Le Bataclan 2002

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.

Prince 2002

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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

-Hamish

 

ONA Berlin

The One Night Alone tour is one that I listen to often, and one of his best. Although not everyone enjoys the Rainbow Children album, there is no denying that it is a strong artistic statement, and a lot stronger than the albums that preceded it. The tour itself shows that Prince has a lot of faith in his new music, and plays the bulk of it throughout these shows. I enjoy the intimate feel of these concerts, and some of the set lists are great. It’s somewhat surprising that I haven’t blogged about these shows previously, but today I will address the imbalance. The show I have chosen to listen to is from the European leg, and is ONA Berlin. There is a great many shows from this tour circulating so I had plenty of choices, but I had a feeling in the back of my mind that this one was one of the longer ones, and pretty darned good. Hopefully it’s as good as I remember.

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19th October, 2002 Berlin

After some cheers and clapping from the audience the show opens with a digital type of sound, before the steady bass line of Rainbow Children is heard and the band settle into a steady beat. There is some sax work, but my ears aren’t good enough to tell you if its Eric Leeds or Candy Dulfer, but I’m thinking it might be Candy. There is several cheers from the audience as the song continues in this vein for some minutes. Some people might be wanting Prince right from the go, but I am more than happy just to sit back and listen to this band play, it’s very classy and smooth. There is a louder cheer and I assume that Prince is onstage. That is confirmed when a few seconds later Prince is heard singing with the Darth Vader sounding effect on his voice. I don’t really listen to the lyrics, so I find I quite enjoy it, and I like the different sound it gives. The Prince voice we are accustomed to is heard a minute later when he says “are we in Berlin” before the first chorus of “Rainbow Children” The song is enhanced further when Prince says “can I play my guitar” and some nice guitar stabs are played. The guitar has a strong tone to it, and it gives the groove a bit more backbone. I really like this one a lot, it’s not something I listen to a lot on album, but I find myself returning again and again to the live version. It’s got a lot more stiffness and sharpness to it which I like. In this situation I find myself enjoying Renato Netos playing and it does add to that overall uncomfortable sound in the song, that feeling that everything is not quite settled. He does play for some time, both with an electric digital sound, and a more natural piano sound, and both are fine by me. There are two keyboards playing off each other, but once again my ears aren’t good enough to tell you which is Renato, and which is Prince. Perhaps I should have written about a DVD of this tour. The song changes direction again near the end with the electric guitar coming back. At 15 minutes it’s a great long introduction to the show.

Berlin 2002

Muse 2 The Pharaoh is more laid back, and feels like a ray of sunshine after some of the darker grooves of Rainbow Children. It’s good to hear Prince singing once again in his natural singing voice, and I find myself nodding my head along easily with the clapping of the crowd. Even the darker keyboard grooves don’t feel as dark as on album, surprisingly this is one song that isn’t darker and heavier in concert. Prince’s message is preachy, but often I forget to listen to what he is actually singing, and I just follow the music. His message is obviously very important to him, these two songs are first up and right in your face, but I don’t think the message derails the show at all.

His comments about real music by real musicians leads us directly into Pop Life. I hadn’t expected this song to pop up on this tour, but like some many other forgotten gems he played it regularly on this tour, and he does make it fit with his sound at that time, the keyboard solo by Renato Neto in particular is a nice bridge between his past and present sound, and listening to it I realize that it’s not anything new, I am just hearing it in a different context. The pop aspect of Pop Life is there, but the jazzy side of it also feels a little stronger in this setting. Just as I was thinking about that, Prince makes it far more explicit when he says “Life it ain’t too funky, unless it’s got that Jazz” and Candy Duffer takes a moment to play. Again it’s not too much of a stretch for the song, and it has a nice upbeat jazz ending, and Prince even throws in a little scream.

