Baltimore

Prince followed up his Dance Rally 4 Peace concert at Paisley Park with a much larger concert at Baltimore a week later. The first hour of this concert was live streamed, making for a nice bootleg, and the Confusion/Akashic release rounds out the concert with an audience recording. The concert is much longer than the Paisley park show and features Prince’s new song at the time, “Baltimore”, which was recorded only 10 days previously. This concert is a great example of Princes altruism and the concert itself looks like a great bootleg. Anyone familiar with the design work of The Rev would recognize the cover as his style, and that is usually a good indication of the quality of the show within.

10th may 2015, Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore

It is not Prince that is first heard, rather Hannah introduces the concert with a brief speech welcoming the crowd. As someone who only listens exclusively to bootlegs, I had to smile as she asked the audience to not use recording devices and to turn their phones off. The band don’t start immediately, there is first the small matter of the DAT intro. The intro of “1999” in there is no surprise, but what captures my attention, and I hope others that listen, is the “Million Dollar Show” chorus. It is far from classic Prince but it does provide a hyped up intro to the concert and the lyrics do lay out what Prince is trying to achieve.

“Lets Go Crazy” comes with a crushing weight that almost sinks it. It’s true that you can have too much of a good thing and in this case the ponderous guitar lines fail to elevate the song to anything. The band shadowbox with it, and while it looks threatening enough the truth is it is just a pale imitation of it’s former self. Maybe it would help if the band turned it up to eleven.

Sonically “Take Me With U” is miles above “Let’s Go Crazy” and some levity is added to the gig after the sober opening. There is some backbone added to the song as Prince’s guitar snorts and snarls underneath the lighter keyboard riff. “Raspberry Beret” offers no surprises as it comes hard on its heels, it has the same pop tone and now I have heard this pairing enough that I have overcome my snobbishness with this predictable pair. Crowd pleasing and fun, it is what it is, there will be other occasions later in this show for bootleg purists to celebrate.

The first of those moments come with Prince’s song of the moment “Baltimore”. It presents and interesting dichotomy, Prince presenting a protest song in the Trojan horse of a pop song. It creates a tension within me that I never resolve, I love the pop song and I equally love the lyrics. But when I put the two together it leaves me uneasy, both are diluted by being paired with the other and the song loses its power. It this performance Prince leans on the message, taking time to address the crowd with his plea for peace. It swings back to the message of the lyrics and this marks it out from the album version. A rarely played song, this is the main attraction of the bootleg for collectors.

There is whoops of delight from the crowd for “U Got The Look”, but that energy and excitement doesn’t carry across the recording. Prince and the band tick all the boxes, the song is tight but lacks the element of danger that makes live performances so electrifying. I hate to say it, but I am almost glad as it quickly passes for I know whats coming next.

What comes next is a suite of songs that harks back to Prince’s setlists of the early 2000’s. The plaintive guitar cries out the introduction of “The Question Of U” before Prince settles on “The One”. It is a masterful performance that could have been lifted straight from the ONA tour, Prince’s vocals and guitar painting a mournful wash of sound to carry the heart-rending lyrics. Prince builds the intensity with his guitar, drawing more and more emotion from his instrument in an titanic solo that screams and weeps in equal measure. Muddy Water’s “Electric Man” lyrics make an appearance, drawing calls from the crowd of “plug me in!” that bring the recording alive. Princes guitar meanders at this point, before Prince points it in a new direction and plays out the song with waves of heartbreak coming from his axe. Along with “Baltimore”, this stands as the best moment on the bootleg.

Prince has the audacity to follow this with a sprightly “Controversy” that replaces emotion with fun. The horns add plenty of sass, and the song skips easily along until it becomes bogged down in Prince’s chants. I forgive this though as Marcus amply compensates with a horn solo that flies far above all else that is heard in the song.

Equally horny is “1999”. It is almost Vegas like, the original synth stabs buried under the incessant horns. It’s too polished for my tastes, the charm of the album version lost with the larger band and added pieces.

