Glam Slam, Yokohama 1992

I am currently in Tokyo for a month visiting my wife’s friends and family. To celebrate this fact (and to avoid going shopping), the next few weeks I will take a listen to some of Prince’s live recordings from Japan. Today I will start with an unusual concert from Yokohama in 1992. It is an one off show at the Glamslam club, but what makes it unusual is  the setlist that is a standard run through of songs that we would expect at an arena show. This is an audience recording, with a slight distortion just perceivable, yet I like it for the songs, and the general vibe of the show. There is a great feel to the performance that lets me temporarily forget the sound quality.

6th April, 1992. Glam Slam, Yokohama, Japan

I didn’t expect much when I saw “Daddy Pop” listed on the packaging as the first song, and the feeling doesn’t change as the quality of the recording is revealed in the opening seconds. However, it is a bright and breezy performance that wins both me and the audience over. Rosie is monumental, but there is much more to this song than just her. The band is playing with an easy touch that has the song flying along, and with the crowd lending their infectious voices to the song it most definitely has a joyous vibe.

There is no cherry on top, but there is “Cream” and it envelops the club and bootleg, Prince at his very smoothest as the band flow through the performance. There is no sharpness, or jagged edges, just the constant forward movement provided by the buttery guitar line, and Princes sticky-sweet vocals. It is easy on the ear, and I am completely prepared to over look Tony M’s barking that comes loud across the recording. It ends with the syrupy guitar line that has carried most of the song, and I am satisfied with this sweet treat coming so early in the performance.

Rosie puts her cards on the table with “Chain Of Fools,” and comes up trumps with an ace performance. I didn’t fully appreciate Rosie when I was young, but I do now and her vocals early in the song are the exact reason I rate her as highly as I do. Strong, yet warm and inviting, it is hard to resist her sumptuous voice, and I am drawn in from the start. She does step aside as the song becomes a jam, the horns and guitar providing lines that keep the song on track with their train-like rhythm. Taking this song with the previous “Cream,” the concert already rates highly in my opinion, and we are only three songs in.

There are only two minutes of “Let’s Go Crazy,” but it is two minutes too many for me. It is during this song that the limitations of the recording are readily apparent, the guitar distorting at times, and a incessant  buzz.  It is equally jarring to hear “Let’s Go Crazy” in this company, after several smooth funk songs (and one straight after) it feels wedged it and detracts from the show rather than adding anything to it.

The smooth funk I alluded to returns with a greasy sounding “Kiss.” With the guitar line sounding almost like “Sexy M.F.” it has a classic funk sound, and is all the better for it. It may not be one for the purists but there is no denying the funk of it, and with the horns adding just a tinge of brassiness I rate it highly.

I like “Jughead” (I never thought I would write that) because it opens with a verse from “Dead On It.” The rest of the song I could take or leave (mostly leave). Tony M is quite forceful in his delivery, which tends to drown out everyone else. However, Rosie holds her own with the moments she is given, and as always it is the slippery rhythm guitar that I am really attracted to. I have to admit, I do enjoy Prince’s rap – for no reason other than I guess it’s one of those days.

The band is back in the groove for “I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get it Girl). Much like many of the other songs at this performance, it is smooth funk jam. I have heard this song at several other concerts, and this one is different from those in it’s easy long groove. There is very little singing as the band ride the rhythm from start to finish, unswerving in their dedication to the funk. There may be a couple of solos, but never once does the attention waver from the underlying feel and rhythm.

I could say the same about “Call The Law,” if not for Tony M’s heavy delivery. Rosie matches him for power with her vocals, but it is the guitar that steals the show with an burst early on that makes any vocal work irrelevant. Again, the recording is less than stellar, only the guitar stands proud among the swampy sounds of the verses. I do like the funky intentions of the band, sadly let down by the recording, and shaded by a guitar player who stands head and shoulders above all those around him.

There is a lot of swing to be heard in “Kansas City.” I have heard Boni Boyer sing this plenty of times, but for my money Rosie Gaines does just as good a job. The recording isn’t quite good enough to contain her, there is a slight distortion on her vocals as she is at her strongest, she is just too powerful for an audience recording.

The highlight of the bootleg for me isn’t all these funk tunes, but the divine “Do Me, Baby.” After listening to Prince seduction ballads for thirty plus years, I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that this is his finest. In my opinion, and it may well be an unpopular opinion, it eclipses even “Adore.” This recording is much more sympathetic to a softer song like this, and Levi’s guitar lines are just as emotive as the vocal performance by Prince. I find myself writing every week that “Do Me, Baby,” is the highlight of whatever show I am writing about, and I’m going to say it again about this concert. It towers over all the funk jams, making them lightweight in its solemn and earnest delivery. It is yet another outstanding rendition of one of Prince’s masterpieces.

I want “Gett Off” to finish the show like a punch to face, and although all the key elements are in place it lacks the killer blow that I desire. Prince’s gutsy guitar line elicits squeals of delight from the crowd, but this is the only moment where the song sounds dangerous and edgy. The rest of the song drifts along, even the drum beat sounds half hearted and weak. It is still likable, but it never threatens to reach the heights of the songs earlier in the evening.

So ends this curio from 1992. I wouldn’t recommend it based on the quality of the recording, but I would definitely recommend it based on the songs and the performance. It is a great funk workout for most of the show, and I think it nicely captures what this band was about, and lays down some of the groundwork for what will follow in the next couple of years.  Avoid if you’re a soundboard snob, otherwise I would say give it a listen.

Thanks for reading, I better go be a tourist for a couple of hours
-Hamish

Paisley Park After Dark – April 2014

Today’s recording is short, less than half an hour, but I thought I would take a listen as it shows a different side to Prince. It is the second of Paisley Parks after dark events where Prince makes a surprise appearance, but only plays thirty minutes as he experiences guitar problems. And this is what I want to hear. I have hundreds, no make that thousands, of Prince recordings where everything goes well and sounds amazing. What interests me about this performance is the sound problems he has with the guitar, and the way he curtails the performance because of this. We all have bad days in the office, and there is a part of me that wants to experience what it sounds like when Prince has one of these days. The accompanying notes say that one can hear when Prince unplugs his guitar from the board as the sound gets worse, I have listened but my rapidly fading hearing isn’t good enough to hear him unplug, but one can definitely hear the problems he is having on some levels. It’s an unusual choice for me to listen to, but I want a well rounded bootleg experience and take both the bad and the good together.

6th April 2014 (am) , Paisley Park

I immediately regret that this recording is so short, the opening burst of guitar is incisive and inspiring, and I am instantly caught up in the excitement of hearing “I’m Yours” from Prince’s debut album. It is fresh out the box and if I wasn’t a fan I would have said it was something far younger than 30 years. The song wears barely a wrinkle on its face as Prince reveals it to the Paisley Park crowd, its simple beauty forever timeless.

In comparison “Bambi” is an ex-girlfriend, and despite Prince retaining the same guitar tone as the previous song, it fails to get a second look from me. It is the typical 3rdeyegirl treatment of the song, and although I rejoiced in its rock sound at the time, three years later I find I have quickly tired of it. Everything is in its place, and there is very little secrets or surprises to be heard here.

I do like Princes spoken intro to “Peach,” and it threatens to be a devastating performance. However, this is where his problems start and the song is quickly aborted. The next few minutes though highlight what a consummate professional Prince is, and after apparently fixing whatever is wrong, the band pick up right where they left off in the song. Prince may be having troubles with his sound, but the song erupts in the next few minutes, Princes vocals just as raw and loud as the guitar licks he plays. The audience recording sounds great, there is zero audience noise and the next few minutes are pure guitar heaven as Prince blazes across the recording.

