Brisbane 2012

The Welcome 2 Australia concerts are normally a run though of the hits, yet these there is several special moments in the tour that make the circulating bootlegs interesting. The guest appearance of Public Enemy is one such moment, as are a couple of excellent aftersows currently circulating.  I have already written about the aftershow played on the same night as this concert, and I have it on good authority that the main show was just as good as the aftershow. A quick run through of the setlist confirms this, I see Empty Room and Extralovable there, two songs that I need to hear. The recording is an audience recording, but Eye records have put together a complete package with the soundcheck, main show, and aftershow all presented together, something that I greatly appreciate. The completest in me is more than happy with the quality of recording when it comes all together like this.

18th January 2012, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane

The concert has a somewhat unusual beginning with Andy McKee playing an acoustic rendition of “Purple Rain”. It doesn’t feel like the beginning of the Prince concert, the crowd is quite chatty through his performance – although I do find their singing along with guitar endearing. It is an odd way to open and when Prince takes the stage there is further surprises with his first number being “Jam Of The Year”. Its one thing to read it on the liner notes, quiet another to hear it, and I must admit I get a lot of pleasure from this version. The band plays it with a lighter touch than what was heard on The Jam Of The Year concerts, and there is a buoyant sound provided by the keyboard and horns. The dreariness of the late ’90s is all but forgotten with this luminescent performance.

It is disappointing that the next few minutes can’t match these opening songs for interest. “$” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” are lighthearted, but instantly forgettable. Even listening to the bootleg, there is the feeling that we are being short changed and Prince has so much more that he could had offered up instead.

“Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the over played hits that the more hardcore fan rail against, but in this case it serves its purpose in igniting the crowd and the concert. Prince’s guitar has an ominous tone through the introduction that hints at darkness, but once the song starts the curtain opens on a music that is filled with warmth and pop fizz. Even if the song is played straight, the crowd can still be heard rising to the occasion, and shorn of its final guitar break it becomes an altogether more danceable number.

Dance is the theme of the moment and “Delirious” is in the same vein. It is a lot of fun, the music skips by in a hurry, barely pausing, and it is only the solo by Mr Hayes that makes it something substantial. This keyboard runs from a flowery opening to a percussive finish, leaving little doubt to the abilities of Mr Hayes.

The reprise of “Let’s Go Crazy” see’s Prince return to the guitar, and this time the sheering guitar finish is present and firmly sets the tone for the next few songs.

With the energy levels remaining high, the band storm through “1999”. They show no regard for the history of the song, everyone is the moment and the performance brings it firmly into the present. It is far more organic sounding, and the band inject it with their own life, giving it a contemporary feel that carries the song well across to the crowd.

What can I say about “Shhh” that hasn’t been said before. Prince and the band play every song at the concert well, but “Shhh” is the song that they truly inhibit and the performance that follows is the most soulful part of the show. The first versus crackle and fizz with unresolved tension before the song boils over with a a volcanic solo from Prince. It begins with the dense haze of an ash cloud, before Prince turns it up to a eruption of boiling lava, every note coming as part of an unending fiery river.

The guitar doesn’t let up as Prince plays a hard and heavy “Anotherloverholenyohead”. It certainly is a heavy hitter, and Prince comes out punching from the start with several strong jabs from his guitar. The rest of the song lives up to these opening moments, and although not as soulful as “Shhh”, it is every bit as intense. Of special note is Prince’s solo midsong, although not the best recording we can still hear the intensity of the moment. The “Rock Lobster” coda he ends with is right up my alley, this is exactly the type of music I gravitated to before I discovered Prince and the several minutes he spends shredding through the song has me feeling like a teenager.

As if the last three songs haven’t been guitar heaven enough, Prince chooses to finish with one of his show stoppers – “Empty Room”. This is the moment I have been waiting for and the reason that my friend Marti recommended this concert to me. It lives up to the occasion, and even with some audible crowd noise I am still transported away on the wings of Prince’s soaring guitar. The verses lose some power due to the audience chat, no doubt this song isn’t familiar to the casual fans, but every other part of the song is divine and I am immediately grateful for the recommendation.

The sampler set that follows is a buzz kill, although it begins well with an ever youthful “When Doves Cry”. Even as part of the sampler set it’s hard not to like it, the beat and main hook as irresistible as ever.

The funk gets stronger with a brief “Nasty Girl” serving as a doorstep into “Sign O The Times”. The latter has an insistent bass that nails it firmly to the dance floor and propels the concert forward.  Prince follows this with two more songs from the same album, “Hot Thing” and “Forever In My Life” may come from different ends of the spectrum, but they are both forever tied together by the ground breaking album they first appeared on. Hearing them side by side heightens the contrast between them, leaving the fact that they are from the same album all the more amazing.

“A Love Bizarre” and “Darlin Nikki” are merely tasters before we have something more nourishing in the form of “Pop Life”. It does indeed have that pop, but it isn’t as filling as it promises and Prince ends it at the first chorus.

There comes another flurry of songs with “Housequake”, “Extralovable” and “Pheromone”. The titles promise so much, but it is false hope as Prince skips through them. I am particularly disappointed with “Extralovable”, when I saw it listed I was really hoping for something substantial, but I can’t say I’m too surprised to see it treated like this in the sampler set.

This set ends with “Dance For Me” as Prince calls the band back on stage. Its little more than a pounding beat and a chance for the band to rejoin the fray.

The “I like funky music” chant has the band introduced by Prince, and in this case it is Ida who is the highlight, she may not be loud and forceful, but she is undeniably funky. The rest of the band follow her lead, and although Prince doesn’t sing the song is one of the funkiest of the evening.

“Take Me With U” is light, even by its own standards, and it is merely a piece of fluff on this recording. Raspberry Beret is equally pop, but more rewarding as it runs substantially longer and features Prince singing “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC (now there’s something I never thought I’d write). It is only the chant that features at the beginning, but it does make for an arresting moment.

An unsophisticated  “Cream” follows and although the crowd love it, it is hardly essential. The keyboard wheeze of Morris Hayes is great, but it is submerged beneath the bright and breezy band, dissipating any backbone he may bring to the song.

Morris Hayes underpins all that is great about “Cool” and “Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough”, it is his keyboard swells that lifts the song and carries it forward. It is equally a chance for the singers to have their moment, and Shelby, Liv and Elise are just as essential to the song as Prince. After the sampler set this comes as a reward, a six minute rendition that reignites the party.

Prince returns to the keyboard, this time for a piano set,and this part of the gig shines as for the next few minutes he plays delicate renditions of some of his finest ballads. The opening minute of “Purple Rain” is every fanboy’s dream, but “Diamonds And Pearls” is even better as Prince begins to sing. Both these songs are heavily abridged, and it is only as he tackles “The Beautiful Ones” that the crowd are treated to something special. The piano is more colourful, the singing slower and less intense, yet the song is just as riveting as it is on record.

“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” struts across the stage, all swagger and spit as Prince brings a bold attitude to the performance. A song that we have heard countless times, this rendition holds my attention through the entire song and is a healthy update of a classic. It is one of the key songs of the concert, which is surprising for a 30 year old B-side.

The piano continues with a flourish and sparkle as the opening of “Purple Rain” is heard. It is played as the epic power ballad it is, the crowd singing their piece from the opening moments while the keyboards drape ever morphing chords over it, letting the song build slowly into its true form. This is my “Purple Rain”, nothing is rushed and Prince pulls every strand of emotion from the song as he talks to the crowd, plays an emotive guitar break, and generally turns it into an unforgettable event. All this emotional energy is finally released with his guitar solo which is heart breaking and life affirming at the same time. I don’t know about the crowd at the arena, but I feel drained by the end of it.

