Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 1

There has plenty to enjoy in the world of bootlegs in the last few days. Anyone who follows the blog knows how much I enjoyed the Act I video that appeared last week. I am also equally enthused by the Eye records release covering two Purple Rain shows from Uniondale. One show is pretty exciting, but to have two (in soundboard quality), is beyond exciting. I am giddy with joy. I should wait until I have a clear head before I write about them, but right now all I want to do is celebrate the Purple Rain tour and the songs of the era. There are two shows on the release, that is a lot to digest, so I will be taking in one now and the other later in the week. OK, enough words, I’m dying to get this on and crank the volume to maximum.

20th March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

The quality of the soundboard recording is apparent from the opening number. “17 Days” is normally quite bassy on concert recordings and even though the bass is prominent, even highlighted at some points, it is the other instruments and players that the recording brings to the fore. I am won over from the start, Prince sounds great, the backing vocals are nice in clean in my ear and the saxophone work by Eddie M adds new textures to the song. I’m in seventh heaven and the rhythm guitar in the right speaker is just the type of sound I love to hear.

The introduction to “Let’s Go Crazy” is the next thing heard on the recording, a song we all very familiar with, especially in the context of the Purple Rain shows. Being the second song, it does lose some of its impact, but that is secondary as again it is the quality of the sound that is of utmost importance. Each member of The Revolution is heard, and they do sound as if they are still as fresh as ever, even this late in the tour. The girls voices are sensational and even through the cacophony of noise I find I focus on them.

“Delirious” is a pleasant division, the piano playing by Prince is always a lot of fun, but it is the following “1999” that again highlights the soundboard recording. With the band taking turns to sing and all contributing to backing vocals, there is plenty to be heard for the careful listener. However, the best moments when I stop listening too hard and instead let the music carry me away. With “1999” blowing in my sails I sail back to my youth, Prince and The Revolution providing a soundtrack that has been with me all my life. “1999” may not be the first Prince song I would reach for to listen to, but tonight it hits my sweet spot and the minutes it plays I am in another time and place.

The introduction is key to “Little Red Corvette”. Over half the song is given over to the opening and it plays as a soundscape that sets the mood. The rest of the song is the standard run through, no bad thing in this case as at this stage it is still fresh and exciting with lyrics that  demonstrate Prince’s clever use of the double entendre.

There is plenty of keyboard in the left speaker for “Take Me With U”, although this is offset by a sharp guitar in the right which gives it balance. The final minute of the song could go either way, a dance number or a guitar frenzy. In this case it is the guitar version with Prince playing some catchy riffs. I do like it, but I am surprised it isn’t louder or more forceful. Criminally short, it’s one of those moments that leaves me hungry for more.

I’m going to skip over “Yankee Doodle”, it has never worked for me and here is the same. It’s a shame that it runs for almost six minutes, while the following “Do Me, Baby” gets a scant couple. “Do Me, Baby” ends just as it was building to something bigger, replaced by Wendy playing the funkiest of riffs. This brings in the funk part of the show as The Revolution groove through “Irresistible Bitch” and “Possessed”. “Possessed” is the longer of the two, a mostly instrumental jam that features plenty of Wendy on guitar and Eddie M or Eric Leeds on saxophone. The band do play a full rendition, but it sounds so good I could easy lap up another few minutes.

Prince is at the piano for “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”, another song that benefits from the soundboard recording. Eye may have messed up the sound on the Worcester recording, but in this case they have it just right. Prince is sounding right in the room with me and ever note from the piano hangs in the air. Even his cliched speech at the end sounds thrilling and reinvigorated.

The spoken lyrics of “Temptation” serves as an introduction to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, a song that kick starts the concert back to life. This show is recorded only a week and a half before the widely know Syracuse concert and many of Princes spoken parts are the same as that concert, as too are the arrangements of many of the songs. Such is the case with “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and the following “International Lover”. Both could well have been lifted from the Syracuse show, they sound very close to those renditions. Due to this, I find this part of the show overly familiar, I enjoy these songs but could happily skip over Prince and his speaking to God without feeling I am missing anything.

The same can’t be said of the song “God”, I listen intently as Prince plays and sings what I feel is one of his most personal songs. The opening half of the song is deceiving, the passion and emotion all lies in the second half as Prince screams and shrieks his way to a climax.

It becomes a normal rock concert again as the band arrive with “Computer Blue”. It is a massacre, the guitar is Prince’s weapon of choice and he slays throughout the song, his guitar cutting great swaths through the song and lyrics. The best comes late in the song as the music changes and allows more room for his guitar to be heard alone. With an insistent drive the song comes to an end with Wendy and Lisa intoning their cold lines.

Things warm again for “Darling Nikki”, and although I can’t see it, in my mind the stage is bathed in reds. Most people come for the lyrics, but what really attracts me is the dirty guitar sound along with the uplifting keyboards. There is a contrast between both which creates a tension, something I can’t help but pay attention to.

I’m not really one for the spoken introduction of “The Beautiful Ones”, but the song itself has me hooked. Prince casts a spell, the vocals and music coming together in a wonderful display of song writing. Prince has written many ballads, but none compare to this masterpiece. His performance here is as good as any other, he is at the peak of his powers and the song is one of the best of the concert, if not the very best. I am a rock guy, so I don’t say that lightly, normally I am drawn to the guitar led numbers, but “The Beautiful Ones” has me in complete awe of Prince’s vocal prowess and sweeping keyboards that bath the song in soft emotion, only punctuated by Princes howls in the final moments as he ramps up the intensity.

Maybe I haven’t heard “When Doves Cry” for a while, but I don’t remember the opening guitar sounding so darn good. The guitar may lure me in, but it is the keyboard hook that lodges itself firmly in my ear and even after 30+ years I still find it as catchy as hell. Prince’s lyrics come and go and I find it is Wendy and her guitar that I am listening to most. Not just the rhythm guitar either, the solo she plays is passionate without resorting to a howl or wail. She conveys plenty of emotion while keeping the solo neatly manicured. The best is saved for last however, and the final minutes has the bass and guitar creating a funky groove that could go for days.

There is one final pop moment before the show moves to long jams. “I Would Die 4 U” never lets me down in this respect, the drum machine and keyboards creating a backdrop for Prince and Wendy to drop their melodies. It is short as always, yet just as important as any other song on the night.

“Baby I’m a Star” is the penultimate song, and it comes as a final blow out for the band. It is the saxophone that is the real hero here, as the band play their brand of funk it is to the fore providing fast and furious runs over top of the groove. I can’t stress enough, it is fantastic. Eric Leeds or Eddie M, I can’t tell, but I cling to it the whole way, it sounds beautiful to my ears. The concert is coming to an end soon enough, but what a way to finish.

The final song is obviously “Purple Rain”, although unfortunately all we get on this recording is two and a half minutes of introduction. Normally I would gush about this part of the song, although robbed of the full version it does diminish the beauty of this opening stanza. With soft, emotive guitar, it promises much more, we can only wonder what might have been.

Last time Eye records released a Purple Rain soundboard I was left bitterly disappointed. Not so this time. Prince and the band give an energetic performance that carries through well to the recording. As a record of a Purple Rain show this is a great document. However, it is not perfect. Any “Prince nerd” would notice that Eye have edited out parts of songs, the circulating audience recording of the same show clearly demonstrating the cuts that Eye have made.It’s not just one or two songs either, about a third of the songs have some sort of edit made on them.  An archivist would find this extremely irritating, a passionate fan less so. It is easy enough to over look this, sit back and just soak up the music of Prince at the zenith of his fame. It’s great to have another soundboard in the collection and I look forward to having a listen to the second show in the next few days.

Thanks again
take care
-Hamish

1993 New York – 26th March

Sometime ago I took a listen to a concert from the Act 1 tour; 24th March in New York to be precise. Now here I am a couple years later taking a look at the recently surfaced footage from the same venue just a couple of days later. The show is exactly the same, but the new footage is very well shot, especially considering it is audience filmed. Although I am well versed in the performance Prince put on throughout the Act 1 tour, this new video has me again enthused and the quality of the filming makes it a rewarding couple of hours. I cannot speak highly enough of this new footage, the years rewound as I watched it and the concert tour seems only yesterday in my mind. It’s hard to believe it is almost 25 years ago.

26th March, 1993 Radio City Music Hall, New York.

It is an aggressive looking (and sounding ) Prince who takes the stage for the opening number. 24 years on, his outfit looks slightly ridiculous, yet he owns the look and comes across as a strong character rather than a figure of ridicule. “My Name Is Prince” carries this strong image and aggression, the lyrics spit hard and the music is forceful. Tony M is a good fit in this context and I find I warm to his rap and with a guitar solo from Levi Seacer the song is forceful and bold. Add the outstanding footage to the mix and we are off to a great start.