The bright pop rock of “So Far, So Pleased” is subverted by the weight of 3rdeyegirl. The verses retain their pop sheen, but the chorus is where the real action is with plenty of grit added by the band. It’s easy on the ear, while retaining enough for those that want a further challenge, and the change to a funk jam midsong is surprising given the rock credentials of the band. The jam is initially slow moving, it isn’t until Prince brings his lead guitar into the mix does it begin to come into focus, slowly circling around Prince at the centre of this almost silent storm. The music unwinds from this point though as Prince foregoes the guitar and the song continues in the most subtle of jams. This time I do hear the point where Prince unplugs the guitar as the band carry on their simple groove for another five minutes. It picks up again as Prince takes the drum kit for a final flourish, but I can’t say it’s particularly impressive, asides from demonstrating that he can play any position, a point he ably demonstrates by taking the bass next for something that I do like a whole lot more. This final jam runs for fifteen minutes, but truth be told there isn’t much in it, even with Princes various musical contributions, and there is almost a sense of relief when it comes to an end.

I can’t say I was surprised by anything I heard on the recording, the notes did say it was plagued by sound problems and Prince cuts it short. However, I thought the opening two songs were great, and even near the end when Prince became overwhelmed by sound issues, the music still sounded sharp and the band well invested. The final jam did meander, but all credit to Prince he did try and make something out of nothing with his drum break and bass playing adding an element of interest to an other wise dull moment on the recording. Even as the show wound down, Prince retained his professionalism and what we do hear on the recording is very good by anyone’s standings. This is a recording that I will probably never come back to, but I will keep in my mind how good those opening songs were, and what a craftsman Prince was when it came to live performance. I couldn’t say I recommend this one, but as someone who has to hear everything, it’s pretty cool.

Thanks for reading
-Hamish

Bennetts Lane, Melbourne 2012

This week I will be posting about two shows as both are short, yet they interesting for several reasons. Firstly, the legendary Bennetts Lane impromptu performance. Anyone who has spent time on the internet reading about Prince will be familiar with this concert; Prince made an appearance at Bennetts Lane jazz club early morning of 29th May, 2012. The show was only announced very late, and Prince and the band played to a crowd of about seventy people. In almost darkness, Prince played for close on three hours, with a setlist that is chock full of goodies. From all accounts this was a humdinger of a show, and it made all the mythical by the fact we don’t have a complete recording of it. We are spoilt nowadays by the scope and quality of recordings available for most shows, and this bootleg harks back to earlier days when shows were only partly available, or not available at all.The recording appears on an Eye records release, and covers a half hour period early in the concert. We don’t get the gems promised by the setlist, but it is a taste of the flavour of the evening and I have to say it well and truly whets my appetite for more. I thoroughly recommend taking time to go online and read about this concert from those who were there, there is so much more to this performance than what is heard on the recording.

 29th May 2012(am) Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

I am salivating from the first moments as John drums up a funky brew with Erykah Badu’s “On & On.” There is the wow factor from the very first seconds, John’s percussive sound setting a vibe that the small audience responds to with shouts of encouragement. The recording picks it up well, band is clearly heard, and although the audience call out they aren’t right in the microphone and sound almost as if they have been added in for atmosphere. Prince introduces himself with his first tentative notes stretching into the darkness, before the guitar takes an authoritative tone and lights the room in its luminescence.I have heard “Stratus” many times over the years, and wasn’t expecting much from this performance. Instead, the band floor me with a well rounded and satisfying performance. I think it is partly down to the recording, it is steady in its sound, and seems to have the mix in balance. Part of me wants Prince’s guitar to sound louder, but sitting lower in the mix works well for the song over all and I have no complaints. The band idle loudly behind Princes guitar sound, waiting for the clutch to be dropped and the concert to accelerate into the next few songs. It is John Blackwell that puts the pedal to the metal with a drum break that carries power, speed, and finesse in a combination that drives the show forward.

There is a break in the recording next, “Stratus” fades out at the end before “Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)” fades in, delivering us late into the song. We only get the last few call and response of “must be something in the water you drink” before the song fizzles out.

It’s not all that bad though as the following song is  “Strange Relationship.” The bass may not be particularly prominent on the recording, but there is plenty of funk dripping from the keyboards and Prince’s vocals. However, things flip when Cassandra plays her solo, the piano barely audible and the bass suddenly becoming the backbone of the song. It is a very loose performance, one that I feel as much as I hear, and it’s about this point that I decide I would gladly sell right arm for a soundboard recording of this entire gig.

Even “I Like Funky Music” sounds better in this context. A song I could happily pass on, here it becomes part of the “Strange Relationship” jam, and rather than drag it down it adds to it with the audience becoming involved with the chants. I must praise the keyboards again at this point as they continue to solo and delight me with their sprinklings of stardust.

This funk jam continues to evolve, and “Up For The Downstroke” reminds me of how much this white boy has learnt about the history of funk from Prince. My first introduction to Parliment/Funkadelic/George Clinton was from hearing performances like this and then going back to find the original artists. This performance is worthy of those predecessors as the song swells and bloats,Prince and the band playing the audience as much as they are playing the music. It remains a beautifully unfocused, all encompassing jam that is further enhanced by cameos from “Fantastic Voyage” and “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” Its not an intense jam that fills the recording, but it is one of the most enjoyable I have heard for a long time, and again I am quite ready to sell my bodyparts for more of the same. Oh to be there!

I am seriously overwhelmed as the the jam continues to creep across the land, this time swallowing up Mary J Blige’s “Be Happy” and consuming it into the body of the music. I regret that I am sitting at the computer at this stage, such is the urge just to get up and let my body move to the music. In my book, there is no higher recommendation. I am an old jaded fan who spends too much time listening to bootlegs, but performances like this are what I live for.

A brief “Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough rounds off this jam, before the recording ends with a final hit out from John Blackwell. At this point the recording is raggedy sounding, with John’s drums distorting. In some ways it is probably just as well it finishes here, least my previous buzz from the funk jam is shattered by this less than stellar sound. Nothing against John himself, it is purely the recording that is sounding rough at this stage.

There is no mistaking, this a great show and one that I want to hear a lot more of. A sparkling setlist is matched with a classy performance, and throw in the vibe of the room and this makes for one heck of a show. It is all the more disappointing then that we can only enjoy a half hour of the performance, with another two and half hours missing I can only imagine how good the rest of it is. Again, I strongly recommend researching more about this gig, with first eye accounts the music takes on a whole new dimension. I am grateful for what we do have here, but I want so much more. This recording creates a thirst that I know will never be quenched, no matter how much I hope and pray. Worth hearing, just try not to think about what we are missing.

Thanks for joining me, as this show was only short I will take a quick listen to another short show I have been meaning to cover for sometime.
-Hamish

Liberation (1996)

I have been continually surprised by how much I enjoy concerts from 1996/1997. At the time I wasn’t taken by them, but twenty years later I find that I have finally matured and caught up with Prince. The shows are an odd mix, Prince is aiming at the pop audience, yet the music and performance lacks the sparkle of his younger years. However, to my more mature ears there is plenty to keep me entertained. This week’s bootlegs covers an aftershow recorded in Chicago after Prince’s performance on Oprah. It doesn’t quite fit the classic aftershow mould and is more or less a run through of the Love 4 One Another tour setlist. It is a crowd-pleaser though, and Prince offers a couple of diversions that keeps the crowd well and truly involved with some loose renditions later in the show.  Despite being an audience recording, with all the baggage that comes with that,  I look forward to hearing this again and discovering something new.