There is a chance to recover with an easy listening “Everyday People” ushering in the encore. There’s nothing too demanding to be heard and it slides by easily, which is just as well as the following “The Dance Electric” lives up to it’s name and is electrifying. It takes a minute to warm up, but once the band starts cooking it becomes one of the hottest songs of the concert. I would have liked to hear more of Prince’s vocals, but the groove and the guitar that flickers and flames beneath it is more than enough to satisfy, making this the standout performance of the night, and of this bootleg.

“Kiss” is a song without a centre. All the components are in place, but it remains unfocused and passes by in a hazy blur. It is the final song of the evening but it doesn’t put an exclamation mark on the performance and is a wholly unsatisfying end to what has been a very good show.

I am very quick to dismiss concerts from 2004-2012 as nothing more than greatest hits shows, yet time and time again I find that they offer something for even the most hardened fan. They aren’t as good as the aftershows of this period, but they do offer something for everyone. This concert didn’t immediately grab me when I first saw it, but I was drawn in by the quality of the performance, and there was just enough in the setlist to appeal to my jaded ears. Not a show I would immediately gravitate to, but I appreciate the recommendation and found it worth the time to take a close listen to.

-Hamish

Postscript:
I believe this was screened at Paisley Park in December 2016. If the estate ever consider releasing it officially I would certainly be ready to part with my money for a nice proshot of this show. No doubt there are plenty more in the vault of similar quality in the vault, my mouth waters at the prospect that one day some of these will be seen by the general public.

 

Rock In Rio II 1991

I started this blog with the expectation that I would be listening to a lot of bootlegs that I had never given attention to. That has been great so far, but now I have swung too far in that direction and there are some universally loved bootlegs that I never have time to listen to anymore. Last week I listened to one of the classic early bootlegs, Detroit 1982, and this week I will be taking a listen to one of Princes most famous video bootlegs in circulation – his performance at Rock In Rio 1991. 1991 is a very quiet year when it comes to live bootlegs. The Nude tour ended August of 1990 and until the beginning of the Diamonds and Pearls tour in April of 1992 there are only a dozen concerts played, leaving us with only a handful of bootlegs. This performance neatly bridges the two eras and although it is close to a Nude tour show, it does indicate the sound and style of The Diamonds And Pearl concerts that will come in the next year.

19th Januarary 1991 (a.m.), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The quality of the video is indisputable, it goes without saying that it looks glorious from the start. The most interest aspect of the video at the beginning is the performance of “Something Funky(In This House Comes)”. It was slated for release on Diamonds and Pearls, although it missed the final cut. One can hear how it might have fitted on there, the sound is close to several of the songs on the album, and it is led by Tony M who has the lead vocals throughout as he introduces the band. Prince cleverly uses it as an introduction to the crowd, both of the band and of the funk, before he makes an appearance in the final moments of the song.

The funk continues with a scratch guitar highlight for the first minute of “Let’s Go Crazy”. It initially sounds as if it could go either way between “Let’s Go Crazy” of “Controversy”, before the music settles on shiny “Let’s Go Crazy” that is anchored by a keyboard swirl and horn stabs. Even with Princes guitar asserting it’s authority, it is still the full sound of the band that keeps the song in this lighter pop realm. It is Michael B. who holds centre court here, his drum kit providing a solid pound that we will hear plenty more of through the 1990’s.

We have already heard “Something Funky(In This House Comes)”, and Prince introduces another song very much of the era with “Horny Pony”. It was recorded the same month as “Something Funky(In This House Comes)” so it comes as no surprise that it has the same sound and sheen to it. It is a good indicator of where Prince was at the time, but asides from that it doesn’t add much to the concert.

“Kiss” is a lot of fun, with Prince prancing and preening across the stage. This is rendition that has been heard plenty on the nude tour from six months previous, and anyone who has seen the Tokyo Dome performance would know what to expect. The music sounds good, but is the dancing that Prince really excels at in this show, and with his interaction with the Gameboyz there is a lot to hold the eye. I haven’t always championed the Gameboyz, here I find I get a lot out of there performance, perhaps it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. They play with good humour, dancing to “The Peter Gunn Theme” and “The Pink Panther” which is a lot more enjoyable than it looks on paper.

It is a surprise to see “Purple Rain” early in the setlist, although to be honest I have written that plenty of times in this blog over the years, so perhaps it’s not that much of a surprise at all. It may be the guitar the opens the song, but the real treat is Rosie who seeds the opening minutes with sprinkles of piano that brighten the denser sound of the song. Prince too brings a brightness with his lead guitar along with his costume which one could only describe as ‘busy’. (In my head I can hear my father’s voice – “He’s wearing curtains”). The song lacks the gravitas of other performances, but Prince speaks of the Iraq war in the final moments and this changes the tone of the song immensely. With a chant of “Love 4 Love” opening the door on the final solo, Prince is dropping clues about what the future holds for him musically.

The performance of “Bambi” introduces some grittiness into the show, and for the first time on the recording one can feel some bite and aggression in the music. Even tempered by the keyboards and full band, Prince is still out front cutting a swath through the music with his razor sharp guitar riffs. It’s short, but definitely a highlight.

Prince continues dipping into his bag of past glories with a rousing rendition of “Take Me With U” that has both the stadium and the recording bouncing. The video seems rather limited on available shots at this point, and for the first part of the song we alternate between only 3 camera angles. The second half is much better and the editing matches the pace of the song, giving it an impetus that was missing earlier.

“Shake” keeps with the energetic upbeat theme of the concert so far, and although I have never been a great fan of it on record, in this case I find myself happily singing along. Rosie in particular stands out with her impressively solid voice making even Michael B’s drums sound weak in comparison. “Shake” becomes an extended jam as Prince works the crowd through clapping and singing for a few minutes. As is my way, I lose interest at this point, but I can’t deny it is an integral part of the concert experience.

Rosie is the centre of attention for the next song “Dr Feelgood” as Prince leaves the stage for one of his inevitable costume changes. I was an enthusiastic supporter of hers in “Shake”, but I don’t have the same feeling for “Dr Feelgood” which to my ears is overworked and laborious. Yes, Rosie’s vocals are as powerful as ever, but the song stays firmly grounded and leaden despite her best efforts. A shame because I do love Rosie.

Everything changes when Prince returns to the stage and presents an angelic “Venus De Milo”. It doesn’t last too long, but it is a nice segue into “The Question Of U”, also played solo by Prince at the piano. As an instrumental, it spotlights Prince’s prowess with the piano, it hardly matters that the guitar doesn’t make an appearance, this version is just as good as the arrangement on other tours.

“Ain’t No Way” sung by Rosie Gaines would be a sensational song in a small venue, however the concert again sags as she sings it in this situation. Her voice is magnificent, it certainly fills the stadium, but the song has no drive to it and the energy of her voice performance seems to be swallowed up by the stadium. If I close my eyes and picture a club, its great, when I see it at this concert it becomes a weak moment.

There is several highlights in “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Princes vocals are pitch perfect, and his performance is one to watch as he screeches and croons atop his piano. It is a real surprise that Rosie doesn’t sing with him, but asides from that it is a great performance that I could happily watch again and again.

Prince and the band rush headlong into the final furlong with the effervescent “Baby I’m A Star”.  The visuals match the frantic pace, although at times the quick editing of the video is dizzying and headache inducing. As the song disappears beneath the chants and dancing the band show their chops as the keep pace with Prince and his commands. I can’t fault the music, but I do find that Prince is over the top with his performance and for me this devalues the music. Balance is restored as he takes to the piano and the Rosie belts at a passionate “Respect”. That soon becomes Sonny playing a solo on the bass, and for me this is the best part of these final 30 minutes. Tony M too has time to shine with a rendition of “Brother With A Purpose”. I normally wouldn’t mention it, but Prince tags “We Can Funk” onto the end of it and this is every bit as good as you could imagine. Its only a minute, but it banishes the previous minute of Tony M rapping from memory.

