Bennetts Lane, Melbourne 2012

This week I will be posting about two shows as both are short, yet they interesting for several reasons. Firstly, the legendary Bennetts Lane impromptu performance. Anyone who has spent time on the internet reading about Prince will be familiar with this concert; Prince made an appearance at Bennetts Lane jazz club early morning of 29th May, 2012. The show was only announced very late, and Prince and the band played to a crowd of about seventy people. In almost darkness, Prince played for close on three hours, with a setlist that is chock full of goodies. From all accounts this was a humdinger of a show, and it made all the mythical by the fact we don’t have a complete recording of it. We are spoilt nowadays by the scope and quality of recordings available for most shows, and this bootleg harks back to earlier days when shows were only partly available, or not available at all.The recording appears on an Eye records release, and covers a half hour period early in the concert. We don’t get the gems promised by the setlist, but it is a taste of the flavour of the evening and I have to say it well and truly whets my appetite for more. I thoroughly recommend taking time to go online and read about this concert from those who were there, there is so much more to this performance than what is heard on the recording.

 29th May 2012(am) Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

I am salivating from the first moments as John drums up a funky brew with Erykah Badu’s “On & On.” There is the wow factor from the very first seconds, John’s percussive sound setting a vibe that the small audience responds to with shouts of encouragement. The recording picks it up well, band is clearly heard, and although the audience call out they aren’t right in the microphone and sound almost as if they have been added in for atmosphere. Prince introduces himself with his first tentative notes stretching into the darkness, before the guitar takes an authoritative tone and lights the room in its luminescence.I have heard “Stratus” many times over the years, and wasn’t expecting much from this performance. Instead, the band floor me with a well rounded and satisfying performance. I think it is partly down to the recording, it is steady in its sound, and seems to have the mix in balance. Part of me wants Prince’s guitar to sound louder, but sitting lower in the mix works well for the song over all and I have no complaints. The band idle loudly behind Princes guitar sound, waiting for the clutch to be dropped and the concert to accelerate into the next few songs. It is John Blackwell that puts the pedal to the metal with a drum break that carries power, speed, and finesse in a combination that drives the show forward.

There is a break in the recording next, “Stratus” fades out at the end before “Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)” fades in, delivering us late into the song. We only get the last few call and response of “must be something in the water you drink” before the song fizzles out.

It’s not all that bad though as the following song is  “Strange Relationship.” The bass may not be particularly prominent on the recording, but there is plenty of funk dripping from the keyboards and Prince’s vocals. However, things flip when Cassandra plays her solo, the piano barely audible and the bass suddenly becoming the backbone of the song. It is a very loose performance, one that I feel as much as I hear, and it’s about this point that I decide I would gladly sell right arm for a soundboard recording of this entire gig.

Even “I Like Funky Music” sounds better in this context. A song I could happily pass on, here it becomes part of the “Strange Relationship” jam, and rather than drag it down it adds to it with the audience becoming involved with the chants. I must praise the keyboards again at this point as they continue to solo and delight me with their sprinklings of stardust.

This funk jam continues to evolve, and “Up For The Downstroke” reminds me of how much this white boy has learnt about the history of funk from Prince. My first introduction to Parliment/Funkadelic/George Clinton was from hearing performances like this and then going back to find the original artists. This performance is worthy of those predecessors as the song swells and bloats,Prince and the band playing the audience as much as they are playing the music. It remains a beautifully unfocused, all encompassing jam that is further enhanced by cameos from “Fantastic Voyage” and “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” Its not an intense jam that fills the recording, but it is one of the most enjoyable I have heard for a long time, and again I am quite ready to sell my bodyparts for more of the same. Oh to be there!

I am seriously overwhelmed as the the jam continues to creep across the land, this time swallowing up Mary J Blige’s “Be Happy” and consuming it into the body of the music. I regret that I am sitting at the computer at this stage, such is the urge just to get up and let my body move to the music. In my book, there is no higher recommendation. I am an old jaded fan who spends too much time listening to bootlegs, but performances like this are what I live for.