“Little Red Corvette” is from the same era and also gets a modern update. In this case it works much better as Prince takes it from its mournful opening to a breezy chorus before again lowering the tone with his guitar cry. It’s not as thrilling as the first time I heard this arrangement, but it still stands up to repeated listens.

Prince heads for the heart again with “Nothing Compares 2 U”. It gets a thumbs up from me, the keyboards sounding “Strawberry Fields” like as they sway in the wind behind Prince’s vocals. The song stands on firmer ground as the full band joins, yet is still Prince’s vocals that stand out front. The music is delicate, until Donna unleashes a forceful solo that emphasizes the lyrics. It’s an interesting development and keeps me interested in a song that I have become overly familiar with over the years.

The sampler sets begins with a version of “When Doves Cry” that runs a couple of minutes. It’s longer enough for the crowd to be drawn into singing it, and although not as captivating as it was in the 80s’, it is still a important part of the setlist.

The set accelerates as “Nasty Girl” teases before “Sign O’ The Times” takes centre stage. This seems like a song tailor made for a show such as this, yet Prince doesn’t take too long to dwell on the message of the song, instead letting the crowd chant before he runs through a couple of verses.

A lot of songs come in pairs through this concert. “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” came as one two punch from the 1999 album, and now Prince repeats the trick with “Sign O’Times” and “Hot Thing” coming together from the Sign O’ The Times album. “Hot Thing” is particularly rewarding, Prince adds plenty to the mix and a scratchy, itchy, keyboard break gives it just enough grit to gain traction with even the most jaded listener.

The bootleg changes at this point as we switch from the soundboard recording to an audience recording. Its not too much of a jump, the audience recording has Prince’s vocals sounding slightly far, but the music is well recorded with obviously more bass present. “I Would Die 4 U” is the first song heard like this, and it is a bright start with the keyboard riff and drum shimmer sounding close to the recorded version.

“I wanna play some more but I run out hits” has Prince playing with the crowd before Doug E. Fresh joins him for a run through of “Kiss”. I don’t have an opinion on Doug E. Fresh, although I would rather have heard a version of “Kiss” without him. He raps his way over the guitar and keyboard hook, without the Princes normal vocals it becomes something different, and less enjoyable. That changes as Prince comes to the mic mid-song, unfortunately by this time I have already run out of patience and am thinking of the next song.

Prince plays instrumental snippets of a few of his songs (“Darling Nikki”, “Pop Life”, “If I Was Your Girlfriend”) before he settles on the enduring “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”. This song has a remarkable shelf life and is one of the few songs that have traveled with Prince for the bulk of his career.  From its first appearances in the early 80s’ through to his final Piano and Microphone shows of 2016, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” has appeared on a number of tours and shows. This version here doesn’t add anything new to that catalogue of great recordings but it is comforting to see a familiar friend in the setlist.

Comfort is the name of the game for the next couple of songs as Prince cuts to his work in the piano set with firstly “Diamonds And Pearls” and then “The Beautiful Ones”. “Diamonds and Pearls” is little more than a ramp up to “The Beautiful Ones” which still stands as one of his greatest ballads. It is evidently much loved by the audience, they are audibly singing with Prince, adding to the intimate feel of the song rather than detracting from it.

The following “Do Me, Baby” out does it as far as raw emotion and participation. It catches me just right, and I feel heart strings being pulled as Prince plays and sings. On the foundation of the audiences vocals Prince pulls the song higher and higher, eventually climaxing in a couple of screams before the piano trickles away the final emotions.

There is plenty of time to digest “Forever In My Life”. It has a deliciously long instrumental opening that ushers in the singing of “When Will We B Paid?”. It should be a ‘moment’, but it doesn’t live up to expectation. The audience do chant, but the main vocals aren’t as forceful as I would have liked, the emotion of the song replaced with a cheap call and response. The song doesn’t have enough time to appear through the mist and Prince rushes to an unsatisfying sing-a-long.

