When it comes to these shows from Le Bataclan, I have saved the best for last. The last couple of shows I have written about were good, today’s one is another level all together. In my research for this one I found that many people spoke of it as being one of the greats, and some thought it was even better than the small club show of 88. I have already praised one show from the ONA tour as one of the greatest (Copenhagen aftershow), and my first impressions of this one is that it might just trump it. The setlist has some highlights, and some great song selections are in there. It’s also better than the Copenhagen gig in that it runs for two and a half hours, so there’s a whole extra hour for me to enjoy right from the go. I have been looking forward to listening to this one for some time, and I think it’s a fitting way to end this Bataclan trilogy.
29 October, 2002. Le Bataclan Paris.
The show has barely started, and already I am saying wow, wow, and wow. The first song of the night is an instrumental, not that there is anything too unusual about that, except this one gets me. The drum shimmers and Renato Neto plays some figures over it, and it’s a mature jazz sound that I warm to right away. It’s not too often that I really feel Renato’s playing, here is an exception. There are the drums, piano and a bass, and it starts the show in fine style. The playing gets hotter, and then cools off before it begins to build again. Each movement draws me in more, and Prince plays his part for the first time of the night with some guitar playing that has his loud strong style that was often heard at this time. It’s not crunching, but it’s definitely the heaviest instrument playing. Things get serious later when everyone hits the same groove, and I get the feeling that the warm up is over, and the band is together, and tight. A brief drum solo, and then we spin off into another direction, the horns appear and we hear a hint of funk. It’s doing the song a disservice to write about it, this has to be listened to rather than written about. This is a fantastic opener, and if the rest of the show is this good then it will certainly be one of the greats.
The guitar jam that follows has a very different vibe. Prince riffs as he sings to the crowd “Good morning to you”. I can’t think of anything more fitting, and after this initial riff there is some suitably heavy guitar playing as the horns join in. The crowd joins in next, picking up the chant of “Good morning to you”. It seems so simple, and yet I find myself enjoying it just as much as I enjoyed the complexity of the opening jam.
The song morphs into Bambi, and I aren’t surprised to hear it in this context. The sound of the show changes, and I find I don’t have to listen as hard as I am so familiar with the song. It’s not as heavy as I have heard, the guitar is nice and clean sounding, and I am impressed by how much guitar noise Prince can generate just by himself. His soloing in the latter part of the song swirls around in my head, it’s something I could listen to for days. It does stop unexpectedly, giving Prince a chance to sing another verse before his guitar re-enters the fray. As with the previous two songs, I rate this very highly.
We rock on well and truly next with Prince’s take on A Whole Lotta Love. Prince nails the main riff and then Renato Neto surprises me again with a fantastically futuristic solo. Prince backs it up with one of his own, before a howl signals a break down a chance for the crowd to sing. This leads to Prince singing as the band quietly plays behind him. I keep waiting for the music to explode back, but Prince strings me and the crowd along for sometime before switching to Family Name.
Family Name starts with just Prince and his guitar, and soon enough the rest of the band join. The horns and the guitar are what I hear most, and the song moves along quite quickly. Things get more interesting later in the song, Prince stops singing and lets the music speak. There is some loud guitar work, which Prince acknowledges at the end of the song as he asks the audience “Ain’t too loud am I?”
A guitar strum and clap throws me initially, but the band joins and we get a very different take on Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) It’s very mellow sounding, the cold feel of the drum machine is missing, and replaced with an organ sound, and some sharp and loud guitar work by Prince. The organ is quiet, and holds it together while Candy plays a sweet sounding solo. It’s totally in keeping with this band’s sound and the make it their own. What I like most is a drum break on the tom toms near the end of the song while Prince plays sharps of guitar, it’s very cool, and makes me feel like a Beatnik.
The opening riff of The Question Of U snaps me back to reality, as Prince plays the riff over the drum sound. His voice is sounding as good as ever, and before I know it I am singing along. Renato adds his sound with a piano solo that fits the mood very well. Prince returns for his stark sounding guitar break as I nod along, smiling knowingly.
