Austria 2014

It feels like a long time since I started listening to the concerts that Prince payed in Austria. After a diversion through the latest EYE releases, today I finally come back to the final Austria concert featuring 3rdeyegirl.

I have had a lot of interesting feedback from fans who were at last weeks 2010 concert in Vienna, a rash of fans declaring vehemently that it was the best concert they ever went to. And not just casual type fans either, some of these people have seen 50+ concerts, making me wonder if Prince really did play the best concerts in Austria. The concert from 2010 sounded good, but not great as those attending tell me, which serves as a reminder that these bootlegs only give us half the story, and there is no replacing the experience of actually being at the concert.

Today’s show from Vienna is the last concert of the European leg of the 2014 Hit n Run tour. I have previous written about a lot of these 3rdeyegirl concerts before, at the time there was quite a buzz about Prince playing in this smaller format, although looking back three years later some of this lustre has worn off. The concept was initially thrilling, but not strong enough to carry a whole tour. 3rdeyegirl were great for the rock side of Prince’s Gemini personality, but of course Prince wanted to push a range of genres across his concerts. The outcome of this was naturally enough an elongated sampler set, addition musicians brought into the fold, a longer piano set, and new arrangements of some songs to fit in with 3rdeyegirl’s style. None of these are a negative, but it does make for an uneven and bumpy ride through the gig. To my ears there is an odd inconsistency and the concerts never quite settle into a groove – Prince is always changing things up as the concert evolves. Still, it does keep people like me guessing and interested in these shows, something that can’t be dismissed.

7th June 2014, Vienna, Austria 

There is no explosive opening to the concert and bootleg. Skipping Hannah’s spoken introduction and a couple of songs over the P.A. the first song performed is a limp “Let’s Go Crazy.” While I admire the intent in the rearrangement of the song, with its low and slow riff, it does take away all the is good and great. The strength in the original “Let’s Go Crazy” is it’s combination of rock and pure pop, giving it an uplifting joy and energy. This arrangement strips out all the pop, and most of the joy, leaving it as a soulless plod. Prince does this with other songs too, usually to fit in with what ever mood he is creating at a concert (“1999” and “Kiss” are two that immediately spring to mind), but in the new arrangement of these songs who loses what it is that makes them what they are, the alchemy is undone and these once golden pop moments become leaden and dull. “Let’s Go Crazy” isn’t bad, but it’s certainly a far cry from what it once was, and I could happily skip over this arrangement.

The appearance of “Take Me With U” lights up the concert, even if the sound on the bootleg is rather one dimensional.  The recording has very little depth to it, and even though I can hear the music fine, it doesn’t jump off the page. Along with it’s sister “Raspberry Beret,” this is where Prince’s pop side comes to the fore, something people may not expect when they first see 3rdeyegirl take the stage. With Cassandra and Josh adding their keyboard talents to the core of 3rdeyegirl, the band is well rounded and better equipped to tackle some of these gems from the back-catalog.

“U Got The Look” is paper thin and a real disappointment. It is the weak man of this concert, and describing it as thin and sickly would be an understatement. Prince’s guitar break normally reinvigorates even the most ill of patients, in this case it is the death rattle that puts both the song and me out of our misery.

As a contrast, “Cool” is the best performance so far heard on the recording. The recording is clear, but still not strong, and it does just enough to catch Prince and the band finally giving us a song I can connect to. It is the keyboards that are the pulse that keeps this song moving, and for several minutes the rest of the concert disappears under this wave of keyboard swells and Prince’s cool.

I have previously been dismissive of the sampler set, but I must admit it has grown on me over the years. It is a nostalgic romp through some of Prince’s beloved 80’s material, a treat for those that have been with him through his musical journey. “Dove’s Cry” is the gold standard when it comes to his 1980’s output, and he matches it in this case with yet another funky version of “Sign O The Times” I can tell you both are great., and that’s not 1980’s me speaking, that is me in the here and now 2017 asserting that they sound just as good here as they did thirty years (how it hurts to to realize that) ago.

“Hot Thing” is notable for the eclectic keyboard solo that Cassandra delivers, it’s quirkiness elevating the song and bringing something fresh to the table. The song doesn’t reach any great heights asides from this, but I do recommend giving her solo a second listen.