A brief “Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough rounds off this jam, before the recording ends with a final hit out from John Blackwell. At this point the recording is raggedy sounding, with John’s drums distorting. In some ways it is probably just as well it finishes here, least my previous buzz from the funk jam is shattered by this less than stellar sound. Nothing against John himself, it is purely the recording that is sounding rough at this stage.

There is no mistaking, this a great show and one that I want to hear a lot more of. A sparkling setlist is matched with a classy performance, and throw in the vibe of the room and this makes for one heck of a show. It is all the more disappointing then that we can only enjoy a half hour of the performance, with another two and half hours missing I can only imagine how good the rest of it is. Again, I strongly recommend researching more about this gig, with first eye accounts the music takes on a whole new dimension. I am grateful for what we do have here, but I want so much more. This recording creates a thirst that I know will never be quenched, no matter how much I hope and pray. Worth hearing, just try not to think about what we are missing.

Thanks for joining me, as this show was only short I will take a quick listen to another short show I have been meaning to cover for sometime.

Brisbane 2012

The Welcome 2 Australia concerts are normally a run though of the hits, yet these there is several special moments in the tour that make the circulating bootlegs interesting. The guest appearance of Public Enemy is one such moment, as are a couple of excellent aftersows currently circulating.  I have already written about the aftershow played on the same night as this concert, and I have it on good authority that the main show was just as good as the aftershow. A quick run through of the setlist confirms this, I see Empty Room and Extralovable there, two songs that I need to hear. The recording is an audience recording, but Eye records have put together a complete package with the soundcheck, main show, and aftershow all presented together, something that I greatly appreciate. The completest in me is more than happy with the quality of recording when it comes all together like this.

18th January 2012, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane

The concert has a somewhat unusual beginning with Andy McKee playing an acoustic rendition of “Purple Rain”. It doesn’t feel like the beginning of the Prince concert, the crowd is quite chatty through his performance – although I do find their singing along with guitar endearing. It is an odd way to open and when Prince takes the stage there is further surprises with his first number being “Jam Of The Year”. Its one thing to read it on the liner notes, quiet another to hear it, and I must admit I get a lot of pleasure from this version. The band plays it with a lighter touch than what was heard on The Jam Of The Year concerts, and there is a buoyant sound provided by the keyboard and horns. The dreariness of the late ’90s is all but forgotten with this luminescent performance.

It is disappointing that the next few minutes can’t match these opening songs for interest. “$” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” are lighthearted, but instantly forgettable. Even listening to the bootleg, there is the feeling that we are being short changed and Prince has so much more that he could had offered up instead.

“Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the over played hits that the more hardcore fan rail against, but in this case it serves its purpose in igniting the crowd and the concert. Prince’s guitar has an ominous tone through the introduction that hints at darkness, but once the song starts the curtain opens on a music that is filled with warmth and pop fizz. Even if the song is played straight, the crowd can still be heard rising to the occasion, and shorn of its final guitar break it becomes an altogether more danceable number.

Dance is the theme of the moment and “Delirious” is in the same vein. It is a lot of fun, the music skips by in a hurry, barely pausing, and it is only the solo by Mr Hayes that makes it something substantial. This keyboard runs from a flowery opening to a percussive finish, leaving little doubt to the abilities of Mr Hayes.

The reprise of “Let’s Go Crazy” see’s Prince return to the guitar, and this time the sheering guitar finish is present and firmly sets the tone for the next few songs.

With the energy levels remaining high, the band storm through “1999”. They show no regard for the history of the song, everyone is the moment and the performance brings it firmly into the present. It is far more organic sounding, and the band inject it with their own life, giving it a contemporary feel that carries the song well across to the crowd.

What can I say about “Shhh” that hasn’t been said before. Prince and the band play every song at the concert well, but “Shhh” is the song that they truly inhibit and the performance that follows is the most soulful part of the show. The first versus crackle and fizz with unresolved tension before the song boils over with a a volcanic solo from Prince. It begins with the dense haze of an ash cloud, before Prince turns it up to a eruption of boiling lava, every note coming as part of an unending fiery river.

