Paisley Park After Dark – April 2014

Today’s recording is short, less than half an hour, but I thought I would take a listen as it shows a different side to Prince. It is the second of Paisley Parks after dark events where Prince makes a surprise appearance, but only plays thirty minutes as he experiences guitar problems. And this is what I want to hear. I have hundreds, no make that thousands, of Prince recordings where everything goes well and sounds amazing. What interests me about this performance is the sound problems he has with the guitar, and the way he curtails the performance because of this. We all have bad days in the office, and there is a part of me that wants to experience what it sounds like when Prince has one of these days. The accompanying notes say that one can hear when Prince unplugs his guitar from the board as the sound gets worse, I have listened but my rapidly fading hearing isn’t good enough to hear him unplug, but one can definitely hear the problems he is having on some levels. It’s an unusual choice for me to listen to, but I want a well rounded bootleg experience and take both the bad and the good together.

6th April 2014 (am) , Paisley Park

I immediately regret that this recording is so short, the opening burst of guitar is incisive and inspiring, and I am instantly caught up in the excitement of hearing “I’m Yours” from Prince’s debut album. It is fresh out the box and if I wasn’t a fan I would have said it was something far younger than 30 years. The song wears barely a wrinkle on its face as Prince reveals it to the Paisley Park crowd, its simple beauty forever timeless.

In comparison “Bambi” is an ex-girlfriend, and despite Prince retaining the same guitar tone as the previous song, it fails to get a second look from me. It is the typical 3rdeyegirl treatment of the song, and although I rejoiced in its rock sound at the time, three years later I find I have quickly tired of it. Everything is in its place, and there is very little secrets or surprises to be heard here.

I do like Princes spoken intro to “Peach,” and it threatens to be a devastating performance. However, this is where his problems start and the song is quickly aborted. The next few minutes though highlight what a consummate professional Prince is, and after apparently fixing whatever is wrong, the band pick up right where they left off in the song. Prince may be having troubles with his sound, but the song erupts in the next few minutes, Princes vocals just as raw and loud as the guitar licks he plays. The audience recording sounds great, there is zero audience noise and the next few minutes are pure guitar heaven as Prince blazes across the recording.

The bright pop rock of “So Far, So Pleased” is subverted by the weight of 3rdeyegirl. The verses retain their pop sheen, but the chorus is where the real action is with plenty of grit added by the band. It’s easy on the ear, while retaining enough for those that want a further challenge, and the change to a funk jam midsong is surprising given the rock credentials of the band. The jam is initially slow moving, it isn’t until Prince brings his lead guitar into the mix does it begin to come into focus, slowly circling around Prince at the centre of this almost silent storm. The music unwinds from this point though as Prince foregoes the guitar and the song continues in the most subtle of jams. This time I do hear the point where Prince unplugs the guitar as the band carry on their simple groove for another five minutes. It picks up again as Prince takes the drum kit for a final flourish, but I can’t say it’s particularly impressive, asides from demonstrating that he can play any position, a point he ably demonstrates by taking the bass next for something that I do like a whole lot more. This final jam runs for fifteen minutes, but truth be told there isn’t much in it, even with Princes various musical contributions, and there is almost a sense of relief when it comes to an end.

I can’t say I was surprised by anything I heard on the recording, the notes did say it was plagued by sound problems and Prince cuts it short. However, I thought the opening two songs were great, and even near the end when Prince became overwhelmed by sound issues, the music still sounded sharp and the band well invested. The final jam did meander, but all credit to Prince he did try and make something out of nothing with his drum break and bass playing adding an element of interest to an other wise dull moment on the recording. Even as the show wound down, Prince retained his professionalism and what we do hear on the recording is very good by anyone’s standings. This is a recording that I will probably never come back to, but I will keep in my mind how good those opening songs were, and what a craftsman Prince was when it came to live performance. I couldn’t say I recommend this one, but as someone who has to hear everything, it’s pretty cool.

Thanks for reading
-Hamish

3rdeyegirl Rock Birmingham

Last week we went way back to 1981, this week something a little more recent- a 3rdeyegirl gig. I know what you are thinking, oh no another rock guitar based gig. It’s not on purpose, I promise! Next week I will make it up to you with a funk gig. To be honest I randomly choose this one as it was on top of my pile of recently listened gigs. Next week something to make you move, this week…

 May 15  2014, 3rdeyegirl, Birmingham

First of all I would like to thank and give praise to all tapers of gigs. Without your efforts and generosity we would never have access to gigs like this. In this case I would like to thank Spangleman who taped this one. Thanks.