21st November 1996 (am), Park West, Chicago

There is no denying, the recording gets off to a rough start. I have no issue at all with the music, “Jam Of The Year” opens with a long instrumental featuring some taunt guitar work that makes it all the more appealing. However, the recording is rough for the first few minutes, crowd noise overwhelming the music in places. Listening past that though and things aren’t so bad, this opening number having some cool keyboard work as Prince sings his lines to a highly charged and appreciative audience. “Jam Of The Year” doesn’t quite live up to its title though and I am already looking forward to what comes next in the setlist.

Doing a quick calculation, I have heard “Purple Rain” four or five times a week for the last twenty years, factoring when I listened to the album on heavy rotation from 1984-1994 when Prince was THE MAN, and Purple Rain was THE ALBUM, I estimate I have heard the song approximately 16,000 times. And yet I find I still enjoy it. The version on this recording is surprising for several reason,. Firstly, it appears very early in the setlist, where traditionally it comes later in the show. Secondly, it is a late night/early morning show, where the big songs don’t normally get an airing. And finally, this is a loose version, featuring a veil of intricate guitar work from Prince. The main solo pulls back as Prince begins to gently weave his way through the song before returning to the verse, almost rebooting the song at this point. It keeps me guessing, and even if I have heard the song 16,000 times before I still finish with a smile on face.

I am pulled straight back into the summer of 1996 with “Get Your Groove On.” Listening to it today I can almost feel myself in the car, windows down, music on, and the feeling of sun on my skin. Prince imbues the music with a sunshine feel that seeps through the song at every opportunity, and for my money this is a better representation of Emancipation than the earlier “Jam Of The Year.’ It certainly helps that a lot of the earlier sound problems have dissipated, and even though the crowd is loud and vocal, it adds to the sense being there, rather than detracting from the music itself.

Prince doesn’t dwell on “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” drawing it in after a minute to instead deliver a hard hitting “The Ride,” something that seems to go over very well with the Chicago crowd. I am with them on this one as the music churns and chews through the next ten minutes. At times the music is so low it almost disappears into the floor, and that is no bad thing at all as Prince lays down his blues sound in blues town.From this swampy festering sound, Prince’s guitar rises loud and proud, a flaming sword in the darkness of the music, a light to gravitate to. Its a great moment, but not the finest moment of the song, that comes later and Prince teases and taunts the audience with his talk, made all the better by the audience yelling encouragement – “Come on Boy,” “Alright now!”. In these moments I am right there in the audience, just the reason I listen to bootlegs.

There is a guttural grunt and snort to the guitar sound at the beginning of “The Cross,” a raw sound that transports me back to when I was a young punk. Prince keeps his guitar set to “Garage Band” as he plays a mighty rendition that comes from the gut. It may not be the cleanest sounding recording in circulation, but Prince more than makes up for it in raw, unadulterated power and force of will. Even twenty years later listening to a scratchy bootleg at home, it is easy to be swept up by the fervor of it all, and by the end of the song I too am desperately close to whooping and hollering with the rest of the crowd. The response to the end of the song is overwhelming, it is obvious that I’m not the only one deeply affected by the performance.

Prince may have declared “Prince is dead” a year earlier, but here he is full resurrected and digs deep into his back catalog for a performance of “Do Me, Baby,” a performance that sounds as if the song had only been written the day previous as Prince plays it with unbridled emotion and feeling. Again, the crowd are right with you as the song plays, it may be too much for some but I do get a buzz hearing the audience screaming their appreciation, even if they do swamp the music at times. Prince unleashes an exquisite scream that has the crowd baying for more, and who can blame them when Prince is sounding this sexy. With lyrics thrown in from “Scandalous”, “Adore”, “Insatiable”, and “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”, it becomes a tour de force of Prince’s most seductive songs, no bad thing at this stage of the concert.

The following “Sexy M.F.” is most welcome, with its horn refrain it brings a fresh sound to the concert. However, the verses can’t quite live up to this, and the recording does Prince no favors. While the horns are recorded well, Prince himself sounds a touch fuzzy, and the slippery guitars underneath are mostly lost to my ears. A song that promises much, in this case the bootleg just can’t do it justice.

When I was fifteen, “If I Was Your Girlfriend” sounded like the most important song in the world. Thirty years later, and as much as I try, listening to it here I can’t recapture that feeling. The weight of the song has gone, and now when I listen all I can hear is the easy groove the the song rolls across. Getting older is a bitch. However, as a live bootleg experience it is perfectly serviceable, and when I take my personal feelings out of the equation, I find it an easy going three or four minutes.

Prince’s spiritual side again comes to the fore with his intense cover of Joan Osbourne’s “One Of Us.” One can see the attraction, and with the snare sound anchoring the beat it fits in well with Prince’s oeuvre. It could do with a better quality recording, but Princes playing is forceful enough that it overcomes most sonic limitations. It’s not quite the key song of the evening, but it is a good pointer to where Prince was at this time.

The encore begins with “Sleep Around” from the Emancipation album. It may not be the best sounding song on the bootleg, but it is good enough that I feel I should pull out the original album and give it a listen, which I guess is the point of these concerts; to promote the album of the time. The Emancipation  songs may be firmly fixed in the mid-Nineties by their sound and style, but they still have their own spirit and for me nicely capture the zeitgeist of that time. The bootleg itself is a passable listening experience without ever blossoming into something essential.

This is followed by the final song of the evening as Prince segues “A Train” into an all encompassing jam. There is some bass work, that judging by the screams is the man himself, and the crowd are fantastically vocal with their “play that funky bass”  encouragement. This jam is the highlight of the show for me, the thumping bass (or should I say thumbing bass) is glorious in its chest thumping vibration. Princes chant of “C, H, I, love you” is pretty cool, and coupled with the contributions from the other band members it is a fitting end to what has been a lot of fun.

The first five minutes give a false impression, and after a bumpy start the concert settles into something very cool indeed. Putting aside any recording issues, I found that even though it wasn’t an aftershow in the true sense (the setlist being pretty much a condensed mainshow) , the interaction between the band and audience made it feel like one, and especially so in the final couple of songs. Of the concerts of this era there are certainly better ones, but this is the one I have enjoyed most so far. One to avoid if you an audio purist, but for anyone who likes plenty of passion and crowd interplay this is pretty darn good.

Thanks for reading, until next time take care
-Hamish

3121 Las Vegas 1st night

I have for too long skimmed over the 3121 performances in Las Vegas. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that there is such an array of concerts and styles circulating from this period, it is hard to know where to begin. It doesn’t help that my catalog system for these shows is in disarray, mostly because some releases throw together a bunch of unconnected shows from this run, leaving my carefully laid dating system in ruins. Anyway, that is neither here nor there, what is important is today I will finally come back to these recordings, and what better place to begin than the first concert of the series.

There are several bootlegs of this concert in circulation, I have decided to listen to the 4daFunk release, purely because I find myself drawn to the art work. The Pure Funk release is more complete (it has the entire opening song) but I find I listen to this one much more. As for the concert itself, there is very little surprises to be found, it is a straight forward performance that lives little room for spontaneity or long improvised jams, instead Prince chooses to romp through his setlist in uninspiring rush. There are moments I cherish, but overall this is a standard show, and there is little to distinguish it from other shows at the time.

11th November (am) 2006  3121@Rio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

The first minutes of “Spirituality” (Controversy) are missing, and although I have said the setlist is uninspiring, I do find this opening song coming at me in a breathless rush that raises hopes that this may deliver more than I remember. There may not be fire, but there is definitely a spark to this opening number.

The promise made by “Spirituality” comes good with “Johnny B. Goode”, Prince’s guitar bursting into flame at the appropriate moments, engulfing the recording in fierce fire that even a jaded guitar guy like myself can appreciate. It isn’t as freewheeling as we hear in aftershows, but it does get my pulse racing and Prince tears it up. Prince’s final shout of “Thank you, and good night” is entirely appropriate, as it does indeed sound like a final hit out before the close of a show.