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Prince declares pop music is dead then the music of Xenophobia begins. The crowd is subdued as Prince asks them “who came to get their Purple Rain on? You at the wrong party” The horns enter and play with the heavier sounding groove before Greg Bower gets a moment to play, and although I think trombones are desperately uncool, I do enjoy it, especially when Prince gets the crowd to yell encouragement to him. John Blackwell also gets a moment to solo, and I can hear how well he is playing, but the recording doesn’t pick it up as well as I would have liked. I should imagine that it would be pretty bone shaking if I was there, but the recording doesn’t have the depth or heaviness to it. Prince prefaces his “Is it better to give or receive” speech with “who speaks English?” A wise move to check first I should think. The spoken section of the song is still enjoyable, even though I have heard it plenty of times. It never becomes grating and I like his casual interaction with the audience. Things heat up after the chat, with some guitar playing that becomes faster and more aggressive, before a big drum roll takes us back into the lead line. As the song ends there is some more of Prince talking, and there is a nice moment when he asks “did you miss me?” After the applause he quietly says “I missed you too” as the music of Money Doesn’t Matter 2 Night begins.

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I am no fan of the Diamonds and Pearls album, but I love Money Doesn’t Matter 2 Night. For one of Princes political songs it manages to strike a good balance between music and lyrics. The recording isn’t brilliant, but its good enough and I listen to it carefully. Candy Duffer gets the sax solo, and she plays it well, but always sounding slightly restrained. This band is a good match for the song, and it plays to their smooth jazz sound. And I am just pleased to hear it in the set list, it’s very much a song that needs to be played more often. The sax gets better and better through the song, and near the end it holds a nice steady long note which brings us to an end. A great song, and this is a very good version.

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I was listening to A Case Of U last week from the 1983 First Ave show, and now 20 years after that I am hearing it again. This one is different in that it’s not Prince and his guitar, its Prince and his piano. The lyrics are however just as beautiful as ever. Some of the emotion is gone in the performance, but that has been replaced with a very professional smoothness. The rest of the band play quietly behind Prince, but they are loud enough that the lyrics are no longer front and centre. The piano playing does carry more emotion so it is somewhat of a trade-off. I am not convinced that this is a better version, but I can’t deny that it does have a charm to it. It does lose me near the end with the final coda and some quirky sounds. It sabotages the emotion and goodwill that the song had earlier built up.

Another long funk jam next with The Work (Part 1). It has a much more standard sort of sound to it, and to my ears sounds a lot like we hear on Musicology. Its lead by Prince and the horns, and for me it really picks up when Eric Leeds begins to solo. He doesn’t play too wild or loose, but his playing is unexpected and goes in directions I can’t predict. I was going to dismiss this song as not much but the couple of minutes of Eric playing make it all worthwhile. The song drops back a notch as Prince engages the crowd and gets a couple on stage for a dance contest. As I said earlier I do enjoy that he is casual and relaxed with his interactions with the crowd, but it doesn’t always make for great listening here at home. There was a moment that made me smile when Prince tells his audience to get on the two and four, and they go on the one and three. The rest of the audience becomes involved when Prince gets them to sing “Got a lot of work to do”  There is more chat with the crowd as Prince chastises one of them for celebrating their birthday, I feel it’s a little unfair in a public situation, but it is what it is. All in all it’s a fun song, and nice to see Prince at home on stage.

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Extraordinary is ordinary. It’s nice sounding, but to be honest it is a Prince ballad by numbers. I like the horn lines in it, and the piano playing is good, but vocally I feel like I have heard it all before. Candy saves the day for me, with some sweet sax that takes the song up a gear. She plays for a couple of minutes before an appreciative cheer from the audience. There is then a piano solo that doesn’t reach the same heights as Candy’s playing. When we return to Prince singing he seems to have found another gear, and I enjoy him singing out far more than I did at the start of the song.

I am far more into Mellow as he plays it. It engages me right from the start and hold me all the way through. I can’t remember the last time I heard this, but I think it’s something I should play more often. The band play smoothly along, with an edge added by the bass and keys. Prince sings around it a lot, and I also find myself drifting back again and again to listen to the flute. Prince’s voice is alluring and I listen to him carefully even though I don’t really know he is singing about. The best part of the song is when he sings alone, and it’s definitely a vocal highlight. A great moment in the show.

