Yokohama, Japan

I didn’t expect much when I saw “Daddy Pop” listed on the packaging as the first song, and the feeling doesn’t change as the quality of the recording is revealed in the opening seconds. However, it is a bright and breezy performance that wins both me and the audience over. Rosie is monumental, but there is much more to this song than just her. The band is playing with an easy touch that has the song flying along, and with the crowd lending their infectious voices to the song it most definitely has a joyous vibe.

There is no cherry on top, but there is “Cream” and it envelops the club and bootleg, Prince at his very smoothest as the band flow through the performance. There is no sharpness, or jagged edges, just the constant forward movement provided by the buttery guitar line, and Princes sticky-sweet vocals. It is easy on the ear, and I am completely prepared to over look Tony M’s barking that comes loud across the recording. It ends with the syrupy guitar line that has carried most of the song, and I am satisfied with this sweet treat coming so early in the performance.

Rosie puts her cards on the table with “Chain Of Fools,” and comes up trumps with an ace performance. I didn’t fully appreciate Rosie when I was young, but I do now and her vocals early in the song are the exact reason I rate her as highly as I do. Strong, yet warm and inviting, it is hard to resist her sumptuous voice, and I am drawn in from the start. She does step aside as the song becomes a jam, the horns and guitar providing lines that keep the song on track with their train-like rhythm. Taking this song with the previous “Cream,” the concert already rates highly in my opinion, and we are only three songs in.

There are only two minutes of “Let’s Go Crazy,” but it is two minutes too many for me. It is during this song that the limitations of the recording are readily apparent, the guitar distorting at times, and a incessant  buzz.  It is equally jarring to hear “Let’s Go Crazy” in this company, after several smooth funk songs (and one straight after) it feels wedged it and detracts from the show rather than adding anything to it.

The smooth funk I alluded to returns with a greasy sounding “Kiss.” With the guitar line sounding almost like “Sexy M.F.” it has a classic funk sound, and is all the better for it. It may not be one for the purists but there is no denying the funk of it, and with the horns adding just a tinge of brassiness I rate it highly.

I like “Jughead” (I never thought I would write that) because it opens with a verse from “Dead On It.” The rest of the song I could take or leave (mostly leave). Tony M is quite forceful in his delivery, which tends to drown out everyone else. However, Rosie holds her own with the moments she is given, and as always it is the slippery rhythm guitar that I am really attracted to. I have to admit, I do enjoy Prince’s rap – for no reason other than I guess it’s one of those days.

The band is back in the groove for “I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get it Girl). Much like many of the other songs at this performance, it is smooth funk jam. I have heard this song at several other concerts, and this one is different from those in it’s easy long groove. There is very little singing as the band ride the rhythm from start to finish, unswerving in their dedication to the funk. There may be a couple of solos, but never once does the attention waver from the underlying feel and rhythm.

I could say the same about “Call The Law,” if not for Tony M’s heavy delivery. Rosie matches him for power with her vocals, but it is the guitar that steals the show with an burst early on that makes any vocal work irrelevant. Again, the recording is less than stellar, only the guitar stands proud among the swampy sounds of the verses. I do like the funky intentions of the band, sadly let down by the recording, and shaded by a guitar player who stands head and shoulders above all those around him.

There is a lot of swing to be heard in “Kansas City.” I have heard Boni Boyer sing this plenty of times, but for my money Rosie Gaines does just as good a job. The recording isn’t quite good enough to contain her, there is a slight distortion on her vocals as she is at her strongest, she is just too powerful for an audience recording.

The highlight of the bootleg for me isn’t all these funk tunes, but the divine “Do Me, Baby.” After listening to Prince seduction ballads for thirty plus years, I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that this is his finest. In my opinion, and it may well be an unpopular opinion, it eclipses even “Adore.” This recording is much more sympathetic to a softer song like this, and Levi’s guitar lines are just as emotive as the vocal performance by Prince. I find myself writing every week that “Do Me, Baby,” is the highlight of whatever show I am writing about, and I’m going to say it again about this concert. It towers over all the funk jams, making them lightweight in its solemn and earnest delivery. It is yet another outstanding rendition of one of Prince’s masterpieces.

I want “Gett Off” to finish the show like a punch to face, and although all the key elements are in place it lacks the killer blow that I desire. Prince’s gutsy guitar line elicits squeals of delight from the crowd, but this is the only moment where the song sounds dangerous and edgy. The rest of the song drifts along, even the drum beat sounds half hearted and weak. It is still likable, but it never threatens to reach the heights of the songs earlier in the evening.

So ends this curio from 1992. I wouldn’t recommend it based on the quality of the recording, but I would definitely recommend it based on the songs and the performance. It is a great funk workout for most of the show, and I think it nicely captures what this band was about, and lays down some of the groundwork for what will follow in the next couple of years.  Avoid if you’re a soundboard snob, otherwise I would say give it a listen.

