Melbourne 2003 Aftershow

Last weeks blog about the Melbourne show of 2003 left me unsatisfied. As much as I enjoyed it, it was an incomplete recording that left me wanting more. As luck would have it, I have in my hand the aftershow from the same evening. This is a complete recording, but it is short – clocking in at just under an hour. I don’t mind that too much at all as the contents within are interesting – an unusual arrangement of Musicology (still five months away from being released), a slowed down “The Work Pt 1.” and a left field cover version in the form of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” It’s a tidy setlist that keeps the listener engaged throughout as Prince leads us down various musical alleys and backstreets. It is in contrast to the greatest hits package served up at the main show, making in an even more intriguing listen for me.

23rd October 2003 (am) Melbourne, Australia

Prince emerges regally through the crowd noise, although the audience recording cannot match the moment and is not quite good enough to make out his introduction. It matters little as the music takes its rightful place at the centre of the recording for the live debut of “Musicology.”  In the smaller and more intimate venue it sounds soulful and full, the drums especially sounding huge in the opening stanza. The horns are still busy, and Prince delivers his vocals with panache, but it is less Vegas sounding than on the Musicology tour, and for my ears it resonates with its soulful roots showing. Maceo and Greg Boyer are well into their work early here, and they are infuse plenty of kinetic energy into the song, Maceo with his furious saxophone solo, and Greg with his mighty trombone solo that for my moneys tops him. It’s early days and Prince is still playing with the arrangement for this song, in this case it is broken into two with  “Brick House” making a cameo appearance between the two sections. As much as I love “Brick House,” in this case I aren’t too fussed. Prince is bold with his vocals, and it is unfortunate that there is a slight distortion in the recording at his loudest moments. It is left to the horns to save they day, and they segue back into Musicology with aplomb and remain the main focus of my listening experience for the rest of the song.

It is Rad that sings “Ooh,” but she is far from the centre of attention as it is the rest of the band that grab the song and shake it up into a cocktail of horn and keyboard funk. Another shot of trombone action from Greg Boyer leaves me drunk in its wake, the music a powerful mix of 100 proof funk that is overpowering and intoxicating. There is little I can do but lose myself in the moment as Prince demonstrates exactly what aftershows are all about – purity of the musical experience.

“Peach” is lost to me in the general noisiness of the recording, the vocals washed away in the waves of crowd noise and general thinness of the recording. However, the recording does a good job of capturing the horns (here, and throughout) and especially Prince’s guitar. It is a shame then that he doesn’t engage with his instrument as much as you might expect, and asides from a couple of storming runs there is little guitar to be heard.

Rising on the back of the horn motif comes “The Work Pt.1” My soul sings as the horns play, but for me the meat and potatoes of the song is the rhythm guitar that arrives later in the song. Even as the sound becomes busy and spreads out in several directions I can still hear the guitar, a style I have always gravitated towards and held dear. The rest the song goes by in a blur and there is much to admire in the way the band all play so uniquely but blend their styles and sounds together seamlessly. This may not be the best recorded version, but there is still plenty there for those that listen close.

It is Chance Howard’s time to claim some spotlight as he comes forward for his take on “No Diggity.” Its a relaxed cover version, the rhythm section however is flawless in their work, and although this isn’t the most energetic version in circulation it is still interesting enough in it’s own way, especially when Maceo adds his talents to the mix. Truly a legend, he elevates every song as soon as his saxophone is heard on the recording.

Prince leads hand clapping into “When The Saints Go Marching In,” and this version isn’t just about the horn section as you might expect. There is some excellent keyboard to be heard, but at only a few minutes there is not really enough time for anyone to show off their abilities. However, the crowd like it and it is a neat way to bring us to the last song of the evening.

That last song is an instrumental jam, and a fast and furious one at that. The key elements are all in place, chants, whoops, the various band members playing sharply throughout. It isn’t an elongated jam as we often hear at aftershows, in fact its one of the shortest jams I think I have heard at barely a couple of minutes. That doesn’t count against it in this case, as the crowd sound as though they have been whipped into a frenzy, and its is easy to understand why as the music vortex’s and increases intensity. It isn’t what is expected, but it is a good way to finish the show, putting an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

An interesting little bootleg this one, it doesn’t sound quite like other aftershows in circulation, yet it has its own irresistible style and feel. There a few nuggets sprinkled through out the set that keep the listener engaged, and it does come as a nice palate cleanser on top of the mainshow I covered last week. The recording is far from perfect, but the contents of the bootleg more than make up for it, making for an engaging listen from start to finish.

 

Melbourne 2003

Prince didn’t jump straight from the ONA era into Musicology. There was a year gap, featuring a world tour that took in only Australia and Hawaii. I find these shows interesting as they are the stepping stone between the two, and we can see the crowd pleasing hits played with a trace of the ONA concerts heard in the smooth and easy style in which this band play. The concerts in Australia should have been a great chance for me to see Prince play live, Australia is only a four hour flight away, unfortunately I was out exploring the wider world and was living in London at that time. My opportunity to see Prince play would come later.

