Several weeks ago I wrote about a leak from part of a Purple Rain show from Worcester Massachusetts. At the time, I spoke highly of it and that I hoped for the full show to be released. Now that day is upon us and Eye records have obliged with a release of the show. After high expectations, I am disappointed in hearing the full show – it is a let-down. Although a soundboard, the sound quality is poor throughout. Not poor as an audience recording, I can hear Prince and the music perfectly well, but the overall sound is weak and all life has been sucked out of the recording. I did take the time to give it a good listen, and my thoughts are below.
28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts
The opening Let’s Go Crazy is a suitable introduction for what will follow. Prince is sounding good, as is The Revolution, although the recording is lacking any depth and feeling. Let’s Go Crazy is dominated by Prince and his guitar, everything else is in the background, and although it’s an exciting opening for the show the recording captures none of this excitement and at times sounds simply as a rehearsal for the show. Cold and sterile, I feel all my energy drain away as I listen.
Delirious is better, it does a better job of conveying the feelings of a live show, although the sound is still deadened. The keyboards and horns have a fun sound to them, and bring a sparkle to the show that Let’s Go Crazy Was Missing.
The crowd is heard for the first time on 1999, again though most of the song sounds like a cold rehearsal. There is some funky guitar in the mix that I latch onto to listen, but the rest of the song fails to excite me. I know there is better to come, yet I find I am still struggling to get into the show in the early stages. The highlight of 1999 comes as the very end as Prince delivers up some thrills on the guitar, but the recording is still thin, and it lacks the muscle of other shows I have heard.
The first minutes of Little Red Corvette sound as good as ever as the band play through the long intro, and the keyboards can be heard adding their wash to the sound. This is an early high point to the show, especially as I can hear the audience cheer at one point. It’s finally starting to sound like a live show. Prince matches the keyboards when he sings, and it begins to add up to the Purple Rain shows I know and love. Despite a thin start to the guitar solo, it still sounds good and the song ends on a high as Prince sings the chorus one final time.
The keyboards are also very strong for the opening of Take Me With U. They fill out the sound somewhat, although in contrast I can hear the bass but it lacks in any real depth due to the recording. Everything is in place, yet it all sounds weaker and watered down in the recording. The end coda lacks much of anything, and the song that started so brightly fizzles out by the end.
The next section of the show I have covered in an earlier blog post, here I will reiterate some of what I have already said previously. It is easily the best part of the show as the next thirty minutes Prince is on fire.
Next on the set list is a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even in this quality. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.
Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.
When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.
With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.
Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.
There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.
Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.
Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.
The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.
Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.
There comes next a segue into some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins. It’s tight, it’s funky, it’s Prince and The Revolution doing what they do best.
There is the inevitable Possessed right after, it’s not quite as tight as Irresistible Bitch, but it still has plenty of funk of its own. The keyboards give plenty early on, before the horn swells drive the second part of the song. The count of “25” by Prince is standard practice, and the band are right on the money. There is a moment of fun as Prince speaks to the band about catching them out tonight. There’s money on the line, and the band don’t fail to deliver. The horns and the stabs are throughout, as Prince sings “I’m going to get you tonight” before calling for “63”. I lost count, as did the band – Bobby Z gives a couple of extra beats as the songs gives way to a scream and several whoops, presumably from Prince as he has indeed caught the band out.
There is more fun in the air as Prince begins to play How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore and encourages the audience to sing if they can. The song itself is kept very short, at a single verse it barely registers, but it is the final song before the rest of the show is given over to Purple Rain songs.
God is as beautiful as to be expected, with Prince and the piano holding the audience enraptured in its charms as it plays. The band add some harmonies to the vocals which is a nice touch, the only downside being the quality of the recording- on a better sounding recording this would sound magnificent, as it is it lacks a thickness and full sound. It doesn’t matter too much as the next few minutes are given over to the bath sequence of the Purple Rain shows.
The fierceness that I have come to expect from Computer Blue is lacking, in part to the thin sound of the recording. The band though cannot be faulted, and I can hear the band playing a rough and tumble version with plenty of jagged guitar from Prince. The bass work from Brownmark is to the fore, a shame that the recording lacks the richness of the performance.
The segue into Darling Nikki is predictable and entirely enjoyable. Dr Fink is a real highlight as his keyboard squiggles are all over the latter part of the song. It shines brightly after the previous Computer Blue and up’s the tempo again as we head to the last quarter of the show.
The introduction of The Beautiful Ones fades in and out, but once the song starts proper it is full blooded and Prince gives another heartfelt rendition. There are plenty of shrieks and screams near the end which aren’t served well by the recording, nevertheless they add a lot to the show and the audience can be heard responding well to what is obviously a highlight.
Another show stopper follows in the form of When Doves Cry. Dr Fink and Lisa are key players, but for me the highlight is Brownmark and his elastic sounding bass. He gets plenty of time to show us what he’s got, especially the final coda which is heavy on the bass, and despite everything going on over the top, it is the bass that I gravitate to.
I Would Die 4 U starts off with a pop bent, but the final minutes are all about the funk as it gets an extended treatment, with plenty of Wendy’s guitar to the fore. It wasn’t a song that I immediately fell in love with, but I always enjoy these live performances. Even with the coda tagged on, it still only runs three and a half minutes, and as it ends just as I am developing a hunger for much more.
I am disappointed with Baby I’m A Star. Some nights it runs upwards of twenty minutes, this version is considerably shorter at eleven minutes, and even then there is a couple of minutes’ introduction. his is the point of the show where the band traditionally cut loose, so it comes as a surprise to see this shortened version. The tempo does accelerate halfway into it, this gives it an unbalanced sound and as it increases in tempo I feel left behind by it all. With the horns adding their burst of excitement there is the sound of show business in the air, the band jam on but it never feels like a groove as I have heard elsewhere on the Purple Rain tour. The sax is easily the best thing about Baby I’m A Star, and we have plenty of time to enjoy it before the song loses its way with Prince’s final few minutes of train inspired groove.
It’s been a long time since I listened to a full Purple Rain show, and I find myself falling in love with the song again all over as the introduction plays and the piano gives it an extra touch of special. By the time I hear Prince’s guitar noodling I am already sold on it and I don’t care what type of performance will follow. The following Cloud guitar sound lets me down, but that barely matters as what I have already heard is good enough for me. The final solos by Prince are long and over the top, normally something I would greatly enjoy, but here they are undone by a thin sound and although they are likable they don’t quite deliver the knockout blow. It is however the type of finish that this show required, and I must admit I was smiling all the way through the song.
This wasn’t the show I was expecting. The middle section I had previously heard is easily the best part of the show, and this alone makes the show worth listening too. In fact, it makes the show much more interesting than other Purple Rain shows in circulation and if the recording was better quality it would be essential. As it is, it is a serviceable sound board recording that documents a potentially great show that loses its way towards the end and becomes just another Purple Rain show. And interesting experience that wasn’t what I wanted or expected, nevertheless it was worth the time to take a listen.
Thanks for reading