Thanks for reading, I better go be a tourist for a couple of hours
-Hamish

The Palace, Melbourne 1992

I have had a fair number of down-under fans contacting me of late, so it’s only right that this week I listen to a show recorded in Melbourne, Australia 1992. This is a nice little aftershow from the Diamonds and Pearls tour, and serves as a period piece of that era. With plenty of horns, and the rapping of Tony M it is instantly recognizable as being from the early 90’s, a period that hasn’t always aged well. The recording itself is interesting, it is an audience recording, and there is certainly plenty of crowd noise, but the band itself is recorded very well, everything sounds as it should.The extra audience noise isn’t right next to the microphone, it gives the recording a lively sound, and it’s easy to listen to and picture yourself there.

22nd April 1992, The Palace, Melbourne

There’s only so many ways you can start a show, and Prince’s “Australia…..1,2,3,4” is as good as any. Things are off to a hectic start as all the band jump in with Tony M and we get a breakneck The Flow. I don’t normally gravitate to this song, yet somehow I get swept up by this performance, and as the crowd screams and squeals I find that I am just as into it as they are. The horns round out the sound with a full clean sound that is the opposite of Tony M’s rap which is deep and fast, although I hardly have time to register as the song zooms by.

Call The Law rolls over the crowd, and me here at home. The first minutes roll easily by with a fat groove, before Prince is heard playing lead guitar for the first time in the evening. He is sounding great right from the start, but keeps it short as Tony M raps some more. Upon his return with the guitar things heat up considerably, and the final minutes are filled with an intense guitar sound that has the crowd screaming. Prince makes it wail, and this is shaping up to be a great show, there is plenty of funk and guitar being brought to the fore already.

Prince Oz 92 b

I can’t quite get used to Tony M doing the spoken word introduction for Housequake, although that is a minor quibble. Despite some crowd noise, this is upbeat funk infused version, with plenty of rhythm guitar and brassy horns for those of us that enjoy such things. Being an aftershow this gets the full treatment, firstly it is sometime before Prince sings, and then when he does he stretches and pulls the song in a few different funky directions. The horns are uplifting, while the main beat is almost a stomp, it is something that most people would find irresistible to dance to, and you can tell the crowd is feeling it as they chant loudly along with it. It deviates much more later in the song, as first a funky guitar then some great horn work takes us to the stratosphere. The world slips away as the band jam effortlessly for some time.

When You Were Mine seems to come from an entirely difference place, and it’s hard to believe I am actually hearing it after the funkfest of Housequake. The band sounds smaller suddenly, although the horns play they are much quieter and Prince and his guitar is alone out front in the sound. There are some interesting adlibs (that my Mum might not appreciate) before we get the coolest moment of the song – a soulful horn solo that lifts the spirits and carries us to the end, it’s a wonderful moment and a great finish to it.

They follow this up with an extremely laid back jam, which is serves as a backing tracking for some rapping by Tony M. He adjusts his style for this, and his deeper slower raps sound better in this context. It’s an easy groove that floats on by, until the sound of Prince’s guitar cuts through the air. As with the other guitar he has played at the show he has a fantastic wail on it, and there is plenty of sustained notes as the crowd cheers after every burst.

Prince Oz 92

As the crowd claps the beat the band slowly build to the next song, first the beat, then a touch of guitar, topped with some horns before it all comes together and bursts out into Gett Off (housestyle). Its impressive how quickly Prince can get the lines out, as is the moments when the crowd sings the chorus with him as one. I love how tight it is despite the speed they are playing, this is a definite heart starter. The only respite we get is a the solo from Levi, he plays quick but the music pulls back and makes room for him. The recording is full of sound next as the horns return to the fray, and they put their mark on it for a good few minutes. Prince returns but it’s the trumpet that gets the final say as it plays the last few minutes, competing with a keyboard solo for the highlight of the song.

Purple House takes a few minutes to warm up, or perhaps, if I’m being honest with myself, I am impatiently waiting for the guitar soloing to begin. The horns are the most noticeable instrument, they dominate whenever they play, and Prince’s vocals seem very quiet in comparison. The guitar that I am expecting never comes, there is some beautiful guitar played midsong, although it’s short and not nearly enough for my taste. The song however is a fine rendition, and well recorded, and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Things slow even further with the ever so gentle Damn U. It glitters softly in the back ground as Prince croons to the delight of the ladies in the audience. Prince sings so well that it’s easy to forget that this is a live show, except for the sound of the audience. The horns too play their part, and there is certainly some magic woven as Prince seduces the audience, and the microphone, with his vocal performance.

Prince Oz 9 c

We change tack again next as Prince begins the self-aggrandizing My Name Is Prince.  As the “Prince” loops play over there is a very interesting opening with plenty of percussion and other loops in the mix. It’s all worked in extremely well, and even without Prince singing for the first minutes it commands attention. The horn rises build the sense of anticipation before Prince hits the microphone and punches out his opening lines. The song flies, not only do we have Prince and his lines, there is also more Tony M (sounding good) and a great horn solo that leads to some scratching, something I had not expected to hear. As the crowd chants “do that, do that” I am with them every step of the way, the song is a jam and I never want it to stop.