There are several releases of the concert I am listening to today, I am listening to the Overfunk’d release as to my ears it sounds slight better than the other versions. An audience recording, it is pretty good – with no distortion, the mix is about right and I can clearly hear and enjoy the music throughout. The only thing that counts against it is that it is an incomplete recording, we are missing the opening bracket of ten songs, but it is a long show, and what we to have is plenty enough to cover two discs.

22nd October 2003, Melbourne Australia

The recording begins with “The Beautiful Ones,” and it immediately puts me in mind of the ONA tour from the previous year. With Maceo Parker on saxophone, the introduction lingers and Maceo does what he does best and fills the room with a steamy atmosphere. With the band draping their sultry veil across the soundscape it could have easily been lifted from any 2002 show, and I am more than happy with that as I am infused with the ghost of concert’s past. It’s not all about the past however, this is not Purple Rain Prince, and as he sings he very much Prince of the time. His voice doesn’t ache and bend as it had previously, and as much as I love his performance here, I must admit it is workman like in the most professional way, no bells or whistles here, just a straight delivery that serves his maturing sound well.

I have similar feelings about “Nothing Compares 2 U.”  Prince is good, without ever flooring me, and it is Maceo Parker who’s brief moment stirs up the passion with me, and within the song. The recording shines though, and even though I haven’t shown any real enthusiasm for the first couple of songs, I am greatly enjoying the bootleg.

It is “Insatiable” that first has me swallowing hard and listening close. Now this is what I came for, a delicious delivery that has the crowd swooning at the show, and me having all sorts of feelings here at home. The more Prince croons, the louder the crowd swoons, and I am giddy with fanboy love as Prince walks us through a vocal maze, following the trail of bread crumbs that Renato Neto lays. Its a lethal combination, the song sneaking up on me and drawing all the oxygen from the room.

Although “Sign O The Times” moves in the opposite direction, it demands listening to just as much as the previous “Insatiable” and drives out a funk groove that is irresistible. I am disappointed that the crowd get to sing along, while here at home I have to stay quiet as my wife sleeps in the other room. It matters little, I lip sync along with them in a a happy delirium, and I am happy to report that “Sign O The Times” gets a whole nine minutes to funk and roll across the the recording. The real action begins after Prince finishes his lyrics, rad. (Rose Ann Dimalanta)  gives a brief and electric keyboard solo that leaves me wanting more, and it gets better as John Blackwell plays us through a turnaround that leads the music into a swirl and even more keyboard work that excites me in ways that I never knew a keyboard could.

The combination of “The Question Of U” and “The One” reached its peak during the tour of 2002, for my money those performances will be never be bettered, and although this version is sonically very similar, it lacks that magical quality that was heard the previous year. It is slightly more labored, and deadened in sound, there is a lightness of touch that is missing, and although the song is guitar heavy, it is this finesse and delicacy that makes it what it is. The chunky guitar by Prince midsong does briefly have me breaking into a sweat, but that sweat turns cold as the band go though the motions later in the song.

“Let’s Work” has things jumping again, and it sounds nice and sharp on the recording. The horns in particular leap out at me in their energy and brightness. Prince doesn’t work the song too long, it is only a couple of minutes, but it does signal the next upbeat part of the performance.

In the same vein, “U Got The Look” is a short, sharp shock of energy and pace that accelerates the concert further. The guitar sounds strangely quiet as Prince solos , and for me this is one of the key reasons to listen to the song and its muted sound leaves me silently frustrated.

The show is gathering pace rapidly at this point of the bootleg, as Prince tears through a series of covers and upbeat numbers. We firstly get an embryonic version of “Life Of The Party,” which is too busy for its own good until it settles for the chorus. It is the following “Hot Pants” where the groove gets hot and heavy, one can almost feel its hot breath on their neck as the groove becomes dark and dangerous, hinting at an unseen sexuality. Prince breaks the mood with  “Life Of The Party” rap, and before I can fully immerse myself in the bass end of the song it transitions to Chance Howard and his lively rendition of “Soulman.”   It’s hard not to like it, and I find a smile spreading across my face as it plays though. Its sounds so summery and easy, for a minute I consider tackling it next time I go to karaoke.

It is a keyboard push that drives “Kiss,” its pulse beating just under Prince’s lyrics throughout. I like the sound of the keyboard, but I could take or leave the rest of the song. I appreciate the new arrangement, but “Kiss” is one song that I have heard far too often.