Again, another audience recording. But things have really changed in recent years, with more sophisticated equipment and more thought put into the set up there are some really good audience recordings floating around. Although still not perfect by any means, they are still a vast improvement on what used to be.

This recording is pretty good, the band and Prince are clear though out, and there is not talking through the gig, which sometimes surfaces on recordings like this. There is one recording in particular, and I can’t quite remember what one it is, where through one song members of the audience can be heard talking about skiing. I can’t remember the song, but the chat is very distracting. Thankfully there is nothing like that in this recording.

PrinceBirmingham

The gig opens with Funknroll. It’s an interesting choice to open with, not being well known at the time. Although the song itself is good enough, it doesn’t quite have that show opening feel to it. It doesn’t have that energy or surprise of a good opener. 3rdeyegirl are known for being a very rock orientated unit, but it this case they barely rock at all. Nothing wrong with the playing, but the song doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

From there they kick into Take Me With U. The crowd seems more receptive, something well known to the general public and casual fans. But still it seems here to miss the pop and snap of the album version. Everything feels a little damp and slow. Prince throws in a couple of his catch phrases “I wish someone would sing” and “Put the house lights up”, but he’s just going through the motions at this point. So far its ‘Prince by numbers’ Being a guitar based rock outfit I would have loved to hear them give this song the long guitar heavy Purple rain video version, with Princes extended guitar solo, but they play well within themselves, and play it safe. It could have been so much more.

As is his way for the last 10 years he segues straight into Raspberry beret. Absolutely no surprise there! It’s predictable, but it raises a cheer from the crowd. The version here is played very straight, and it’s a little boring. But maybe I am just biased; to be honest I have never heard a live version of this that I like.

U Got The Look fails to take off too, its surprisingly unrocky apart from a couple of chunky guitar bursts. Maybe it’s the recording, or maybe the band. But the guitar sound isn’t really there like I expected it to be. I like what Prince has down with a lot of his songs recently, in his reinterpreting them live, but I feel the concept could have been pushed further. With this band he could have turned this song into something else. Or maybe I am too predictable with my Rock band = Rock songs.

The following song is Musicology, and although I am a fan of the song, in this case I found it a little uneven; it is up and down throughout. Maybe its missing the full band, but I feel it’s never really gets into the groove. Over all, the first half a dozen songs seem a insipid, it’s definitely a slow start to the gig. There is some nice light guitar playing by Prince near the end of the song, reminiscent of the soft solo he plays on the Hohner at the start of Purple Rain Syrcause 1985. I like this guitar sound and playing, I would buy an albums worth if I could.

Kiss is very different. The familiar jangle guitar is absent, its heavy on bass and synth. Its the singing that really carries it. Its an odd little version, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. This one will take multiple listens. Prince throws in his line “Desperate housewives” but that’s starting to get a little tired now. Prince – you need to watch some more recent TV. The song ends as a good sing-a-long for the crowd, so I guess it serves its purpose.

I wonder how many of the crowd recognizes Empty Room. The crowd is very quiet as it begins, and I am not sure if they are being respectful, or they just don’t know it. The drumming pulls me in, and when Prince sings it sounds like he is beginning to engage. Finally it feels like he is putting more of himself into this gig. This song has really grown on me recently and I enjoyed this version. Prince vocals sound stronger and near the end he unleashes a couple of decent shrieks, and guitar work. The gig has finally started!

I used to like Lets Go Crazy(reloaded) but I feel a bit over it now. Often it is a little pedestrian for my taste. Tonight it sounds good, I think it would have been better if I was actually there (I could say that for every song!) To be there with the guitar and bass rumbling through you would be a much more visceral experience. The strong electric sound of the guitar at three minute thirty caught my attention. Sounded very electric and buzzy.

Prince finishes the song by announcing “sound check is over”, and I couldn’t agree more. From here on in, we are into it!