With plenty of encouragement from the audience the band is finally persuaded back for an encore of Sexy MF. Prince introduces it as a love song, although it’s anything but with a greasy guitar sliding us right into the Sexy MF chorus. There is plenty of whoops of delight from the crowd and they sing the chorus with plenty of enthusiasm. Its stronger and funkier than on record, it’s a shame that something is lost in the album version, that bit of extra fire and passion goes a long way. With plenty of horns, Tony M and the crowd, its everyone in for the final hurrah. It’s a great ending to what has been a great show, even I have been surprised how much I enjoyed listening to it.

This show has been a revelation to me. It’s not an era I listen to often, and being an audience recording I had previously shied away from listening to it often. The performance however was fantastic, and I found I even enjoyed Tony M in places. A great show, a nice recording, this one deserves more love than it gets, and I have been just as guilty as anyone for not giving it more praise. All in all, another good bootleg experience.

 

Diamonds and Pearls, Earls Court 1992

With such a long and varied career, it was inevitable that were times in my life when I walked away from Prince and his music, only to return later when he had further evolved. I have written before of the early 90’s and how I missed a few years after feeling disappointed with Diamonds and Pearls and the couple of albums after. Nothing wrong with the albums or the shows, I was just at a different point in my life. In recent times I have returned to these albums and show, and it has been a revelation. I have had this show on DVD and video for some years, but it never quite seemed to play right and I struggled to watch it. However, I watched this show a couple of weeks ago for the first time in many years, and I was blown away. The performance is very smooth and slick, and Prince is playing at close to his best. I watched it as if seeing it for the first time, and this time I am feeling very passionate about it.

24th June, 1992 Earls Court, London

Rosie is a treasure. Her vocals on the opening Take My Hand, Precious Lord are divine, and I can hear the passion and depth she brings to the show. It’s a spellbinding moment in the darkness before Prince appears in the smoke to open the show.

Thunder plays powerfully in the live setting, its more fleshed out than on record and the band add a lot more weight to it here. The guitar in particular has a lot of power. There is a lot to take in with the dancers and action on stage, but it gains focus as Prince steps forward to play a great sharp solo with a glassy clean sound.

Earls court 1992 A

The guitar is gone for the next song, and we get a lot more dancing as Daddy Pop begins. Although I no great fan of the song I do get a buzz from seeing Prince and the dancers performing.  He is a great showman and it’s hard to take your eyes off him here as he dances and prances around the stage. Rosie adds her voice to the mix and the last few minutes of the song seems to have a little bit of everything, both visually and musically.

The introduction to Diamonds and Pearls is quite lovely with some gentle guitar luring me in. On screen Prince is dancing, but he is no match for the ballerina on stage. The song really takes off as Prince plays the piano and sings. It’s too loud for my taste, and I find it’s not as beautiful as it could have been. It does settle down as it goes, and the balance is restored when Rosie sings. Prince shows his versatility, singing, dancing, playing the piano, as well as the guitar, it four minutes he shows all his gifts, especially if we throw song writing into that mix.

I do wonder about Let’s Go Crazy as it begins, but Prince allays my fears with a short but fiery rendition. True, it is flashy, but Prince keeps it so short that it never loses focus.

Kiss is all about the show, and there is plenty of action on stage as he performs. Surprisingly I am right into this, and if I could I would stand up and dance myself. The funk is strong and Prince plays on that to the hilt. This is one of the best versions of Kiss that I have seen for a long time, and I am kicking myself that it has been sitting unloved on the shelf for so many years.

Earls court 1992b

From the high of Kiss, we sink to a low with Tony M singing Jughead. Ok, so parts of it aren’t too bad at all, it’s only when he yells at the crowd that I begin to switch off. Listening closely tonight I can hear that this song has the potential to be in a similar vein to Sexy MF – the music is almost there, however it’s hard to go past Tony M. I get a surprise to see Prince singing from the dressing room, and it’s at this point I relax and enjoy it for what it is. The jumping up and down and yelling near the end is a lot of fun and takes me back, and is probably what I was doing myself back in 1992.

Earls court 1992c

Purple Rain comes as a real surprise next, it’s in total contrast to what we have just heard. The second surprise is how great it sounds, Prince soloing for half a minute at the beginning before addressing the crowd. He sounds sincere as he thanks them before giving us some more of that intense guitar sound. As he sings all the performance from earlier in the show seems to take a backseat and we get a sincere rendition of Purple Rain. I wasn’t quite at arm waving stage, but I was the closest I have been for a long time.

Earls court 1992d

Prince has the crowd chanting “Live 4 Love” and it’s pretty obvious what’s coming next -one of my favourite songs off the Diamonds And Pearls album. It opens with some blistering guitar work from Prince, he is soaring at this stage. It cuts back sharply as the vocals start and the song itself maintains the intensity. Sonny T playing a brief solo is a highlight, although it is offset by another Tony M rap. My heart lifts with a dual guitar solo that stamps its authority all over the song.

