This week I am rolling back the clock to 1983 for another 1999 show. Although the shows are all very similar, I still love listening to and watching young Prince in action. What the shows lack in variety, they make up in energy, showmanship and pure enjoyment. I have written of other shows from the 1999 tour, and this one doesn’t differ much from those, so this will be a shorter entry. I haven’t heard this one for a while, so I can’t wait to hear a few old favourites.
1st February, 1983, Lakeland Civic Centre, Florida
Its classic Prince as the spoken intro of 1999 intones before a thunder roll opens the show. The sense of anticipation builds as the drum beat of Controversy plays before the sound of the guitar and Prince appears in silhouette, astride the action on his high perch. He plays the whole song like this, just silhouetted and singing, and I find it really suits the song and the mood of the song – Prince the mysterious figure appearing in the mist to lay his funk upon us. The song has an air of causal professionalism, the band sound laid back in places, and it’s Prince’s guitar as well as some clunky piano that add the tension to the song. I appreciate that Prince calls out Bobby Z, and I love that there is a nice little guitar moment just as the song comes to a close.
Let’s Work has Prince back in the spot light literally, while Brown Mark takes the spot light musically. I think when most people think of Prince, this is the image that comes to mind, him resplendent in his purple trench coat and finely coiffured hair piled high upon his head. The band all get moments on this song, and I enjoy hearing them all individually. I am surprised that Dez gets a solo too, in the 1999 shows his role is diminished, and the sight of him and Prince playing shoulder to shoulder in the Controversy tour is now just a memory. He still plays well, and his performance is fun, but that close knit look of previous tours is gone.
Dez shines early on in Do Me Baby, his guitar line off setting some of the lushness, and for me it greatly enhances the performance. As always, Prince plays the showman on this one, and his performance is visual just as much as it is vocal. The highlight for me is Prince standing atop a little side platform and unleashing a couple of howls, it’s something the teenage me enjoyed, and I still get a kick out of it today. Somehow it’s not as down and dirty as it looked on the Controversy tour, Prince has toned down his performance somewhat, nevertheless still very enjoyable.
D.M.S.R almost has me on my feet, but I am just a little too repressed to leap straight up and dance to it. The start of the song is great, with Prince, Brown Mark and Dez all playing together and pulling a couple of moves. Again it feels like a band performance, rather than Prince backed by a band. This is heightened mid-song when the three of them again play together and slide easily back and forth in unison. The song finishes and I realize that I have just been watching in awe, it’s a great performance.
Lisa’s shimmering solo is always a pleasure to listen to, and although different in tone from what we have been listening to, it never feels like it has been shoehorned into the show. The crowd however are here for Prince, and there are plenty of shouts and screams as he appears and begins to play at the piano.
A brief introduction of With You before he grooves easily into How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore. I wonder what he can do with it this time, and after a couple of minutes of playing he begins his shtick. Prancing across the stage, lying on the piano, and a couple of good screams is par for the course here, and he delivers it all with aplomb. It gets better as he goes, and it peaks as he tells the crowd that as he was making love to another girl he screamed out your name. Obviously the crowd lap it up, and it’s all done with a nod and a wink that gives it a fun tone. The tootsie roll line has been done to death, but the intro of Lady Cab Driver comes right on top of and doesn’t give me a chance to dwell on the moment.
Lady Cab Driver sounds effortless smooth, and seeing Prince singing and playing his guitar on this song is a definite highlight for me. The song is very smooth sounding with the exception of Dez’s scorching guitar solo. Shirtless and throwing shapes as he plays, there is no mistaking he is the rock in Princes sound, both figuratively and literally. The song somewhat disappointingly ends here, leaving me hungry for more.
I am surprised at how quickly I Wanna To Be Your Lover starts. The beat doesn’t stop, it just segues straight into it. I Wanna Be Your Lover is kept very short, a verse and chorus before Head gets even less, with a single line and a riff. Its nice to get even that, and it’s a nod to those in the audience that have stuck with Prince, from his dirty days through to now as he is on the cusp of pop stardom.
Again the music doesn’t let up as Little Red Corvette follows straight on the heels of the previous two songs. There is nothing in the ways of build up, Prince starts singing right from the start. What I really like about it though is the bass is nice and fat sounding, and it’s much more to the fore. As always Dez’s solo is great, and yet it’s the bass that I keep coming back to, especially as his solo finishes. It’s as heard on the 12 inch version, and as the bass loops over Dez comes back with another solo. I would say this part of the show is essential, Dez’s solo is fierce before the band drops out leaving the bass line playing and Prince encouraging the crowd to clap. The song continues with the full band and that fantastic bass for another couple of minutes, and I could dine on this all day long.
Chants of “We want Prince” bring our Casanova back to stage for the overworked International Lover. Prince plays his part so well, opening the song shrouded in smoke, before turning on the seduction as the song progresses. This song highlights how much a Prince concert has become a “show”. It’s not longer Prince and the band playing their songs in a furious assault, now the performance matters much more, and certain songs are tightly choreographed and done for show. This is the most staged of the songs, with Prince climbing high on his stage to the infamous hydraulic bed. There is plenty of screams as he performs a striptease before lowering himself to the bed. As he sinks from view I can’t help but think “what a great way to end a show!”
There isn’t too much time to consider this as the familiar opening riff of 1999 begins. Prince reappears, looking every inch a pop star in his shiny purple coat. This song sounded great on the radio, and it sounds just as good live. It’s a lot of fun seeing Bobby Z standing behind his drumkit, playing to the drum track, while Jill Jones and Lisa share a microphone and vocals. It does have a triumphant sound to it, and it’s the right song to end the concert with at this stage. There is no better sight and sound than seeing Prince and band dancing and playing some great rhythm towards the end of the show. As smoke engulfs the stage the guitars begin to howl and one last pose Prince ends the show.
These older shows are always great, the freshness of the music, and the extra spring in the step of both Prince and Revolution. Even though the shows don’t vary much, I always enjoy listening to them, especially with The Time playing as well. It was about this time that I first became a Prince fan, so there is always a heavy dose of nostalgia when I listen to these shows-they may not be essential, but they are definitely a lot of fun.