First Avenue 1982

It blows my mind that this gig was recorded just five weeks after the Passaic gig that I listened to the other week. It’s got a completely different feel to it, show cases new material, resurrects some old material, but as always features some outstanding musicianship. Such is life in the world of Prince, things change pretty fast. This gig was recorded at First Avenue, between Controversy and 1999 tours, and yet it doesn’t really sound like either one of those tours. Most of the material played here does not appear on either tour, and the band has a chance to play out and really jam on some songs. As I seem to say every week, this is one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to write about it.

-Please note, none of these photos are connected to the gig. They are just a few nice ones to give you something to look at between all the words.

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

I have listened to this gig so many times that I can recite the opening lines from the top of my head. After a brief prelude Prince opens the gig by telling the crowd that “This is not a concert, this is a dance, if you can dance to stuff, you’re a better man to me. The only reason we’re here is that there is no place else to go”. Bambi starts and it’s heavy right from the go. I know Bambi is always a heavy guitar driven song, but here it is even more so. The guitars’ don’t let up at all, even during the verses, and Princes vocals struggle to get out above the din. You can hear him fine, but the guitar noise and band are very rowdy and wild. There is a great heavy guitar chugging underneath and some wild guitars over the top. It definitely has a garage band feel to it, but a very talented garage band! Dez’s playing is excellent, as is Princes solos over the top. I have heard plenty of great versions of Bambi, but this one tops them all. It’s a fantastic way to start the gig, and already I feel breathless by the end of the first song. Prince does some guitar noodling after the bulk of the song, before the band enters for a final onslaught to finish.

prince 2

A steady beat, then the now familiar keyboard run of All The Critics love You In New York begins. Prince intones “This is a new song, probably won’t be out for another year or six” The steady beat goes on for a very long time before Prince begins to sing, and in that time there is some grinding guitar flashes. The sound is, obviously, much more heavier than on record, and it has a darker feel to it. The guitar is much dirtier sounding, and much louder. Prince is not as restrained as he sounds on record, especially as he sings “look out all you hippies, you aren’t as sharp as me” But mostly the song isn’t about the vocals, it’s very much a guitar song, with plenty of guitar played over the beat. It sounds great, and I can only wish that I could have been there. The guitars pull back for a moments, and Prince asks Dr Fink if he wants to solo. He duly obliges while Dez calls for a drink. The keyboard solo is fast, yet delicate. Sounds very good and clean. Prince then asks Dez, “Did you get your drink?” Dez responds yes and Prince asks does he want to play, then with a yell “Let him outta of his cage!” Dez plays a fantastic solo. Completely different from what Prince would come up with, it has a heavy rock sound about it. Its short, but very rock orientated. The guitars stay low for a bit, and the song sounds much more like what it does on album. The song only lasts another minute or two after this before it ends with a synth howl.

Keeping in tone with the evening so far, the next song is a guitar heavy When You Were Mine. There is more lead guitar on this then we normally hear, and it’s an interesting arrangement. The rhythm guitar sound that normally drives it is absent, and instead some long mournful notes on the lead guitar replace it. It’s still as upbeat as ever, but it does have a more rock sound to it. Dr Finks solo is more familiar territory, and after this the more familiar rhythm guitar we are used to returns. There is a break, with just Prince on his guitar and the crowd clapping, and he stretches it out for a couple of minutes like this. I like it here, when he sings a few lines, then knocks out the rhythm for a bit while the crowd clap along. The band all jump in back in for the final verse before it all races to the finish.

Prince

After thanking the crowd “Give yourself a hand, that was some mean clapping” Prince and the band get funky with Sexy Dancer. It’s a welcome break from the guitar noise of the first few songs. I love guitar, but I also enjoy the variation that Prince gives us. Sexy dancer is full sounding, propelled along by the bass and drum, but there is plenty of playing over the top. Again Dr Fink plays a great solo, and it’s really stretched out, he plays for a couple of minutes on it. It’s very enjoyable, and as I so often do, I find myself in admiration of the skills of the good Doctor. Dez follows up with a restrained but loud solo. It’s in complete contrast to the solo that Dr Fink plays, and yet complements the song well. The song ends with a Dez solo, and there is a pause in the action.