I love hearing The One in this setting, my only negative is it’s only a minute, which is a real shame because I could have easily listened to it all night long. Prince sings, and then as he begins his solo we switch to Fallin’. He only sings a line or two before his guitar work really takes over, and his playing is superb. I don’t have any words for it, its short and yet every note is perfectly placed.
Prince steps back as the band shows their chops with an easy take on Take 5. Renato excels in this, and his solo early on is just as good as Prince’s solo we have just heard. Very different in sound, but just as brilliant. Maceo adds his sound to the mix, and the crowd can be heard yelling their approval. As Prince sings Ain’t No Sunshine the song takes a darker and quieter sound, and at this stage there is some very sweet singing and interaction between Prince and the crowd. Like everything previous at this show, everything has its place and sound perfectly in line and as it should. The song ends with the men and women in the crowd trading lines, something that sounds surprisingly good.
Surprisingly good is apt for the next song, for it is both surprising and outstandingly good. She’s Always In My Hair is always a must listen for me, and this one has some of the best guitar work of the show. It’s heavy when it needs to be, and also light when Prince demands it. His latter solo in particular is a show stopper, it certainly stops me and I just sit and listen. The song doesn’t have the break down that I have come to expect, and it ends just under three minutes.
It doesn’t matter too much for people who like Prince’s guitar work, as he next gives us some guitar soloing for a minute of two before the band pick up a groove. He continues to solo as the crowd chant “It ain’t over” – nothing too fierce, he plays in and out of the music before the horns enter with the It Ain’t Over riff. I did expect it to go like this for some time, until Prince begins to talk about “here she comes in them hot pants” and I know a change will be coming soon. He does draw it out, with the crowd providing a soul clap as the horns and band swirl around. The moment I am waiting for never comes, as Greg begins to solo on the trombone, not a guitar in sight. The other horns join and I think the guitar will never enter, until suddenly it does for a minute. The chant of “It ain’t over” quickly returns and the song ends with Prince singing us straight into Shake.
Shake, now I didn’t see that coming. Prince leads the crowd in the singing of “Shake!” while he provides the lines in between. It’s very refreshing to hear Shake again, and Candy gives it a new sound with her energetic solo. Prince sings her praises, literally, as the ‘it ain’t over’ refrain sounds on the horns and the audience keep up the shake chant. It ties together beautifully, and I am beginning to understand how some people lose their heads over this recording.
The band pick up a funky groove, and I aren’t surprised that it’s James Browns I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself). Prince does well to weld it to his own The Work, Pt 1. There is a natural fit there, and Maceo is right in his element as he takes an early solo. The band pull back and there is some funky play between the horns and Prince’s guitar which I just love. When the groove resumes its much more horn infused and it’s the riffing of the horns that carry it along. The Work Pt 1 is much more evident at this stage as Prince sings it proper. There’s plenty more of Candy to come, and I don’t mind that at all. Even John has a chance to play a drum solo before the song eventually comes to a close.
777-9311 is short, and leaves me floored. Prince is jamming on the bass, and he is sounding fierce. Normally it’s the drum pattern that I listen for, in this case it’s Prince’s bass work that demands my attention. This alone is worth the price of admission.
Prince thumbs us easily into Hair. It’s considerably more laid back than anything else we have heard in the last half hour. It’s twice as long as 777-9311, but still much too short for my liking. Prince plays a brief bass solo which I hope will go on, instead he defers to Renato who plays a cool sounding solo that takes us to the end of the song.
Brick House continues this easily flow, Prince’s bass playing is loud, and for this one the horns make their presence felt, especially Maceo’s solo. The song is not much more than a verse and a solo from Maceo, and I dig every second of it.
Things stay in this vein as Prince gives us a laid back Skin Tight. I have heard this very funked up on other recordings, tonight he sounds more laid back as they play it. Prince chooses not to play the whole song, and it gets a brief treatment before they segue into Cool.
Cool is indeed cool. It’s not over worked, and the mood stays laid back. What I appreciate about it is that Greg gets to play a trombone solo, which generally isn’t cool, but in this case most definitely is. The pace quickens mid-song and the bass work of Prince and Rhonda catches fire. There is some great stuff in there, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As the crowd cheers Prince calls “touch the bass” but I feel like it is the bass that has touched me.