With “Sexy M.F.” the concert slows, yet it retains an intensity. This time it is Tommy Barbarella who provides a focus, his solo is long enough to be interesting without derailing the song. Levi also provides a solo, in this case he does ‘fly’ under Princes command, the notes taking flight from his guitar as he has his moment.

“Damn U”, now we’re talking. It may not have the momentum and push of the first two songs, but it stands strong in it’s own right with Prince lounging against the piano as he sings it provides plenty of memorable images early on. Later, Prince takes centre stage as he provides a smooth lyrical delivery that is well served by the recording.

Prince puts the piano to good use for “The Max”. The music regains some intensity, and with Prince banging on the piano there is plenty of energy in the performance. However, the final few minutes are giving over to Prince and Mayte posing and preening, and the music, while staying focus, loses some of it’s drive and energy. It’s hard to complain about this though, especially as it looks so great.

One of my favorite songs from the Symbol album has always been “The Morning Papers” and I find the performance of it here delivers all I want from it. With Prince singing and playing at the piano the song builds, before Prince takes to his guitar to add some extra expression and colour to the song. The guitar never reaches the expected heights, but Prince makes up for it in the following “Peach”. Prince serves up a guitar onslaught, complete with plenty of posing and preening, that makes the next few minutes a highly enjoyable and entertaining watch. These two songs leave me, and I am sure more than a few in the audience, with a big stupid grin on my face.

“Blue Light” is as warm as a summers breeze, it never ignites into anything but it is nice come down after the guitar filled “Peach”. It is “The Continental” that has me again sitting up and taking notice, with it’s insistent guitar line and Prince’s forceful vocals, the song becomes an embodiment of the whole performance and evening, all that is good and great about the Symbol album is right here. And it’s not just Prince and his guitar that shines, Mayte takes her turn as the music slows and she provides some easy lines. This mellow vibe stays with us for sometime as Prince pulls dancers on stage, normally I would find this unsatisfying on a recording, but the visual are clean and easy to look at and I find its an equally enjoying part of the show.

The concert continues on quickly at this point, “The Flow” comes and goes, it is fresh and Prince engaging with the band, before this slow for yet another personal favorite “Johnny”. As much as I love the lyrics, I find it is the solo by Levi that captures my attention. He provides a sharpness to the mellow groove and stops the song from meandering as Prince talks to the audience and the dancers. He does take his place at the piano for the final minute and this heralds in the next section of the show.

Seated at the piano, Prince presents a gentle “Sweet Baby” before offering up his pièce de résistance of the concert – “When God Created Women/3 Chains Of Gold” I still find it extraordinary every time I see it, even if it is overworked and outside anything else Prince has ever done. It takes itself very seriously, and perhaps this is why Prince gets away with it, he is truly believing in what he is playing and presenting.

Prince gets to take a break as Mayte takes centre stage for her sword dance. It may not make for the greatest of musical moments, but it is suitably weird and typical of Prince to provide something unexpected. There is no surprise as “7” follows this. Upbeat and infectious, it is strangely out of place compared to some of the other more demanding music presented at the concert. It does provide a lighter moment and Mayte on roller skates seems a completely normal event.

“Lets Go Crazy” is equally out of place, yet it elicits squeals of delight from the crowd as it begins. I find it jarring when songs like this appear when Prince is musically in another place, but one can understand why it must be in the setlist. Prince plays a shorten version and as provides only the briefest of guitar breaks before moving onto “Kiss”. This works better as it has another new arrangement (no surprise there) and it takes it place easily among the other music Prince is promoting at the time. With the dancers fully utilized it again becomes a visual experience and one captured well by the taper. There is a completely natural segue into “Irresistible Bitch” that  jumps off from the guitar line. Prince’s funk tunes work best for this show, this song highlights the point as well as anything that has come previously.

The show becomes a whole lot more serious as Prince again picks up his guitar for a great rendition of “She’s Always In My Hair”. Of course, I am a huge admirer of this song, so any version rocks my world. This one does have an extra kick to Princes guitar playing and I can’t take my eyes from the screen as he plays. There isn’t much to the vocals, the guitar is the main focus, and rightly so when it is at this level. The song is short but serves as a punch in the face, the concert intensifying with this performance.

“When You Were Mine” sees Prince staying with his guitar jam. The song may have it’s nostalgic sound, but Princes look is anything but and he plays with a fierceness throughout. With the previous song, these are the most straight forward moments of the show and they work as the crowded stage gives way to something simpler, Prince and his guitar playing rock music.

Next comes the obvious pairing of “Insatiable” and “Scandalous”. With Prince at the piano, the show again regains a basic format, the only embellishments coming from the appearance of Mayte again on her roller skates! That’s not quite the only nod to a stage show, strings of diamonds lower from above, no doubt being recycled from the Diamond and Pearls tour. Of the two songs, I prefer “Scandalous”, but that is neither here nor there, they are both seductive and spellbinding. As Prince falls to the floor shrieking, I am completely mesmerized, this is one bootleg I will be coming back to again and again.

“Gett Off” doesn’t quite reach these same heights, nevertheless it is still fascinating to watch. There is plenty of Prince and Mayte dancing together, but the best moments come every time Princes fingers flash across the fret board. The guitar riff is hypnotic, and I am well and truly caught up in the song by the time it finishes. “Gett Off (Housestyle)” is a lot of fun, and although I can’t see the crowd, I am sure they are all on their feet. The song is ended in darkness as the band take it to a slow groove for “Goldnigga” Not normally something I listen to, it this case it’s only half a minute, and with Princes creamy vocals singing the lines it does have its merits.

There is quite the sing-a-long before Prince takes the microphone for the opening lines of Purple Rain. The rendition here, although not unexpected, is surprisingly good. I have heard this thousands of times, yet Prince still holds me enraptured as he sings his signature song. It is a full version that is played and Princes gives a sincere and focused vocal performance before he resorts to his guitar. Once again I feel fully engaged with his performance and despite my ambivalent feelings about Purple Rain, I am still swept up by the moment and spectacle of it.

With pimp cane in hand, Prince rips through the encore of “Partyman”, he promises to tear it up and indeed for the next few minutes he does. It is fast and furious, a lot of the subtlety of the song is lost under the heavy and quick groove. With chants of “Party up”, Prince’s intentions for this song are abundantly clear, and the party rolls on through a wild sounding “Loose” that he tacks on to it.

The band storm through “1999”, Prince is relentless as he and the music stay in constant motion, bringing the end of the show to a frenetic finish. Prince dances, sings, and plays guitar in a flurry of activity that makes me feel tired just watching. As the song evolves in “Baby I’m A Star” this momentum is maintained,Prince slows down but the band and music stay focused and forceful.

“Push” is the final song of the night, although for the most part it is an instrumental jam. Prince is an integral part, he plays the purple axxe through the song and it is a lot of fun to watch. With Prince interacting with the band, playing with them individually, there is plenty to hold the eye. Tony M has his moment, but this song is all about groove rather than lyrics and vocals. The show closes with a quick rap from Prince, before he and the band dance off the stage, bringing to a close what has been a phenomenal show.

A lot of great recordings have surfaced over the last 12 months since Prince passed away. Of the ones I have stumbled across, this is the best. Previous footage from the Act 1 shows has been circulating for sometime, but none of them come close to the quality of this one. A brilliantly filmed show from one of Princes most fascinating years, this one merits a second or third look.

Thanks again
Hamish

Shoreline 1997

I can’t even remember the last time I listened to a Jam Of The Year concert, let alone wrote about one. I can’t offer a good excuse, looking at this show now I can’t see any reason not to listen to it, or even dislike it. Yes, it does have some weak moments, but these are offset by a run of classic hits, party grooves, and a Carlos Santana guest appearance that brought me here in the first place. This show was recommended by someone whose opinion I value highly, so I do expect it to exceed any expectations I might have.

10th October 1997, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, California

The opening intro leaves me cold, I don’t really need to hear snippets of his hits to hype me up. I have always had a soft spot of “Jam of the Year”, and this performance is everything I could ask for. It is stronger than on album, giving the concert a great push from the start. The performance and concert tour hinge on this song and, although Prince does hype the crowd in the midsection,  it sets the tone for all the will follow.

The jams keep on flowing, with the band grooving on “Talkin Loud and Sayin Nothin” It is as one might expect, a solid groove that has the crowd on their feet as Prince encourages them to dance and clap. The highlight for me though comes when Mike Scott makes an appearance with a sizzling guitar solo that catches me off guard yet has me enraptured as he plays. I’m not so fussed on Prince and the crowd chanting which comes next, but the song does it’s job of enthusing the audience. A Prince piano solo ends the song on a high for me, and I find that all in all it is enjoyable few minutes.

“Let’s Work” initially has me on a nostalgic trip, but interest wanes later in the song as it begins to take on a plastic sound. The outro of “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Alive” is where the real fun is, especially as Prince provides a ferocious guitar upon it that cuts through all the groove and jams that have been heard thus far on the recording.