I like the pop of “Lolita,” but I have found that as time has gone on it has lost its initial charm. The song is still young at this show, but ten years on it has reached middle age, and it has not aged well. It’s not helped by recording drop outs, and as much as I try to find something positive in the song, it does sound like Prince is on autopilot.

The following “Black Sweat” is also lifeless, something of a surprise for me as this is one song that usually delivers a defibrillator size jolt to concerts. In this case it is dead on arrival, and although the recording is very good at this point, the performance remains flat.

“So many hits, so little time,” sets alarm bells ringing for me and I am rewarded with a standard rendition of “Kiss.” This is Prince by the numbers, there is zero variation or inspiring moments, and the song remains insipid despite my hopes for something, anything, to happen. Still, a great song is a great song, and “Kiss” sounds fine on the recording, I enjoy it much more when I put aside my expectations and just go with the flow.

“Shhh” has the opening I want, but it isn’t anywhere near as powerful as I would like, and its not until the music pulls back that I find I can begin to enjoy it. Like the preceding “Kiss,” it is far more enjoyable when I put asides any preconceptions and just enjoy what I am hearing. In this case it is a cleanly recorded, cleanly played, rendition of a classic from his catalog. I may wish it to be an electrifying and muscular performance, but this is Prince playing it straight and the lean rendition we get is anorexic compared to the original. It is what it is, and in the car or playing in the background it would be great, but listening close with headphones it makes me wish for some of the other performances I have heard over the years.

“Musicology” suffers further in this flat performance, there is no guitar solo to inject passion or to shock the listener into an emotional response, and its light funk is lost in the easy mix and sound. I can’t quite put my finger on what is missing, but it never quite feels like the party that Prince wants it to be. There is an brief section in the middle where I think I may have misjudged it, but the second half droops again and leaves me feeling deflated.

I find that “Cream” is an easy listen, but there is nothing there to raise it above anything else heard in the evening. The band sound much stronger though, and I am beginning to warm to the gig again at this stage.

The guitar again cuts through this smooth funk, and heralds in the arrival of “U Got The Look.” It is by the numbers, the guitar may kick and start in Princes hands, but it never breaks free into the rampant guitar storm that I half hope for. The stomp keeps the concert moving however, and it does lead us tidily into the following moment.

It is pleasing to hear Prince take his time with “Joy In Repetition.” At first I feel I am immune to its charms, yet sure enough I am singing with Prince word for word as the song builds. It is the sort of song and performance that one can easily inhale, and exhale at your leisure. I dwell on the song as long as I can, reveling in its intoxicating and heady sound, and although it isn’t the first performance I would reach for, the song is still strong enough that it works its black magic on me despite its straight performance.

There is a low-key, percussive opening to “17 Days,” which to my ears doesn’t serve it well. There is further disappointment when I hear that it isn’t Prince on vocal duties, rather it is the Twinz that warble their way through the song. To add insult to injury, they butcher some of the lyrics, and to be honest I would rather not hear the song at all than hear it like this. “17 Days” in the setlist should have been the highlight, instead it is the nadir.

Things improve considerably with “7.” Prince pushes it out to twelve minutes, and in this time he gives himself space to speak to the crowd, ad-lib lyrics, and makes the song a much stronger statement than the previous moments. It’s not a bold statement, but it is music with a stronger backbone, and it finally feels like Prince is connecting with the music and the crowd. That is until the final minutes when he crosses the line into preaching. Several members in the audience can be heard complaining about it, and I am temporarily taken out of the moment by it.

A rocked up version “Anotherloverholenyohead,” oh yes, now we’re talking. For the first time I feel like letting out a whoop as I feel my body moving involuntarily to the music. The Twinz may be a touch too high in the mix for me, but there is plenty of grunt and muscle in Princes guitar that keeps me firmly focused. The climax comes with the predictable, but worthy, segue into an impassioned “Rock Lobster.” The guitar is enraged as it fury spews forth, a powerful anger that has me forgiving the previous hour. The guitar rages on after the music stops, briefly touching on “The Cross” before the band reengage for one final assault and drive to the finish.

A change of direction next, but a welcome one, as Prince eases into a groove laden “If I Your Girlfriend” As enjoyable as it is, there is still an undercurrent of funk that is missing. The band play with precision, but little of the soul I have come to expect, and as much as I find my head bobbing to the song, its not quite the knock out punch we have come to expect.

The radio friendly sheen of “Pink Cashmere” works surprisingly well at this moment, I sit enraptured as Prince works the lyrics and the crowd to his will. On the recording sides of things there is a loud snap that is, well, just too loud. It detracts from Mike Phillips solo, something that again raises the disappointment feeling within me as I always look forward to his contributions. I never recover from this feeling and even as the song stretches to ten minutes, I can’t recapture that feeling and warm glow from early on.

I am back on board for a compelling rendition of “Fury.” It comes and goes in a flash, but it does draw a line in the sand. For some reason the guitar driven songs at this concert seem to have a lot more energy to them than the funk jams, surprising given that Prince is normally so good at presenting both in an enthusiastic and impressive package. The final minute has a real bite to it, and I can only wonder how this concert could have played out if all the songs had have been played with such intensity.

It’s not necessary to have five minutes of audience noise between encores on the bootleg, but  4daFunk have put it there anyway, for the completists I guess. “Purple Rain” is entirely predictable at this point of the concert, and as you might expect it sounds just as it always has since 1984. I could almost sing the guitar solo note for note by now, and especially here as Prince adds not one bit of improvisation or unpredictability to his playing. He is going through the motions, and in this case it sounds as if he is just as tired of the song as some of the hard core fan community.

“Let’s Go Crazy” rounds out the concert in an upbeat finish. It’s joyless, and rather sums up the evenings performance. It all sounds very nice, but is shallow and leaves me wishing for something more substantial. It is very short, and whips the crowd up one last time before Prince calls for their love.

Ok, so I didn’t love this concert. On the plus side, it did sound good, and had a couple of my favourites in the setlist. What it was missing  was a sense of urgency. The songs meandered, even when they were short, and there was a lack of depth to the performance. I was hoping something of interest would be thrown up in the melee, but it was just a standard run through of his radio friendly hits. No doubt I will return to this recording in future, like I said earlier, it would be OK in the background, or in the car, but as for an intensive listening experience, I would happily pass on it. Like Prince says, all that glitters ain’t gold.

Thanks for joining me again,
I will have a rummage through the cupboards and see if I can pull out a treat for next week.
-Hamish

Melbourne 2003 Aftershow

Last weeks blog about the Melbourne show of 2003 left me unsatisfied. As much as I enjoyed it, it was an incomplete recording that left me wanting more. As luck would have it, I have in my hand the aftershow from the same evening. This is a complete recording, but it is short – clocking in at just under an hour. I don’t mind that too much at all as the contents within are interesting – an unusual arrangement of Musicology (still five months away from being released), a slowed down “The Work Pt 1.” and a left field cover version in the form of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” It’s a tidy setlist that keeps the listener engaged throughout as Prince leads us down various musical alleys and backstreets. It is in contrast to the greatest hits package served up at the main show, making in an even more intriguing listen for me.

23rd October 2003 (am) Melbourne, Australia

Prince emerges regally through the crowd noise, although the audience recording cannot match the moment and is not quite good enough to make out his introduction. It matters little as the music takes its rightful place at the centre of the recording for the live debut of “Musicology.”  In the smaller and more intimate venue it sounds soulful and full, the drums especially sounding huge in the opening stanza. The horns are still busy, and Prince delivers his vocals with panache, but it is less Vegas sounding than on the Musicology tour, and for my ears it resonates with its soulful roots showing. Maceo and Greg Boyer are well into their work early here, and they are infuse plenty of kinetic energy into the song, Maceo with his furious saxophone solo, and Greg with his mighty trombone solo that for my moneys tops him. It’s early days and Prince is still playing with the arrangement for this song, in this case it is broken into two with  “Brick House” making a cameo appearance between the two sections. As much as I love “Brick House,” in this case I aren’t too fussed. Prince is bold with his vocals, and it is unfortunate that there is a slight distortion in the recording at his loudest moments. It is left to the horns to save they day, and they segue back into Musicology with aplomb and remain the main focus of my listening experience for the rest of the song.