I expected 1+1+1=3 to be an extended jam, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as good, and as long as what we have here. Clocking in at over 20 minutes it has plenty of twists and turns. There are some great moments, and also some less than great moments. I like the main groove of the song, and the guitar line playing under it all. Its highlighted for half a minute when the band stop and leave the guitar playing along, before the kick drum comes back in and the song continues. Prince does sing several lines of Housequake, but I am never a fan of when he sings it over other songs. There is a funky moment as the crowd start chanting “we want the funk”. The band briefly stops as the chant continues, before the pounding beat of John Blackwell brings the song back. With some more guitar the band very briefly play Love Rollercoaster, another cover I don’t have much time for, but here it is very short with no singing, and much funkier for it. Later the funk guitar becomes less prevalent and a heavier groove comes from the band as Prince begins to play more lead guitar. There is a further highlight after this with some fantastic horn playing. The song then becomes just a great groove and the band stay on it. The whole thing then lurches into a deep wonderful sounding Berlin jam. The song ends with Prince spelling out Berlin a couple of times over an ominous sounding piano riff. What an amazing jam, and one I won’t tire of for some time.

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Dorothy Parker brings things down again. Without the full on audio assault the recording sounds thin on this one. Dorothy Parker is another song that fits in well with this band and its jazz sensibilities. It stretched out more than on album, and after a nice piano interlude Eric Leeds gets some time to solo before Renato comes back with another piano break. It’s inoffensive, but I never get the feeling that it’s anything more. I was hoping the band would go even further with it, but they play it relatively safe. There is big finish with John Blackwell on the drums before a final fade, and by the end I am thinking this is a wasted opportunity for this band to do what they do best. Of course the recording doesn’t do it any favours so perhaps I am being overly harsh.

I perk up when Strollin’ begins. The evening is definitely changing its feel as it progresses. There is a lead guitar break early on that I enjoy, and then the rest of the song is reasonably predictable. The piano break is however a nice touch, and something I hadn’t heard before. There is a sax solo that follows it, adding more colour even if I don’t really like it too much. I have heard much better versions of Strollin on earlier tours, and this one doesn’t compare to them. It’s nice to see it in the set list, a shame it’s not what I expected.

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Gotta Broken Heart Again gets off to a slow start, then draws me in once Prince begins to sing. He’s on form here, his vocals are smooth and velvety, until he eases back and Eric Leeds plays a gentle floating solo. Although I would say the recording is good, it is unbalanced, and that is quite apparent here as every time the drum plays it swamps all the other instruments. The best part of the song is when it is just Prince and his piano.

Prince next does his spoken word piece about his strange relationship with radio (I think you know where this is heading). He only speaks a few lines before the band kick into Strange Relationship, and I am very happy as this is one song that always sounds great live. It’s played with great gusto on this recording, and the bass and keyboards in particular are to the fore. Prince seems to derive a lot of energy from the song, and he sings with great enthusiasm. Rhonda gets her moment in the spotlight with the bass groove to end the song, and even though it sounds good, I know that live it would have been even better. I loved hearing it here, I just wish this was a soundboard. It could have gone for longer too, Prince keeps it on a tight leash here before the next song begins.

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Things take a guitar turn as Prince calls “Turn me up Scotty, crank this up” as his guitar intro to When You Were Mine begins. This song has never dated to my ears, it still has a freshness to it which is hard to ignore. Prince gives it a standard run through, and his guitar does sound nice and crisp all the way through. His vocals aren’t as full on as I have heard on other recordings but his guitar is what I am listening to on this one. He does play a brief solo as the song reaches the end, but its down in the mix, and I have to listen carefully to get the maximum enjoyment from it.