This loud and heavy guitar tone is maintained through the following “Purple Rain” which begins with a snort and a grunt and ends on the most epic of howls. With Carlos Santana in the building, Prince is putting on a show worthy of his influence and although its not overlong it does give one a taste of Princes guitar abilities.

Things stay in the early ’80’s as the warm swells of “Little Red Corvette” introduces the next section of the concert. Personally, I think it’s a let down. After a great introduction that had me raising my expectations through the roof, the next couple of minutes sees Prince racing through the song leaving me feeling that it was a lost opportunity.

 

I am caught off guard by how good, and downright fun, “Get Yo Groove On”. It has a lively pop to it, and would sit complete at ease on any radio station in the late ’90’s. As much as I love it from the outset, it does loose its way after a couple of minutes, but the guitar solo from Kat Dyson snaps me out of this thought, and the rest of the song is an easy groove that I would happily dance to when I’m home alone.

As much as I enjoy “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” (especially singing along) I always find that in the live performance I am drawn to the sudden stop in the song when Prince sings “How can I get through days when I can’t get through hours” The ticking clock and the way the band jump in and out of the song always has me sitting in admiration of their professionalism and abilities. As for the rest of the song, I sing boisterously along to what is proving to be a very good audience recording.

“Face Down” is one of the pillars that the concert is built around, and it monsters the recording for the next ten minutes. With its big beat and infectious vocal hook, I am am completely drawn in, the following few minutes I am in another world. Prince knows what he is about to unleash upon the crowd, the first few minutes particularly interesting as he warns those with children that they should cover their ears or take them out before he hits us with the full force of his agenda and power of the groove.  The bass comes like a tank, rolling across the land, for the final few moments, and this emphatically seals the deal for me – this is just what I want to hear.

Contrast, contrast. The following two songs not only come from a different time, but also a completely different place musically. “A Case Of U” gently grounds the performance and brings an intimacy to the arena not previously heard. The bump and grind of the opening half hour replaced by an emotional pull and thoughtful lyrics. “When You Were Mine” is equally compelling, this time the emotion replace with a simple energy that is completely natural and can’t be replicated. With Prince playing alone for these two songs, his natural abilities are spotlighted and he draws attention to this with his final comment of “I would like to apply for the position of King” – a sly reference and dig at Michael Jackson.

The arena is again filled with sound as the band rejoin Prince for “The Cross” It lacks some seriousness of earlier tours, here is it is a joyful stomp through a song that has become a celebration. This is underlined by the guitar solo that Prince brings to it, all shrieks of joy and howls of passion.

“The Cross” is more than matched  in the spiritual stakes by “One Of Us”, a song that takes the celebration of God to yet another joyful stomp. These two songs are the backbone of the evenings performance and Prince gives plenty of time to the introduction, the vocals, and the guitar solo. Each part of the arrangement is worthy of the time invested, but it is the final minute of the guitar break where the rewards are greatest, with Prince playing with finesse and power.

The band all have a chance to play as “Do Me Baby” begins, the opening minutes given over to the band introducing themselves and each playing a solo. I found this most enjoyable, but once Prince comes to the microphone the band are forgotten as he sings a timeless rendition of this seduction classic. The previous two songs may be the spiritual highlight, but “Do Me, Baby” is definitely the sexy highlight and a song I could happily listen to again and again.

The concert speeds up considerably at this point, and the next 15 minutes sees a quick romp through Prince’s back catalog.  “Sexy M.F.” starts this off in fine style. It is uptempo and fun early on, before a surprising upswing occurs midsong that carries in away from it’s initial funk. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” likewise has an element of fun to it and although it lacks the intensity of the album version, it is still a rewarding listen here.

It’s with the piano set that Prince brings an air of intimacy to recording. Although he plays a run of truncated songs, it still brings a smile to the face. “Diamonds and Pearls” begins this set, but its “The Beautiful Ones” that follows where the real heart of the performance lies. However, the largest cheer comes for “Darlin Nikki”, and one can hear why. Prince teases the opening minute on his piano, picking out the hook as the crowd cheer him on at every pause. When he does sing, he only gives the first few lines, letting the audience loudly sing the risque lines.

As much as I love “Condition Of The Heart”, the rendition here is too short for me to get much enjoyment out of. “Girls and Boys” has my head nodding in approve, and even with only the piano for accompaniment Prince gives it the required funk and swing. Again its short, but a nice moment.

“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” begins with Prince, but sees the reintroduction of the band. It is much longer than the previous few songs and sees the concert pull back to a more traditional format. Personally, I think the song sounds great, but there is nothing for me to latch onto emotionally and I find it drifts by me rather quickly.

I am far more engaged with “Take Me With You” that comes quickly after. Only a minute, but it is joyful rendition that warms the cockles of my heart.

My cockles are less warmed by “Raspberry Beret” that comes paired with it. I don’t have a problem with the song, but the performance at this show is luck warm and it fails to build into the explosion of pop that it promises. It is the end of the main show however, before a lengthy break before the first encore.

The song that opens the encore is the reason this bootleg was recommended to be, a 10 minute jam on “Soul Sacrifice” with Carlos Santana. After a slow build the song really kicks off at the two minute mark as the guitars rise to the occasion and blaze across the recording. Insert any superlative you want at this point, the following minutes are beyond description and make this recording indispensable. Prince introduces Carlos as his hero, and he delivers a performance to match expectations. Forget everything else I have said about the performance up to this stage, this song is all you ever need to hear and it lays waste to all that has come before it.

“Soul Sacrifice” is the pinnacle of the show and the following “Sleep Around” feels quite a let down. It does play as a party jam, albeit a very ’90’s inspired party. I like to party just as much as the next man, but following after “Soul Sacrifice” it comes across as weak and almost throw away.

There is plenty of audience interaction for “I Like Funky Music”, but very little for us to enjoy here at home. The groove works, but with out seeing the dancers on stage or being involved, it does seem like a flat spot in the concert. No doubt a great concert experience, it does play as a poor bootleg experience.

There is no surprise at all as the final songs of the recording is “Baby I’m A Star” and “1999”. “Baby I’m A Star” serves as an introduction, its energy giving the show one final boost. “1999” plays as an almost full version, with plenty “Party!” chanting and funky groove playing us out for the final minutes. It doesn’t reach the heights previous hit by other songs in the the evening, but it does close out the show on the right note.

Ignore the flat ending, and the couple of weak spots mid setlist, there is no doubt that this show is worth listening to. “Soul Sacrifice” with Santana was what brought me to this bootleg, and it delivered far more than I could have imagined. Along with “Do Me, Baby” and “One Of Us”, it formed the backbone of the show. Despite some cliched ’90’s sound in places, the show was far better than I expected for a Jam Of The Year concert. It might be sometime before I get back round to listening to this one again, but I would have no hesitation in listening to it again in future.

Thanks again
Hamish

2010 Copenhagen Aftershow

This show appeals to me for a number of reasons. It’s available on several different bootlegs, which is always a good sign of the quality of the performance. It’s also in Copenhagen and I know Prince has had a couple of other concerts there that I greatly enjoyed. And finally, looking through the setlist I can see that even though it has a couple of songs mid set that don’t thrill me, there is also a quality opening and the appearance of “Sticky like glue” has me particularly intrigued. I have no doubt that I have listened to this bootleg several times over the years, but looking at it now I have no recollection, so the best way to remind myself is have a listen now and break it down.

NB: The photos below come from a variety of shows Prince played through 2010

20th October 2010, Copenhagen

 

There is an enticing keyboard at the beginning of “Stratus” that paints it in a new light for me. As much as I enjoy the musicianship during “Stratus”, often it is a song I could take or leave. Maybe its just my mood, but today I dig it. It does its job of bringing me into the show and opens the curtain on what sounds like a fantastic atmosphere in the room. I know plenty of people in Denmark read this blog, if anyone was there let me know – there is only 950 people present and it sounds like they are having a great time. Prince drops in and out with his guitar, but what really holds my attention for the duration of the song is Renato Neto. Now I am no Renato Neto apologist, but I have to say on this particular recording he sounds sublime, and I enjoy his contribution the most.

Ida on bass and Cassandra on keyboard make “Sexy Dancer” an entirely different experience. Although Prince is singing, it is these two who make the greatest impression with their groove and funk. The song is only three minutes, but it certainly lifts the tempo of the evening and gets the blood flowing here at home.

Prince stays in the background and it is Shelby who leads us through “Give it to me Baby”. There is something humorous in Prince covering a Rick James song, and it is a great moment in the gig. Shelby gives a great performance. I don’t say that lightly, I know just as much as anyone how one can tire of her hyping the crowd, but in this case she sings and emotes just right, providing the song with a good energy and bounce. If she was like this for every song I’m sure she would be valued much higher in the Prince community. “Give it to me Baby” is the longest of the medley that it opens, “What have you done for me lately” follows quickly after before that too becomes “Partyman”. The bass is the driving force throughout these songs, and its buoyancy can be clearly through “Partyman” and the following “It’s Alright”. With both songs barely a couple of minutes, there isn’t much to grab on to, and a brief “We party hearty” rounds out this quick fire medley of firm aftershow favorites from this era.