It is Rad that sings “Ooh,” but she is far from the centre of attention as it is the rest of the band that grab the song and shake it up into a cocktail of horn and keyboard funk. Another shot of trombone action from Greg Boyer leaves me drunk in its wake, the music a powerful mix of 100 proof funk that is overpowering and intoxicating. There is little I can do but lose myself in the moment as Prince demonstrates exactly what aftershows are all about – purity of the musical experience.

“Peach” is lost to me in the general noisiness of the recording, the vocals washed away in the waves of crowd noise and general thinness of the recording. However, the recording does a good job of capturing the horns (here, and throughout) and especially Prince’s guitar. It is a shame then that he doesn’t engage with his instrument as much as you might expect, and asides from a couple of storming runs there is little guitar to be heard.

Rising on the back of the horn motif comes “The Work Pt.1” My soul sings as the horns play, but for me the meat and potatoes of the song is the rhythm guitar that arrives later in the song. Even as the sound becomes busy and spreads out in several directions I can still hear the guitar, a style I have always gravitated towards and held dear. The rest the song goes by in a blur and there is much to admire in the way the band all play so uniquely but blend their styles and sounds together seamlessly. This may not be the best recorded version, but there is still plenty there for those that listen close.

It is Chance Howard’s time to claim some spotlight as he comes forward for his take on “No Diggity.” Its a relaxed cover version, the rhythm section however is flawless in their work, and although this isn’t the most energetic version in circulation it is still interesting enough in it’s own way, especially when Maceo adds his talents to the mix. Truly a legend, he elevates every song as soon as his saxophone is heard on the recording.

Prince leads hand clapping into “When The Saints Go Marching In,” and this version isn’t just about the horn section as you might expect. There is some excellent keyboard to be heard, but at only a few minutes there is not really enough time for anyone to show off their abilities. However, the crowd like it and it is a neat way to bring us to the last song of the evening.

That last song is an instrumental jam, and a fast and furious one at that. The key elements are all in place, chants, whoops, the various band members playing sharply throughout. It isn’t an elongated jam as we often hear at aftershows, in fact its one of the shortest jams I think I have heard at barely a couple of minutes. That doesn’t count against it in this case, as the crowd sound as though they have been whipped into a frenzy, and its is easy to understand why as the music vortex’s and increases intensity. It isn’t what is expected, but it is a good way to finish the show, putting an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

An interesting little bootleg this one, it doesn’t sound quite like other aftershows in circulation, yet it has its own irresistible style and feel. There a few nuggets sprinkled through out the set that keep the listener engaged, and it does come as a nice palate cleanser on top of the mainshow I covered last week. The recording is far from perfect, but the contents of the bootleg more than make up for it, making for an engaging listen from start to finish.

 

Melbourne 2003

Prince didn’t jump straight from the ONA era into Musicology. There was a year gap, featuring a world tour that took in only Australia and Hawaii. I find these shows interesting as they are the stepping stone between the two, and we can see the crowd pleasing hits played with a trace of the ONA concerts heard in the smooth and easy style in which this band play. The concerts in Australia should have been a great chance for me to see Prince play live, Australia is only a four hour flight away, unfortunately I was out exploring the wider world and was living in London at that time. My opportunity to see Prince play would come later.

There are several releases of the concert I am listening to today, I am listening to the Overfunk’d release as to my ears it sounds slight better than the other versions. An audience recording, it is pretty good – with no distortion, the mix is about right and I can clearly hear and enjoy the music throughout. The only thing that counts against it is that it is an incomplete recording, we are missing the opening bracket of ten songs, but it is a long show, and what we to have is plenty enough to cover two discs.

22nd October 2003, Melbourne Australia

The recording begins with “The Beautiful Ones,” and it immediately puts me in mind of the ONA tour from the previous year. With Maceo Parker on saxophone, the introduction lingers and Maceo does what he does best and fills the room with a steamy atmosphere. With the band draping their sultry veil across the soundscape it could have easily been lifted from any 2002 show, and I am more than happy with that as I am infused with the ghost of concert’s past. It’s not all about the past however, this is not Purple Rain Prince, and as he sings he very much Prince of the time. His voice doesn’t ache and bend as it had previously, and as much as I love his performance here, I must admit it is workman like in the most professional way, no bells or whistles here, just a straight delivery that serves his maturing sound well.

I have similar feelings about “Nothing Compares 2 U.”  Prince is good, without ever flooring me, and it is Maceo Parker who’s brief moment stirs up the passion with me, and within the song. The recording shines though, and even though I haven’t shown any real enthusiasm for the first couple of songs, I am greatly enjoying the bootleg.

It is “Insatiable” that first has me swallowing hard and listening close. Now this is what I came for, a delicious delivery that has the crowd swooning at the show, and me having all sorts of feelings here at home. The more Prince croons, the louder the crowd swoons, and I am giddy with fanboy love as Prince walks us through a vocal maze, following the trail of bread crumbs that Renato Neto lays. Its a lethal combination, the song sneaking up on me and drawing all the oxygen from the room.

Although “Sign O The Times” moves in the opposite direction, it demands listening to just as much as the previous “Insatiable” and drives out a funk groove that is irresistible. I am disappointed that the crowd get to sing along, while here at home I have to stay quiet as my wife sleeps in the other room. It matters little, I lip sync along with them in a a happy delirium, and I am happy to report that “Sign O The Times” gets a whole nine minutes to funk and roll across the the recording. The real action begins after Prince finishes his lyrics, rad. (Rose Ann Dimalanta)  gives a brief and electric keyboard solo that leaves me wanting more, and it gets better as John Blackwell plays us through a turnaround that leads the music into a swirl and even more keyboard work that excites me in ways that I never knew a keyboard could.

The combination of “The Question Of U” and “The One” reached its peak during the tour of 2002, for my money those performances will be never be bettered, and although this version is sonically very similar, it lacks that magical quality that was heard the previous year. It is slightly more labored, and deadened in sound, there is a lightness of touch that is missing, and although the song is guitar heavy, it is this finesse and delicacy that makes it what it is. The chunky guitar by Prince midsong does briefly have me breaking into a sweat, but that sweat turns cold as the band go though the motions later in the song.

“Let’s Work” has things jumping again, and it sounds nice and sharp on the recording. The horns in particular leap out at me in their energy and brightness. Prince doesn’t work the song too long, it is only a couple of minutes, but it does signal the next upbeat part of the performance.

In the same vein, “U Got The Look” is a short, sharp shock of energy and pace that accelerates the concert further. The guitar sounds strangely quiet as Prince solos , and for me this is one of the key reasons to listen to the song and its muted sound leaves me silently frustrated.

The show is gathering pace rapidly at this point of the bootleg, as Prince tears through a series of covers and upbeat numbers. We firstly get an embryonic version of “Life Of The Party,” which is too busy for its own good until it settles for the chorus. It is the following “Hot Pants” where the groove gets hot and heavy, one can almost feel its hot breath on their neck as the groove becomes dark and dangerous, hinting at an unseen sexuality. Prince breaks the mood with  “Life Of The Party” rap, and before I can fully immerse myself in the bass end of the song it transitions to Chance Howard and his lively rendition of “Soulman.”   It’s hard not to like it, and I find a smile spreading across my face as it plays though. Its sounds so summery and easy, for a minute I consider tackling it next time I go to karaoke.