There is a cameo appearance of “Alphabet St.” before Judith Hill provides a rendition of her song “As Trains Go By”. It sounds timeless, yet undemanding, with the horns and band providing the main impetus. It swings easy enough, but my feeling is it isn’t really going for, instead revolving in circles around the horn lines.

It is Estelle that sings the first verse of “Purple Rain’ and although she sings beautifully, the songs sounds mechanical and distant. That changes as Prince comes onboard, the song lifting immensely on the back of his vocals. I’m a little jaded when it comes to “Purple rain”, yet I do appreciate what it brings to the concert and a student of classic rock I always appreciate the guitar break that punctuates the song. In this case it is cut short to make way for a Prince speech, but the sentiment he expresses is spot on and the song serves his message well. The final “ooohhh ooohh ooohhh” are worth the wait and the release of emotion and tension is palpable.

 

The bass line of “Cool” is excellent, although sadly a little lacking on the recording. There is plenty going on through the song, especially as they begin to sing “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough”, but the bootleg doesn’t do it justice, it is very two dimensional sounding and it is down to my imagination to round out the sound and bring the bass further forward. This is a good performance in search of a good recording to match it.

Hopes are high as the bass jam begins, although I am soon disappointed by the thin recording that leaves Prince’s bass sounding like a rubber band. It is short lived, “Mountains” coming quickly after with the recording still sounding two dimensional. “Mountains” is another song that has plenty of layers to unpick, although there is very little to be be unpicked here as this is a beige version of a song that should be technicolor.

All my thoughts in regards to the quality of the recording are put to one side as Prince and the band tear through and incendiary “The Dance Electric”. The band are cold killers throughout as they play without mercy, the fire of Prince’s guitar empathizing the point as he plays a murderous solo. There is no escape as they nail the groove to the floor, giving Prince the freedom to play with furious anger. This is a great way to finish the show, there is no place to go from here and it is only fitting that it is the final song of the night.

Although it couldn’t be considered a classic bootleg, I still found this concert enjoyable enough. The highlight for me was the performance of “Baltimore”, a light pop song that carries a heavier message. Understandably, the first half of the show was much more enjoyable, purely down to be a soundboard recording, but the second half of the recording was serviceable and didn’t detract too much from the enjoyment. It is a fairly typical 3rdeyegirl set, but they do what they do well and the bootleg is lively. Combined with the message that Prince is getting across, this bootleg nicely captures Prince’s position in 2015 both musically and politically.

Dance Rally 4 Peace

Since Prince has passed away many people have come forward with examples of his secret philanthropy. He was active for a long time behind the scenes giving to various causes and helping those in need. Not all his philanthropy was secret though, and there are examples where he quite publicly put his name and efforts behind a cause.His Baltimore concert for Freddie Gray is a fine example of Prince giving to the community. He was always socially conscious and in the case of Freddie Gray Prince put all his efforts into creating a dialogue and understanding. We have the Baltimore charity show, the song “Baltimore” and closer to home Prince had his ‘dance rally 4 peace’ – where attendees were asked to wear something gray. I plan on writing about the Baltimore concert soon, but first I want to start with this ‘dance rally 4 peace’. Although it was available as a stream on the Prince3EG soundcloud, I still consider it a bootleg. A few bootleg labels have put it out, and if they consider it fair game then so do I. The set that Prince plays is only short, even more so on the edited version that was put online. It is still a great listen, and the shorter concert makes Princes message more to the point. This is no sprawling concert, it is short and sweet with the main emphasis on the message.

3rd May 2015 (a.m.) Paisley Park

The title “Chaos And Disorder” gives some sense to the feeling in the streets, but the performance itself is anything but, it is orderly and highly polished. With the swish of the guitars sweeping back and forth behind him, Prince is stillness at the centre that draws all the attention. The guitars bay to be let loose, but the band keep it all on a tight leash, making for a performance that has its own tension within the song. That tension is released as Prince finally gives in to his rock impulses and plays an ascending solo that hints at anger without ever becoming pure rage.