Earls court 1992 r

Good times follow with a mix of Rosie singing, crowd clapping and some horns, we are definitely taking a funky turn. Prince is on the piano at this stage, and there is the feeling that anything might happen. What does happen is Prince leaps on the piano to give us a burst of Delirious. If it sounds great, that’s because it is great. The horns make it oh so much better than I expect, and I am all in. I didn’t think it could get any better, but Levi plays a solo, the horns kick up a notch and I am running out of words for it all. Breath-taking.

Everything seems to happen at once next, Rosie sings Willing and Able, Tony M raps and the horns funky things up for a good minute. I like it far more than I should and I am having a great time watching this here at home.

Prince then plays what would had been a new song at that time, Damn U. It’s still six months away from being released, but it gets a great response from the crowd.  Prince’s vocals are exquisite, and he very well matched by the horn section, they match him all the way in their quality of performance.

Earls court 1992 e

The audience seem to know the words to Sexy MF much too well, and they take great delight in singing the chorus back to Prince. Initially I enjoy Prince, but the horns get better and better, and they steal the performance from him as far I am concerned. I had forgotten Tommy Barbarella was in this band, both he and Levi play their solos with plenty of heart and it’s nice to see them get their moment.

The next ten minutes are the very highlight of the show for me. Firstly, a magical Arabic introduction and dancing which gives it a mystical feel. Then Prince appears and we get a fantastic long version of Thieves In The Temple. It’s dark and dirty, then a funky guitar appears and Barbarella plays a break and we are deep into it. Prince is nowhere to be seen, but the music is powerful and irrepressible throughout. As the song slides into its breakdown Prince appears, chain hat covering his face and he sings the lyrics to It. I can’t stress enough how great this sounds, there is a very real intensity through the whole song. As he screams the finale of It I am in fanboy heaven. However, he’s not done yet and what comes next is one of my favourite Prince live moments of all time.  With just an acoustic guitar he plays a funky guitar break for five minutes, and when I say funky I mean it is FUNKY, he is on fire. I am speechless by the time he finishes, this is what being a Prince fan is all about.

Earls court 1992 f

I am still catching my breath as Prince and the band ease back, firstly playing an easy sounding Strolling before a segue into Insatiable. It’s so smooth and alluring, it’s a fresh sound after the earlier intensity. Prince starts seated at the piano, and then is soon upon it before finally settling on a shower of pearls to deliver the rest of the song. It’s clean and has a warmth to it that I find appealing. Levi plays a summery sounding break that seals the deal for me, and I decide this is my second favourite part of the show.

Earls court 1992 j

Gett Off gets off to a jump start, with seemingly all the main parts playing at once- the scream, guitar riff, and Tony M rapping right away. For all its lewd lyrics, Gett Off sounds a little tame at this show, that is until Prince picks up the guitar and plays his solo. He doesn’t exactly set the roof on fire, but I applaud the increase in intensity. We swing quickly into Gett Off (housestyle), a song that has never worked for me listening at home, but seeing the show I can understand how it would work in a live setting. For me Tony M is at his best now, and the interplay with him and Prince is fun. It’s got the feeling of a last hurrah as the dancers come forward and have their moment in the spotlight.

Earls court 1992 h

A brief break before the encores begin with a crowd pleasing Cream. The look and sound of it is indeed creamy, Prince looks the part and his vocals are velvety as he sings. Seeing it in this setting I am reminded of the pop landscape at the time, and it does fit well with my memories of the early 90’s. Prince entertains himself, having the crowd ‘meow’ and ‘woof’ back and forth, something which I too get a lot of amusement out of. Unfortunately the recording ends not long after this point, but not before we get a minute to enjoy Rosie singing Chain Of Fools. It’s a good point to check out of the show, and seeing Rosie sing means we leave on a high. It’s regrettable we don’t get the final encores, but I am well satisfied with what I have got up to this point.

Earls court 1992 i

I am annoyed at myself that I haven’t made more of an effort to listen to this show over the years. It is a great show, and I have no one to blame but myself. There is just too much out there, and it’s easy to skip over this to other time periods I am more interested in. The show sounded great, but more importantly it looked great, which is a big part of a Prince show. Now I have seen this one, I will certainly be going back through the collection to see more from this year.

Thanks for reading,
take care
-Hamish

 

 

 

Les Bains Douches aftershow 1992

The last two weeks I have listened to shows that most people would call great, and many consider classics. The show I will be listening to this week won’t be falling into those categories, it’s a rough audience recording of an aftershow from 1992. What makes it interesting for me is the fact that it is from 1992, a year in which there was very few aftershows, and the show itself opens with three songs from the Goldnigga album and indeed is the debut of two of these songs, Goldnigga and Black M.F. In The House. That makes me curious to hear it, especially as these songs set the tone and vibe for the next few years, even if at the time we didn’t realise it. Sometimes these odd little shows can be just as enjoyable as some of the more well known shows, and I expect to find at least a couple of interesting things about it, although I must admit I am no fan of Tony M.