It is a keyboard push that drives “Kiss,” its pulse beating just under Prince’s lyrics throughout. I like the sound of the keyboard, but I could take or leave the rest of the song. I appreciate the new arrangement, but “Kiss” is one song that I have heard far too often.

Prince’s cackle introduces “Take Me With U” and one can appreciate why as the band and the crowd respond with energy and love. Like the previous “Kiss,” this is one song I have heard too many times, yet I fully understand why it has been a constant in the setlist over the years. An uplifting song from Prince’s most successful album, it never fails to elicit a response from the crowd and re-energises the concert.

The main set is rounded out by a full rendition of “The Everlasting Now.” It encapsulates the full talents and scope of the band as it moves quickly across musical territory, throwing up all sorts of sounds and styles. The funk grows and evolves through the song, the ground never quite solid beneath my feet as the band move swiftly through this soundscape. It is a fitting end to the main show, and a great reminder of how good this band is.

The piano set encore opens with an understated “Adore.” As much as I love bootlegs, I have never enjoyed hearing “Adore” on bootlegs, mostly because the screams and shouts of the audience ruin the moment for me as Prince plays the one song that truly connects to my heart. Here is no different, each line greeted with rapturous shouts and squeals of excitement, and as much as I share their enthusiasm it does take me out of the moment. The song does get its full five minutes, which for me is an exercise in frustration as the crowd stay prominent.

Prince keeps with humor as he segues into “Sleep On The Couch.” He takes his time over the delivery, each line hanging in the air so it can be fully digested by those listening. I laugh a little early on, but soon enough I am cocooned in Prince’s vocal delivery and lose myself in a soft delirium. A song that didn’t promise much, I am surprised by emotions it brings to the surface.

Emotion is the name of the game as Prince has the crowd clap as he plays an soulful version of “Forever In My Life.” Head bobbing, hand clapping, it has its own unique rhythm that is offset by Princes lyrics and vocal delivery that speaks of love and honesty. Its only brief, but it is the perfect fit with the two previous songs.

“One Kiss At A Time” gets a different arrangement, and is a fine match for “Forever In My Life” I am surprised that Prince sticks with some of the risque lyrics, but he is doesn’t engage with any curse words, so I guess in his head that makes it all alright. It is a surprising end to the piano set, a set that I have found most enjoyable, my feelings about “Adore” not withstanding.

As much as I enjoyed the piano set, I am more than happy when the funk returns with “All the Critics Love U In Melbourne.” I like the insistent funk drive of it, and the color that the keyboards and saxophone add. Maceo is at his very best at this point, the music and concert orbiting around him as he plays. The keyboard rhythm later in the song is a match for him, and it is a devastating few minutes of funk that has me applauding at home in appreciation.  “Phew, can’t nobody mess with this band” is my only thought as the song ends.

The keyboards are equally to the fore as a frenetic “Alphabet St.” follows. It is derailed by Princes interruption to talk himself up to the crowd, but as a performer at the top of his game, he has every right to brag and enjoy the spotlight. The song never regains momentum though, and I feel the constant stoppages would be better left out.

There is an easy jam that leads into “Days Of Wild”, a jam that tidily takes a low key funk groove and allows Prince to chant with the crowd. The serious business comes with “Days Of Wild” as it stomps across the landscape, bringing a tension to the previously lighthearted concert. Its not as quite as dangerous as other performances I have heard, Prince is enjoying himself too much, but the music has a touch of malice the keeps it just on the right side of the ledger.

The final song of the night is of course “Purple Rain.”  as befitting a greatest hits show, the moment is milked for all its worth, with the usual introduction sweeping across the arena before Prince begins to punctuate it with some lead guitar. Its a worthy rendition of a much loved classic, but there is nothing new here for anyone who has followed prince’s career. The final guitar break has me interested only for nostalgic sake, Prince isn’t breaking new ground, but he is playing his signature song to an appreciative audience at the climax of the concert.

This is a bootleg that you don’t hear much about, yet I would happily recommend it to anyone wanting to hear a quality audience recording of what is a standard hits show. The band are coming off some fantastic 2002 shows, and although different in style, they are just as good here in 2003 as they were the previous year. it may not be a complete show, but it never drags either, making for a bright and easy listen. For those that were there this is an excellent document of that experience.

I see there is an aftershow from the same night that has caught my eye, I shall give that a listen next week.

Thanks for reading
Hamish

Roxy aftershow, 1997

Last week I listened to an aftershow from 1997 released by Sabotage records. This was part of a two disc set which presented me with some problems. The first disc has the Denver show, while the second disc covers the Roxy show, and two extra tracks. These two extra tracks caused me to scratch my head, the databank listing them as from an unknown concert, while Prince vault had the listed as part of the Denver aftershow. I chose to run with the good folks at prince vault, and listened to these two tracks as part of the first disc.

The show covered on the second disc also presents some unknowns. This concert is also heavy on cover versions, there are only four Prince songs – two of them unreleased, which leads us into unfamiliar territory and offers a unique listen. With Marva King and Doug E. Fresh taking on the bulk of the vocal duties, Princes main contribution is his playing, meaning I have to at times listen carefully to hear his input – especially given that it is an audience recording.

11th August 1997(am) Roxy, Houston,Texas

Marva King sings the first three songs starting with the Prince penned, and unreleased, “Playtime.” It has a firmness to it, a solid warmth, that despite the audience recording still manages to sound weighty and carries an inner intensity. The band dwell on the song as an opener and, as long as it is, I still feel like I could listen to it longer. It is a good introduction to the quality of the recording, the audience  vocal, but the bass well rounded and without distortion.

The audience are heard more on the following “Sweet Thing.” Marva King does a commendable job of the vocals, although the song is well known and the audience add their own vocal flourishes. A bootleg snob would be disappointed at this point, but as a fan I simply wallow in the live feeling of it all.

“Lovin’ You” is so short that by the time I realized it has started, it is already half over. It’s too quiet, and the recording does it no favours at all, it disappears into the crowd and general background noise. It is disappointing to me, because when I do listen carefully I can hear that Marva is singing beautifully.

Databank wrote disparagingly of Doug E. Fresh, and the first minutes of “Flash Light” I can perhaps understand why as he engages the audience in chanting. I do find myself warming to it however, and Doug E. Fresh comes across as a perfectly likable bloke – before I know it I am chanting along with him here at home. What sounds best on the recording though, and what I really dig, is the bassline. It has a life of its own as it bounces and runs up and down the funky stairs, I find myself moving to it and temporarily forgetting Mr Fresh and his enthusiastic calls to get things moving.

Prince can be heard playing some lead guitar as the song morphs into “Jam Of The Year’ and for the first time in the recording I can safely assert “yes, that is Prince.” The song is a instrumental jam, barely distinguishable for “Flash Light” that preceded it, and as Prince chants “Turn This Mother Out” it becomes apparent that this is just a long medley of funk tunes and chants. The bass stays with its hypnotic loop, but with Prince on the microphone there is much more to pay attention to as Prince shifts and shapes the music into different forms.

The recording suffers somewhat as Prince carves into “Johnny.” The mix is murky and Prince isn’t as prominent as one might expect. However the rest of the band is sounding excellent, in particular Kat Dyson who delivers a weeping solo that stretches across the latter part of the song. Doug E. Fresh and his “Do It On Film” can’t match her, and the contrast between his over worked rap and Kats light guitar break is like night and day.

Morris Hayes opens “Cissy Strut” with plenty of power, but it is the Mike Scott guitar break that grabs all the headlines here. The rest of the band become yesterdays news as Mike weeps and wails, dips and dives, writing an array of emotion with his finger tips. Its only short, but it is a fitting digest of all he does well.