The guitar is turned up to 11 for the next song as Prince rips into Whole Lotta Love. The opening riff is absolutely iconic and Prince more than does it justice. His falsetto is a surprisingly good suit for the song, and he unleashes some screams and yells that Robert Plant would be proud of. This performance isn’t about the song though, it’s about Prince and his guitar playing ability.  The first couple of minutes is just the entree before Prince turns his guitar up and begins to go wild. This the solo I have been waiting for, it’s completely unhinged, and wild sounding. At two minutes long it actually sounds much longer as there is a lot going on in there, it really is like being in a storm. Near the end of his solo there is a frenzied yell from someone in the crowd who is obviously enjoying it as much as I am. Prince himself ends the solo with a scream, before returning to singing the verses. Princes singing over the breakdown is almost as good as the solo, and a great way to segue into the next song.

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The next song is Family Name, and the transition from Whole Lotta Love is dark and brooding as Prince gives a spoken intro about being disconnected from his past. The music does brighten as the band and horns play more, but sadly the song is dragged down by the lyrics. However I do manage to ignore them long enough to enjoy the music and the band. The bass heavy finish is overworked, and my overall feeling by the end is “I’m pleased that’s over”

Take Me With U is far more easy going, and much more familiar for the crowd, I can easily hear them singing during the song. There is a little distortion on the recording, but it’s only a few seconds worth. In all fairness I have probably heard this too many times over the years, and I am by now somewhat jaded. It is however very enjoyable, included the inevitable segue into Raspberry Beret.

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Over the opening chords Prince again speaks to the crowd, telling them “Music is art, for it to remain that way it must ask hard questions, and that’s what we’re trying to do tonight”. It has me scratching me head, several times he has talked about asking hard questions, buts it’s hard to know what those questions are. Raspberry Beret is a feel good sing along song for the crowd, they have plenty of chances to sing through the song, and Prince does call for the house lights to be turned on, adding further to the casual atmosphere. The song ends with the crowd singing one final line, and without pause Prince calls the next song.

The Everlasting Now follows, and once again the horns are to the front. Although I am not a great fan of the Everlasting Now, I do find myself dancing and singing along with it. I become even more animated when Prince plays his Santana medley midsong. It’s only for a couple of minutes, and a great couple of minutes they are. Not only Prince and his guitar, there is plenty of horns and keyboards thrown into the mix as well. Prince thanks the crowd as the band plays its way back into the Everlasting now. The latter part of the song is more jam like, and Eric Leeds has another solo. His is the last moment in the song, as his closes his solo, Prince calls “thank you and good night”

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Prince resumes with only a piano for company, and begins the next part of the set with an appropriate rendition of One Night Alone. It’s not a song I am overly familiar with, and I find myself really enjoying it on this recording. The lyrics are a nice fit for the beginning of the piano set and as Prince sings “are you ready for one night alone, with me” he segues easily into Adore.

For some reason I don’t immediately recognize it, and I am kicking myself once I pick up the lyrics. Adore has been over played in my house for years, yet it is still a song that I come back to. It was such a big part of my teenage years, and I still appreciate the sentiment and feeling in it, as well as the dash of humour. I find this version a little slight, it is gentle on the piano, and Prince doesn’t push the vocals too hard. The recording is nice and clear without all the band, and the piano set is the cleanest part of the recording. Prince plays a truncated version, there is a section where he scats – skipping some verses, before he brings it gentle to a close with a piano flourish and a final refrain.

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The Most Beautiful Girl In The World gets quite a cheer from the crowd, and I am sure more than a few of them are disappointed when Prince sings the opening line before moving on.

Condition Of The Heart really gets my pulse racing. Another long-time favourite, I am over joyed to hear it here. Someone in the audience agrees with me, and there is an audible “Yeah!” from the crowd. He doesn’t play a full version, electing to instead sing the first verse, and then play piano for a minute or so. I can’t complain too much about it, I love what we have here, and it takes me right back.

I could have predicted that Diamonds and Pearls would appear in the piano set, I just didn’t expect it to be quite as short as it is. As is his way, it only gets a brief play, it’s very nice but frustratingly short.