The guitar doesn’t let up as Prince plays a hard and heavy “Anotherloverholenyohead”. It certainly is a heavy hitter, and Prince comes out punching from the start with several strong jabs from his guitar. The rest of the song lives up to these opening moments, and although not as soulful as “Shhh”, it is every bit as intense. Of special note is Prince’s solo midsong, although not the best recording we can still hear the intensity of the moment. The “Rock Lobster” coda he ends with is right up my alley, this is exactly the type of music I gravitated to before I discovered Prince and the several minutes he spends shredding through the song has me feeling like a teenager.

As if the last three songs haven’t been guitar heaven enough, Prince chooses to finish with one of his show stoppers – “Empty Room”. This is the moment I have been waiting for and the reason that my friend Marti recommended this concert to me. It lives up to the occasion, and even with some audible crowd noise I am still transported away on the wings of Prince’s soaring guitar. The verses lose some power due to the audience chat, no doubt this song isn’t familiar to the casual fans, but every other part of the song is divine and I am immediately grateful for the recommendation.

The sampler set that follows is a buzz kill, although it begins well with an ever youthful “When Doves Cry”. Even as part of the sampler set it’s hard not to like it, the beat and main hook as irresistible as ever.

The funk gets stronger with a brief “Nasty Girl” serving as a doorstep into “Sign O The Times”. The latter has an insistent bass that nails it firmly to the dance floor and propels the concert forward.  Prince follows this with two more songs from the same album, “Hot Thing” and “Forever In My Life” may come from different ends of the spectrum, but they are both forever tied together by the ground breaking album they first appeared on. Hearing them side by side heightens the contrast between them, leaving the fact that they are from the same album all the more amazing.

“A Love Bizarre” and “Darlin Nikki” are merely tasters before we have something more nourishing in the form of “Pop Life”. It does indeed have that pop, but it isn’t as filling as it promises and Prince ends it at the first chorus.

There comes another flurry of songs with “Housequake”, “Extralovable” and “Pheromone”. The titles promise so much, but it is false hope as Prince skips through them. I am particularly disappointed with “Extralovable”, when I saw it listed I was really hoping for something substantial, but I can’t say I’m too surprised to see it treated like this in the sampler set.

This set ends with “Dance For Me” as Prince calls the band back on stage. Its little more than a pounding beat and a chance for the band to rejoin the fray.

The “I like funky music” chant has the band introduced by Prince, and in this case it is Ida who is the highlight, she may not be loud and forceful, but she is undeniably funky. The rest of the band follow her lead, and although Prince doesn’t sing the song is one of the funkiest of the evening.

“Take Me With U” is light, even by its own standards, and it is merely a piece of fluff on this recording. Raspberry Beret is equally pop, but more rewarding as it runs substantially longer and features Prince singing “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC (now there’s something I never thought I’d write). It is only the chant that features at the beginning, but it does make for an arresting moment.

An unsophisticated  “Cream” follows and although the crowd love it, it is hardly essential. The keyboard wheeze of Morris Hayes is great, but it is submerged beneath the bright and breezy band, dissipating any backbone he may bring to the song.

Morris Hayes underpins all that is great about “Cool” and “Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough”, it is his keyboard swells that lifts the song and carries it forward. It is equally a chance for the singers to have their moment, and Shelby, Liv and Elise are just as essential to the song as Prince. After the sampler set this comes as a reward, a six minute rendition that reignites the party.

Prince returns to the keyboard, this time for a piano set,and this part of the gig shines as for the next few minutes he plays delicate renditions of some of his finest ballads. The opening minute of “Purple Rain” is every fanboy’s dream, but “Diamonds And Pearls” is even better as Prince begins to sing. Both these songs are heavily abridged, and it is only as he tackles “The Beautiful Ones” that the crowd are treated to something special. The piano is more colourful, the singing slower and less intense, yet the song is just as riveting as it is on record.

“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” struts across the stage, all swagger and spit as Prince brings a bold attitude to the performance. A song that we have heard countless times, this rendition holds my attention through the entire song and is a healthy update of a classic. It is one of the key songs of the concert, which is surprising for a 30 year old B-side.