“Hotel Blues” is another unreleased song written by Prince and sung by Marva King. As its only live appearance, it should command attention. However, it doesn’t initially grab me, there is no rush of intensity and it is a laid back jam that offers no deep groove, or fiery statement of intent. It isn’t unpleasant on the ear though, and I do find Prince’s piano playing worthy of a closer listen – if only the mix was slightly better and more balanced.

There is no surprises with “Kiss,” it could have been lifted from any show in the 1990’s. The performance is mostly positive, but there are a couple of negatives. There is rather too much shouting and chanting for my liking, and the moments in between when the song is playing the audience are again very vocal on the recording. They aren’t really negatives, indeed they are a big part of the live experience, so I can’t complain about them being on the bootleg. These shows are after all for those in the room at the time, not us listening on a bootleg years later. The concert ends in this way, with Doug E. Fresh chanting and singing with the crowd, entirely representative of the show in general.

A very short concert, I can understand why Sabotage chose to pair it with the Denver gig. Of the two shows, the first disc easily out shines this one. This recording is poorer quality, Prince is largely absent from vocal duties, and while I greatly enjoy Marva King, I can’ say the same about Doug E. Fresh. If it wasn’t part of a two concert set I wouldn’t listen to this at all, but as a completest I am pleased it exists, especially for the performance of the two unreleased songs. A curiosity, but far from a good listen.

until next week, take care
-Hamish

The Church, Denver 1997 am

The Prince of 1997 is not the Prince that I grew up with. At this time a lot of the magic and excitement of being a Prince fan had dissipated for me. There is no doubting that Prince was still playing as well as ever, but for me the songs, the very heart of the matter, were missing. Aftershows still retained some thrill, a measure of excitement provided by guest appearances and cover versions. The gig I am listening to today has both and is all the better for it. The guest is Chaka Khan, both vocally and playing drums(!) and the setlist is chock full of cover versions, only the odd Prince song breaking up the run. It is an audience recording, and a scratchy one at that, but there is no distortion which about all I ask for out of a recording nowadays.

6th October 1997(am), The Church,Denver

Ignore the opening introduction as the announcer tries to flog off some t-shirts to the crowd, the real fun begins immediately as Chaka Khan emerges from the crackle of the recording playing the drums through the opening “Instrumental.” It isn’t a song that kicks sand in your face and laughs, with a kindlier gentler sound it is a gentle stroll into the show rather than an aggressive rampage. I would love to see footage of this moment, and this audio recording is a poor representation of what must have been a cool introduction.

It is Marva King who provides the entertainment for the next number, with a deep rendition of “Playtime.” Marva brings plenty of firepower to the performance, and she is ably matched by some equally insistent horn lines, and a dark organ swirl. The thin recording doesn’t do the song justice and it is up to the listener to fill out the sound in their mind. However, it does sound like a stonking version and we can only listen in envy of those that were there.

I’m not so fussed by “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” It’s not this perfoamce that I have a problem with, its just that I have heard it so many times from Prince and this rendition doesn’t add anything new that I haven’t heard before. Coupled with the quality of the recording,  it becomes a flat spot on the bootleg. Prince can be heard defiantly working his guitar and to his credit it does sound like it’s building to something, but we never get to fully appreciate the fruit of his labors as the recording saps the energy from his performance.

I am far more interested in “777-9311” and “Ain’t No Fun To Me” that come next. It is the bass line of “777-9311” the serves as the introduction, before “Ain’t No Fun To Me” comes snapping hard on its heels. It is only short, but Prince manages to evoke the spirit of the song with his impassioned delivery and the heavy wheeze of the organ that anchors the song. There is one point of the song where an audience member can be heard saying “He’s a genius, man, a genius!” and sitting here at home 20 years later, I am inclined to agree with him.

There is a “Colorado” chant that carries the first minutes of “Days Of Wild” before its crushing groove arrives proper and suffocates the recording with its thick funk. Even the thin recording is no match for “Days Of Wild,” it is just as wild as always, and even if it doesn’t stretch out for days it still sprawls itself across the recording for seven unequaled minutes. This wildness is personified by the hectic Tony Morris saxophone solo that bursts into flame in the final minutes of the song, making for a fitting end to what is a highlight on the recording.

Tony Morris is again present for the following Chaka Khan “Tell Me Something Good,” sung by the legendary Chaka herself. My feelings are mixed, I love the song and the performance, but I find the quality of the recording to be intrusive and several times I am taken out of the moment. However, it is a fantastic song and on a soundboard recording I would be positively raving about it.

The show has a warmth to it as Marva King displays her considerable chops on a cover of the Staples Singers “I’ll Take You There.” Even though Prince is barely noticeable, he doesn’t sing and there is no blinding guitar break, the song still has its place in the setlist, with its nostalgic charm and warm glow. This isn’t the first song I gravitated towards in the setlist, but I find it just as rewarding as anything else played.

“I Got The Feelin” is a cover of a James Brown song, but it lacks the drive and power that we would normally expect from a James Brown cover. The horns can be heard with their vigorous turn around’s, and after hearing them I can say that again it is the recording that is sucking the life from the song. There is no doubt that the band is playing an authoritative rendition, and their hard work is only undone by the shallow recording.

Prince goes even further back for a cover of “The Way You Do The Things You Do” This has me re-enthused for the bootleg, mostly because this is one of my favorite songs, and I am immediately transported away as Prince and the band play the song with plenty of sunshine and energy. It’s only a few minutes, but they cram a lot into the song, with the organ, the vocals, and the horns all vying for attention.

Prince goes even further back in time for an even bigger surprise – a short, sharp rendition of “Shout.” Forget the quality of the recording for a minute, if this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then I don’t know what will. It has the crowd engrossed, and it’s easy to see why with its upbeat call and response and the undercurrent of swirling energy that never quite settles.

Ignore the next minutes as the announcer again reminds the crowd to buy T-shirts. The music returns with a slow building jam built around a lone drum sound provided by Chaka Khan. It doesn’t do much, it stays low and never gains any real intensity or intent, but it does pave the way for the next few songs.

The band is running at full power for an energized performance of “(Eye Like) Funky Music.” One of the few Prince songs to be played at this show, it gains even more respect in my book by being a song that was very rarely played live. Hearing it here, it sounds fresh and bright to my ears, and the chanting of the chorus is fun even if it is me alone a home. This is not a song I would play someone to demonstrate the genius of Prince, but as a fun song to hear on a bootleg it is right on the money.

We have another call and response jam next with “Denver Rock The Party”. As a horn lead instrumental it has the temperature rising on the recording, and this is made even better with Princes guitar break that he bestows upon it. It never blows out to a guitar jam though, and it is the horns and chanting that make up most of the song. I would like to say more about the guitar, but it is a little low in the mix, no doubt at the show itself it was louder, stronger, and altogether better.

There comes a slow down with the steady swagger of “Johnny” filling the air with its roguish grin. The lyrics make me smile, a smile made even bigger as Prince tells the audience that he and Chaka had said a prayer before the show, a prayer that the show would be funky. Well, that prayer has been answered, and the show is funky throughout, even if the recording can’t match the concert. “Johnny” maybe slower, but it is just as funky as anything else played, and is another highlight as the music curls and bends around the listener.

“I’m A Woman (I’m A Backbone) is a song with purpose and direction. It may be Chaka’s name and vocals that give the song early impetus, but later it is the saxophone of Tony Morris that drives the song into the ground. The saxophone stabs the carcass of the song with incisive cuts and wild slashes, leaving the music twitching and foaming with every attack, making for a wild and unhinged performance that tears though the skin of soft funk that has so far covered most of the evening.