Prince tells the crowd he wants to play a slow song if they want to go get a drink. He calls for Sue Ann, and then plays Still Waiting. The recording still has a garage band sound to it, which doesn’t really suit this song. However Princes vocals sound very good, especially harmonizing with Sue Ann on the chorus. It’s in the quieter more delicate moments of the gig that the limitations of recordings like this are exposed. The song itself is very good, as we have come to expect from Prince, but I would want to hear a better recording of it. There is some very nice vocal work from Prince here, and some great interplay between him and the backing singers, especially in the breakdown. There is one weird vocal ad-lib from Prince, when he tells the crowd ‘I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” I didn’t notice it for years, but I can’t help but to hear it this time. Sue Ann gets a moment to sing solo, and she is remarkable good. She’s not the most distinctive singer I have ever heard, but she is nice and strong. Prince responds with some of his shrieking and screaming before the song comes to an end.

Prince 4

There is a pause, and then the band plays a heavy and slightly quicker version of Head. It’s not as dirty or nasty as I have heard elsewhere, but the guitars are nice and strong, and I do enjoy the grittiness of this recording. Prince lets the crowd sing a lot of it, choosing to sing every other line himself. The recording doesn’t pick up the crowd singing very well, but if I had have been there you would definitely of heard me! After the first verse there isn’t much singing, mostly a lot of keyboard, solos and groove. It’s not a bad thing at all, and I like it very much in this way. Prince picks up the mic for some more singing, but again he only sings every other line, letting the crowd fill in the spaces. Dr Finks solo is excellent as always before the music pulls back for a breakdown. There is some very enthusiastic singing of head from the crowd, as always, and then some nice funk guitar from the band. It then descends into the usual guitar solo and keyboard sounds that we have heard so many times before.

A couple of beats and Prince calls “Read my lips, Sexuality”. Things really take off here, the beat jumps up, and after several screams from the man himself the bass and scratch guitar jump in. It’s played fast, and the drums and bass provided a great energy. This song is a favorite of mine, and it’s a shame there is not more live recordings of it out there. As with the other songs, the sound is very full, and all the instruments are battling to be heard. The six band members sure do make a big noise! The bulk of the song is over before I know it, it was fast and furious throughout. The band all pull out, except Bobby Z, and Prince sings Sexuality as the crowd claps along. The crowd then takes up the singing of sexuality, while Prince takes a break. This section goes for as long as the main song itself, and it sounds as if the crowd is having a great time. Prince finishes by singing “Never let it be said, white folk ain’t got no soul”.

Prince 1

Prince tells the crowd that they are going to take a break, and then the Time plays a couple of songs. The recording covers the bands changing over, and it takes some minutes, with plenty of banter while it happens. Especially funny to me is when Prince tell the crowd “We share the same management, and they say they gotta play too”

The first song they play is Dance to The Beat. It’s up tempo, and fun, but it comes and goes before I can properly register it. It does sound like it would have been good to be there, but on the recording it doesn’t do much for me.

Much better is The Stick. The bass and the keyboards have a deep groove and the over all sound is something I really enjoy. This is The Time that I like the most. Jimmy Jam and Jesse both solo, before Morris calls for a mirror. The classic Time that we all know and love is in full effect.

The song ends, and Prince asks Morris if he can still play the drums. Once again there is plenty of banter, as Morris moves to the drums and Prince is running things again. They then play an enthusiastic version of party up. The band sound nice and loose, as does Princes singing. Again, it’s a sense of fun that I get when I listen to this recording. Prince calls for a break down and the band find a nice groove while the crowd begins to clap along. Prince tells the crowd “Give the drummer some” and then Morris plays a drum break. It’s not overly cohesive, but it does fit with the fun of the gig. Brownmark brings things back with some nice bass playing, and then Lisa puts some nice rhythmic keyboard work over top. There is then some really fantastic sounding guitar solo played over the top but to my great disappointment the recording fades out here and ends.

Prince 3

This was one of the first recordings I ever brought, and I have listened to it many times over the years. In more recent years better releases of the same gig have appeared, and this has greatly added to my enjoyment of it. As I said earlier, I love the garage band sound of this, and the loose feel of the band. All The Critics Love You In New York is a standout for me, as is Sexuality. I was one very happy man at the end of listening to this.

Take care
Hamish

2 thoughts on “First Avenue 1982

  1. I heard a soundboard sample of Bambi from this show some time ago, i hope the full show will be released soon with this quality !!!

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