I did yawn through the opening minutes of “Alphabet St,” but like the previous song one of the band members comes to the fore with something interesting. In this case it is Ida Nielsen with some sharp bass work that has me leaning forward to try and catch every note. She is one sharp player and I only wish there was more here for me to enjoy.

This sampler set closes out with “Forever In My Life,” the bass again being the most interesting aspect. It may start slow, but the final minutes is intoxicating as the bass comes from a variety of angles both providing something unexpected and joyful.

There is a full band rendition of “Controversy,” a song that hits the reset button on the concert as suddenly both the music and crowd come alive. There is finally some muscle to the music, and the concert rises in my estimation from this point onwards. Maybe it is because I have listened to so many earlier bootlegs recently, but “Controversy” does bring out the best of this recording, and it towers above the earlier tepid material.

Earlier I wrote that sometimes the soul of “1999” is sacrificed for the greater good of the concert, I am pleased to say that in this case that doesn’t happen. It is the full version, with all the correct sounds in the correct places, and the magic from 35 years ago is still in the air as Prince plays.

Prince sticks with the 1999 album for an electrifying performance of “Little Red Corvette” It has a rather conventional opening, but there is an appearance of the “slow down” refrain midsong that is captivating and goes for sometime, enticing the listener with it’s warmth while retaining a sense of regret. The song disappears and leaves Prince and the crowd singing, a poignant moment that hangs a veil of sadness across the show.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” stays with this sense of regret and loss, but doesn’t quite scale the same heights as the previous few minutes. Again, Prince has the crowd singing with him, but it doesn’t generate the same heat as the previous number. I find redemption in Cassandras solo, and I am again surprised at just how much of herself she injects into the performance, all for the better of course.

The is an extra kick in the bass of “Kiss” that has me listening carefully. It is another different take on this well worn classic, and although it doesn’t sparkle like the original it still has its own attention grabbing way. Laid back, with only the merest sprinklings of guitar from Prince, it is a deeper and darker listen. It has me eating my words from earlier, with it’s own soul it is a nice rework of a song that has had more different live arrangements than any other. The climax is the extended coda when the funk guitar appears, reminding us of the original sound on record.

There was the sampler set earlier, and at this stage of the concert Prince again takes a seat with the piano set. No surprises to hear “Diamonds And Pearls” first, the audience lapping it up and offering up their backing vocals early. The segue into “The Beautiful Ones” is also equally predictable, and although Prince sounds heavenly on vocals, the song itself suffers for being part of this set. Abridged, it is stripped of the climatic nature of the original, and there is no pay off for the pretty opening verses. The song rises, but never boils over, even with Prince’s final yelps there is a sense he is holding back.

I sit transfixed as Prince plays “Empty Room.” It’s a delicate trap, Prince drawing me in with his floating keyboard riffs, before Donna smites all with her axe. The guitar playing is sublime, filling with an intensity without overwhelming at any stage, Donna strikes her blows with maximum impact without overexerting the guitar. If there was a song on this recording that needed to be turned up to eleven, this would be it.

Guitars stay at the front of my thoughts, and Prince’s, with an energetic performance of “Guitar.” Although lightweight in it’s subject matter, and carrying no emotional baggage, it is still a worthy listen. It can’t match any of the previous songs on any level, but keeps things moving and brings 3rdeyegirl to the fore as we move into the rock orientated section of the concert.

The energy levels drop for “Plectrumelectrum,” although there is the feeling that Prince is merely using this as a warm up for the next few songs. There is plenty of guitar, but no heroics, and my overall feeling is that it is a couple of minutes too long.

I was no great fan of Prince’s cover of “Crimson And Clover” when he first started playing it (although I do have the Tommy James and the Shondells version on 45,somewhere). However, his take on it has grown on me the last coupe of years, and the version heard on this bootleg is a fair representation of what his arrangement sounds like. The “Wild Thing” chorus works well, and the final cascade of guitar is undemanding yet has plenty of fireworks for guitar aficionados.