It is a Hendrixesque “Dreamer” that brings further poignancy to the rally. The lyrics lay out Princes message early on before the whine of his guitar brings anguish and pain to the music. Prince starts with a few deft touches, then adds flesh to the music as he builds upon his foundation. The music folds back under him later, and the second part of the song becomes a mood piece with keyboards replacing the angry howl of the guitar with their soft weeping. It not as cohesive as one might expect and the song does lose its impact as it becomes inconstant. As much as I like the music, it was a better moment and suited the concert theme when it came as an angry punch in the opening minutes.

The sharpness returns to the show with a blazing version of “Guitar”. It is light, yet the guitar attack brings a sense of urgency to the concert. Donna matches Prince for guitar heroics, her guitar coming as a stronger voice as the song progresses. It becomes a twin guitar attack in the final minute, the best moment of the song as they cross swords and trade riffs.

Donna is equally to the fore with “Plectrumelectrum”. It has the all the ingredients for a song I might like, but I have never been able to warm to it. This version is an exception as it has a sternness about it that I haven’t heard before. While the main riff spins and revolves without going anywhere, it is the guitar breaks that see the song move across the rock landscape with enough heaviness to keep most guitar aficionados satisfied.

For me, the highlight of this short set comes with “The Whole Of The Moon”. It may not be the version you remember from The Waterboys, but it is just as exhilarating as Prince bends the song to his style and strengths. Song writer Mike Scott has explicitly said that the song was not written about Prince, but the rumor persists with the lyrics sketching out a figure who could well be Prince. Lyrics such as “I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands, I had flashes, but you saw the plan, I wandered out in the world for years, while you just stayed in your room,I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon”, speak of a Prince type figure, someone who operates in another time in place, dedicated to his own private world. Prince takes these lyrics and adds to the myth by neatly reversing the subject, the I of the song becoming the you and vice versa. Thus the opening couplet becomes “You pictured a rainbow, I held it in your hands, you had flashes, but I saw the plan”. It makes him the subject of the song in an instant, and although it may be viewed as egotistical, it certainly personalizes the song. What brings the song into Princes stable though isn’t the lyrics, it’s the wonderful popping and snapping bass that he furnishes the song with. Prince can be heard playing bass on plenty of bootlegs, but trust me, this is one of the best. It is the driving force of the song as it shakes beneath the music, an earthquake shake that forces you out of your comfort zone as it pops and cracks, the bass rising out of the bottom of the song as cracks across the soundscape. The song title may belong to The Waterboys, but the bass and shake is pure Prince, reminiscent of “Days Of Wild” at it’s funkiest.

The bootleg ends at this point as Prince thanks the crowd and the DJ takes over. Although short, this bootleg is just as good as any two or three hour show that Prince has played. It is a rock show, but the final bass playing by Prince provides more than enough funk for those that like it like that. This is one bootleg that I can see myself coming back to again and again, often shows are too long for me to enjoy in a single sitting, whereas this bootleg could neatly cover a car ride. The show is perfectly paced, its professionally recorded, the music is sensational, whats not to like about it? The only negative would be when we consider that it is edited down, missing about 10 minutes worth. “Crimson and Clover” is missing and “The Whole Of The Moon” is edited, but what we are left with is extremely satisfying. This might just be the perfect show to convert your non Prince fans with.