“Thieves In The Temple” promises so much with Prince playing solo on the piano for the first minute, but the rest of the song becomes a rush through the music as the band sacrifice the depth of the song for an uptempo beat and 90’s sheen. The final ten minutes of the concert are given over to the “Baby I’m A Star” beat as Prince works the crowd, firstly with call and response, then with dancers on stage. It is even worse than it sounds as “Jughead” gets an airing at this point. I am not the least bit negative about the band or the music, both are of the highest order, but as far as listening to a bootleg at home this part of the show leaves me cold. Even the final flurry of “Baby I’m A Star” can’t restore my enthusiasm and rather than finishing on a high I am left with the feeling of relief that it’s over.

This show hasn’t aged as well as others in my collection. It used to be on high rotation at my place when I was younger, but seeing it again now I realize the at the show itself is incredibly patchy. There are certainly some great moments that match anything else in Prince’s catalog, but they are more than offset by some clunky moments, less than stellar songs, and a show that is high on camp and low on emotional depth. The fact that it was one of the few proshot shows circulating at the time has given it more credibility than perhaps it deserves. An interesting show, with some high points, but not essential. Next time I watch it there will be plenty I will be skipping through.

See you next week
Hamish

Detroit 1982

It has been two years since I listened to a recording from the 1999 tour. I know this because I wrote a blog post last time I listened to a concert from that tour. So, with that in mind, it is well overdue for me to revisit the tour. I have written disparagingly of the tour, and subsequent bootlegs, previously. Not that the shows themselves are bad, but when compared to the wider selection of bootlegs available they lack some of the sparkle of other eras. The 1999 tour doesn’t have the naked intensity of the previous Controversy tour where Prince and the band are playing with the blazing fury of underdogs. Neither do the shows have the unpredictability and rotating setlists that Prince will rely on later in his career. What we have instead in a neatly packaged show that runs just over an hour, Prince choosing to present the 1999 album in the most efficient form, rather surprising given that it is a sprawling double album. There is no extended guitar solos, no songs thrown into the setlist, and no chance for something spontaneous to happen. Yet, the shows do have their own charm, and when I first started to collect bootlegs I listened to them often. The concert I have chosen to listen to today comes from early in the tour and is slightly more interesting for the unusual appearance of “Head” and “Uptown”. It is also one of the longer shows of the tour, so while not entirely representative of the 1999 tour, it does present an unique listen. It has been a while since I dipped this far back, and I am looking forward to listening with fresh ears and reliving my youth.

30th November, 1982. Masonic Temple Auditorium, Detroit

From the very moment that the spoken intro of “1999” begins I  am swept up by the quality of the recording. The introduction is merely used for the beginning of “Controversy” and for the me the most thrilling aspect is the wonderfully crisp and clean scratchy guitar of Prince. The quality of the recording is astounding, after listening to so many audience recordings recently this really is bliss. The song is powered along by the rhythm guitar and the solid platform provided by the drums and bass, they really are rock solid. The lightness comes with the vocals of Prince and the women singing, it is a song of layered contrasts that simply works. It’s a great start to what promises to be an outstanding bootleg.

Things stay on the dance floor with “Let’s Work”. It isn’t as insistent as “Controversy”, but there is no denying the groove that it has and like the previous song it keeps the show moving briskly along. The synth squiggles provided by Dr Fink give it a lift and with the rest of the keyboards it floats much easier than “Controversy”. The brief guitar break by Prince reeks of his purple touch, and paired with another keyboard solo it lifts the song far beyond what is heard on album.

The hit of the moment comes with the synth rise and fall ushering in “Little Red Corvette”. I do enjoy this version, but to be honest it is played straight down the line and the difference between this live version and studio arrangement is barely perceivable. Sometimes a good song is a good song, and it doesn’t need anything extra to make it work in the live setting. That is exactly what we have here, and although there isn’t anything new it is still every bit as good as anything else in the concert.

“Do Me, Baby” has an innate richness to it, and that richness is emphasized with the long chocolaty introduction that Prince lavishes upon it. One can almost hear the sweat dripping off him as the opening music hangs, stretches and draws out, teasing the listener in the promises it holds. We talk of music being timeless, or classic, and never has it been more true than in this case. It has a smoothness and soulfulness to it that could have come from anytime, one can almost picture Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye singing the same song. The rest of the song lives up to all that it promised and the following minutes are some of the finest seduction balladry that Prince has ever performed.

From seduction we need move on to something much more nasty – “Head”. It isn’t quite the barn burner I expect, Prince underplays the song and although the required funk is there it doesn’t get the time it needs to properly marinade into something substantial. Four minutes of “Head” is good, ten or eleven minutes would be better. It does,however, finish on a high with yet another outstanding solo from Dr Fink.

The second surprise comes with an rousing rendition of “Uptown”. This lifts the energy levels of the recording immensely and takes us back to the previous Controversy tour when Prince and the band where playing as if that had something to prove. It is short and vibrant, but it does herald in the second part of the show where the following five songs are played over an hour – giving you some idea of how much more of a jam the latter part of the show will be.

Things start slowly with a relaxed rendition of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”. It has an easy sashay, and is in complete contrast to the previous “Uptown”. Prince’s piano playing is the centre of attention, but even better is how much the song spotlights his vocals. Naked out on their own, one can hear the not just the range of the vocals, but also the inflections and character he sings with. He is able to channel plenty of personality into his vocals and this carries the story just as much as the words he is singing.

The coolest song of the set is “Lady Cab Driver”. It is one of the key songs that attracted me to Prince, and this performance lives up to all my expectations. There is a driving groove that is sharpened by the rhythm guitar that brings it into sharp focus. Prince’s vocals sit in the background, it the the funk of the song that is important, and nothing gets in the way of that. Dez may provide one of his trademark rock solos, but the song is pure groove and continues on in its own way all the while he is playing. The second half of the song is sensational with Brown Mark coming to the fore with his bass warm and full, while the guitar continues with a chug – upping the intensity from the smooth first half into something that is forceful and demands attention. It is a firm pointer to the longer jams that Prince and the band will play in future, and couldn’t be further from the neatly packaged songs played earlier in the concert. I can’t emphasis enough, this is the strongest song of the set and I would happily pluck it out for any mix tape I was putting together.

“International Lover” is good, but I have an urge to return to “Lady Cab Driver” a few more times. It is played to the hilt as the seduction piece it is, although Prince does tend to go over board with the cheese in this case. I like the music, and the overall sound, but I can’t get past the nutty things Prince is saying. Tune out the words and it’s a masterpiece, with the words it is a giant piece of cringe worthy cheese. That would be fine if it was only a few minutes, but we we have here is ten minutes of Prince laying it on thick, almost (but not quite) ruining the moment.

The opening fanfare of “1999” washes away a lot of this and as soon as the vocals begin all is forgiven. After listening to so many abridged versions of late it is refreshing to hear a full unadulterated version, Prince playing it as it was meant to be heard. The synths have more time to fill out the sound with a dense curtain and there is plenty of vocals to be heard all over the track. They are easy to hear on the soundboard recording, and one can admire that every member contributes to the band and to the highest standard.  The final minutes the song descends into a guitarfest that has my inner rocker all a flutter and by the final flurry and howl I am completely in my element.

It is “D.M.S.R.” that finishes the show, and what a way to finish. There has plenty of dance and funk on display already in the show and once again Prince and band deliver a platter of funky treats. The bass that moves the feet, the rhythm guitar cutting through, synth stabs that punctuate and accent the beat, and lyrics that you can’t help but sing along with (rather loudly in my case, I’m afraid). It is the synths and guitar that take control of the song and they drive it strongly though the final minutes as the music spiral ever upwards. This brings us to the end of the concert and it ends as it begun – with the spoken “I don’t want to hurt you, I only want to have some fun”, before the sound of an explosion puts an exclamation mark on it all.