For me things get back on track with a full rendition of The Beautiful Ones. The band are back behind him as he plays, and it’s a shame that the recording loses Prince a shade behind the drums. I enjoy the piano and especially the singing, it’s disappointing the drum beat comes across just too loud in places. The horns play great, especially as a counter point against Princes vocals in the latter part of the song. Prince’s vocals sound a little tired near the end of the song, then again maybe I am being too harsh on one of my favourite songs.

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The crowd gives an appreciative cheer to Nothing Compares 2 U, and then goes on to trade lines with Prince through the song. After the first verse/chorus Candy Dulfer comes to the fore with an exquisite sax solo, before Prince comes back for the next verse. The audience is well warmed up by this stage, and singing in strong voice as the song comes to the end. A nice concert moment, and one captured well on the recording.

I was excited when I heard Condition Of The Heart, but I am even more so when I hear the beginning of The Ladder from the same album. This takes on more importance here, as mid-song Prince delivers a monologue that comes back to some of the themes he has already commented on earlier in the evening. The early part of the song is very faithful to what is heard on album, then with a call of “break it down NPG” Prince begins his speech. He speaks of the troubles worldwide (pre 9/11) He urges the crowd to stop looking at the differences between people and concentrate on the similarities. He talks for some time, before ending with “Naw, I didn’t come to preach, but I gotta get that out” and then gets the crowd on board for a singalong of the chorus. It’s actually very uplifting, and with Eric Leeds again playing it’s a classic concert moment.

I was thinking it would be a fantastic way to close the show, and then Prince goes on to play Starfish And Coffee. Although very short, it’s a very sweet song and again showcases another one of Princes famous piano songs.

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Sometimes It Snows In April follows, and I am loving how many of these old songs Prince is pulling out. He doesn’t over play it, with just him and the piano with the merest sound of the band behind him. His voice is as smooth as you could expect, and I just close my eyes and enjoy the moment. I am surprised that the crowd doesn’t try to sing along with the final few lines, they are respectfully silent to the end. Prince finishes the song to a round of applause, before beginning to play more on the piano.

He begins by telling the crowd “I always say I ain’t gonna play this song, and I always end up playing it anyway. I’m just trying to move on with my life” He then speaks for another couple of lines, before playing the opening chords of Purple Rain on the piano. There is a quiet cheer from the crowd and then the band comes in. Although not a great version, it is still very enjoyable. As the crowd sings the chorus you can hear him beginning to work the guitar, and it’s far more audible as the second verse begins. Then with a simple “good night” he begins to solo. As much as I sometimes tire of Purple Rain, I always find something to enjoy in the solo. This one proves true to form, it manages to be as I expect, but still with a twist or turn for me to latch onto. Prince rallies the crowd with a final speech before they sing as one voice “ooohh, ooohh, ooohh” The song and the show end with Prince “peace and be wild” before the final sounds of the keys and the strings à la the album recording.

I knew there was a good reason I remembered this one – it was a long long show. Covering almost 3 CD’s, it was worth the time invested in it to take a listen, my only recommendation would be don’t try and blog about it. The show was a good representation of the ONA tour, and I really got a lot of enjoyment out of listening to some of the songs thrown into the set-list. This configuration of the NPG was very versatile and worked well with some of his more jazz infused songs heard here and for that I applaud them. Even though it was a good recording rather than great, it never overly detracted from my enjoyment. It was worth every minute.

See you next time
Hamish

 

Copenhagen We Be Shakin

I am going to go out on a limb here. This recording, in my opinion, is the greatest Prince bootleg of all time. The default setting for most Prince Fans is to say Small Club is the greatest bootleg, but I feel this one slightly edges it. There are a few reasons for my opinions on this. Firstly the quality of the recording is fantastic. Its soundboard, but its better than 90% of the other soundboard recordings I have heard, the mix on this is outstanding. The band and the playing are excellent, and the set list contains a great mix that showcases all of Princes styles. The first part of the gig is guitar heavy rock, before he moves through funky jams, ballads and ends with a knock out version of Dolphin. Top notch in every aspect. This recording is not my favorite bootleg, but it’s definitely the best out there. So let’s have a look at ‘The Greatest Of All Time’