12th July 1992, Les Bain Douches, Paris

Things start low and slow with a laid back bass that just sounds like summer right from the start. The crowd is the first singing we hear, with a chorus of “Get up, stand up” and soon after Tony M is on the mic encouraging the crowd and chanting “Sexy M.F”, and although I don’t like him, he fails to dampen my mood with the music behind him. Things evolve to the point where I begin to recognize Goldnigga, a song and album I rarely listen to when with others, but a guilty pleasure when I am in the car.  This is very ‘bootleg’ sounding, lots of audience noise and talking, it is still very enjoyable as it starts, and I can see myself playing this at a BBQ as people chat and talk over it. It’s a gentle laid back groove that runs, and Tony M stays relatively restrained on the mic while the guitar and keyboard weave in and out. It’s very much a guilty pleasure for me as I listen, and I think there is a lot of extra crowd chat as they don’t recognise the song, and its Tony M doing all the rapping. Nobody would ever call this great, but I enjoy it as a show opener. Wait a minute – did he just say “mackadocious’?!!

Black M.F. In The House also makes its live debut at this show, and it is a lot of fun, both for the band playing and me listening. Prince sounds like he is having a great old time doing the voices and lines in this song, and I smile along with him as he sings “What the hell?” at the beginning of the song. Tony M does try a little too hard, and I find his flow doesn’t come easy, he often sounds forced. He words come fast and loud, and it’s not easy to catch what he is singing about.  The guitar lines I find far more enjoyable, I love the funky guitar, while there is some lead guitar work too for those who like it loud. I feel a little guilty as I sing along (what would the neighbours think if they heard me singing “No black M.F’s in the house”?), and I imagine Prince is having a laugh at my expense. It is all played with a wink, and I like it as Prince calls “are you gonna play the piano or just bang on it son?” as the piano solo begins. A very fun and enjoyable song, there is a lot to like about it.

1992 Becy

We are all more familiar with Call The Law, and apart from Tony M it also has a couple of nice guitar breaks from Prince. There isn’t too much to the song and although I like the flow of the music, I don’t like the flow of Tony M. I find myself tuning him out, and wait for the music and moments between his raps.  I want to like the song more, but there’s not enough to it for me, and as Tony M chants us through to the end I find myself sneaking a peek to see what the next song will be.

It’s Skin Tight, although the opening is very heavy on audience noise and talk. It’s lazy sounding, and lacks the tension of other versions I have heard. The music is laid back, and the lyrics are very relaxed sounding. It never grabs my attention and forces me to listen to it, instead it bubbles away without every breaking into something. I love a long groove, but this one doesn’t excite me, and although I like the guitar in the second part of the song the sound quality is too poor for me to properly enjoy it.

I feel a little ripped off by Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa, it’s very short and ends with the recording picking up some audience members talking about how lucky they are to see Prince play, and how they might not get to see him again.

Gett Off (Housestyle) gets things moving along very well, and it’s great to hear the audience signing along rather than talking. The guitar work is crisp and fast, and I like that it breaks down a couple of times so I can really appreciate the playing. There is an ill-advised scat, but I happily listen to the music while this is going on. The keyboard runs later in the song are also notable, although like everything suffer from the quality of the recording.

1992 yellow

I am very happy when I hear Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, for a start it sounds much better than anything else on the recording, and secondly it adds a heavy dose of funk to the show.  There is some nice vocals from Prince, and some funky breaks for the guitar before the highlight for me- the organ solo. The band isn’t heavy on the groove like The J.B.’s, and they have their own strengths which they play to. We get an interesting bass solo, and then Prince stops to music to do some crowd control. First he has the crowd move back, and then points up that they (the audience)  “didn’t get all dressed up to get messed up” Michael B picks the beat back up, and the band rejoin seamlessly- testament to the quality of all Princes bands.

Prince tackles another classic next as the band change direction with a smoky late night sounding Villanova Junction. I have heard the original plenty of times, and here Prince very much plays it in his own unique way. The band slip into the back ground as Prince and his guitar lead from the front. He plays in a couple of different ways, first with a louder sharper sounding guitar tone, and then later with a lighter and higher sounding guitar. The guitar sounds overlap so I presume that it is Levi playing the second solo which I am enjoying. Prince plays a third break which ends the song, it’s shorter and is a nice full stop.

And so that brings us to Jughead. What can I say? If I could skip this one I would. There are plenty of songs that I rarely listen to, but this is the one song that I NEVER listen to, and one I actively avoid. It sounds almost enjoyable at this show. It’s not enjoyable sitting here at home listening, but I can see that being at the show it would get the crowd moving and inject some energy. The crowd can be heard participating and there is a party vibe to proceedings.

The last song of the show is Step 2 The Stage. I find there is very little for me to enjoy, the guitar loop is nice, but Tony M is the main attraction of the song, and by this stage I am tired of his sound. On the positive side, the groove is easily enjoyable, and as well as the guitar there is also an organ groove that I always enjoy. As the winds down with Tony M singing “Goldnigga in the house” I begin to collect my final thoughts on the show.