I find my feelings on these types of shows are often the same. I say that the show doesn’t really appeal to me and is rather staid, then once I start listening I find the thrill and excitement sweeps through me and I am just as enamored by it all as I have always been. This bootleg can’t be, and shouldn’t be, compared to the long freewheeling shows of the 90’s and beyond. It doesn’t come close to the quiet intensity of an after show, yet this concert was just as enjoyable as anything else I have heard recently. This is the Prince that I first fell in love with all those years ago, and these concert reassert those feelings. A short and sweet concert that barrels quickly through the essential songs of the time, this is always going to be a bootleg we can return to again and again.

Thanks for reading,
-Hamish

Glam Slam 27th June 1994

The years 1994 and 1995 are already well covered in this blog, some might go so far as to say they are over represented. With many of the setlists being similar, one may question why these concerts get so much coverage. It is true that the same music is heard again and again, but Prince and the band are discovering new sounds and textures, and with each song played as an extended version there is plenty of scope for surprising jams to be heard. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the performance on June 26th 1994. While researching the concert I read the Databank’s assessment that the show on the 27th was even better, and one of the best bootlegs of the era circulating. Which brings me to where I am today, headphones on, 4DF’s ‘Acknowledge Me’ in the player and I am all set to take a closer listen to what the Databank calls “one of the best of 1994”

27th June, 1994. Glam Slam Los Angeles

“The Star Spangled Banner” is the first song of the night, with its strong and forceful guitar tone Prince is making a clear signal of intent, the guitar will dominant early on. “The Ride” backs this up as it goes from it steady opening into a blazing solo that captures the listeners imagination even 20 years after the fact. Sometimes I find “The Ride” to be a plod, here it is anything but as the band turn it into a stonking celebration of Prince and his guitar abilities. As an opening number it slaps the faces of the audience, immediately snapping them into life.

Likewise, “The Jam” has a extra sense of energy and thrill to it. The recording is good at this stage, and the audience noise that is heard adds to the sense of the moment rather than detract from it. It all adds up to a version that I find I enjoy immensely, often I find I am waiting for “The Jam” to finish so we can get on to the other music, in this case I enjoy it just as much as anything else on the bootleg.

The first few songs have been good, but it is the following “Shhh” that makes this bootleg what it is. It is a sublime performance of a one of Prince most intense songs, the following minutes transport me to another world altogether. Princes vocals are spellbinding, and the guitar break is both haunting and incessantly angry at the same time. These eight minutes are the best of the recording and enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

I don’t think I have ever heard a bad version of “Days Of Wild”, and the performance here doesn’t break that winning streak. It is in its full head bobbing, heavy funk glory. However, it is the guitar break of Prince that has me grinning from ear to ear – it is sharp and forceful, cutting through the wild jungle of “Days Of Wild” like a flashing machete. The appendage of “Hair” is unnecessary in this performance, Prince has plenty of his own funk without having to dip his pen in someone else’s ink well. This is further highlighted when the bassline of “777-9311” suddenly appears, Princes own funk obliterating any memory of “Hair”

“Now” runs at a lengthy 13 minutes, turning into a long easy groove and jam. The second half is much more enjoyable, the band has a smooth way to them and the song flows easily from the speakers. Its is an easy groove that could go for hours, and even though not a lot seems to be happening it is still worth the listen. Especially catching is the chant of “Clap you hands somebody, somebody clap your hands”, which will be rattling around in my head for the rest of the day.

The next song is a live rarity. “Ripopgodazippa” was only played twice live, this performance is the second and last time. It doesn’t do anything more than is heard on the studio version, but it doesn’t have to as its seductive groove makes it another outstanding moment at this concert. Smoky and sexy, the late night groove fits perfectly in the setlist, and I can only wish that Prince had of played it more often. Again, it heightens the desirability of this bootleg and is another must listen.

Equally of the era is “Acknowledge Me”, from the opening notes it takes us directly back to 1994. The is a lively performance that stands up well to the other songs that have already appeared at the show, it doesn’t outshine anything else, but neither does it fade into the background. It’s a highly enjoyable moment that sets the baseline standard for the concert.

The following two songs are from the “Come” album and work as a nice pairing together. “Papa” is noisier than expected, it loses some of its message, but the music is undeniably good and carries the day. “Race” is a steady performance of a steady song.  It never catches fire at the concert, or on the recording, and although these run of songs are very good, this part of the show plateaus.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” restores the crowd’s enthusiasm and Prince’s performance gets a welcome cheer. The song is faultless and injects pop into a show that is otherwise a succession of funk jams. Its appearance is bright and the recording becomes energized again.

I would love to see the band get wild for “Get Wild”. It does sound like they are going all out,and even listening at home I can visualize what is happening on stage. The long jam keeps me interested, the bass and guitar parts hold me enraptured between the chanting and singing. My favorite moment though belongs to Tommy Barbarella who plays a fast and furious solo that bucks like a wild horse under his command. Every member makes an impression, and this is one of my favorite versions of “Get Wild” in circulation. This bootleg is rapidly approaching a 10/10.

That sentiment carries over to “Santana Medley” that comes next. I thought everything else so far had been great, but Prince finds a way to take the concert through the stratosphere with an epic rendition of the “Santana Medley” This is the moment where the recording almost spontaneously bursts into flames as Prince plays a soulful, yet furious guitar break. It continues to evolve and a couple of times Prince slips back into the shadows before reemerging with another solo that could strip paint from the walls. I listen intently as it spirals and turns, the world rotating around Prince for the minutes that he plays.

“Billy Jack Bitch” is a direct statement and one of the least veiled songs Prince has ever written. Prince takes on the media head on in a none too subtle attack on those that write about him. The live performance is not as venomous as the studio recording and some of Prince’s anger is dissipated by the music, in particular the swirling keyboards that provide a depth and backdrop to Prince’s sharp lyrics. It lives up to some of the other funkier moments in the concert and the final horn stabs drive the point home with a timeless funk sound.

The last song of the show is “Johnny”. Princes rap is much more relaxed, perhaps due to the recording, or perhaps reflecting his mood at this concert. The lyrics may be dated and nowhere as funny as they were at the time, yet the song still stands on its own two feet – especially as Prince’s guitar emerges from the groove with a snake charming solo that has me hanging on every note. The keyboard solo later in the song is every bit its equal and its easy to disappear into the groove and music at this point.  It is entirely fitting that the show ends with the crowd chanting “NPG” – this is very much a band performance and this final song sees them at their very finest.

This is a great release, in a year that is well covered by bootlegs, this one stands out. The quality of the recording is outstanding for an audience recording, but it is the show itself that garners the most praise. These songs are familiar to all Prince fans, and have been heard plenty of times over the years, yet here they are infused with an extra sparkle and energy. I can’t account for why that might be, all I know is that the show sounds fantastic and this is exactly the sort of bootlegs that ignites my passion. 10/10

 

Atlanta April 14th 2016, early show

Last week I finally overcame my mental and emotional block and took a listen to Prince’s final full live concert. I feel as if a great weight has been lifted, I now feel revitalized and ready to fully embrace the rest of this nights performance. Whereas the 10pm was emotionally heavy, the earlier show from that night promises to be a lighter experience, and something I can listen to without any emotional strings attached.