Things have been building up to these next two songs, and Prince and the band deliver first up with yet another great rendition of “She’s Always In My Hair.” The recording is nowhere near as good as the performance itself, the two dimension sound of the recording sapping a lot of the intensity from the song. The music sounds intoxicating, but I feel like I am watching from a distance with the flat sound of the recording rendering Prince a paper doll. Still, the song is what is important, and it is another chance for 3rdeyegirl to rise up and make it their own.

“Purple Rain” is alluring from the outset, the first guitar runs glistening in a newness that I haven’t heard before. It meanders for a moment, before setting off in a new direction, the introduction briefly covering new ground before Prince brings it back with his first line. I am almost disappointed, but Prince is too good to give us just another version going through the motions, he injects what he needs to into the performance and the crowd respond as they always do. It is not one for the ages, but it does maintain Prince’s high standards, and again the only disappointment is the flatness of the recording.

After the highs of these two rock songs, “Play That Funky Music” as the first encore is a come done. It has never been one of my favorite songs, and the blandness of the recording certainly does it no favors here. On a positive note, Cassandra provides yet another excellent solo, and there is just enough slippery guitar to bring a smile to my face.

I am far more enthused for “Screwdriver.” It has a kinetic energy about it and Prince sounds far more youthful than he really is. It doesn’t stand on the same pedestal as Prince’s classic hits, but it is a modern song that fits well into these setlists.

From the same place comes “Funknroll.” It doesn’t do it as well as the previous “Screwdriver,” there is a sense of purpose missing, and the song feels like it is by the numbers in places. An uneven performance that perhaps would have been saved by a better recording.

The bass and drum of “Housequake” are strong, and wash away any recording limitations. It has a lot more backbone than “Funknroll,” something that is highlighted further as the song progresses, especially as Prince pulls it back to “listen to the drums.” With the bass rooting the song in funky soil, the music blooms and grows into a sprawling vine of sounds and rhythms. This is easily the best part of the last thirty minutes, and something of a surprise with 3rdeyegirl.

The is further surprises with a strong electric version of “Sometimes In Snows In April.” It may not be to everyone’s taste, there is very little that is delicate about it, and it is in stark contrast to the original. It still has a softness to it, but it is more fleshed out and certainly a lot louder. I still rate it, especially the guitar break which shines new light on a song that is often constrained by its own history.

“Bambi” is far closer to what we expect from 3rdeyegirl, and the version heard here comes as a hammer blow placed as it is near the end of the concert. With guitars fighting over each other to be heard, it is a gleeful romp that at times descends into a cacophony of guitar white noise. I revel in it’s sound, and although I know it is old and almost a parody of itself I still find it excites me.

“Stratus” twists and turns through an array of eclectic movements, all of them highlighting the bands collective talent pool, and Prince’s prowess as bandleader. The guitar break may grab all the headlines, but there is much more to this performance that that one lightning bolt moment. It is a chance to sit back and reflect on the abilities of this band, a band that is sometimes underrated while a closer listen reveals they do what they do very well.

I haven’t done enough research to tell you how often “What’s My Name” was played on this tour, but I do know that it sounds fresh whenever I hear it and comes as one final surprise at the end of the concert. It still has a lingering sense of anger about it, and retains the sense of outrage first heard on the original. Twenty years on it still sounds biting, and Prince spits his lyrics with plenty of venom. There is still a fire burning within him, and it may have taken two and a half hours, but here it is in full effect, the concert ending on a note of real intensity.

The recording finishes with the “Funknroll” remix playing over the P.A. Good for the completists, but I don’t really need to hear it, the previous “What’s My Name” the blazing finish that raises everything to the ground, there is nothing more to hear after such a rendition.

I would like this concert a whole lot more if the recording wasn’t so flat. Looking past that through, and I can see that this is a great way to finish the Hit N Run II tour of Europe, and it neatly encapsulates all the shows that have come previously, while highlighting the continuing evolution of 3rdeyegirl as they adapt to new styles and songs. Normally I wouldn’t give my time to a recording of this type, especially as there are so many good recordings of these later tours available, but like the fans say, Prince always put on a good show in Austria. A hidden gem, I might just play this a few more times before I put it back into storage.

A wordy entry, congratulations if you made it this far.
Join me next week when I’ll have something festive for the season.
-Hamish

 

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