PrinceBirmingham

After a very brief guitar interlude the band kicks into She’s Always In My Hair. For me this song has always sounded better live. It’s not so crisp and sharp as it sounds on the record, and to my ears it’s more emotional in the live form like this. I can’t help but think of the Digital Underground “Sex Packets” as Prince plays the main riff. To my mind this is the best sample ever used by a hip-hop group, and even now I can’t dissociate the two songs from each other. The band play a nice heavy version of She’s Always In My Hair, Princes solo is a good rock solo, and the band are finally playing a song that really suits their sound and style. Just as Prince sounds like this solo is going to spin right out, he pulls it back into the song and gives it that great Prince sound.

The breakdown of the song is a highlight, the twinkling guitar reminiscent of some of my favorite rock songs over the years. Prince sings his lines “Maybe I’ll marry her, maybe I won’t” with such passion. He still feels this song, and I can’t help but have the same feeling. It just grabs me. I can totally feel it. It’s during this part of the song that the limitations of the audience recording can be heard. Its not as good as earlier songs. The crowd is behind Prince all the way as he finishes with call and response and another guitar solo.

I can’t help but wonder what casual fans make of this song? Do they know it’s a B-side? Do they walk out of the gig hoping it’s a new song that will be on the next album? One hopes they dig back into the catalogue and dig it out. I was once at a Smashing Pumpkins gig, and they did a cover of Girls Aloud “Call the shots” and for days after the gig I was wondering about the song, where it came from. I am sure there were more than a few causal fans wondering the same about She’s Always In My Hair.

At a gig where guitars are to the fore, it’s only natural that the next song is in fact Guitar. I see a theme emerging here! Guitar is played with a lot of energy, and sounds great. There’s not much to it as a song, but it comes across great live. This is what Take Me With you should have been played like, all energy and enthusiasm. Donna’s playing is more free and less heavy, and it actually sounds better for it.

Plectrum Electrum is not so fluid. It sounds like a song of two halves. It’s quite good, its played with no vocals, and the first half is better than the second half. The first half is more song and structure, while the second half becomes whining guitar.

Fixurlifeup sounds better than on record. Its short and sweet. It almost passes before I register it. A nice song, I would have liked to hear more of it.

The upbeat guitar songs end when Prince brings it all down with Something In The Water (Does Not Compute). I will be honest here, I am very biased. This is one of my favorite songs, I have always had a real soft spot for it. It opens just Prince and the piano, and it sounds just great. This is how I like to hear it played. The guitar and slow drums kick in and the song changes gear a little. It has a great melancholy sound that suits the theme of the song so well, and I can’t help but just wallow in it all. The guitar line is so simple and repetitive, it has a great hypnotic quality to it. Prince gives a few good shrieks and howls and plays a nice 3-4 minute solo to finish the song. The guitar has the classic Prince tone to it, and it closes out the song perfectly.

PrinceBirmingham

Another song that sounds better here than the studio recording is Pretzelbodylogic. Although I am not a fan of the song itself, so that’s not really adding much to it. Lots of these recent songs live are a slow heavy riff and a couple of solos. I am not such a fan of this one, there doesn’t seem to be much variety or texture. It’s missing something playful, or something deeper. Either direction would be better than the middle of the road.

Stratus I have heard plenty over the last years, mostly at aftershows. By now there is almost too much guitar at the gig, its lacking variety. 3rdeyegirl are good, but they need more color and variation.

What’s My Name is another song from the past which seems well suited for this band. I really enjoyed it here, I would like to hear it played more often. I think he could ratchet it right up and make it much more intense if he wanted.

There is respite from all the guitar heroics when Prince begins the piano set. The first song he plays is How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore. It still sounds fresh after all these years. The song stands on its own and shines. It still sounds as good as the day I first heard it.

After the opening song in the piano set I had high hopes, but Prince quickly turns it into a disappointing medley. Diamonds and Pearls gets 40 seconds (more than enough in my book) and then The Beautiful Ones managers to stretch out to a minute and a half. It’s very soft with his piano and voice very low, but it’s far too short and left me hungry for more.

Electric intercourse gets longer, which is good thing, but its lacks the emotion and power of the earlier performances over the years. One gets the feeling that Prince is just tinkling the keys and playing what comes to him.

The electric introduction to Controversy grabs my attention -I love the beginning of this version. The band is back on board now. Unfortunately it lacks the electro funk feel of the original for the rest of the song that I love so much. Its seven minutes, but after the first couple of minutes I am over it, and have a longing to hear the original. It outstays its welcome, and is one of the few songs where I wish it was a shorter version.