April 14th 2016 (show 1) Fox Theatre, Atlanta

The introduction music (“Confluence”) is a calm, serene way to begin the concert. What I notice is the sound of the ushers telling people to put their cell phones away – something I can appreciate as I recall the same experience when I saw the piano and microphone concerts in New Zealand. This introduction music is swept to one side as Prince takes the stage to the expected roar of the crowd. “Little Red Corvette” is a suitable opening number and the scene is set for what will unfold over the next 90 minutes. With “Dirty Mind” played mid song it lays the template for the evening, heartfelt ballads and stomping rhythmic piano songs alternating and demonstrating both sides of Prince’s piano talent. The one aspect of this performance that I find  uplifting is the easy way Prince has with the crowd, the stage is his home and natural environment and that is apparent through the song as he is completely at ease as he teases and talks to the audience.

The following song, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, is coloured by some wonderful piano flourishes. The lyrics may be what everyone remembers, but in this case the piano carries the day. It’s easy to sing along, but a close listen to the piano is far more rewarding.

Prince is in fine form, he speaks of his Father before giving a one time only performance of “Chopsticks”. Its worth hearing for novelty value alone, but Prince adds a musicality to it which elevates it to something much more. Trust me, you have never heard a version of “Chopsticks” as funky as this.

Without the guitar solo, “Joy In Repetition” becomes something else altogether. The  smokey opening of the song lingers throughout, without the payoff of the guitar break it stays in this sad melancholy mood, never breaking out of its foggy late night sound. I like it, I like it a lot. As much as I like the original, I find this arrangement grabs me tight round the heart and I am completely drawn into the web of music.

I am completely transported back to the ONA tour as “Muse 2 The Pharaoh” plays in my headphones. Nothing has changed in 15 years, and it is now just as it was then. The lyrics may not be to everyone’s taste (or anyones), but the music itself is fine and I am attracted to it. The fact that my head is nodding is a very good sign and once again Prince injects funk into it throw his playing. It comes as a pleasant surprise on the recording, but things about to get even better.

“U Got The Look” has Prince’s spoken “Here we are folks, the dream we all dream off” introduction, immediately it draws attention.  Without the drive of the guitar it isn’t as forceful, Prince instead using to the spaces in the music to make it a slow and rhythmic hip swinger. It isn’t as 2-dimensional as the original sometimes is, and I applaud Prince for adding new dimensions to a familiar classic.

It is “Pop Life” that follows and it moves in the other direction. The pop is missing out of it and this performance sounds labored and heavy. The audience do their part singing along, but it lacks color and to my ears it is a weak moment in the concert. The redeeming feature is the piano that rolls across the soundscape like an early morning mist across the fields.

Prince continues to craft atmosphere in the arena, his piano sculpturing and shaping the music into a mood. “Elephants & Flowers” has a rugged charm, the vocals following the piano into an ethereal pop dream. Criminally short, Prince again channels an all enveloping warmth through his instrument.

The show becomes a more traditional as Prince takes on “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”. As the piano rises and falls Prince delivers an urgent vocal delivery, each line coming as a jab out of the darkness. The lyrical content is highlight by Prince an his piano flourishes, the keys weeping as the female protagonist tells her story, before becoming  melancholy with Prince’s response of “I could never take the place of your man” It is a vivid demonstration of the power of music, and the ability to evoke emotion through both words and music.

“Under The Cherry Moon” is a delicate introduction to what is the heart of the concert. “A Case Of U” is played with a stark intimacy, Prince naked and vulnerable in this performance of one of his most endearing covers. The lyrics may be Joni Mitchell’s but the performance is pure Prince, the song climaxing with several raw shrieks that turn a love song into a jagged wound.

There is a familiar warmth to “I Feel For U”. Like oak paneling it is both warm and homely, without ever raising a level of excitement.  As always it is more than welcome in the setlist, but as far as challenging the audience, it is about as threatening as wet spaghetti.

The following “Controversy” is equally familiar, but its energized in the skeletal form. The expected funk is generated purely by Prince and his piano, a more natural funk than what is heard in the full band performances later in his career. There is an extra buzz as he threatens to go off script and deliver the whole Lords prayer,  the tension is palpable as he sings the first line, but he reins it in and ends the song. A shame as that would have sent the whole thing over the top.

There are limitations to “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”. Prince’s vocals are stressed and one feels its not coming to him as easy as it once did. His lower register is much more rewarding, for both him and the listener, and it is at this point the song becomes a vivid tribute to all those beautiful women in his life.

I dare you to listen to “I Would Die 4 U” without a huge smile on your face. A glorious pop song, after 30 years its time in the sun surely should have passed – yet it hasn’t and on this recording it sounds just as evangelical and uplifting as it ever has.

“Baby I’m A Star” draws energy from the same place and the crowd are soon whipped up into the frenzy that Prince’s concerts are renowned for. Without a full band it falls on Prince to provide the impetus and drive for the song, there is no doubt that he more than rises to the occasion. With a jolt of energy he plays a spirited and intoxicating rendition that sounds just as good on the bootleg as it does at the live show.

One vinyl David Bowie’s “Heroes” is a sonic storm that makes the ordinary extraordinary, small moments becoming heroic gestures as Bowie buildings everyday life into triumph of man. Prince’s cover, although well intention, is none of these things. Whereas Bowie had the metallic whine that spoke to the grimness of everyday life before reaching the life affirming chorus, Prince has piano flourishes and runs that come from a musicality rather than emotional space. David Bowie ends “Heroes” in near hysteria as he sings his vocals from the end of the world. Not once does Prince dig deep into this same emotion instead he gives the song a light touch, electing to highlight the joy of the piano as he replaces the intensity with a soulful performance that sounds as if its being played in a church. It is a beautiful moment, but it can’t come close to the raw-nerved performance of David Bowie.

After the briefest of breaks it is the line of “this will be the day” that draws the biggest cheer of the night. This opening is merely the entree, Prince pausing to let the crowd appreciate what is coming before he  resumes. Each line shines brightly as they quickly fade, the song itself barely a minute as it ends with the crowd singing choir-like the final line, a fitting end as the concert is about to become a revival meeting as Prince brings out some of his finest material.

Prince knows he doesn’t have to try too hard with these final songs, the crowd isn’t here for the full architecturally sculptured renditions, they just want to know the song was plays and have a few lines to sing along with. The opening line of “Adore” is enough to send the crowd into raptures before they provide back up to Prince as he sings the first verse. With pause the song becomes “The Beautiful Ones”, the crowd still very much involved as Prince lingers on the lyrics. Listening at home is a frustrating experience as Prince swings back to Adore after a few lines, each song uniquely beautiful yet neither is satisfying as Prince cuts and pastes them into the show.

Much more nourishing is “Do Me, Baby”. The song is only a couple of minutes, but Prince plays a traditional arrangement with verses and chorus appearing as they should. It is short, but it there is much more to sink our teeth into compared to the previous songs and at this point the concert resumes a familiar format.

“I Wanna Be Your Lover” gets the same respectful treatment as “Do Me, Baby”. Although it too is short, Prince plays as one might expect with a spring in his step and a the crowd matching him word for word. The audience are a little too much in places on the recording, but it is a live concert and I can fully appreciate they are in the moment.

The final song of the evening is “Kiss”. For the audience it is one final flourish, although Prince’s piano playing is rather rather workman like, the audience provide the spark and enthusiasm that is missing from the piano. It is a surprising end to the performance, the show never reaches the expected climax and instead stops suddenly instead of going out with a bang.

I wanted to like this show a lot more than I actually did. The pieces seem to be in place for a great show, the songs are certainly there, and Prince sounded great early on. I found myself waiting for a big moment, a big moment that never came. By the time the end of the show arrived I realized that the best pieces of the concert had passed and I didn’t even notice them. It’s hard to be too critical of the Piano and Microphone concerts, I applaud Prince for doing something different, but in this case I found the abridged versions too light for my taste and left me hungry for more. No doubt this will get played plenty more as a companion piece to Prince’s final performance later that night, but as a concert I would choose to listen to, I’d probably pass.