The piano continues with a flourish and sparkle as the opening of “Purple Rain” is heard. It is played as the epic power ballad it is, the crowd singing their piece from the opening moments while the keyboards drape ever morphing chords over it, letting the song build slowly into its true form. This is my “Purple Rain”, nothing is rushed and Prince pulls every strand of emotion from the song as he talks to the crowd, plays an emotive guitar break, and generally turns it into an unforgettable event. All this emotional energy is finally released with his guitar solo which is heart breaking and life affirming at the same time. I don’t know about the crowd at the arena, but I feel drained by the end of it.

There is a chance to recover with an easy listening “Everyday People” ushering in the encore. There’s nothing too demanding to be heard and it slides by easily, which is just as well as the following “The Dance Electric” lives up to it’s name and is electrifying. It takes a minute to warm up, but once the band starts cooking it becomes one of the hottest songs of the concert. I would have liked to hear more of Prince’s vocals, but the groove and the guitar that flickers and flames beneath it is more than enough to satisfy, making this the standout performance of the night, and of this bootleg.

“Kiss” is a song without a centre. All the components are in place, but it remains unfocused and passes by in a hazy blur. It is the final song of the evening but it doesn’t put an exclamation mark on the performance and is a wholly unsatisfying end to what has been a very good show.

I am very quick to dismiss concerts from 2004-2012 as nothing more than greatest hits shows, yet time and time again I find that they offer something for even the most hardened fan. They aren’t as good as the aftershows of this period, but they do offer something for everyone. This concert didn’t immediately grab me when I first saw it, but I was drawn in by the quality of the performance, and there was just enough in the setlist to appeal to my jaded ears. Not a show I would immediately gravitate to, but I appreciate the recommendation and found it worth the time to take a close listen to.


I believe this was screened at Paisley Park in December 2016. If the estate ever consider releasing it officially I would certainly be ready to part with my money for a nice proshot of this show. No doubt there are plenty more in the vault of similar quality in the vault, my mouth waters at the prospect that one day some of these will be seen by the general public.


The Hi-Fi Brisbane

I shouldn’t like today’s show, but it is one that I actually listen to quite a lot. On paper it doesn’t have much going for it, it’s an audience recording, the set list is rather ho-hum, and it’s only just over an hour long. But I find myself coming back to it again and again- I guess there is no accounting for some peoples taste. An aftershow from the Australian tour of 2012, it’s more recent than some of the gigs I have dusted off over the last couple of months. So before I begin, please bear in mind that although I enjoy this one, it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes.

Brisbane 2012b

19 May, 2012 (am) The Hi-Fi Brisbane, Australia

There is an unusual start to this recording and show, as the first thing we hear is a couple of minutes of the PA, while there is a live sound check. While ‘I Know You Got Soul’ plays you can hear various instruments being checked, a few drum beats here and there, and a bass run or two. Often I find that the beauty of listening to these recordings is that I listen carefully and imagine that I myself am at the show. And with the band sound checking with the PA I can well imagine the excitement in the room, as that is the feeling I get here listening at home. And to give you further insight to my world, I often dance around the room listening to these songs, before forcing myself to sit down and listen again and write about it, and believe me and was and truly dancing around the room for the first portion of this show.