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26 October 2002, Copenhagen

The recording starts of with the end of the DJs set. It’s a nice touch, and sets the scene for what will follow. Even this part of the recording is pristine. The DJ spins Gett Off, Poom Poom, and then a hip hop song before a flurry of guitar work has Prince warming up his fingers. He plays fast and furious from the start, and after a minute of fret work the band begins with Who Knows. It is, as you might expect, just a showcase for Prince to dazzle us with his guitar work and he delivers. I have found over the course of writing this blog that it is impossible to properly express the sound of his guitar. Let’s just say, that in this case, its hot.

Keeping with the guitar based songs he follows up with Bambi. The band sounds very strong behind him, he is way out front with the guitar sound, but the band is really pushing it along – especially the drums and bass. I really feel the buzz in the room when Prince calls “Turn me up Scotty, want to feel it in the whole house” Cue more guitar heroics. The guitar comes in waves, before it pulls back to give Prince space to sing “All your lovers look just like you”. This bit is quite enjoyable as Prince sings it in his deeper speaking voice, something I want to hear more of.

The song segues straight into the main riff of Led Zeppelins ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ I love this intro, especially as the riff blasts out, in the left speaker you can clearly hear someone lose themselves in the moment and yell “Whhhooooaaaa” I love that! If I could have been there I think I would have done the same thing. The guitar is deep and throaty and its a really nice contrast with Prince singing in his usual falsetto. A couple of verse chorus and Prince pulls out not one, but two spectacular psychedelic guitar solos. Really, you gotta hear these. I’m still flying as the crowd gets a quiet moment to sing-along with “A whole lotta love” Prince ends their moment with a “Turn it up!” and yet another (short) killer guitar solo.

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The pace is brought down a lot following this when Prince plays the opening refrains of Question of U. The keys enter and the whole mood and tempo of the evening is changed. As he sings “What is the answer to the question of you?” I realize just how great this recording is. The quality is apparent when I listen to him sing, you can hear just how great is voice is, perhaps the one instrument people forget that he most proficient with. After there verse I half expected another guitar outburst but instead we are hit with sublime piano playing. There is really good variety and variation throughout this show. Of course there is an inevitable guitar break after the piano, but again he surprises me by moving onto singing “The One”. This is one of my favorite sons, and I think it is one of the most underrated songs in his catalogue. For me the lyrics are fantastic and heartfelt, I really feel every word. My pulse quickens when Prince says “Go ahead Eric”- any band that has Eric Leeds in it is alright by me! The sax here is very nice indeed, and Eric demonstrates that less is more. Very delicate, and missing the “Honk” that I usually associate with Eric Leeds. (I mean that in a good way!)

“On the one” Prince stops the band in an instant. “Didn’t they tell you no cameras?” he asks the audience. I wonder what is about to unfold as Prince chastens the crowd for taking photos. I laughed when he said “I got a nice warm hotel bed waiting for me” then instructs the crowd that next time someone takes a picture the person next to them should grab them and twist their neck. After saying one more time “No pictures please” the band resume with another verse before Candy Dulfer has a chance to shine with a sax solo. Its better than I am making it sound, trust me. Prince sings a couple of lines of “fallin” by Alicia Keyes, which I think is a really nice touch. The horns and piano then take centre and we have Take Five played into the mix, you’d be surprised by how good it all sounds. The song then ends with a drum solo. How about that, a bit of everything! What a sequence, the last ten minutes have been amazing.

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Things take a funky turn with the bass taking a prominent stand. First we have Brick house. The bass leads in before the horns and band join in. Prince is singing, but it’s the bass and horns that are the heroes here. Prince names checks Eric for a solo and then we stay in the funky vain as the band start playing Skin tight. Another favorite of mine from back in the day, this version is just too short for me, I want more, more, more. Prince singing has a funky sound to it, especially as he sings “She’s a bad, bad lady, in skin tight britches.” Another call of “on the one” and the bass plays the distinctive intro to 777-9311. But before I disappear into a cloud of excitement they quickly move into Hair. Oh such a shame, I would kill to hear a full version of 777-9311. The song Hair itself is good enough, and it does have a very fine Trombone solo (its not very often I get to write those words), and Candy also gets another chance to do her thing. The song ends with a very distorted prince guitar drowning out everything else. Again it’s another spectacular ten minute sequence that leaves me hungry for more.