Thanks for reading
-Hamish

Atlanta, April 14 2016 – Final show

Prince’s final concert. I had intended to write about this a couple of weeks ago and post it before the first anniversary of his death. I prepared myself to listen to it several times, but in the end I just couldn’t. Even though I have these recordings in my hands for sometime now I have never managed to bring myself around to listening to them. I knew that hearing them I would have to acknowledge that these are his final performances and that he is no longer with us. Twelve months on and I can’t bring myself to do it. Deep inside of me I want to believe that there is more, that somehow this is all a dream, an alternative reality. I have experienced plenty of pain and loss in my life before, yet the passing of Prince has shook me to the core and I haven’t properly dealt with it as yet. I keep pushing the feelings away, turning the music up louder, thinking that I will process it at a later date. Part of that process starts now, as I sit with my headphones on, prepared to listen to his final show. The music of Prince has always been comforting to me and I hope the music will carry me through these days and weeks as the finality of his passing hits me. The next hour and a half I will both mourn and celebrate his music and life as I lose myself in the music.

April 14th 2016 (show 2) Fox Theatre, Atlanta

A heavyweight performance of “When Will We B Paid?” begins the concert. It has a sombre air to it, Prince making the lyrics real to him and the audience with an emotional performance that balances between melancholia and a deep anger. This song was played plenty of times over the years, but none punch as hard as this solo performance that distills 300 years of slavery and mistreatment into a gut wrenching four minute piano performance.

Lyrically “The Max” is completely different. The piano playing stays with the dark tone, a touch more funk in the keys, but it is the colorful lyrics that lift the concert. With plenty of encouragement to be heard from the audience, I am reminded that this is an audience recording. Its not a bad recording, but there is plenty of audience to be heard and I feel that as Prince’s journey is coming to an end so too is mine – the recording dragging me back to the first bootlegs I bought as I reflect on my own history through Prince’s music.

The change to “Black Sweat” is barely perceivable, the funk grows stronger with the piano gaining some intensity. Prince is in full flow at this point, the music and lyrics streaming from the stage to an appreciative audience who lap it all up and respond the best way they know how. Although the music is as sharp as ever, there is a looseness to the performance itself, the music serving as a bridge between the audience and Prince as they celebrate each other.

 

One of the first B-sides that I gravitated to as a teenager was “Girl”. I don’t know how many times I spun it on my turntable before I eventually dubbed it onto a cassette tape with some other B-sides so I could listen to it on the go. To hear it performed at this concert is a treat to the teenage me who still resides deep inside of me. It may not have the bump and pop of the recorded version, but here Prince lets it percolate in his off kilter piano playing, infusing it with a hint of jazz that appeals to the more mature 40 year old me. It is not the best song of the recording, but it does serve as reminder of all the genres and influences that Prince brought to his music.

I never realized how uplifting “I Would Die 4 U” was until I heard these piano and microphone performances. With the single piano building up with layers of music, it’s hard not to be swept up by Prince’s spiritual message and optimism. After the sober opening, it comes as a blinding light, sweeping away the shadows of the first songs.

“Baby I’m A Star” comes in the same vein, all energy and celebration of life and music. The lyrics may sound egocentric and boastful, but the music is pure joy and energy for all to enjoy. Coupled with “I Would Die 4 U” , these minutes see me sitting back with a huge smile on my face, wrestling with the urge to get up and dance by myself. There is plenty of humour as he indulges in an imaginary dialogue with Dr Fink, all the while puling more and more funk from his piano. This section alone is enough for me to strongly recommend listening to this part of the show.

Although only a few minutes long, “The Ballard of Dorothy Parker” has plenty of time for Prince to bury himself in the piano playing, especially as the song segues in “Four”. There are intricate flourishes as his hands flash across the keys, the notes spinning out quickly across the recording. It is easy enough to sing along with “The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker”, but the best moments of the song are when the piano dominates – like the poster says, it is piano and microphone .

As much as I enjoy “Dark”, at this show it is neither here nor there. There is no single part of the song that stands out, it flows easily enough without grabbing my attention. It is one of the longer songs of the concert and for that it has to be commended as many other songs are truncated. However, it drifts without direction and leaves no memorable impression on me.

 

“Indifference” is the first song of the concert that has me emotional. Maybe it’s the music, or Princes spoken lyrics. As the song plays out my eyes glaze over and I feel a lump forming in my throat. This feeling is only heightened as the song ends with several audience members calling out “We love you” as Prince begins to play one of my favourite songs “I Love U, But I Don’t Trust U Anymore”. The lyrics are what I appreciate most in the song, but in this case I concentrate on the beautiful piano playing that sweeps and washes across the recording. As emotionally poignant as the lyrics are, the music is the main focus and draws just as many tears as Prince’s vocals.

I do enjoy the beginning of “Little Red Corvette”, but it is the song it is paired with, “Dirty Mind”, that I really get a kick out of hearing. With its youthful exuberance I am transported back in time, when everything felt so free and easy. Prince’s lyrics maybe pleading for more from his girl, but the music tells a different a story, a story of hope and the possibility that anything might happen. The song comes full circle as Prince returns to “Little Red Corvette” but nothing can beat the previous few minutes.

There next comes another emotional heavyweight with “Nothing Compares 2 U”. This weight of emotion is undone by the quality of the recording, for which my tear stained handkerchief is thankful. It is another classy performance, yet as I listen to Prince play and sing I can’t help but think how much stronger it sounded (and how much more emotional) with Shelby J. Without the strong female vocals to bounce off, a lot of Princes vocals seem to disappear into the darkness of the arena without finding an emotional base to land upon.

Although I am no great fan of “Cream”, it certainly brings a smile to my face. Prince toys with it, playing a stop start version that has the audience singing heartily along (after some encouragement from Prince himself). Prince tells the audience to sing it to themselves in the mirror when they get home, yet this version is all about togetherness and being in the moment as Prince and the crowd come together for a  fun filled performance that sounds just as good here at home as it was no doubt on the night.

The easy swing of “Black Muse” follows. Dedicated to the ladies, it has me nodding my head with the beat from the start. This performance highlights the ‘pop’ aspect of the song, and provides a pleasant diversion from some of the other heavy weights surrounding it.

There is very little surprise with “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” in the setlist, and in this case the familiarity of the song works against it. Most of these songs are new to the piano setting and gain from the stripped back arrangement. “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?” has always been a solo piano number and as such there is nothing new here at all. Prince is in a playful mood, the audience responding with plenty of laughter and singing along to the very end, making this an enjoyable listen without being essential.

The encores get off to a strong start with a gentle “Waiting In Vain” / “If I Was Your Girlfriend”.  “Waiting In Vain” is the more dominant of the two, and the music begins and ends with this song. It is a gentle performance, the music moves easily without drawing emotion. It is the longest song of the night, yet it moves at its own pace and never out stays its welcome. I was expecting a lot more from “If I Was Your Girlfriend” but I more than happy with what I hear.

Again emotion creeps into the recording as Prince plays “Sometimes It Snows In April”. It’s not over wrought, most of the emotion I hear is what I bring to the moment rather than the performance itself. Listening carefully, it is surprisingly light, and Prince keeps it upbeat. The music may draw from melancholia, but Prince’s sad words are delivered in an bright manner that undoes some of the emotion. It is easy to listen to, the song that I thought would be hardest to hear tonight is instead a beautiful moment that brightens the room.