Brisbane 2012

The PA stops playing abruptly and the drums of Musicology begin. It’s got a good shuffle to it, and the horn stabs and prominent while the organ adds depth behind it. The bass enters, and then some great rhythm guitar. It’s got a funky wah wah sound before it changes and starts to play some funky sounding lead lines. I have never been a fan of Musicology but if it had hace been played more like this in the main shows then I definitely would have given it much more love. Played here as a jam with plenty of guitar and bass its sounds much fuller and funkier. The bass hits a nice loop and the singers join in with a good harmony of “I know you got soul”. Because this is an audience recording, there is a lot of crowd noise, and sometimes it does drown the band, but I feel it’s a trade off, as it does give it a brilliant live feel. This one is far from the sterile shows I sometimes hear. Prince call “Brisbane, I know you got soul”, and there is great cheer from the crowd before Prince goes on to play a lot more guitar. Its not a roaring guitar solo, just very long, funky, improvised playing. Mr. Hayes gets called for a solo, and there is a moment when you can hear Prince calling to the sound desk “Turn him up, help him, help him”. The organ then becomes noticeable louder and Mr. Hayes plays a very nice break. Shelby J follows soon after singing Mama Feelgood, and I must say it’s very refreshing to hear her singing, rather than encouraging the audience as we hear at the main shows. She does have a great voice, and is a favorite of mine, but I feel she doesn’t play to her strengths at the main shows. Here it’s all about her singing, and I am onboard as a fan. The band do all get a chance to play, there is a brief drum break for John Blackwell, and Cassandra O’Neal also gets a small solo. Both are good in their own ways, but too short to be noteworthy. Again, there is very much the feeling that its a live show as Prince gets on the microphone to speak to the crowd, and at the same time asking for the sound desk to give him “more high-end on stage, more high-end” I love that this is raw and unpolished, and they are working on it as they go. He further goes on to explain to the audience “we get it right, we can stay here all night” There is then a few minutes when the song is stripped back to Ida and John Blackwell, before the crowd start to chant with Prince “ooohhhhh, Brisbane”. The last two minutes of the song is Cassandra and John Blackwell playing, it’s a funky rhythm and has me itching to dance. The song ends, and I see it’s clocked in at almost 18 minutes- a great way to start an aftershow.

Brisbane 2012a

Ida on the bass, and some heavy organ from Mr. Hayes starts us into Days Of Wild. The first call of Prince to the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” has them chanting along from the start. There is some heavy organ which I do like, before Prince starts to sing. As I said earlier, there is a trade off with audience recordings, and here I find I don’t hear Princes vocals as well as I expect. He’s not spitting the lyrics as intensely as he used to, and there is also some distortion in the sound which makes him hard to listen to. And of course I should mention, I have this playing way too loud for my speakers, so it’s not always just about the show! Prince comes out with his “oh by the way I play the bass guitar” but what follows is fairly muted and restrained by his standards. There is then a nice moment when the main refrain from America is played, before we return to the heavy organ groove of Mr. Hayes. I have to give further love to Mr. Hayes, when he then goes on to play a great organ break for a good minute or so. It fantastic, and adds a warm darkness to everything. There is then a great break, with just the band pulling right back while the guitar plays a funky stroke. It’s the funkiest moment of the song, before Prince begins to sing Wild And Loose. He only sings it for a verse, before there is another keyboard solo. This song is just dripping, and it’s impossible not to move to it. Liv also gets a moment to sing on it, and she delivers an impassioned and deep Ain’t Nobody. I am really feeling this one as another keyboard solo comes at us, and the heavy groove goes on and on. Cassandra plays great on the piano, but its only fitting that it’s Mr. Hayes who plays us through to the end of the song with his organ. “These are the days, these are the days”!

Brisbane 2012c

The Question Of U starts as purely an instrumental, while Prince plays some restrained lead guitar. I say restrained, as in its not fiery and loud, but it does have a stratospheric sound. He does sing, but it’s not The Question Of U, instead he sings the lyrics of The One over the music. The One is some of my favorite lyrics, and I am pleased that the recording is good enough that I can hear him quite clearly throughout this song. He pauses after each verse for some guitar play, nothing wild, just suitably mournful. After the second verse he does play with a tone more in line with what I expect from A Question Of U. Although he plays a good long break, the song isn’t totally about him and his guitar. After his solo, there is then a long piano break, played by presumably Cassandra. The surprises keep coming as Prince begins to the sing Gingerbread Man. The band is very quiet at this point, and it’s mostly Princes vocals and the crowd we can hear. I am not overly familiar with the song, but I really enjoy it here, and it’s a great fit for the song. Soon after Mr. Hayes plays another break (he sure is busy tonight) before the song comes to a soft end with the audience clapping and singing “ooohh, ohhh. ohhh, oooohh” A beautiful song, and again it’s played to maximum effect with nothing feeling rushed at all.