Prince’s cackle introduces “Take Me With U” and one can appreciate why as the band and the crowd respond with energy and love. Like the previous “Kiss,” this is one song I have heard too many times, yet I fully understand why it has been a constant in the setlist over the years. An uplifting song from Prince’s most successful album, it never fails to elicit a response from the crowd and re-energises the concert.

The main set is rounded out by a full rendition of “The Everlasting Now.” It encapsulates the full talents and scope of the band as it moves quickly across musical territory, throwing up all sorts of sounds and styles. The funk grows and evolves through the song, the ground never quite solid beneath my feet as the band move swiftly through this soundscape. It is a fitting end to the main show, and a great reminder of how good this band is.

The piano set encore opens with an understated “Adore.” As much as I love bootlegs, I have never enjoyed hearing “Adore” on bootlegs, mostly because the screams and shouts of the audience ruin the moment for me as Prince plays the one song that truly connects to my heart. Here is no different, each line greeted with rapturous shouts and squeals of excitement, and as much as I share their enthusiasm it does take me out of the moment. The song does get its full five minutes, which for me is an exercise in frustration as the crowd stay prominent.

Prince keeps with humor as he segues into “Sleep On The Couch.” He takes his time over the delivery, each line hanging in the air so it can be fully digested by those listening. I laugh a little early on, but soon enough I am cocooned in Prince’s vocal delivery and lose myself in a soft delirium. A song that didn’t promise much, I am surprised by emotions it brings to the surface.

Emotion is the name of the game as Prince has the crowd clap as he plays an soulful version of “Forever In My Life.” Head bobbing, hand clapping, it has its own unique rhythm that is offset by Princes lyrics and vocal delivery that speaks of love and honesty. Its only brief, but it is the perfect fit with the two previous songs.

“One Kiss At A Time” gets a different arrangement, and is a fine match for “Forever In My Life” I am surprised that Prince sticks with some of the risque lyrics, but he is doesn’t engage with any curse words, so I guess in his head that makes it all alright. It is a surprising end to the piano set, a set that I have found most enjoyable, my feelings about “Adore” not withstanding.

As much as I enjoyed the piano set, I am more than happy when the funk returns with “All the Critics Love U In Melbourne.” I like the insistent funk drive of it, and the color that the keyboards and saxophone add. Maceo is at his very best at this point, the music and concert orbiting around him as he plays. The keyboard rhythm later in the song is a match for him, and it is a devastating few minutes of funk that has me applauding at home in appreciation.  “Phew, can’t nobody mess with this band” is my only thought as the song ends.

The keyboards are equally to the fore as a frenetic “Alphabet St.” follows. It is derailed by Princes interruption to talk himself up to the crowd, but as a performer at the top of his game, he has every right to brag and enjoy the spotlight. The song never regains momentum though, and I feel the constant stoppages would be better left out.

There is an easy jam that leads into “Days Of Wild”, a jam that tidily takes a low key funk groove and allows Prince to chant with the crowd. The serious business comes with “Days Of Wild” as it stomps across the landscape, bringing a tension to the previously lighthearted concert. Its not as quite as dangerous as other performances I have heard, Prince is enjoying himself too much, but the music has a touch of malice the keeps it just on the right side of the ledger.

The final song of the night is of course “Purple Rain.”  as befitting a greatest hits show, the moment is milked for all its worth, with the usual introduction sweeping across the arena before Prince begins to punctuate it with some lead guitar. Its a worthy rendition of a much loved classic, but there is nothing new here for anyone who has followed prince’s career. The final guitar break has me interested only for nostalgic sake, Prince isn’t breaking new ground, but he is playing his signature song to an appreciative audience at the climax of the concert.

This is a bootleg that you don’t hear much about, yet I would happily recommend it to anyone wanting to hear a quality audience recording of what is a standard hits show. The band are coming off some fantastic 2002 shows, and although different in style, they are just as good here in 2003 as they were the previous year. it may not be a complete show, but it never drags either, making for a bright and easy listen. For those that were there this is an excellent document of that experience.

I see there is an aftershow from the same night that has caught my eye, I shall give that a listen next week.

Thanks for reading
Hamish

Volcanoes Night Club 2003

Today’s show is a rather random selection – I was thinking about what I was going to listen to next, and I chanced upon this recording from 2003. There doesn’t seem to be too much to it, but Stretchin’ Out (In A Rubber Band) seems to feature prominently, and that has me a little excited. I often play this song when I am driving, but I don’t recall ever hearing Prince’s take on it. So, it’s with anticipation that I take a listen to today’s show, I am sure I have listened to it in the past, but right now I have no recollection of it all. Right, it’s time to stretch out, and get this thing started.