See you next time
Hamish

Koko Rocks

This weeks recording -I am going to take a gamble with this one. Todays recording is not a favorite, much loved recording, but instead a recent one which I have never heard before. Today I will be taking a listen to Prince playing at Koko London from last week. Before I have even heard a note, I already have mixed feelings about this one. At first glance there are a couple of positives and also a couple of negatives. Firstly the negatives – it is a audience recording, and a greatest hit show to boot. I am not a great fan of either. On the plus side – it is a smaller venue, and also a recent show, so it will be something new to my ears and I won’t have any preconceptions about it. The other thing about it which is making me curious is the songs from Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue as they say. So, lets drop the needle and see what we got

February 2nd, 2015 Koko London

Prince Koko 4

As the recording begins you can actually hear the anticipation as the audience awaits the music to start. The opening chords of Purple Rain is greeted with plenty of cheers and squeals as you might expect. The recording is actually not too bad- I can hear everything I need to hear. The crowd is all onboard right from the start and you can hear them singing along line for line. Prince himself sounds fairly relaxed, there is no intensity to his singing, and the whole vibe comes across as casual and happy. His guitar sound early on sounds like this may be a pretty rocking gig. It was just after I thought this that I can hear some audience members talking, which instantly takes me out of the song. Soon enough Prince and the band get a little louder and more raw and I am happy again. Throughout I can hear his guitar sound nice and deep and I hold my breath as I wait for the solo. And, it’s a good one! All the usual elements are there, as well as some nice deviations by Prince. Nothing too off the chart, but it does have a good rocking sound to it. The crowd is well in the mood for “ahhh, ahhh, ahhh” but Prince closes them down soon enough. The reprise is short, there is a minute of crowd singing before Prince brings it to an end with his guitar. We are off to a good start.

Prince tells the crowd that they are going to play 14 hits in a row and the band start the grind of the modern take of Lets Go Crazy. I am not always the greatest fan of this one, but I haven’t listened to any 3rdeyegirl recordings for a while, and it’s not the chore that I sometimes find it is. It sounds like its going across well tonight, and I enjoy the guitar divergence midsong. It adds a little lightness to a song that sometimes sounds bogged down in its modern incarnation. The band sound tighter than some of the other shows I have listened to, and looking at it I guess they have been together quite a while now. They have certainly lasted longer than I expected, and full credit to them. My only quibble would be that perhaps the song lasts a minute longer than my attention span does, but as always that’s my problem rather than a recording problem.

Take Me With U takes me by surprise with its nice fresh sound. There is a nice guitar sound at the beginning that is playing what was originally a keyboard on record. It’s only a small thing, but it has me listening right from the start. The song is nicely balanced, and although the guitar leads it, it still feels light and has a pop shine to it. Liv’s singing is very good, and it’s nice to hear her adding to the fullness of the song. I should have tired of this song years ago, but today it’s still getting me moving in my chair.

And joy of joys, the next song isn’t Raspberry Beret! Instead we are treated to a solid performance of U Got The Look. Sure I have been critical of this in recent blog posts, but again on the recording it’s a nice crisp performance. Both the guitars have a clean but heavy sound, and I can clearly hear what they are playing. It’s a change from some other performances where the guitar is lost in muddy sound or distortion. Liv can once again be heard doing her thing, and I admire her voice for standing up against all the guitar sound. For a minute I thought it was going to degenerate into a guitarfest, but the band quickly moves into Funknroll, much to the delight of the crowd I might add.

Prince live at Koko, London.

It’s very cool, and as usual I like the live performance of it much more than the album recording. The band really own this one and it’s very obvious that this is one song that they all buy into, and belong on. The breakdown and Princes guitar sounds like a lot of fun, and gets plenty of shouts from the crowd. It sounds very much like a good time, and I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there. I think cool is the word that suits this song tonight, and Prince plays us out with some more cool guitar playing.