Despite my negativity about Tony M, and the poor quality of the recording, I found that I did actually enjoy the show. In particular I liked the first two thirds of the show, and although I didn’t enjoy Tony M so much, I did really like the rest of the band. The core of members of the NPG here will be with Prince for the next few years, and already I can see how they will all play their parts. I like Michael B on the drums, and I always enjoy Tommy Barbarella along with Sonny T and Levi Seacer Jnr. The core of one of my favourite NPG configurations is right there. On a better recording I would play this more often, as it is it will always remain a curio that I pull out only on rare occasions. It was interesting enough, but I don’t feel I have to listen to it again for a good long while.

Thanks again, have a great week
Hamish

 

 

 

Rotterdam Diamonds and Pearls

Today’s post comes via a rather random route. I was just thinking that I hadn’t written about anything from the Diamonds and Pearls tour, when I happened upon a comment on prince.org stating that the best performance of Purple Rain was at Rotterdam 1992. The person posting then went on to say the whole gig was very good, and well worth a listen. “Well, why not?” I thought. If I am going to listen to something from about then, this sounds like the place to start. So today, a random gig recommended by a random person. The head phones are on, my laptop is humming, so let’s see just how good this is.

28 May, 1992, Rotterdam

The start isn’t terrible. I didn’t really know what to expect as the recording begins, but I wasn’t surprised to hear that it is an audience recording. The show opens with some electronic noise, and a voice intoning a digital countdown. It sounds somewhat dated now, but I am sure that at the time it was pretty cool. The crowd cheers as you might expect, but they quickly quieten down as some keyboard intro music plays. There is then a woman’s voice singing Take My Hand, Precious Lord. I am convinced it is Rosie, and here she sounds strong, and soulful. It’s only a few lines, but I would gladly pay good money to hear much more like this.

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The show really begins in the next minute as we hear Prince singing the start of Thunder. I can’t remember the last time I heard this song, it’s been many years since I last listened to Diamonds and Pearls album, but as this song gets going I am thinking I should listen to it more often. The sound is muted due to recording limitations, but asides from that its relatively clean, there is crowd noise, but Prince voice and the drums come out nice and strong. The other instruments are a little lost, it’s a shame, as I can hear some great guitar playing, but it’s not right out front like I would want. I very rarely mention Michael B, but he is a star here. His drumming is so strong, its sounds like he is really pounding away. I am pleased that Prince is concentrating on his singing, and only a couple of times he yells encouragement at the crowd- a pet hate of mine as you well know. The guitars go up a notch in the latter part of the song, and I can only close my eyes and imagine what it must have been like to be there at that time. I find Princes look at this time to be thin and delicate, but his music here is very big and strong- a pleasant surprise to me.

Tony M shouting out an introduction to the crowd begins us into a long jammed out rendition of Daddy Pop. Again, I had forgotten this song even existed until now. It begins well, the organ has me nodding in enjoyment, and Princes vocals too have me on side. However things slide as we reach the chorus, and we have Prince and the band enthusiastically singing “Pop Daddy, Daddy Pop”. I’m just not feeling it. I thought for a second maybe the music in-between would be enough to satisfy, but sadly Tony M appearance again derails even that for me. There is a nice little breakdown, with some cool bass runs, and as much as I enjoy them, it only highlights further the unevenness of the song. Prince and the band persevere with the song, long past the point where I would have normally listened to. I keep hoping for some music magic to save it, and Tony M keeps popping up his head and killing my moment. The final straw comes when he finally delivers a shouted rap, and I concede and hit the skip button. Sorry, but I just couldn’t take anymore.

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I am so used to hear abridged versions of Diamonds and Pearls nowadays, that to hear the full version here is like hearing a new song for the first time. Normally I would dismiss this song as being too syrupy and sweet for my tastes, but since it’s more than 10 years since I last heard it in full I’m going to give it a pass. Rosie nicely complements Prince throughout, and I had forgotten how well they sounded together on this. Her deep power nicely offsets Prince delicate vocal delivery. Some of the subtleties of the song are missing in the recording, but the chorus shines and is the strongest part of the song. Michael B makes an immediately impact midsong, and there is some nice deep sounding rolls coming from him. Overall the second part of the song sounds much better to my ears, and Rosie is easily the star of the show. That is until the unmistakable sound of Princes guitar begins, and then for the last minute of the song he dominates.

Lets Go Crazy gets the shortest of intros before the riff begins. Its an overall short version here, and the drum beat is prominent and up-tempo. As you might expect Prince dumps most of the verses and concentrates on the guitar playing. But it is by no means a festival of guitar love, and after only a minute of guitar fireworks Prince takes us into the next song.

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As you might expect, the arrangement of Kiss is different from that heard on other tours. This one concentrates more on the rhythm guitar underneath and the horns, and all in all it comes across as some sort of Sexy MF bastard child. And that’s not too bad at all, I find myself listening carefully to it and enjoying the groove. The horns add a lot of brassiness to it, and it’s far from the barebones skeletal song we hear on record. It’s never going to be my favorite arrangement, but it is good. There is even time for some call and response near the end of the song “let me hear you scream!”