As good as this all is, I can’t say I’m too sad when it’s over. Shelia E provides one of her trademark drum breaks, cool and without the fire that I would normally expect. The song and the show meanders at this point, but it’s about to get a whole lot better and the following songs are the real meat of the show.

The guitar solo that Prince lavishes “D.M.S.R.” with is immediately headline grabbing. For the first time in the show I feel Prince is grabbing me by the scruff of my neck and demanding I pay attention. With my attention grabbed, Prince and the band keep the groove going, without letting it become slow or stale. Renato Neto provides another electric solo, it certainly wins be me over without ever reaching the same levels of intensity as Prince’s earlier solo.

The singing contained within “I want to be free” is the sweetest moment of the concert. After Prince sings a beautiful rendition, he hands it over to his backing singers who take it to the heavens with their softness and delicacy.  I am not normally one for singing when it’s not Prince, but in this case it is exceptional and I must admit I was carried off on the vocal harmonies. This is a song that accents the nuances of a Prince concert, and at 14 minutes it gets all the time it needs to be fully appreciated here at home. For my money, this song is reason enough to listen to this recording.

I may have spoken too soon. “Sticky like glue” runs at an incredible 13 minutes and shines both in its appearance and its performance. It gets the extended introduction that it deserves and is all the better for it as the audience marinate in the groove for the first few minutes. The song does stick like glue, the beat and rhythm stuck in my head long after, at almost 15 minutes there is joy in the repetition of the beat and groove. Embellished by a light piano solo from Renato, and a bass solo from Ida, the song moves across several instruments, yet retains it’s core sound. Like the previous song, it is the vocalists I am finally drawn to, as they close out the song with several minutes of their own groove and sway. It serves as a fitting end to the main part of the performance and Prince and the band take a well deserved break at this point.

It is Prince’s guitar that introduces the band back to the stage for an instrumental performance of “Guitar”. As much as it is about the guitar, I find it is lacking a focus without the vocals and although Prince does embellish it with several solos before he eventually comes to the microphone, it still fails to fire as far as I’m concerned.

The next few minutes come as a complete contrast as a more soulful performance follows. First there is a instrumental version of “How come you don’t call me anymore” that is gentle on the ear, before the singers offer an equally soft rendition of James Brown’s “Please, please, please”. It is short, but is obviously a crowd pleaser as they continue to sing and clap the song for several minutes after it has finished. I have already praised the vocal performances at this gig, but here again they are at the fore and a real high point.

I can hardly contain myself as the band play “Which way is up”. I am normally quite restrained, but this has a serious groove to it, both Shelby’s vocals and Prince’s guitar give it some meat and it comes on hard and funky. It does become nothing more than chanting and guitar, but that’s fine with me as the groove is the important thing, and it never once lets up as the band ride it until the very end.

The concert is finished with “Dreamer” – all guitar and heavy groove. Prince signals his intent from the start with his guitar tone set to “ominous” and the song lives up to this with the guitar appearing with a murderous howl throughout. When not soloing, Prince has it riff heavy underneath, giving the song some rock credentials to match his flash on the breaks. The song does lose momentum as Prince has the crowd sing along, but I can’t fault it for that, after all it is all about the live performance rather than what I am listening to here at home. The song and the show come to a fitting end with the audience chanting for the last four minutes, which very much puts me in mind of another great bootleg in Copenhagen. Listening to shows like this I think that they really are the best fans, and I admire them for there input and love of the music.

 

Overall, this recording wasn’t quite what I expected, but like most Prince concerts I was won over in the end. The crowd was exceptional, and apart from a couple of songs early on that suffered from over familiarity, I found the remainder of the show arresting. A nice little bootleg and probably something I would listen to a lot more if not for the 100’s of others circulating. The one fact that became apparent as I listened to this, I definitely need to get over to Copenhagen sometime!

Montreux 2013 Revisited

“I’m back, and I’m harder than a heart attack”

It’s been six weeks since I last updated the blog, but I’m pleased to say I’m back and happy to be doing what I love most; listening to bootlegs and writing about them. Sorry for the extended break, I was exhausted and gave myself a couple of weeks to catch up, which became a couple weeks more as my oncoming wedding loomed into view. The wedding is still a couple of weeks away, but I’m on top of it all now and looking forward to listening to Prince.

I have covered the 2013 Montreux shows previously, but in light of the now circulating video I feel there is a need to revisit them. The video of the shows highlights different aspects of the performance, and for me feels completely different from the audio recordings of the concerts. I enjoyed both immensely, the video of the first two shows greatly elevating them in my opinion. I’m not going to go too in depth about the shows, I feel I have already covered them adequately, I will instead touch on the key songs and moments in the shows that I feel are worth looking at closer.

Montreaux Jazz Festival 2013

1.Count Basie Vs Jimi Hendrix

These shows highlight two different sides of Prince; Prince the band leader and Prince the guitar God. The first two performances sees Prince fronting a large band, a band he leads and guides through the show with ease, while the third night sees Prince strap on the guitar and deliver a night of fierce guitar performances that sees him alone in the eye of the storm. That one man could do both is amazing, and that he does both to such a high level is simply incredible.

The first two nights are full band performances, the stage crowded and cluttered with singers, dancers, a full horn section and the core band. Days Of Wild at both shows is the song that shows the band and Prince at their full potential as they bulldoze through the song. It has the feel of a circus maximus, everything and anything goes and the stage is awash in a confusion of bodies and sounds. On first viewing it is a busy scene, with the band and Prince creating a sound jungle, the music dense and tangled. Subsequent viewings show Prince to be a man in total control. There may be twenty people on stage, but all of them have their eye on Prince as he controls them with a glance or simple hand gesture. It speaks not just of Prince’s control and understanding of the band and the total sound, but of also the band themselves and their level of professionalism as they hang on Princes every move. Every eye on stage is following Prince as he commands not just the core band but also the extended horn section in a masterclass of band leading.

The third night has Prince stepping back from the large band and taking the spotlight on himself as he unleashes the full force of the guitar upon the audience. Again he is the centre of things, although this time attention is firmly focused on him and his guitar wail. Forget the leaden opening of Let’s Go Crazy, it’s the following Endorphinmachin that contains the real highlights, as Prince sets the stage ablaze in screaming guitar. With its lively energy it is a celebration of music and guitar heroics. Prince takes multiple solos, each one taking Jimi Hendrix as a starting pointing before stretching across all genres and decades in search of the right sound. There is plenty of good old fashioned seventies rock in the mix, and Prince is playing tribute to the past while searching out new sounds with his axe. This guy was leading a horn section the night before, now he’s laying waste to the arena with his guitar playing alone. Untouchable, we shall not see his like again.

2. I’m with the Band

Prince maybe leader of the band, but he also is part of the band. He may dominate the spotlight, but there are moments when he steps back into the shadows and plays well within the Band. This is never more apparent than the performance of She’s Always In My Hair from the third night. Yes, he’s in front, and delivering plenty of sparks early on, but this is offset by the guitar solo that Donna provides (while leaning in the crowd). A moment that could have been easily taken by Prince, he instead adds to the performance with another colour added to the palette by Donna. During this song Prince is seemingly all things to all people, starting as a rocker, before subverting the sound and become a soulman for the latter part of the song.

This again sees another band member take their moment,  as Prince plays the breakdown he is seized by the music,and the moment, and pauses to let Ida play. It’s worth it too, as she provides some funky bass that fizzles and pops with energy, taking on a life of it’s own. These are only two moments, but they highlight how important it was for Prince to be part of a band. And it was an opportunity for 3rdeyegirl to have an identity of their own. Of the Prince songs they played, She’s Always In My Hair was  the one they took and made their own. With an emotive performance this moment is a great record of them as a band, and serves as a fine way to remember the times they played together.

3. The man is music itself

The final moment that struck me most is the encore of the third night. Beginning with When Doves Cry, Prince plays a sampler set with the band backing him, the horns and extended band joining him on stage. This brings all the previous strands I have written about into a single performance in which Prince’s true character is revealed. He maybe a star, a performer, a band leader, but at the heart of it all he is just a man who loves playing music. Everything else is irrelevant, and that is never more apparent than this final encore. Darkening the stage for When Doves Cry, Prince makes the music the most important aspect and deflects attention from himself. This is heightened further as the encore progresses, first members of the audience come on stage to dance, then the extended band, until Prince can be barely seen at all. He sits at his keyboard, cocooned by the band and equipment. Head lowered over the keyboard, the performance is secondary to the music, he is in the moment and nothing else matters but the groove and the music.