I have tried to avoid using the word funky too much when writing this blog, but I can’t help but use it for the beginning of Controversy. 3rdEyeGirl strike me as being a very unfunky band, the opening guitar rhythm is right on the money. They don’t let up as the song kicks off properly, and this stripped down band takes me right back to the original sound in the eighties. I have to be honest, I was even clapping in the air at one point. The crowd are feeling funky too, with a chant of “Ow wee ow” starting mid song. Prince comments “I see you all come to jam tonight” before singing controversy. There is then some very fun call and response between Prince and the audience, they can’t quite match his squeals and sounds, but they more than make up for it with volume when he says “now somebody scream!” The song ends, and I find myself thinking this was the best version of this song I have heard for ages.

The timeless intro of 1999 moves us right along, and I can feel the smallness of the venue and the vibe of the band. It’s very heavy on bass, with everything else floating along over the top. Prince sounds like he is having as much fun as the crowd and I marvel at his ability to play at such a level still after all these years. An average gig by Prince is still better than 90% of everyone else’s, and this gig is far from average. They more than do the song justice, and like all the best versions I can hear plenty of Princes guitar in the mix.

Staying with the 1999 album, next song up is Little Red Corvette. It’s played in his modern ‘slow down style’ but its not as drawn out and emotional at the start as other times I have heard. It’s slightly let down by crowd noise in places, and although Princes voice isn’t always clear, his guitar certainly is. After 30 years I still feel a rush as he plays the guitar solo, before pulling it back and taking it down a notch to his slow hand guitar, and eventual “slow down” refrain. There is a lovely moment before his slow down lines, where he emotionally sings about “I know what I want, I want you” The crowd gentle sings “slow down” in the background while Prince delivers his lines. For me it was a surprising highlight, and I find myself totally in the moment. Mindfulness with Prince, who would have thought. The song continues to offer surprises as it ends with Prince and the women of the audience singing “oohhh oohh ”

Prince Koko 3

It gets even better when Prince sings Nothing Compares 2 U over a bare keyboard. In my mind this is the way it should always sound. The band joins after the first verse, but the song still holds its emotion, and Prince ups his delivery when the drums and bass enter. I have to say, I was a little worried when he says “on the guitar, Donna”, but her solo is pitched just right, and is kept nice and short. Prince comes back with plenty more character in his voice, and the crowd carries us home. It’s short, but all done in the best possible taste, and like all good things leaves me wanting more.

I love this version of Kiss. Anyone who has read any of these blog posts knows that this is quite a statement from me, I am what they call “a hater” when it comes to this song. But here on this recording I find it very appealing. It has some interesting keyboard running through it, and is seriously lacking its distinctive guitar signature. Although not a fan of the song, I have always liked its guitar sound, so for him to drop it out, and I find I like it even more, I am very surprised. That same guitar sound returns in the second half of the song, and it’s nice and strong. I could just listen to that rhythm all day. If you want to hear a different take on a classic, I recommend you bend your ear to this. The band jam on it a little later in the song, and its all good to me.

I am not very familiar with Paloma Faith, but Princes cover of her song Only Love Can Hurt Like This is just divine, and Liv gets a chance to do what she does best on it too. Gentle at the start with some beautiful singing during the verses, the chorus skyrockets when Liv gets her lungs right behind it. As an unfamiliar song to me, this will certainly be one that I will be revisiting. There is some very decent lead guitar in the latter part of the song, but it’s Liv that holds it all down, and the second half is very much her voice versus the power of Princes guitar. Princes guitar wins out, but I am never going to complain about that. I would like to hear a better recording of this one, and maybe a better mix from the desk, but it is definitely a cover with potential and I’d like to hear more of it.

Prince Koko 2

Prince then asks for the lights to be turned off with the comment “it’s not a country and western show” and that brings a smile to my face. That smile gets even bigger when I hear the opening of Doves Cry. Although not a pristine recording, it’s good enough when the music is this good. After a few bars the music stops and the leaves the crowd singing. Yes, it is the dreaded sampler set. But tonight Prince plays this one pretty straight and I am pleasantly surprised as we get four minutes of the song played in the form I know and love. There is some interaction between Prince and the crowd, with a few “owww owwws” from both.