Brisbane 2012d

The dark bluesy arrangement of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man follows next, and it’s soaked in a melancholy feel, especially the guitar tone and Princes vocals. I am a big fan of this slowed down arrangement, and this one is particularly smoky. Prince’s guitar playing is tight earlier on, but there is a great release when he does open up and play the first break. Like a door cracking open, the opening notes pull us in and I want to hear what comes next. Prince doesn’t unleash it right away, he returns to the verse after a few bars, but it builds the anticipation. At this point you can hear some people in the crowd commenting that this version is better, and although I don’t like hearing them on the recording, I do agree with their sentiments. After the next verse Prince does open up on the guitar fully, and this is a good one, I mean the solo is full of emotion and soul. It’s not a solo for the ages, but on this song on this night it’s just perfect. He does play faster as the song goes, but never furiously so, and as I said before, the fact is it’s a very soulful and mournful solo. The emotion continues as the music breaks down and Prince sings “I could never” over and over. Every word is full of passion, and it gives the song a vibe that is missing on the album. The keyboards play some piano and organ, before Prince sings the refrain a couple more times and closes the song with one last mournful line.

Brisbane 2012e

Prince gets a break from vocal duties next as Shelby takes the lead for a rendition of Brownskin. After the intensity of the previous song, it leaves me a little deflated. Shelby sings well, and I can hear the band is in good form with Prince on guitar, but it’s not at the same high level of the first four songs. There is a guitar break by Prince midsong which is noteworthy, plenty of sustained notes and a very electric tone to his guitar, but it’s only short and we return to Shelby. On a better recording, I would give this one a lot more time, but being only an audience recording it is hard work to listen to, and even with another fine guitar break by Prince near the end I still can’t quite give it a pass.

Brisbane 2012f

Prince calls for the lights to be turned up as he starts the rhythm guitar of Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). I have heard this one plenty over the years, so it fails to fire me up when I hear it here. It’s as we have heard it previously, although the break with Prince playing plenty of rhythm guitar is cool, and for me the most enjoyable part of the song. It’s at this stage of the gig that things speed up a little, and the earlier vibe of a jam is lost. This is very much a show that has two halves. The first few songs were all longer jams, and plenty of intensity, but at this stage a lighter vibe is present, and the songs are getting shorter. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) only goes for a few minutes before it ends and Prince plays the funky guitar intro of Love Rollercoaster. He doesn’t go on to play the rest of the song, we just have half a minute of him alone playing the rhythm before we move on to the next song.

Brisbane 2012g

Next his guitar playing moves to the rhythm of Controversy and the kick drum comes in behind him. There is the keyboard sound, before we have the main groove that we know so well. The crowd gets a chance to sing along as the band play, and the band do a great job of it, they sound very tight. Prince does play with the crowd little, getting them to scream and shout in a brief call and response. There is then another verse and chorus a break down and Prince doing his “people call me rude” speech. Then as the Controversy groove continues Prince asks “how many people know about the quake” and we get a minute of him and Shelby encouraging the crowd to clap their hands and stomp their feet, before the song is brought to a close. Again it’s very short, and light.

Brisbane 2012h

The party is kept going as Prince and the band start to play I Know You Got Soul, nicely taking us back to where all this begun. Prince mostly speaks to the crowd, getting them dancing, before a very short chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”. The funky guitar starts again and we move to Play That Funky Music.

Play That Funky Music I have very strong feelings about. I don’t like it in his main shows, and I definitely don’t like it here. The band plays it very easily, and it feels a little throw away for them. This one is slightly better than others, in that Prince starts a guitar solo early on and maintains it for most of the three minutes. It swirls and grinds away while Prince occasionally sings a line or two to the audience. The song never really starts, nor does it ever turn into a jam, and it ends very quickly with Prince “Thank you Brisbane, and good night”

Brisbane 2012i

So there it is, an odd little show that I listen to a lot. The first part is very strong, and even though I dislike the second part of the show, it is very short and the first few songs more than compensate. As I said earlier, it’s not for everyone’s taste, but if you aren’t adverse to an audience recording and want to hear something a little off the radar, this would be as good a place as any to start.

Plenty of good shows been played here recently,
Hopefully I will get them on the blog as soon as I can.

Thanks again