 

As A Love Bizarre plays he is a man who looks content and happy, one feels that if the crowd and arena suddenly disappeared he would still be perfectly happy playing this groove to himself. Love brings the band closer to him, and surrounded by the horn section Prince is at the centre of a small, intimate gang. Prince is buried by the crowd as Larry takes on a bass solo that is so funky Ida looks as if she might burst into tears.

Equally funky is the horn solo provided by Sylvester Onyejiaka, as Prince holds the microphone for him he plays up a firestorm of a solo that comes dangerously close to making the room spontaneously combust.  Housequake has Prince again riding the band, the horn section out front while Prince pulls the strings from behind. There is a moment for Hannah to shine, before Prince calls for Ida to commit. The is the final hit out for the band and the show ends in the best way possible with a solo from Donna and Ida before Prince brings the show to a close.

These three shows are really what Prince is all about; funk, rock, the band, leadership and music. Above all music. He has played larger arenas, bigger concerts with more spectacle, but this show boils it down to his essence. Prince was music. Music was the reason he existed, he lived music, he breathed music, he sweated music. These concerts have something for everyone as Prince gives all of himself in these performances, these were the moments that impacted on me, but I am sure there is many other moments in the concerts that others related to.  A superb bootleg, it was worth the wait.

 

 

December 2016 update

Hi all,
just a quick update about the blog. I haven’t updated it the last two weeks. This has been a long and difficult year, and to be honest I am completely burnt out, there is no gas left in the tank.

I’m going to give myself some time out, and hopefully have the blog back up and running mid-January.

Thanks for all your support through the year, all your kind words of support drive and motivate me more than you’ll ever know.
-Merry Christmas, Hamish

La Cigale 2009

Prince didn’t play a great number of shows in 2009, there was no tour, only a selection of one offs scattered throughout the year and throughout the world. The shows he did play are smooth and streamlined, and surprisingly interesting. Of the twenty or so shows played that year I have already covered almost a quarter of them in this blog. Notable shows of 2009 include his  Nokia  trio of shows, his appearance at Montreux, as well as the Oscars afterparty. He also played a string of shows in Paris in October, and that is where today’s recording hails from. The show at La Cigale is fairly typical of shows of 2009/2010, a setlist peppered with hits and some not too challenging covers. The newish songs that feature are of the greatest interest, and any show that features Shhh is a show that I want to hear.  The show also runs at more than two and a half hours, so I am look forward to losing myself in the music for the next few hours

12th October 2009, La Cigale, Paris

The show begins with the misleading introduction of Purple Rain. It does sound rich and luxurious, but there is only half a minute of intro before Prince and the band kick the show off proper with Old Skool Company. With a solid groove the song is a better representation for what will follow, and as I listen I can feel the my feet begin to shuffle and move with the music, always a good sign. Frédéric Yonnet is present,and it is his harmonica sound that elevates the song early on before, after an extended introduction, Prince begins to sing. The groove isn’t heavy, but it is insistent and keeps the song moving for the eight minutes it runs for.

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The following Crimson And Clover could have been lifted from any show during this time period. With the rise and fall of the music, the band pushes forward and back,  never demanding even as Prince injects his Wild Thing lyrics into the song. I find I enjoy it greatly, without being able to explain why. It doesn’t rock, it lacks any sort of sharpness or vitality, yet I find I listen to it easily and enjoy the performance of Prince and the band. Perhaps its the clean guitar break that Prince plays that makes it all worth while.

Stand! is uplifting, and with the band playing clean and smooth its a feel good song that the audience responds to, especially as they sing the chorus. The song changes towards something more interesting in the final minute, the pop subverted by some extra funk from Prince which in turn brings Turn Me Loose to the set-list. Prince gives a funky guitar break which underlines his funk credentials before it takes a u-turn into the pop realm again with a surprising cover of the Jackson Fives’s I Want You Back. The only time Prince played this, it immediately elevates to the show to a more interesting status, and even more so as Shelby scats over the back half of the song. The dry sound of Prince’s horner guitar is what I focus on most, bringing more of his own sound to someone else’s song.

The following two songs are also notable for being rarities. Dance 4 Me has only been played once in concert in its full form, and here it is. It becomes even more interesting as Prince plays with it and stretches it out. His first guitar break is Santana-esque, while his second guitar break is full blooded and more of his own. Naturally I love both of them. With Shelby singing (Not Just) Knee Deep and Frédéric Yonnet adding harmonica, there is a feeling that anything goes, and the song has plenty of satisfying twists and turns before Prince finishes with a neatly manicured solo.

We stay with rarities as the band play No More Candy 4 U. It’s a joyful romp, the band play with a bounce and a grin, something summed up as you can hear Prince laughing on the microphone. It’s not taxing, and although light I find myself listening carefully due to it novelty value.

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Things change with some smoldering guitar work by Prince eventually giving way to a high powered performance of Shhh. The crowd obviously enjoy it as much as I do, they sing the verse from the first moment, leaving Prince silent for the first minute. When he does sing, it’s with a glassy smooth sound, before the crowd join him again, singing word for word. As much as I enjoy Prince, I do find the audience singing enjoyable, they are of the same mind as me and it’s hard not to sing along with them. Prince’s initial guitar break stutters and falters, but he returns with a jagged, electrifying solo that puts his mark all over this song.

 Like The Jam, Stratus is often used by Prince to introduce the band and give them an opportunity to solo. Here is no different, as Prince runs through the band as he has plenty of times before. I have heard this done plenty of times over his career, with Stratus and The Jam, that I don’t get the pleasure from it that I once did, and although it’s a fine performance, there is a part of me that wishes it would be over so we can move onto something sharper.

The following jazz infused rendition of Girl is much more my thing and I find it to be a lot of fun. So too does the audience and Prince, as he engages them with some encouragement to sing along. Its a quiet acoustic performance, with just a bare accompaniment of a guitar Prince sings this somewhat lost B-side. The mood of the recording changes as Prince sings and I wonder what direction the show will come next.

Forever In My Life is fabulous in everyway. With the stripped back beat Prince gives a performance of this beloved song, again accompanied every step of the way by the crowd. The guitar arrives for later verses, adding some richness to the performance and the sound. Even with the audience singing it is a showstopping performance, this is easily the highlight of the show thus far. The late twist of Shelby singing a furious Single Ladies is completely left field, as well as the best thing I have ever head from her.

Shelby J continues to rock the mic, with an equally furious Baby Love that has me reaching to turning it up louder. I’m not a big fan of her calls to “put your hands up”, but I am completely onboard for everything else she does, and even as Prince blazes out another guitar break it is still Shelby that holds the spotlight. A beautiful strong and independent voice, she adds a harder edge to a show that is sometimes just a little too polished.

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There seems to be an extra energy and life in Peach, perhaps the bonus of so few shows in the year is Prince playing with extra enthusiasm and energy. Peach certain bounces along, and the guitar breaks rocket by just as quick. It’s not as long as other renditions in circulation, but it does provide an extra shot of adrenaline into the show.

Sexy Dance has a similar energy, it comes at a quicker pace and has plenty of singing and dancing in the mix. The audience is again singing under Princes command, and Frédéric Yonnet can again be heard adding his contribution to the song. The band is relaxed and having fun, something that translates into the recording, it feels just as relaxed and fun on the recording years later. The All Day, All Night, chants that end the song underline this and ends the first part of the show on a high.

The All Day, All Nigh chants continue for a couple of minutes until Prince returns to the stage for a slower and enchanting rendition of I Want To Be Free. Prince’s opening sprinkle of guitar sets the tone, before singing an impassioned take on the lyrics, suitably accompanied by Shelby, Liv and Elisa all the way. The guitar solos come from another place altogether, a completely different feel from the lyrics and verses, nevertheless they are enjoyable and add an extra element of interest to the song.

The next section of the show is the usual run of Sly and The Family Stone songs. Sing A Simple Song has an extra brightness to it that the crowd responds to. The following  Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) is equally popular with the audience, especially one woman who is close to the recording device and gives several earsplitting shrieks as the song begins. I can forgive her however as the song is indeed a great rendition that has the speakers pumping here at home.

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Be Happy is all about the band and the audience, with Prince taking a back seat on vocals the girls lead the way, before the audience pick up the “All day, all night’ refrain again with great gusto. Things are shaping up to go on for sometime,so it comes as a complete surprise as Prince wraps it up with his “Vegas” call.

I wasn’t expecting too much from 7, so I am pleasantly surprised by what we have here, a couple of minutes that are faithful to an old hit. It does segue into Come Together, another song that got more than it’s share of concert time in the late 2000’s. This version is much as it is usually heard, although the speech by Prince mid-song is interesting and revealing. Talking about America he mentions that his music is no longer on the radio, and says America wants to make him a slave. I’m not sure exactly what to make of it, but it is interesting to hear.