There is redemption with 1999. It’s not too bad at all, more like the original. The mood lightens up and it’s something fun that the crowd can enjoy. I hadn’t heard it for a while, so it was a nice surprise.

True to form Little Red Corvette is played in the slow mournful version that we have heard a lot of in the last 5 years. When he first unveiled this version I was an instant fan, although I have tired of it in the last couple of years. The novelty had worn off for me, but this performance got me back on board. I really liked this performance and I completely changed my mind. The sing-a-long section sounded great. It was a great way to close the main set.

Next the sampler set. Ugh, do I have to listen to it? As you can tell I am really not a fan of this. Every song is just a tease and makes me frustrated I can’t hear more. It’s like handing a TV remote to someone who skims through the channels. So infuriating!
The sampler starts off not so bad with When Doves Cry. This elicits a loud cheer of recognition from the crowd. Unfortunately we only get two short versus before he skips to the next song. I am thankful we got that much, but I would trade the whole sampler set just to hear a full version of one or two of these songs. This ends just as its getting good.

Sign Of The Times survives for one minute and two versus before it gets the chop. The whole sampler set is an exercise in frustration, I am trying not to rant, but it’s really a waste.

At 10 seconds is it even worth sampling Alphabet St? Grrrrr!

Forever in My Life suffers from sound issues. Apparently there were sound problems through out the gig, but only a few times in the recording is it apparent. During this song we can hear the distortion and I can only guess how it was there throughout the gig. The song itself is good, and he gets through it, but I long to one day hear the long version as played at the Trojan Horse gig. We all need a dream to cling to.

Although it’s only 2 minutes, Hot Thing sounds good. I particularly like the lyric change “Hot thing, barely 25, hot thing looking to come alive.” He has raised his standards! There is a nice moment half way through when he thanks the crowd for putting their phones away, he loves it when he can see their faces. It’s a nice sentiment. There is a fair amount of distortion here, not sure if its the recording the venue sound. I am guessing it’s the venues problem.

There is a very stop/start beginning to Housequake, and it actually suits the song. When he finally settles on the steady beat Prince sings in his classic funk voice, I can almost picture him pulling his funk face. It’s unfortunate that the song is again in a truncated form and it stops much too soon for my liking. I could have danced to this for much longer- two minutes is just not enough.

The next few songs are just tasters and teases, Nasty Girls gets barely 20 seconds, and The Most Beautiful Girl In The World gets one line.

Pop Life fares little better, we hear one full minute, enough time for one verse and one chorus. A disappointment for one of my favorite songs.

I would Die 4 U finishes the set with one minute, before Prince closes it with “Thank you all so much”

PRINCE-Birmingham (1)

I am much relieved when he plays Purple Rain as a full song with band. Although its very much overplayed (I think I have more than 200 versions of this song) its still good to hear it played in full here. Prince opens it with a longer intro as he speaks to the crowd and thanks them. I have heard many versions where he sings the first verse, a chorus and then skips to the guitar solo. Thankfully he doesn’t do that here, he plays it straight, and surprisingly it feels fresh because of that. It lasts the whole 9 minutes before he fades it down, and after the sampler set it feels much longer. Not that I am complaining at all.

If the gig had of ended here I would have been well satisfied. But there is an encore of Play That Funky Music that I could really do without. I am not sure why Prince is so enamored with this song, but for me it appears in his set lists far too often. For me this is the one track of the evening that I would skip over in an instant.
The gig has plenty of good things going for it, and despite my criticism I enjoyed the bulk of it. For every negative there was a positive, so all in all it balanced out. It was worth it just for Something In The Water, and Shes always In my hair. I feel the sampler set and some of the more mediocre songs let it down, but as most fans know, that is par for the course. It will never be the first recording I reach for when I want to hear something, but on the right day its a fair record of where Prince is at right now.

Next time we are going to look at something more funky. I am not sure what it will be yet, but I did see a tape kicking around the other day with “Chicken Grease” written on it, so that might be the one, if I can find some sort of machine to play it!

Thanks to everyone who has given feedback, and again thanks to all tapers of these shows.

Be a dear and share
-Hamish