17th December, 2003 Volcanoes Night Club, Honolulu, Hawaii

My excitement is tempered somewhat by the crowd noise, and sound of an audience recording. It’s not bad by such standards, it just takes my ears a minute or two to adjust to the sound of it. The first song in the set is Mama Feelgood, and it does indeed make me feel good, especially with the sounds of the horn section and a sharp sounding keyboard. The horn section is particularly strong, and I impress myself when I recognize the sound of Maceo Parker in the mix – I must have listened to too many of these shows now. Rose Ann Dimalanta is singing, and it’s a shame that the recording doesn’t really do her justice, she sounds secondary to the band, and her vocals aren’t picked up very well. As always, there is something positive to counter balance this, and in this case it definitely is the horns, which increase in intensity as the song progresses. The keyboards too get plenty of time to play, and the song stretches out as it gives us a good idea of how the rest of the gig will play out. It’s topped off by some funky guitar licks that whet my appetite.

Hawaii 2

The funk continues as the next song begins, and it grooves right from the start. The band locks in nice and tight and my head really starts bobbing. They slide through Yes We Can, and then we hear Prince singing for the first time “Ain’t It Funky Now”. Rose Ann Dimalanta quickly pickups with singing Yes We Can, and the band stay on this groove for some time. I like how smooth and seamless it sounds and, if not for the quality of the recording, I could easily close my eyes and groove out to it. It feels light and summer like, and conjures up all sorts of imagines as I nod along to it. The song takes another up turn as Prince begins to sing Yes We Can, he sounds much stronger and louder on the microphone, and the show seems to pick up some momentum too. At the same time my ears prick up, and I listen for more of him. I am rewarded by a simmering guitar break that gains in intensity as it plays us through the last couple of minutes.  On a soundboard recording this guitar break would be excellent, as it is, it’s just very good.

Things don’t let up as next we get a great version of 1+1+1=3. It’s got a great funky intro, with plenty of guitar and groove. The scene is set as Prince has the crowd chanting “we like to party” early on, and they are very enthusiastic in doing so. There isn’t any lyrics sung, but at an after show like this, that is irrelevant, It’s all about the music and the groove. The energetic trombone solo from Greg Boyer sounds like a lot of fun. All the horn section is in on the party, and Maceo plays a brief solo too before there is a horn riff from all of them. It’s nicely counterbalanced by Prince and a laid back guitar solo which I didn’t expect to hear at this point. It’s refined and only takes on a heavier tone when the band pause and we catch a breath. The band pick up right where they left off and now the party gets serious, I can hear it oozing out of my head phones. This song has a little bit of everything, there is Life O The party in the mix, as well as Stretching Out (In A Rubber Band) as well as instrumental Hot Pants. Although he played parts of Stretching Out in the last two songs, it wasn’t quite the full on version I had hoped for. Still, what I have heard so far from these first three songs has been very good, so I have no complaints at all.

Hawaii

No Diggity is bass heavy, with a fat squelching bass at the start. It’s not until a minute in does it become apparent what the song is, with the introduction of the keyboards and Chance Howard singing. It’s missing some of the sharpness that I like in the song, but I put this down to the recording rather than the performance. What I really like about the song is the solo from Candy on sax. It’s bold when it needs to be, and adds a brighter sound to the recording. The song doesn’t do much else later, but that chorus is so catchy that I sing heartily along to the finish.

I love the next moment as someone in the crowd yells “play some old school!” I can’t help but laugh as he calls it out. Prince then does the opposite and plays something current from the time. Ooh! is a another chance for Rose Ann Dimalanta to sing, and this time she sounds better, especially in those moments when she is backed by Prince. I do like the song, but compared to everything else in the show it seems to fall through the cracks. There’s not much of a chance for the band to really play, and Prince is minimal throughout. There is a guitar break late in the song, and this is about the only moment when I feel any interest in it. It’s not a scorching solo, instead it’s a sweet little sharp sound that is very enjoyable.

Hawaii 3

All The Critics Love U initially sounds shallow. It’s got a hollow electric sound to it, however this improves immeasurable when the bass gets stronger. The beat is hypnotic rather than insistent, and its sounds soft to my ears. Maceo’s solo sharpens things up, there is no denying that he is a master at what he does. For all that though, it doesn’t reach the heights of some of the earlier songs, and it’s a disappointing ending to the show. The shallow sound of it reminds me of some of the Diamond and Pearls era mixes, and for a show in 2003 it definitely has a 1990’s sound for this last song. There is some chanting with the crowd, which I guess is a fun way for them to finish, but I can’t get past that dated sound. Greg Boyer makes amends with a spirited trombone solo to finish, and the show closes on a high, I’m smiling here at home.

This was an odd little show, I can see how I easily over looked it. Although it didn’t feature Stretched Out (In A Rubber Band) as much as I had hoped, there was still plenty there to recommend it. I enjoyed hearing the horn section and Prince himself sounded very at easy. It may be sometime before I play this one again, there are too many classics out there to listen to, but next time I won’t wait so long before I give it another spin.

Thanks for joining me again,
have a great week
-Hamish