Dreamer follows on, and it is similar in style to the preceding Come Together.  It does gain from some louder guitar and more harmonica, but asides from that it doesn’t make much of an impression and ends before I can really get a feel for it.

I am re-enthused with hearing The Bird, not only does it push my nostalgic buttons, it also sounds like a lot of fun. The crowd is feeling it as much as I am, and the guitar has plenty of funk. The final minute has me smiling as Prince speaks with a repeat effect on the microphone, which has him saying “turn this repeat off, what are you doing?”

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Jungle Love has him asking “Who wrote that” before playing a version that makes it quite clear. A short, sharp version it has plenty of punch to it, and I am surprised by how strong the guitar solo is. It maybe short, but it is efficient and conveys plenty in the time it plays.

The performance of Glamorous Life is one of the most satisfying parts of the show. After first taking some time to get the sound right, Prince tells the audience that he wants to live in France, because it rhymes with his favorite word “dance”. The band live up to the moment, and once again I am turning them up louder. It sounds classic, live, and fun all at the same time, and although Shelia E is missing it still manages to capture some of her sound and influence.

3121 returns with a steamroller of a  heavy groove that is mind crushingly good. Ten minutes of heavy, and heavenly, funk follows- only lightened by the reappearance of the harmonica. All Day, All Night chants, soul claps, lyrics that hint at something dangerous, and unhinged harmonica all add to this behemoth of a song, all killer groove and funky rhythms. The audience do become intrusive on the recording, but I am prepared to overlook this as the song rolls on in its own unstoppable way. This the moment where I am finally swept away by the music and I truly lose myself in the moment.

And suddenly we are back to where it all started with the the soft drizzle of an introduction to Purple Rain. The recording has been good until this point, but it’s now that it finally loses some of its polish with some mild distortion and crowd noise. Maybe it’s the crowd noise that ruins the levels, it is as the crowd sings that the distortion is most noticeable. As for the song itself, it’s a humdinger, with Prince electing to go with the guitar saturated version rather than drawing out the verses he cuts straight to the chase early on. This makes the distortion of the crowd singing all the more frustrating, especially as Prince revisits the verses and sings with a whole-hearted fullness.  With the vocals and the guitar being top notch it really is a shame the recording lets it all down at this stage. Still, it is what it is, and the show ends just as good as it begun.

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Another excellent show from 2009 and what is proving to be a very fruitful year for bootlegs. All the shows I have heard from 2009 are clean sounding and offer plenty to the careful listener. This one had plenty of high points, and even at two and a half hours it never let up, giving plenty until the very end. The Paris crowds are always knowledgeable and fun, and Prince acknowledges that with another show that is outstanding. I had doubts before I listened, I thought it maybe too clean cut, but it has proved otherwise and is a great listen. With a cold beer in hand it has been the perfect way to end the week.

Take care
Hamish

Return to First Ave 2007

In 2007 Prince played three shows in a day at his hometown of Minneapolis. I have already taken a listen to the matinee show at Macys and the main show at the Target Center, so to round out the trifecta today I will have a look at the aftershow at First Ave. It’s notable in that it was the first-time Prince had played there in 20 years, and anticipation was at an all-time high with queues snaking around the block with fans desperate to see their hometown hero. The show doesn’t disappoint. There are some uneven moments, but it is beautifully recorded (the bootleg sounds great) and the opening 3121 is so enormous in its heavy funk that any other weaker moments are immediately forgiven. I have listened to this show a couple of times this week, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

8th July 2007(am) First Avenue, Minneapolis

3121 has a steamroller of a groove that rolls heavily over everything from the first moments.  It’s hard and heavy and reminds me of Days Of Wild on a good day. With an insistent bass and horns early on, it puts me in mind of the performance of Days Of Wild from Belgium in 2002, dark, heavy and feeling like it might roll on for days. 3121 builds with cheers from the crowd before some chopping guitar heralds the arrival of Prince. His vocals emerge from the fog of the music, ghost-like yet full and with a darkness of their own.  It’s as hard as nails, with Prince’s guitar adding plenty of venom later in the song, it too emerging from the morass of music with a piercing whine. The song rolls on for ten minutes, I could happily put it back on repeat and listen to it all day long, the show is worth listening to just for this song lone. It encapsulates all that is great about the aftershow experience and puts me right in the moment.

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We go from dark to light, with a bright and sharp Girls And Boys following immediately after. With plenty of honks from the horns and keyboards it keeps the show moving at a clip, each stab adding to the momentum. Prince himself is sounding great, and I must again point out that this is great sounding recording. It may be an audience recording but it is full and rich sounding, with the crowd audible but not the least bit intrusive.

I Feel 4 U is sprightly, with Shelby adding her infectious energy to the show. She is reasonable restrained, and nicely focused. The song itself is short, and as Shelby begins to call “Put your hands up” things quickly move onto Controversy.

In recently times Controversy has been played with and thrown into crowd pleasing medleys, and I am happy to say that the rendition here is faithful to the original. It may not be the bare funk of the album, the band is bigger and fuller, but the song is the same arrangement, at least until the final minutes as Prince calls for the audience to jump up and down. It’s not my favourite part of the song, but there are plenty more positives I enjoy listening to, especially the frenetic horn solo that adds a sense of urgency to the song. The closing guitar break from Prince is equally fine, it takes a while to get to it but it is well worth the wait.

Things slow for Beggin Woman Blues.  The groove is the steady sound of Satisfied, as Prince sings Beggin Woman Blues. The lyrics are hilarious, and the crowd are quiet as they listen carefully to catch the jokes. The real surprise is Princes vocals, they sound fantastic, especially the first few minutes. There is plenty to enjoy on the keyboard front too, with both Morris Hayes and Renato Neto taking solos before things really cut loose with a wild sax solo from Mike Phillips. Prince brings us back as he returns the song back to its roots with his vocal delivery of Satisfied. Morris Hayes does a great job of filling the sound out behind him, and it highlights Princes vocals further, his high squeals contrasting with Morris Hayes deep organ swirls.

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I can’t say I am overly impressed by Down By The Riverside. It’s a breather, and a chance for me to grab another drink (this is thirsty work).

Gotta Broken Heart Again is a standout moment. It has a stillness to it, with Princes vocals being the back bone of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocals, they are outstanding and listening is a reminder to how much of a pure singer Prince was. He even matches the horns for shrill and intensity as the song reaches its climax, an impressive feat.

Shelby takes on Love Is A Losing Game, a tough job as it is a song that in my mind is indelibly associated with Amy Winehouse. I’m not sold on the performance, although Prince provides several guitar breaks that do elevate it, but not quite enough. The guitar does sound sweet and has a zesty sound to it, on another song it would be a whole lot more.

I enjoy Shelby’s performance of Love Changes a whole lot more. She is soft when she needs to be soft, strong when she needs to be strong, and I think it is a great match for her vocals and personality. Prince adds his input with some more guitar work, and this hits all my sweet spots, they complement each other well and this is further highlighted as Prince sings alongside Shelby. It may not be a lot of peoples’ cup of tea, but for me this is as good as anything else heard on this recording. Princes guitar in the final minutes underlines the performance and seals the deal.

We have all heard Thank You (Falettinme  Be Mice Elf Again) plenty of times, and this rendition contains no surprises. Larry Graham adds his deeper tones to the song, and it does have an energy that is sometimes missing in these performances. Things heat up near the end as Prince stops the band and we get some real rumble out of Larry and his bass.

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This rumble settles into Hair, and with the keyboard playing a retro sound we are cast back to the Seventies. Larry starts out on vocal duties, but he gives way to Shelby who doesn’t do a bad effort of the song herself. It does become a medley with some funky guitar running things into Sing A Simple Song before things quickly change again, this time with Everyday People. Everyday People ends the medley on a high, it is feel good through and through and one can almost hear Larry Graham smiling as he plays and sings.

Alphabet St may start off as expected, but soon enough it is spinning off into all sorts of weird and wonderful places. Greg Boyer is present for a trombone solo, before Larry Grahams bass settle things back into a groove. Shelia E playing percussion is easily the highlight, she is the right person at the right time and her input is timely and welcome.  It’s unfortunate that things come to a sudden end (due to curfew restrictions), but it is a fine way to end the recording, as Prince thanks the crowd as he explains why they are stopping, demonstrating that he is a law-abiding citizen through and through.

I had heard good things about this bootleg, but to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from it. On the surface it seemed to be the same old songs brought out again for the aftershow. I was caught off guard by the funk of 3121, and the appearance of Larry Graham wasn’t what I had come to expect, the show had a lot of energy when Larry arrived on the scene and provided his input. Of the the three shows from this day I would easily rate this as the best of the three. A short, sharp show played with intensity and energy, and I can’t really ask for better than that.