I wait with baited breath as Sign Of The Times begins. Will this be cut short, or will I get a good chunk of the song? Thankfully it’s the latter, and there’s also some meaty guitar work in there for me to enjoy. It’s not particularly sharp, but it is suitable grime and has a heaviness to it. Once again the crowd is in good voice, and Hannah on the drums gets a good work out near the end of the song. On a better quality recording this would be a standout.

Hot Thing get the familiar sampler set treatment, as Prince teases us at the start, before delivering the song proper. It’s got a nice groove to it, but the beat is slightly weaker. Prince pushes it out forcefully in compensation, and both me and the audience enjoy it. I am happy to see this one get a real play rather than a sampler tease, and by the end I wish it was longer.

One if my all time favorites is next with the big sound of Love Bizarre. I would just seconds from leaping to my feet and dancing, but instead I am bitterly disappointed when it ends after just 40 seconds of intro. Such a lost opportunity, I think it would have gone down a storm.

The sampler tease continues as the music of Darling Nikki is played next. There is no way in the world he was ever going to sing it, and as we all expect it ends after 30 seconds.

Pop Life has me back on board, although it’s played very short at least we get a verse and a chorus. A classic pop song, it’s impossible to hear this without feeling some sort of joy. I find myself singing along loudly with it, and I am sure my neighbors are thankful when it quickly ends.

I Would Die 4 U sounds upbeat and fits with this ‘pop’ section of the gig. I would have loved to hear a little more of it, but Prince ends it after the first chorus with a simple “Thank you so much, good night”

It is of course another tease, and immediately the beat of Forever In My Life begins. This is no tease, and Prince takes his time with the intro, before singing the words we all know so well. I mouth the words rather than sing along, I don’t want to miss a note of this. Prince sounds great and I find myself inwardly moaning again that this isn’t a soundboard recording. The arrangement played here somewhat resembles the one that appears on Sign Of The Times movie, and there is plenty of time for the crowd to sing along with “alright, alright”. The only thing missing is Boni Boyer singing the house down, but we are nicely compensated by Prince providing some bass lines. A very electric sound cuts through the vibe as we near the end, but the mood is restored by some great singing by Prince, and the audience doing their best to emulate him.

Prince  Koko 1

I’m not sure this is the band for Housequake, but in the sampler set they seem to get away with it. My ears aren’t sharp enough to tell you who is playing what, but it all comes together alright. Not the funkiest version in the world, but the sampler provides the kickin beat while Prince keeps the energy levels high. Ida gets a moment on her bass, and this is probably the high point of the song for me. Donna also plays a brief solo, but I find it takes me out of the song, and I am pleased they don’t play on it too much longer. They hold it together long enough to get through it, but I fear it may unravel after another minute.

Oh WOW, was my first thought as they begin U Know. Its sounds like its going to be fantastic, but Prince says “You’ll cant have that” and I know we aren’t going to get too much more. Sure enough it ends before it even starts. There are a few boos to be heard from the crowd, and I can fully understand their feelings… I am quietly booing here at home. You can’t always get what you want.

I feel similarly cheated when he plays only the intro to Gold Standard. It’s good to see he isn’t biased, both old and new songs get the short shrift, but I would have liked to have seen a little more faith in the newer songs, especially the ones that get an obvious reaction from the crowd.

If I Was Your Girlfriend gets the same shabby treatment, it’s barely worth mentioning here for the time we hear it. I barely register it before it ends.

Normal service resumes with a loud, slightly heavy rendition of Guitar. Prince’s voice on the recording comes across as a little muffled, but the guitar is the real star of this one. Its sounds great not only during the verses, but also when the solos start. Of course this suits Donna very well, and her solo is on point throughout. I am even happier when Prince adds his guitar to the mix later in the song. At this stage I find the recording slightly uneven, but there is not a huge dip in quality. Once again Prince wishes the crowd “Good night” before bringing us right into Plectrumelectrum.