There is some spirited clapping and chanting by the crowd before the music returns with All The Critics Love U In Paris. A pounding beat and some great electronic noises get things moving, there is futurist keyboard solo that starts things off very nicely. It’s the keyboards for the first couple of minutes that really get my attention, much more than the groove and the beat. There is no singing, and it’s very much a jam over the top of the rhythm track. Both keyboards sound excellent, and the song fantastic.
The guitar is back to front and centre as Prince plays Alphabet Street (Including The Ballard Of Jed Clampett). It’s light sounding coming after All The Critics, and yet just as enjoyable. Prince doesn’t jam on it at all, and it’s just a pause before the next song begins.
Prince begins a slow groove and the crowd picks up the chant “NPG in the motherfuckin house”. I am laughing as Prince stops the music and tells the crowd they got the wrong chant “We aren’t going to do nothing to nobody’s mamma up here tonight” The music resumes with the crowd chanting “NPG in this funky house”. Over the groove Candy begins to play. Everything is slow and very relaxed sounding. I like her solo, and I like when Prince has the crowd singing “Oh Candy” as she plays. Things stay on this gentle course with a piano solo following. Like everything tonight it’s a joy to sit back and listen to.
All The Critics Love U In Paris next, and this time it’s in a different form. It’s much more insistent, and Prince sings the lines as you expect. The guitar and keyboards are lively and the horns too add their sense of urgency. Prince commands Maceo to blow the roof off, and he gives it a good effort. It has me wanting to get up and dance, and that’s a sure sign that it’s pretty damn good. Renato too seems to have found an extra gear and he more than does his part in keeping the up-tempo groove going.
I couldn’t imagine what they might follow with, and I am delighted to hear that it is Dolphin. The opening guitar is full of emotion, and it’s a credit to Prince and this band that they can still play something so heartfelt after such an extraordinary show. Prince’s vocals are just as clean and beautiful as his guitar playing, and during the chorus he switches from singing the chorus to playing it on his guitar instead, just the sort of thing I like to hear. I can’t decide what I like most about this, his vocals, his guitar, or the piano playing behind him. All of it is worthy of my time and attention and truly the sum is greater than the parts, and the parts are mind blowing. It’s one of those songs that I never want to end, and as soon as it finishes I decide that this is my new favourite bootleg.
The Santana medley that follows seals the deal, and there’s plenty of Prince on the guitar as well as some frenetic keyboard from Renato. Prince excels in these medleys and the he does the sound of Santana so well, as does Renato Neto on the keyboards. The two of them trade solos on their respective instruments. I am running out of words for this show, I would love just to switch off the computer and sit back and enjoy it. If ever a show deserved to be called a ‘headbuster’, this would be it. It has it all, and there’s so much to enjoy at such a high quality.
Even after two and bit hours, the crowd still chant for more, and they are rewarded with an instrumental Come On. The bass is fat and full which is nicely offset by the keys and some scratching. Prince starts a chant and very aptly it’s “party till the sun come up” The choppy rhythm guitar has me bobbing, and I find myself subconsciously chanting along.
Prince sings Housequake so slow and relaxed it’s far removed from the album. A rhythm guitar, bass and drum are the main building blocks as Prince sings his lines slowly before building the crowd to a chant of “Time to get funky”. The horns swell through the song, and there are a couple of solos, all of them on point. I am thinking it might slide by in this way until the end, but there are more fireworks from Prince and his guitar and the song gains in intensity. Suitably he finishes his solo and the song as the crowd continues the chant for another minute.
I admit it, I slept on this one. I have to agree with what others have said about this recording- it certainly is one of the greats. I can’t fault it, the performance is tight, the band is on form, the setlist is perfect, and the crowd is a big part of the fun. I may have overlooked this show in the past, but it will be on high rotation now for a very long time. Just fantastic in every way, and a fitting way to remember all the great shows from the Le Bataclan. I am going to go listen to it again right now, have a great day where ever you are, see you next time.