The next songs begins with a steady drum beat and surprisingly some record scratching and sampling. Actually it’s not a bad thing, and I enjoy it. To hear it, I could have never guessed what song it was coming. The band enter and there is a really nice groove going, the horns play a very good rising line and then Prince hits us with “One more jam, one more Jam, for Prince and the band” The crowd immediately take up the cause and keep the chant going. Candy starts to play, and I still have no idea where this song will go next. I can’t help but laugh when he says “Ain’t you gotta go somewhere tomorrow, Ya’ll as crazy as me!” “It ain’t over, it ain’t over” The crowd loves the “It ain’t over” chant and keep it going. They definitely don’t need any encouragement from Prince.

Finally Prince plays the main riff of Peach and I know where this is going. Normally I ain’t a fan of Peach, but of all the recordings of it, this is my favorite version. This one is not so saturated in guitar, the verses have plenty of horns, keyboard and sampling, the guitar only really dominates at the end of each chorus when Prince lurches into a solo. The solos are excellent, as always. The solos end, and the band groove on and on. Prince leads the crowd into “Copenhagen, we be shaking” while there is a couple more solos from the horns. The groove sounds effortless, and I could listen to it all day. There is some very funky sax to be heard here. With a “From NPG we love you all, good night” from Prince and the song comes to its climax and ends.

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But it ain’t over! The crowd claps and chants “Copenhagen, we be shaking” for two minutes, with out pause. Its pretty impressive and adds to the feeling of this whole recording. The band obliges and the drums take up a new beat, supported by some sort of sampler and scratching. Prince sings Prince And The Band, but to be honest it’s a little disjoined and messy. There seems to be some sort of problem and a couple of times the song breaks down. I always have liked this song, but this version is one to forget. I’m not sure who’s playing what, or why it doesn’t work. Its obviously distracting to Prince who loses his flow a couple of times. For all that though, I think it doesn’t detract from the recording. It’s good to see that even Prince can have his problems on stage, and he is at the mercy of temperamental technology. Phew, I’m not the only one!

All The Critics Love You In Denmark follows up. Although crowd pleasing by title, it hits my sweet spot too. The long groove gives plenty of time for the horns to play their thing. The track isn’t too busy, and Candy plays some very nice sax on it. I find that I am not writing much, I am too busy drumming along with it on my desk. Sometimes it’s good to just enjoy a song rather than over thinking it. The keyboard in this song was outstanding, and it was a nice to have something not so guitar heavy near the end of the show.

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I failed to pick Dolphin when it first began to play. Its starts very slow with some nice gentle guitar playing. The whole song is played in this way, slow and more minimal. For me this is the outstanding performance on the recording. I don’t normally enjoy Dolphin, but I find this more slow and soulful version very moving. It suited the lyrical content much better, and one can feel Princes emotion in it as he sings. I think the best word to describe this song here would be beautiful. Its overused, but in this case this is one very beautiful song. Prince’s guitar solo that close the song is retrained and right on the money. A great way to end the show.

For me this is the greatest Prince bootleg. I know 90% of people would disagree with me, most choosing Small Club over this. But by the time this had finished it really did feel like I had been on a musical journey. I feel this had better variety than small club, the recording quality was about the same, but the audience is more in the mix giving it a better live feel. Some might say that the disastrous performance of Prince and The Band detracts from it, but to me it adds a more human aspect to the show, its a bit more Rock n Roll. Also having the horns on this give it more color and again shows another aspect of Prince as the band leader.

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In fairness, I will look at Small Club next week, something that I don’t listen to too often having overplayed it when I was younger. Another knock out show, it’s something I will look forward to writing about.

Take care
Hamish