“Purple Rain” has a majestic opening and for the first few minutes I listen intently, completely forgetting that I am supposed to write about it. The piano introduction has a grandeur to it which is unmatched elsewhere in the song. The arrangement from here on in is an interesting one, Prince reaches the  chorus, where he gains a strong audience singalong, before moving on “The Beautiful Ones”. “The Beautiful Ones” aches as Prince teases out the first verse and chorus. It never reaches the climax it promises, just as it seems he will take it to the epic finale it deserves he returns to “Purple Rain”, picking it up easily where he left off. It’s short-lived, another verse and chorus before “Diamonds and Pearls” makes an appearance. It’s not particularly noteworthy, barely half a minute, but it does elicit an cheer from the crowd. Prince again picks up the strands of “Purple Rain” as he returns for the climax of the song and the performance. The final minutes of the music are lost to my conscious self the thought plays over and over in my mind  “this is the last time, this is the last time”. “Purple Rain” can run on and on,there are concerts where it flows like a unending river, but here it doesn’t and its over before I am aware of it. The cold reality hits me.This is the last time.

Reflecting back over this recording my thoughts are many. I can’t untie this bootleg from the rest of Prince’s life and career. There are fleeting moments when I consider the bootleg dispassionately, its good and I want to hear it again. But mostly it tugs at my heart, my emotion. It draws tears to my eyes, and brings a lump to my throat. This recording will always come with the caveat – this is the final one. My collection of Prince concerts ends at April 14th 2016. This is the last time.

Glam Slam West 1994

I have already covered a few shows from 1994, yet I still find myself drawn to the year again and again. With Prince playing with a looseness and freshness, the concerts of this era always sound lively when listening, even if the setlists are often very similar. The concert I am listening to today comes from a recommendation from someone who was there. It was apparently quite a night and even though the setlist doesn’t reveal anything too surprising, the performance is outstanding: there is a guest appearance by Stevie Wonder and Mavis Staples that makes the recording compulsory listening. Both add soul and link Prince back to the past, cementing his place on Mt Olympics with the other music gods. With plenty of twists and turns in the music, there is plenty to appreciate with a closer listen, but like everyone, it’s these guest appearances that are the real reason I want to hear this.

26th June 1994, Glam Slam, Los Angeles

I am immediately surprised by the opening “The Jam”. A song that I often find pedestrian and overly long, in this case it is upbeat and captures my attention from the start. This is helped in large part by Morris Haynes who is first to play and gives us a solo in his typical style. The song moves quickly, no one person plays too long, and with a Michael Bland drum solo appearing midsong I find the recording has an early momentum to it. The final Sonny T bass solo isn’t anything I haven’t heard before, but it does bring the song to a stomping finish.

I have heard “I Believe In You” across a variety of concerts and the version played at this concert is one of the more memorable versions I have heard. The opening minutes don’t offer much, it is once Prince turns his guitar up that the song becomes something much more muscular and forceful. He plays with finesse rather than a fury, something that demonstrates his ability far more than a flurry of notes would. Without overworking the guitar, Prince’s break elevates the song and adds a backbone to a song that was previously meandering.

As “Interactive” begins I am transported back to 1994 and the Interactive video game in an instant. Such is the power of music to bring back memories. The version at this show doesn’t begin strongly, it is the second part of the song where all the thrills and excitement await. Prince’s guitar leads the way, with a minute of incisive and sharp playing that leaves me dizzy. It may be only a minute, but it is a thrilling ride showing Prince at his best.

“Days Of Wild” is a 13 minute jam the encapsulates all that was good and great about Prince and the NPG in 1994. The band jam easily across the song, the insistent funk staying to the fore as they throw a variety of sounds over the top of it. The heavy squelch holds the bottom, something that I usually enjoy most, but in this case there is so much else happening I find I hardly notice it. Prince is in fine form, joking with the band as he runs them through their paces. The bass playing late in the song is the definite highlight – firstly a light solo that has me swooning here at home, then switching to “777-9311”, at which point I almost faint in child-like excitement. The song is a 10 in my book, and by the time the guitar comes with waves of bluster and bravado I am considering scoring it an 11.

As an album track “Now” is neither here nor there. Live, however, it is another great moment, and like the preceding “Days Of Wild”, it gets a 13 minute jam. As an all-in performance the song becomes a glorious live celebration, the crowd can be heard chanting a whooping in appreciation throughout. I particularly like the breakdown midsong, as the music slows and the long groove of Morris Hayes carries the song for some minutes. The song continues as a laid back groove for quite sometime, even with Prince on the microphone and guitar it still doesn’t ignite back into a song again until well past the ten minute mark. As Prince sings “Superstitious” the music stays low, his lone guitar signalling the end of the song.

Prince’s guitar stays the main focus with “Mary Don’t You Weep”. He plays a sparkling opening before the lyrics begin, and then as the music changes he returns with a further cascade of guitar. The crowd contribute their part as Prince leads then through a chorus, before the keyboards come on board with a solo from Tommy that is easy on the ear. The response from Prince is great, some mellow and melodic guitar work that displays an intricacy and emotional core. It is his guitar that carries the song to its natural conclusion, flowing easily until it dries up.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is mature in it’s sound, it lacks some sparkle of the single release, yet this mustang mix is far more rewarding and holds up well on repeated listening. It is a complete performance, Prince is playing well within the band and to my ears it is more complete and well rounded. The song is marinated in a funky adult rhythm that hints to the growth of Prince at this time and new directions he is pursuing. The is no doubt though that the real highlight comes in the final minutes as Prince calls for Stevie Wonder to come to the stage, preparing us for what comes next.

There is some mutual love between the two as Stevie Wonder opens up on the microphone about the influence of Prince and all those that came before, thus providing context where Prince’s music fits into the big picture. The following song is anything that you might expect or wish for. There is plenty of Stevie’s singing as they play “Maybe Your baby”, plenty of funky keyboards, and plenty of Prince’s hot guitar playing. He doesn’t mess around with a smoldering solo here, it is all furnace and fire as he puts an exclamation point on all that Stevie provides. This moment of the bootleg promised the world, and boy did it deliver.

The high standard is maintained for the following “I’ll Take You There” with Mavis Staples leading from the front. As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive version with Mavis’s vocals, Princes guitar and the bass of Sonny T playing up a storm together. Mavis stands head and shoulders above all else though, and her contribution can’t be underestimated. I thought the appearance of Stevie was mind blowing, Mavis comes a very close second and almost upstages him.

“Dark” comes as a smooth ride after this, it would be a let down if it wasn’t just so easy and enjoyable to listen to.  Prince again becomes the main focus of the show as the music swirls and stabs around him, not quite concrete enough to latch onto yet the stabs providing a sharpness that gives the song some shape. It may not as monumental as some of the other performances on the recording, but I find it just as satisfying.

The song does become an upbeat instrumental which, although four minutes long, serves as an introduction for “Get Wild”. It does flicker and flame for sometime before Prince calls for Mayte and “Get Wild” kicks off in high gear. It’s not terribly interesting musically, as is his way Prince uses most of the song to engage with the audience, encouraging them to sing the chorus and get wild themselves. It sounds like a lot of fun, but on the bootleg it is a flat spot.

The show ends with a raw “Peach”, introduced by the comment “This is a cover version of a song by someone called Prince”.  Its fast, full and frenzied. Prince’s guitar is wonderfully dirty and leaves very little space for anything else in the song, exactly as it should be. Peach can get repetitive, but this performance is one of the better ones and it is a bright ending to what has been an excellent concert.

This recording delivered everything it promised. As to be expected, the guest appearances were phenomenal and the rest of the show was just as spirited. There are plenty of great bootlegs from the 1994 concerts, this one would be very high on my recommendations list. I am thankful that it was recommended to me and I would happily recommend it to anyone else.