I have often thought, and indeed written, that Prince and Hendrix aren’t the great mix that many imagine. The performance of “Little Wing” at this concert has me not just eating my words, but positively choking on them, the lump in my throat palpable from the opening seconds as Prince serves up a delicious treat of chords stacked on top of each other. It’s not just about Prince though, Chaka and the saxophone of Tony Morris bring their own flavours and tastes to the song, making for a balanced and well rounded dish.  Chaka is out in front, while Tony garnishes her performance with soft touches and a drizzle of sax as required. Prince displays another side of his playing, while known for playing the type of solos that would raze a forest, here his playing scatters seedlings that bloom and grow into a varied fruit as the song progresses. It is a thoughtful performance, with a trace of wistfulness that is never quite resolved. The song isn’t perfect though, the recording is too poor for that, and as effusive as I have been so far I must admit it is a song that requires close listening as for the most part it is distant and exists on the fringe of listenable.

Putting aside the sound quality for a second, this performance is a 10/10. I don’t say that lightly. The setlist gives no hint to how great the actual performance is, and having Chaka on board makes for a real treat. The songs swallow the room in there immersive brooding, punctuated by the electric fury of the guitar or the relentlessly vivid saxophone. Unfortunately, the bootleg is not a 10/10, the sound is too poor, and it took a close listen on headphones to really unearth the treasures buried in this release. For die hard fans this is another must listen, casual fans I would say approach with caution.

Thanks for joining me,
see you next week
-Hamish

Buenos Aires 1991

Anyone who regularly follows this blog will know that I like things to have a symmetry, and I am a completest. So with that in mind, this week I will take a listen to this festival performance from 1991. I have previously covered the Rio concert from a few days previous, and Sabotage have paired that concert with this show from the Rock & Pop festival, Buenos Aires, Argentina. This concert is for the most part the same run through of material, the only difference being that this show is fifteen minutes shorter and is missing a couple of songs from the setlist. I feel that this works in its favor as Prince and the band rush headlong through a setlist that I would otherwise find uninspiring.

21 January, 1991. Buenos Aires, Argentina

I would like to hear a lot more of “Something Funky (This House Comes).”  It’s fun, funky and is an energizing opening for the concert. It is also a good chance for the band to be introduced to the audience as each of their individual talents is highlighted. Prince often used long jams to introduce his bands, especially in later aftershows, and here it is most refreshing to see him us one of his own, upbeat and short songs to achieve the same thing. It doesn’t matter that he is hardly on the mic, Tony M and Rosie Gaines sound strong and enthused, even if the recording is less than pristine.

It is entirely predictable to hear “Let’s Go Crazy” next. It is one of his most well known hits, and not only does it bring the crowd on board, it also maintains the momentum created by the previous “Something Funky (This House Comes). That momentum is temporarily lost for the break down, and the show derails for a moment with this misstep. However “Kiss” restores the balance,  Prince and the band back to the fore as the funk of “Kiss” puts the stamp of authority on the concert, this is now beginning to sound a lot more like a Prince show.

One of the problems I have of shows from this period is the pacing and unevenness of the setlists. “Kiss” was everything you could want from a Prince concert, but again the show hits a brick wall with the “Pink Panther” interlude and Tony M sucking all the energy out of the recording. I like Prince in that he challenges me and my expectations, but sometimes he seems to shoot himself in the foot with these oddities thrown in, and in this case the show almost loses me during these couple of minutes

“Purple Rain” moves this further from a festival show and closer to a Prince concert with its appearance. With the audience joining from the beginning, it has the classic slow build, before Prince cuts through the emotion and music hanging in the air with some highly focused and powerful lead guitar. It stops the song from wallowing in self indulgence, and adds purpose and direction to the opening minutes that threaten to meander. It is his guitar wail that closes out the song, this time coming in a unbridled frenzy that contrasts to the highly structured show, the highlight for me being when the notes comes so fast and furious that they bleed into each other, creating a torrent of noise and raw passion.

“Take Me With U” is a nostalgic opening to what will become a medley of Prince’s upbeat, crowd pleasing songs. The sound isn’t great to be honest, but the song can be heard driving along in the background, still doing what it always does. “Alphabet St.” sounds better on the recording, perhaps because it is sparser, with just Michael B and his drum and Prince’s guitar propelling the song forward. With less clutter, the song is better captured by the recording, however that can’t be said for the rest of the medley. Prince’s rap is fun, but it becomes hard to catch his words as the music speeds up. Likewise, Rosie sounds good, but who knows what exactly what words she is singing as she burns through “It Takes 2.” The chanting can be heard fine, but that isn’t why I listen to bootlegs.  What saves the moment for me through is some very sharp guitar work midsong. Its not intense, or loud, but a fast and intricate sound that highlights the guitar itself as much as the music that is playing.

There is a thinness to “Shake” that is the complete opposite of how I expect it to sound. On record it is full and plumb, here it is malnourished and only a shadow of its former self. I presume the performance itself isn’t to blame and its the recording that is to blame.  Prince himself sounds enthusiastic as he encourages the crowd, and one can only assume that the crowd is fully engaged with the performance.

The concert again slows as Rosie sings “Dr Feelgood” and its hard not to fall in love with her a small bit as she sings. Like a flower in bloom, she opens up as the song progresses, becoming more radiant by the minute. Prince adds some spikiness to the performance with his guitar, but the moment belongs to Rosie as she seizes the microphone and the spotlight.This is the song where I temporarily forget the sound quality as I lose myself in Rosie’s voice.

The piano medley is brief, and again the thinness of the recording is to the fore as the piano sounds tinny and distant. This should be one of the best moments on the bootleg as Prince plays “Venus De Milo,” “Condition Of The Heart,” and “The Question Of U,” but instead it falls in step with what has been previously been heard at the concert.

The fullness returns for “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and the next few minutes are glorious as Prince delivers an inspiring performance. He draws me in with his heartfelt lyrics before the punch of the band hits me at the end of every stanza, making for a memorable rendition that delivers lingers for some minutes afterwards.

There is doubt that the end of the concert is near as “Baby I’m A Star,” struts into view, pimped out and arrogant from the start. Beneath the veneer of cockiness, the song has a youthful and naive energy that makes it the perfect song for this portion of the show. The song does spiral away from the original as the Gamboyz take centre stage and the original song slips further to the fringes as Rosie sings “Respect.” As good as it is, it isn’t quite what I signed up for, and I wait for something familiar from the Prince canon to cling onto.

The music slips easily into a laid back version of “We Can Funk” that is so low key it practically disappears into the carpet as it sinks lower and lower in the mix. “Thieves In The Temple” stays with the funk, but rises out of the floor as Prince delivers a hard hitting and incisive version that drives the show for the next few minutes, giving an added impetus that will carry us through to the end of the concert.

The show ends with “Jughead,” and “Rock The House,” but it isn’t the anti-climatic finish that it sounds like. The band are in fine form as it becomes an easy jam that carries the crowd for sometime. I am no great fan of either song, but there is no denying the energy of them, and they do serve the purpose of ending the concert with the crowd on their feet and dancing. It may not be the greatest bootleg moment, but it is a good record of what Prince and the band were doing at the time.

This is not one of the great bootlegs. The only reason I took the time to give it a listen is because of its pairing with the Rio recording, making for a nice “South American Festivals” package. The concert has no great faults, but it never once reaches any great heights. The recording is average but not bad, the setlist is OK, the performance fine, each part of the release dong just enough to keep me listening to the end. As a completest I am extremely happy to have this, but as a music fan I could happily pass on it. This is Prince treading water, and the average bootleg does nothing to help that feeling. Its listenable, but there’s not a lot of fun to be found here.

Thanks again
Hamish