Thanks again
Take care
Hamish

 

7-7-7 Target Centre

Several weeks ago I wrote of the Macy’s matinee show from 2007, and it’s only right that I now return to have a listen to the other shows from that day. The main show from the Target Center in retrospect can be seen as a precursor and warm up show to the 21 nights in London that will come in the following month. The set list  here being typical of these future shows, with Prince airing most of his hits in the show. The real drawcard of this show is the appearance of Wendy on several songs. I would like to say I recognized her sound immediately, although to be honest I’m not sure I would have picked up on it without being told. However, I will be listening carefully to see if I can pick her style on the songs she appears on.

7th July 2007, Target Center Minneapolis

We don’t have to wait long to hear Wendy, she appears on Purple Rain that starts the show, and this is entirely appropriate as this is the period most fans know her from. Prince is up to the occasion -a hometown show, Wendy on guitar, and he gives a stirring performance from the first minutes. His vocals are punchy and carry some weight as he sings, he does sound invested in the moment and the song soars due to this. Normally it’s the guitar break that I find myself waiting for, on this occasion I get just as much pleasure from the singing as anything else that might be going on. The guitar break however shouldn’t be overlooked, as Prince infuses this with spirit and feeling that gets the show off to a positive and highly enjoyable start.

Take Me With U maintains this momentum and good will, the recording is clean sounding with enough of the crowd noise there to get the impression that they are all aboard from the very beginning, much as you’d expect from a show in Minneapolis. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, and it comes and goes in a flash, leaving me with a smile on my face.

Prince keeps the foot on the accelerator as the segue into Guitar keeps the show moving quickly on. I did enjoy it when it first came out, since then my interest has waned somewhat so I didn’t expect too much here. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it sounds, especially the last few minutes. The verses and chorus I could take or leave, but the final few minutes is where Prince warms to his work and some great guitar work can be heard.

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My first “wow” moment comes with Shhh, a song I will never tire of hearing. Prince wraps me up in his warm vocal delivery, before an avalanche of guitar pushes this song into greatness. The contrast between the vocals and the guitar give it some dramatic tension and for me that’s what makes this song what it is. I can’t tell you how this compares to the hundreds of other performances of it I have heard, what I can tell you that at this moment it is the highlight of my week and it washes the worries of world away for the next few minutes.

Musicology snaps me back into the real world and, as enjoyable as it is, it can’t compare to Shhh. I do appreciate the sentiment behind “real music by real musicians”, but after listening to a great many shows I have found I have become tired of the phase. Musicology does provide some interest as Prince begins to sing Prince And The Band. It lacks some of the bite it had earlier on, but it’s cool to hear Prince trotting it out again. There are further highlights as Prince can be heard having fun with an audience member dancing, before Mike Phillips brings his magic touch to the song.

I have never enjoyed Play That Funk Music in Prince shows, and here is no different. The band sound good, the crowd are lapping it up, and yet listen here at home it leaves me cold. There is some fire in the guitar solo that has me regretting my words, and by the end of the song I too am won over – never underestimate the power of Prince and his guitar ability.

The cover version of Let’s Go by the Cars adds a huge dash of fun to the show and, although it is short, it is eminently enjoyably. From its catchy sing along beginnings to the scorching Prince guitar break it ticks all my boxes, and even at two and a half minutes it is a performance that leaves me breathless.

Mike Phillips certainly leaves his mark on Satisfied. I’m not feeling it early on, but then Mike Phillips arrives with his saxophone and plays up a storm. The intensity levels go through the roof, and I wonder why I don’t listen to this more often. The rest of Satisfied is as I have heard plenty of times before, but those few minutes of Mike Phillips elevates it in my estimation.

Mike stays front and centre as he and Renato Neto play an instrumental What A Wonderful World. This time I find I do mentally check out, I am here for Prince and these moments he is not on stage the energy seems to drain out of the building, and the recording. What A Wonderful World is good in its own right, but it’s not Prince.

I knew Wendy played on several songs, what I didn’t expect was her and Prince playing a solo guitar set together. This takes things to a whole other level and is easily the highlight of the show. If I had of known what was coming I would have come to this recording much sooner than I have.  The opening Little Red Corvette is other worldly, the guitars and vocals angelic as they interlace and weave their magic. Prince keeps it short, but it’s only the beginning of something special.

Raspberry Beret is a song that I feel I never have to hear again – except this version. Stripped back to the vocals and guitars it regains it youthfulness and spark. The years roll back as it plays and the sound of Wendy’s guitar is unmistakable. I am not normally one for nostalgia, but this has me back wallowing in my teenage years.

We get some Prince humour as Prince and Wendy next tackle The One U Wanna C. It starts off quickly, before Prince stops – telling the crowd that they can’t play it as its new and they might bootleg it. They then change tack and play a different version of it, slowed down and rolled with, which in my opinion makes it a lot more bootleg-able, its these different arrangements and live performances that I collect bootlegs for.  There is a downside, as the recording unfortunately captures some people discussing what seat numbers they are, but the rest of the song passes without incidence, and it sounds fantastic. This guitar set is something else, and I’m loving every minute of it.

The guitar set is rounded out by a tear-jerking performance of Sometimes It Snows In April. Its sharper and cleaner, and not as over wrought as I expect, and the performance is all the better for it. There is a purity to it that lifts the show, and the guitar flourishes are pitched just right to give it a touch of colour. It brings the guitar set to a close in the best way possible, and gives us a pause before the show pushes forward again.

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The band re-join for 7, and the show immediately becomes an up-tempo party again. 7 is an introduction for the following Come Together, and after two minutes it easily segues into Shelby singing the opening verses. Come Together doesn’t add anything special to the show, and it’s hard to fathom why it appeared in so many of Princes shows. Prince and the band never quite put their only mark on it, and for the most part it is a perfunctory run through the song. The saving grace comes in the form of Princes closing guitar break which lifts the song far above its plodding beat. If only the rest of the song sounded as good as the guitar break, it would be a different beast altogether.

The piano set portion of the show begins with a lovely sounding Do Me, Baby. Prince and piano start off easily enough, before the band do join to give the song a full, yet touching, sound. This is another moment that I find I gravitate to, and it sets the bar high for the next few piano songs.

I Wanna Be Your Lover follows in similar fashion, Prince and the piano opening the song before the rest of the band joins in.  It sounds fresh, and even here at home I am singing along with it as if it is a new song to me. The outro is played, which is a plus as far as I am concerned, and there is some funk under the pop veneer.

How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore is more in line with what we traditionally expect from the piano set. With just Prince and the piano, the next couple of minutes could have been recorded anytime over the previous thirty years. The band do join, but this signals the end of the song, rather than a fuller version.

There is only a couple of lines played from Diamonds and Pearls, before Prince plays with the crowd as he calls for his guitar. He stays with the Diamonds and Pearls album, playing a lively version of Cream. This sometimes sounds dreary to me, not tonight as Prince plays with an extra sharpness and energy. Playing to the hometown audience is bringing out the best of him, and the recording is sounding great.

There is cascade of noise and guitar work with the introduction of U Got The Look. Prince and the band romp through it, playing a boisterous, rough and tumble rendition. The guitar isn’t over worked, but it is strong, and the song is much more than the two dimension versions heard elsewhere through 2007.  It comes as an unexpected surprised, and I am pleased to hear it in this form.

The band is stronger than I expected, and they put their stamp well and truly on If I Was Your Girlfriend. There is sound and power coming from every corner as the song plays, normally it’s Prince vocals that command attention in the song, in this case all the band are vying for attention as the song plays. It gives it a fullness that is far from what is heard on Sign O The Times.

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The same could be said of Black Sweat, the band swamp it in sound as the stripped back sound of the original becomes just a memory. It may not be my favourite version, but I commend the band for taking ownership and making it distinctly theirs. Renato Neto in particular has my attention with some keyboard sounds that sound alien in nature.

The band is slightly more restrained for Kiss, although there is a low bass rumble that has me excited. The song starts off well, but it’s the guitar break that has me sitting up and paying a lot more attention. It brings some sharpness to a song that has too much happening and at times sounding unfocused.

Let’s Go Crazy on paper fails to excite me, but listening to it reveals a different arrangement, designed to engage the crowd to the full. The original opening is intact, then no verses, just a headlong rush into guitar work before Prince engages the audience in some chanting, all the while delivering guitar histrionics. The music snob in me would normally dismiss this, but like a mouth to the flame I can’t help but be attracted by the rush and thrill of it.

That rush and thrill is maintained as Prince and the band cut into one of the funkiest versions of A Love Bizarre I have heard for a long time. With Shelia E on board the song has an authentic sound, although it’s the funk of the guitar that really gets my heart going. The band are giving their all, and the song is pushed out the speakers at me with great energy and force. The trombone of Greg Boyer adds a taste of something different, and the song never once loses energy or the pure joy of simply being alive. The last searing guitar solo by Prince is the icing on the cake, and leaves me feeling like I felt the first time I saw him live.