I tried not to judge Jughead before it started, but as soon as Tony M picks up the mic and starts extolling the crowd to party it was over as far as an objective review goes. Of interest, after a minute of playing with the crowd he does rap the first few lines of Dead On It, which I find interesting in itself. You can even hear some of the crowd respond with “On it” when he says “the only good rapper is one that’s dead”. Oh, if only. I feel especially sorry for Rosie when she begins to get involved in this mess. The music can barely be heard under the relentless shouting and it doesn’t leave us much to listen to and enjoy. I did like it more when Prince was rapping, and the onslaught of noise dissipated a little, but it was only a brief moment in what is a dire song.

Next, the reason why I chose this gig. Purple Rain begins very well, the soft guitar sounds amazing after the previous song. The difference between the two is like night and day. The crowd have been waiting for this one and commence with the “ow ow ows” right from the start. The gentle strum gives way to a much harder lead guitar and the guitar break played is better than I could have anticipated. It’s not fast, but it does have a good loud crunch to it. A couple of howls from Prince, and he begins singing the verses proper. As with the guitar playing, the difference between this and the last song is light years. Prince is note perfect and is in peak form. There is just a twinkle of a piano in the background, and it nicely adds a sparkle to the verses. When the chorus rolls around, Rosie nicely adds her voice in behind Prince, and gives it a little extra kick. The release when Prince opens up the guitar solo is fantastic, and a definite highlight in the song to me. He plays the start of the solo the way he always does, but when he starts it here it sounds like someone popping the cork off a bottle of bubbly, there is such a release and rush. The crowd is in fine voice and towards the end they sound great and the guitar goes in a few directions I haven’t heard before. Nothing too much out of the ordinary, but a couple of bars where I thought “oh, that’s cool”. I’m not sure the song reaches the heights that were promised, but I will say that it’s a very good performance.

Live 4 Love maintains prince on the guitar and the opening minute of it has some more crunching guitar tone from Prince. The playing is strong, and I do like this lead guitar sound. The crowd sings along with the song, and it’s obviously well known to a lot of them. The verses don’t quite have the flow as they do on the album, but then again Prince does let the crowd do most of the singing. Sonny T gets an introduction from Prince, and plays an excellent bass line, he is one of my favorite bass players with Prince. Unfortunately things nose dive immediate after with another rap by Tony M. I wouldn’t want to be labeled a hater, but this show would be so much better without him. Prince returns with some hot guitar work, and I am pacified again, and by the end of the song I am even prepared to concede that it’s pretty good. Except for that 40 seconds midsong it was very strong.

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This arrangement of Willing and Able is just the type of thing I like to hear from Prince. I have always found it light on the album, but I have always rated the version on the video very highly. What we get here is closer to the latter, Rosie is an excellent counter balance to Prince. The horns are nicely in the back ground, filling the spots they need to fill, and overall the NPG are sounding very tight. I could give each of them a shout out on this one, Michael B sounds great, the bass is rumbling along nicely and there is loads of different instrumentation to listen to. I hold my breath waiting for the inevitable appearance of Tony M, but even he can’t ruin the smooth groove the band is laying down. This is the surprise highlight of the gig so far, and it gets even better with some great horn runs near the end of the song to carry us out.

Damn U surprises and delights me even more. Still six months before its release on record, it gets a nice reception form the audience here, and once again it’s the nice horn work that draws me in. Princes vocals are seductive, but it’s the horn swells that draw me in and have me leaning in to hear more. The horn solo is delightful, without being over the top. There is something about the live version that I enjoy more than the album version, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. It seems to have slightly more passion and realness to it. It closes to a hearty cheer from the crowd, and here at home I want to applaud to.

Prince tells the audience that they want to do one more new one for them, then dedicates it to “All the sexy motherfuckers” Although a new song, the crowd unsurprisingly quickly learn the chorus and are soon yelling the appropriate line back to Prince. It’s not as smooth sounding as on album, and it loses some of its appeal to me because of this. Some songs I enjoy a little more rawness, while others like this it’s the smoothness I like. I do like the solos played by the band, Tommy Barbarella is good, and Levis part has always been a favorite for me, he really does fly. The only dark cloud is Tony M, but mercifully he doesn’t get too long on this track. The horn that finishes the song is nice and sharp, and its shrillness stands up well next to the heavy organ. The song comes to an abrupt stop that catches me off guard.

The opening notes of Thieves in the Temple sound, before a suitably long atmospheric introduction featuring the beautiful sound of Rosie, and some gentle piano work. The intro has me salivating, I am hoping that we get a great version of Thieves In The Temple. My prayers are answered, when the song does start as we hear on album it is nice and full sounding with a good crisp piano sound. After a low key start, things really accelerate when the full band join, it’s played a shade faster than I am used to hearing. I don’t have a problem with it, but I feel it does detract from Princes vocals as he goes through the verses faster to keep up with the beat. The breakdown after a couple of minutes is the best part of the whole thing, the guitar plays a sweet little loop, and the crowd begin with an “ow we ow” chant. Prince then begins to sing over the bare music, and the over all effect is very cool. He then does a couple of lines of It, as well as some lewd talk. The audience is back on board with some chants and singing and Prince reverts back to It. At this point it has a real concert feel, and I feel what it might have been like to be there. While the crowd chants “all right” there is some Princely runs on an acoustic guitar. He then gets a funky rhythm going on it, and I decide that this is the best song on the recording. Not perfect, but it’s the song that I feel the most.