 

Thanks again
Hamish

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 2

The new Eye records release of the Uniondale shows was just too much to digest at one sitting, so today I return to the second show featured on the recording – Uniondale March 23rd, 1985. It does differ from the other Uniondale concert in several ways. There is a performance of Head that has me a gasp, as well as “Condition Of The Heart”, “Raspberry Beret” and “America” all making appearances, pointing towards the release of Around The World In a Day later in the year. Like the previous concert there are edits throughout, in particular “Raspberry Beret” is missing its second verse,  I am prepared to overlook that for now and enjoy the recording for what it is, a passionate delivery of one of Princes most beloved concert tours.

23rd March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

We’re now 32 years beyond the Purple Rain tour and yet I have still not tired of the “Let’s Go Crazy” opening. This rendition captures my imagination, the guitar touches on the raw sound that appeals to my punk rock roots and it has a similar energy. The recording is nice and clean, and this emphasizes the dirtiness of Princes guitar. I may have had reservations based on being overly familiar, yet I am sold on it from the start.

Likewise, “Delirious” gets a firm pass from me. It has never stood out to me as a great song, the performance though has me seeing it in a different like, especially as I can hear a wonderful funk guitar playing in the background. The soundboard recording is paying dividends and I get much more out of the song at this concert than I normally do. There is much more to it than I previously thought, and the bootleg nerd in me revels in all the small details I can hear.

There is a natural pairing of “1999” and “Little Red Corvette”. Although both from the same album they come from different places and “1999” is as much a celebration as “Little Red Corvette” is a sensitive moment in a concert that is otherwise bombastic. I am drawn to both of them, but at the end of the day it is “Little Red Corvette” that has me pushing the repeat button. There is plenty of great guitar work in “1999”, yet it is the synthesizer in “Little Red Corvette”  that places me at the concert. There is also some notable guitar work in “Little Red Corvette” as the song provides something for everyone and I think by the time it ends most people would be well satisfied with the preceding ten minutes.

I find “Take Me With U” to be highly enjoyable, although again, I gravitate towards the later section of the song as Prince dresses it up with some lead guitar and the hook of “All The Critics Love U In New York” Catchy and fun, this moment comes as a lightness before the following “Yankee Doodle” drags the show down.

I want the following “Do Me, Baby” to be great. I want it to ooze out my speakers and fill the room with love and lust. It shapes up well, but like most of these Purple Rain performances, it  is abridged and runs at only a couple of minutes. Despite its brief appearance, I still find it to be a highlight and it is certainly a lot better than “Yankee Doodle” that came before it.

The guitar is sharp and carries plenty of funk for  “Irresistible Bitch”. The guitar is subverted for the following “Possessed”, where the horn of Eric Leeds dominates. He is in fine form, and Prince introduces him to the crowd with a humorous “He just got out of college”. That comment belies the immense talent that Eric is as he interlaces his style all through the song, making it another standout.

The piano set at this show is a highlight and for me is the best part of the gig. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” has some very ‘Princely’ ad-libs in the final minute, in particular I get a kick out of “How come you don’t screw me, anymore?”. However, this is merely the appetizer, it is “Condition Of The Heart” that serves as the main course in this delightful treat. He may wrap it up after a couple of minutes, but it leaves an aftertaste that lasts with me long after. Prince coyly introduces “Raspberry Beret” with “You wanna hear some more new songs? Can you keep a secret?”, before the now familiar piano riff plays. Princes vocals stand out alone in front of the music, I find this adds a lot to the song. It sparkles in its freshness and Prince is obviously relishing sharing his new music with the audience. Sadly, the second verse has been edited out, but what remains still sounds good.

“Head” is introduced as “Something nasty” and it is a piano driven, rhythm and funk monster. Prince works the crowd with his chants and piano riffs as it becomes a stop start jam. With Eric Leeds playing over Prince’s bare piano it becomes different from what one would normally expect, making it something special that is worth coming back too. Even with the rest of the band, the song comes as a stripped back groove. Eric does lead it off to a lighter and more ethereal place, giving the song a lightness I have never heard before.

The band are again the focus for “Lets Pretend We’re Married”, both Wendy and Eric get a shout out. Eric can be heard all over the song, but for my money Wendy is the star. Even though she only gets the briefest of solos, she is sounding fierce and raw, two attributes I look for first when listening to guitarists.

It is hardly worth mentioning “International Lover”, barely 20 seconds of singing and a minute of crowd cheering, but “God’ follows and that deserves a much closer listen. It’s a fine rendition, with Prince taking some time with this introspection. As much as I like the song, it doesn’t fit well with the overall concert and as it gives way to “Computer Blue” there is the feeling that it is misplaced.

I enjoy both halves of “Computer Blue”. Usually it is the guitar fueled first half that I give all my attention to, but in this case the song is well balanced and I find I give equal credence to the delicate piano playing in the second section. That is, of course, eventually overwhelmed by the heavier groove, but not before it has made a lasting impression on me.

Some of the heavier guitar from “Computer Blue” bleeds through to “Darling Nikki”. The guitar have an extra crunch to them which gives the song a different texture against the wall of synthesizer. The music is good enough that I forget the lyrical content, which is normally the main focus, and instead just sit back and swim in the groove of it. This is another song that is resurrected by the soundboard recording, new nuances can be picked out and the song heard in a new light in this context.

“The Beautiful Ones” may have an alluring beginning, but it is the epic finish that stands out. Prince works the audience and the song into a climax that sounds as intense on record as it must have been onstage. “The Beautiful Ones” gets plenty of credit for being beautiful, but it is the intensity of the moment that marks this one as a great performance.

It is “When Doves Cry” that follows, no surprises there. It begins and ends with a great guitar performance from Wendy, who nails her part with a rock solid drive. The opening riff and squeal throwing down the gauntlet, the song staying as a groove, before Wendy accepts the challenge with her guitar solo and a solid riff that carries the song to the end. It is much less pop than heard on record, but I for one love it even more for its relentless drive and cold percussive sound.

Three minutes of pure pop joy follows with “I Would Die 4 U”. Its lightness comes as a great contrast after “When Doves Cry” and the concert again soars as the band plays.

“Baby I’m A Star” is heavily edited. There are still moments to enjoy, just try not to think about what isn’t there. As always, Eric Leeds gives plenty over a great rhythm groove, the piano and guitar both propelling the song forward.  As much as I enjoy it, I can’t help but think about what isn’t there. An audience recording of the same show reveals it to run at a longer 13 minutes, so what we have here is barely half the song. Still lets be positive, better to enjoy what we do have and appreciate the soundboard recording.

The opening few minutes of “Purple Rain” are heaven to me. I could quite happily listen to introduction on loop for the rest of my life. I can’t put my finger on it, but it makes me feel warm, safe, nostalgic, and hopeful all at once. The rest of the is good, but it does have an obvious cut that is quite jarring (at least to my ears). I still give it a solid pass mark, however, as the song is as we know it and it is a lot more complete than the first show covered by this release.

The show ends with one final encore, a furious run through of “America”. The edits made to “Baby I’m A Star” are all but forgiven as the band jam on “America” for ten minutes. There is plenty of guitar work for those who like that sort of thing, tempered again by Eric Leeds who comes to the party with lots of honk and sass. Prince does stop the song at one point, apparently to chastise those fighting in the audience, although it can’t be anything too serious as its only briefly before the band pick right back up on their groove. The band are relentless and the guitars derive a lot of passion and drive from the strong groove. The basic sound is supplemented by a Shelia E solo, but the real star of the performance is the song itself. There is a much stronger synth sound, especially on the left, and it gives a solid backdrop for the guitar to play. The song passes by surprisingly quick and, before I know it, it ends and I’m sitting in silence.

Somebody said to me the other day that this is their release of the year. Even with the edits and tags, its hard not to disagree with them. Both shows are fantastic, and the soundboard brings the Purple Rain concerts into sharp focus. I am not normally a great fan of Eye records, but I must admit the packaging and material here is exception. One can only hope that there is plenty more where this one came from.

Until next time, take care
Hamish

 

 

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