Crazy is more like what I expected this show to be like, a gentle run through of a familiar set list, with plenty of Shelby J sprinkled through the show. It’s much more in keeping with what would be heard later in the year during the 21 nights in London, and as such it doesn’t overly excite me hearing it here. I do enjoy the guitar riff of One Nation Under A Groove that is briefly alluded to, but for the most part the song can’t compare to the highlights that came earlier.

Nothing Compares 2 U is similar, it is an uninspired run through of a song that deserves better. There isn’t the interaction between Prince and Shelby as we hear in other performances, he takes the song on himself, and the solo from Mike Phillips sounds bold but lacks any emotional pull. It is disappointing, but I can’t complain after all that has come before.

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Shelia E makes herself heard for the final song of the night, A Glamorous Life. Shelia and Prince can be heard having fun together, as they play with the song and the audience during a mid-song break down that features plenty of percussion from Shelia. I do start to lose interest, but I can’t deny it would have been great if I had been there. It is great to hear a performance of A Glamorous life, and although the song doesn’t end with a bang, the show does with this performance of a live rarity.

The show is a curious mix of the familiar and the not so familiar. Although the bulk of the show is similar to the London shows that will follow, there is enough in there for me to take a closer listen. The section with Wendy was outstanding, as was the closing with Shelia E.  Some of the other songs suffer in comparison to this, although there were moments where Prince draws from the home crowd and elevates some numbers to a higher level. This could have been a mundane show, but is saved by the guest appearances and a lively performance from Prince. Too long I have ignored this one, dismissing it as another 2007 show by the numbers. Worth a second listen, and I may have to revisit it several more times in the coming weeks.

It’s been a shaky week here, and its been a great diversion to lose myself in Prince’s world for a couple of hours
See you next week,
Hamish

Purple Rain -full show Worcester Massachusetts

Several weeks ago I wrote about a leak from part of a Purple Rain show from Worcester Massachusetts. At the time, I spoke highly of it and that I hoped for the full show to be released. Now that day is upon us and Eye records have obliged with a release of the show. After high expectations, I am disappointed in hearing the full show – it is a let-down. Although a soundboard, the sound quality is poor throughout. Not poor as an audience recording, I can hear Prince and the music perfectly well, but the overall sound is weak and all life has been sucked out of the recording. I did take the time to give it a good listen, and my thoughts are below.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The opening Let’s Go Crazy is a suitable introduction for what will follow. Prince is sounding good, as is The Revolution, although the recording is lacking any depth and feeling. Let’s Go Crazy is dominated by Prince and his guitar, everything else is in the background, and although it’s an exciting opening for the show the recording captures none of this excitement and at times sounds simply as a rehearsal for the show. Cold and sterile, I feel all my energy drain away as I listen.

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Delirious is better, it does a better job of conveying the feelings of a live show, although the sound is still deadened. The keyboards and horns have a fun sound to them, and bring a sparkle to the show that Let’s Go Crazy Was Missing.

The crowd is heard for the first time on 1999, again though most of the song sounds like a cold rehearsal. There is some funky guitar in the mix that I latch onto to listen, but the rest of the song fails to excite me. I know there is better to come, yet I find I am still struggling to get into the show in the early stages. The highlight of 1999 comes as the very end as Prince delivers up some thrills on the guitar, but the recording is still thin, and it lacks the muscle of other shows I have heard.

The first minutes of Little Red Corvette sound as good as ever as the band play through the long intro, and the keyboards can be heard adding their wash to the sound. This is an early high point to the show, especially as I can hear the audience cheer at one point. It’s finally starting to sound like a live show. Prince matches the keyboards when he sings, and it begins to add up to the Purple Rain shows I know and love. Despite a thin start to the guitar solo, it still sounds good and the song ends on a high as Prince sings the chorus one final time.

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The keyboards are also very strong for the opening of Take Me With U. They fill out the sound somewhat, although in contrast I can hear the bass but it lacks in any real depth due to the recording. Everything is in place, yet it all sounds weaker and watered down in the recording. The end coda lacks much of anything, and the song that started so brightly fizzles out by the end.

The next section of the show I have covered in an earlier blog post, here I will reiterate some of what I have already said previously. It is easily the best part of the show as the next thirty minutes Prince is on fire.

Next on the set list is a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even in this quality. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.

Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.

When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.

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With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.

Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.

There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.

Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.

Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.

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The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.

Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.

There comes next a segue into some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins. It’s tight, it’s funky, it’s Prince and The Revolution doing what they do best.

There is the inevitable Possessed right after, it’s not quite as tight as Irresistible Bitch, but it still has plenty of funk of its own. The keyboards give plenty early on, before the horn swells drive the second part of the song. The count of “25” by Prince is standard practice, and the band are right on the money. There is a moment of fun as Prince speaks to the band about catching them out tonight. There’s money on the line, and the band don’t fail to deliver. The horns and the stabs are throughout, as Prince sings “I’m going to get you tonight” before calling for “63”. I lost count, as did the band – Bobby Z gives a couple of extra beats as the songs gives way to a scream and several whoops, presumably from Prince as he has indeed caught the band out.

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There is more fun in the air as Prince begins to play How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore and encourages the audience to sing if they can. The song itself is kept very short, at a single verse it barely registers, but it is the final song before the rest of the show is given over to Purple Rain songs.

God is as beautiful as to be expected, with Prince and the piano holding the audience enraptured in its charms as it plays. The band add some harmonies to the vocals which is a nice touch, the only downside being the quality of the recording- on a better sounding recording this would sound magnificent, as it is it lacks a thickness and full sound. It doesn’t matter too much as the next few minutes are given over to the bath sequence of the Purple Rain shows.

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The fierceness that I have come to expect from Computer Blue is lacking, in part to the thin sound of the recording. The band though cannot be faulted, and I can hear the band playing a rough and tumble version with plenty of jagged guitar from Prince. The bass work from Brownmark is to the fore, a shame that the recording lacks the richness of the performance.

The segue into Darling Nikki is predictable and entirely enjoyable. Dr Fink is a real highlight as his keyboard squiggles are all over the latter part of the song. It shines brightly after the previous Computer Blue and up’s the tempo again as we head to the last quarter of the show.

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The introduction of The Beautiful Ones fades in and out, but once the song starts proper it is full blooded and Prince gives another heartfelt rendition. There are plenty of shrieks and screams near the end which aren’t served well by the recording, nevertheless they add a lot to the show and the audience can be heard responding well to what is obviously a highlight.

Another show stopper follows in the form of When Doves Cry. Dr Fink and Lisa are key players, but for me the highlight is Brownmark and his elastic sounding bass. He gets plenty of time to show us what he’s got, especially the final coda which is heavy on the bass, and despite everything going on over the top, it is the bass that I gravitate to.

I Would Die 4 U starts off with a pop bent, but the final minutes are all about the funk as it gets an extended treatment, with plenty of Wendy’s guitar to the fore. It wasn’t a song that I immediately fell in love with, but I always enjoy these live performances. Even with the coda tagged on, it still only runs three and a half minutes, and as it ends just as I am developing a hunger for much more.

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I am disappointed with Baby I’m A Star. Some nights it runs upwards of twenty minutes, this version is considerably shorter at eleven minutes, and even then there is a couple of minutes’ introduction. his is the point of the show where the band traditionally cut loose, so it comes as a surprise to see this shortened version. The tempo does accelerate halfway into it,  this gives it an unbalanced sound and as it increases in tempo I feel left behind by it all. With the horns adding their burst of excitement there is the sound of show business in the air, the band jam on but it never feels like a groove as I have heard elsewhere on the Purple Rain tour. The sax is easily the best thing about Baby I’m A Star, and we have plenty of time to enjoy it before the song loses its way with Prince’s final few minutes of train inspired groove.

It’s been a long time since I listened to a full Purple Rain show, and I find myself falling in love with the song again all over as the introduction plays and the piano gives it an extra touch of special. By the time I hear Prince’s guitar noodling I am already sold on it and I don’t care what type of performance will follow. The following Cloud guitar sound lets me down, but that barely matters as what I have already heard is good enough for me. The final solos by Prince are long and over the top, normally something I would greatly enjoy, but here they are undone by a thin sound and although they are likable they don’t quite deliver the knockout blow. It is however the type of finish that this show required, and I must admit I was smiling all the way through the song.

This wasn’t the show I was expecting. The middle section I had previously heard is easily the best part of the show, and this alone makes the show worth listening too. In fact, it makes the show much more interesting than other Purple Rain shows in circulation and if the recording was better quality it would be essential. As it is, it is a serviceable sound board recording that documents a potentially great show that loses its way towards the end and becomes just another Purple Rain show. And interesting experience that wasn’t what I wanted or expected, nevertheless it was worth the time to take a listen.

Thanks for reading
Take care
-Hamish