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The next part of the concert begins with a drum roll, and we have a short instrumental piece, lead by the horn section. It’s neither here nor there, but it does give us a break and changes the pace of the concert nicely.

It morphs rather naturally into Strolling. Not Strolling sung by Prince, but Strolling sung by the crowd. It’s only half a minute, but the crowd knows every word.

Without missing a beat we move into Insatiable. I stopped writing for the first minute, it was just too good. I completely forgot it was an audience recording and just concentrated on the purity of Princes vocals. A cheer from the crowd brings me back, but nothing can diminish the beauty of this song, and this performance. With the stripped back band sound, there is plenty of space for Princes vocals. Levi places a soft, and equally beautiful solo, and for a few minutes I am in heaven. The first half of this show was uneven, but we are into the good stuff now. There are some random cheers from the crowd, and I can only guess that Prince is giving some sort of performance on stage.

“23 positions in a one night stand” kills the moment, as does the vocal styling’s of Tony M yelling “NPGs in the motherfucking house!” Talk about a buzz kill. Luckily Gett Off is strong, the guitar line and Princes singing has plenty of power behind it, as does the power drumming from Michael B. Prince isn’t the greatest of rappers, but he gets a pass on this one for me, mostly because there are other parts of the song that I musically enjoy. Especially the guitar line, and near the end where he plays a brief break. He does break out from the song, but it’s still good. The pace picks up as we run into Gett Off II. Its fun, but not really note worthy. Prince runs through it again at the faster pace, and the horns and keyboard swing along with him. Once again Levi gets to play a quick solo, before Prince gives us a selection of screams.

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The next song is listed as Turn This Mother Out, but I believe its The Flow. To be honest, Tony M is all over this one, and I find it very hard not to skip it. The first minute or so he does indeed deliver his flow fast and furious, but he also yells it in such a way that I can’t make out what he’s actually saying. Now I aren’t some old guy who doesn’t appreciate rap, it’s just that Tony Ms delivery is such that he is hard to listen to.

Cream comes at us calmer and easier to listen to. It’s always nice to hear this one with some horns, and on this recording it’s the guitar and horns I enjoy the most. Along with the backing vocals from Rosie they add just a little more punch. I actually quite enjoyed this song, Prince sometimes sounds lazy with his delivery in cream, but on this recording he sounds like he is giving it a little more. Just to get me more excited Prince throws in a touch of La La La he hee he. Its subtle, but its there. Prince leading the audience into a chant of “Woof, meow” has me very amused, before a funky little guitar break from Levi.

Rosie finally gets her chance to do a full song with a rendition of Dr Feelgood. Not too many surprises here, she has the right voice for the song and she sings it pretty much as you would expect her to. Musically the band is in back ground except for one guitar break which has a heavy electric sound. I am going to guess it is Prince. It’s not played fast, but it does have a loud sound to it. It’s confirmed that it is Prince when Rosie says “oh Prince, you playing so good” and the guitar answers. The song ends not long after and the opening of 1999 sounds.

1999 is up-tempo, and brassy sounding. The funk guitar is buried in the mix, and it doesn’t sound as clean as I would like. But it’s not bad, it’s still sounding like a good time. It is very truncated though, and after only a minute the chant of “party” from the outro is sounding. It does go on for some time in this way, with plenty more horns and hand claps from the crowd. It sounds dated in this form, you could easily guess its early 1990’s Prince.

We segue into Baby I’m a Star. As another up-tempo fun song, it’s obvious now that Prince is pulling it all out for the end of the show. We get a rushed first verse and a chorus before they move on to Push.

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Push seems like an odd choice to put into the show now. The band is good at melding it into the previous two songs, but the dreaded Tony M bursting onto the scene bursts my bubble somewhat. Prince does then get the crowd to sing along for a bit, before singing a new song at that time ‘My Name Is Prince’ over the music. He only sings one verse, buts it’s interesting to see it developing at this stage. The up-tempo party theme continues with a final burst of horns before it pulls back into a slow groove. Tony M thanks everyone and then we are left with the same electronic noise for an outro as what began the show. It’s a nice symmetry.

So what to make of this one? Well, there were plenty of negatives, that can’t be denied – audience recording, Tony M, setlist. But let’s be positive, there were also some great moments. I thought Purple Rain was very good (not great) and I was knocked out by Insatiable. Damn U and Thieves in The Temple were also well worth the listen. In the larger scheme of things I think I would take a couple of these for a playlist, rather than listen to the whole show. Prince was excellent, but I just couldn’t get past Tony M. This recording hasn’t dated well, but it did help put his whole career in perspective.

Thanks for reading, if you have any recommendations let me know
-Hamish