I like the song well enough, but it just sounds a touch labored here. It has plenty of rock flourishes, but they do sound heavy handed to my ears. Of course I am listening too carefully to it, and I find that once I close my eyes and go with the sound it’s much more enjoyable. To me it sounds like a good rehearsal song rather than a song that got a proper release. I have no real problem with the song, but it does out stay its welcome by a minute or two.

Prince begins again by saying “I would like to dedicate this to a friend of mine”. There is a brief moment while he gets the stage sound right, before a gentle intro to breakdown. My favorite song on the Art Official Album, when I saw this on the setlist I was immediately very excited to hear it. I was not disappointed in the slightest. Sure, the recording isn’t the greatest, but I can still hear that Princes voice is note perfect. The song sounds a little lighter in the live setting, it seems to be lacking some gravitas, but I can’t quite pin point what it is that’s missing. Maybe it’s the fact that I can hear the audience talking during several segments of the song. But there is enough there for me to love every moment, and when the guitar enters it adds just a shade more emotion. Very good song, and on a better recording it would have been excellent.

It’s followed up by a fantastic intro to Whats My Name. I love that this is getting an airing. There are better renditions of this song out there, I enjoy hearing this one but its not top shelf. A lot of the crowd sound somewhat disinterested, and the again it does affect the quality of the recording and listening experience. All the pieces are there, but it’s not as strong as I would like. This song could be much more muscular and beefed up, it’s a shame it’s not at its full potential here. Things get better when the guitars are in full flight, buts its not quite there.

Stratus is sometimes great, and sometimes not so great. I know its purpose is to show off the different band members talents, but some times I just don’t feel it. This is one of those occasions. Donna’s first solo is nice enough (the fact I used the word nice rather than something else should tell you enough) but by midway through the keys I find I am beginning to tune out. Things are better in the second half, a little more heavy sounding and some good bass and drum. And surprisingly to my mind it’s enough to save the song. By the time it finishes I am pretty happy with what I have heard.

The opening chords of Sometimes It Snows In April fills me with joy, and as Prince sings the opening lines I am off to my happy place. But sadly he ends it after the first couple of lines, and the guitars jump in with Dreamer.

This band is well suited to Dreamer, and even though I was disappointed about Sometime It Snows In April, I am very happy with Dreamer and its performance here. The guitar playing is less pedestrian and the band sound like they are energized once again. The song is saturated in guitar solos and all of them are sounding good. After the solos ease back, there is some nice heavy guitar work that sounds good, before Prince sings the title a few more times. The song ends just after this, and despite clocking in at almost seven minutes it still feels like a shorter song, the energy kept me in it throughout.

Lets Work caught me off guard, with its heavy intro. I am much more comfortable once its classic groove takes up the song proper. Late into the show now, and yet Princes voice still sounds fresh and he does a nice impersonation of his younger self. The bass playing on this is excellent, and I find myself grooving along to it nicely. I didn’t expect this band to play it so well, but it is very good.

I am further surprised when 3rdeyegirl take on Cool, and they make a good job of it. Liv takes on a lot of the load here, especially when she first starts to sing Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough. It does sound a lot like other renditions we have heard in last few years, but that’s not a complaint at all. The first half of the song is all Liv singing Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough, before Prince sings Cool proper in the second part of the song. This is very much a crowd pleasing song, and there sounds like a lot of fun is being had when Prince gets them singing. There is a coupe of cool moments when Prince gets the crowd to soul clap and I am instantly transported to his 1980’s hay day. The song ends with the classic Prince “Las Vegasss!”

So all in all a very fun gig. The setlist and performance are good without being great. The recording is as one would expect for an audience recording, its fine- it’s far from being terrible, but there were moments when I found myself wishing for a soundboard. This is not an essential must listen, but you have access to it then it’s a fun couple of hours.

Next week we will stay with the London theme and I will take a look at a gig that is very close to my heart.
take care
Hamish