There have been two new releases recently and both of them are covering the same show. It always gives me a warm feeling when new soundboards surface, and this week has been a very good week for me. I have not heard the Eye records release, it is more complete than the 4DF release, but I have to say the 4DF release has a great cover, even if the show itself is not complete. I was going to wait for the Eye records release before I blogged about it, but to be honest patience is not one of my virtues, so I am going to give the 4DF release a listen in meantime. The show itself is not new to me, I have heard an audience recording, but nothing can beat that pristine sound of a soundboard recording like we have here. I am looking forward to a heavy dose of nostalgia and plenty of energy from this show. It’s a beautiful summers evening here, all the doors and windows are open, a cold drink in my hand, and the stereo cranked up, I am definitely in the right mood for this one.
14 February 1982, San Francisco Auditorium
This particular recording is missing the opening with The Second Coming, but that doesn’t concern me too much as we get right down to it from the start. The set lists from the Controversy tour don’t vary too much, so there aren’t any surprises when the first song is Uptown. I was wondering if I would feel jaded listening to a recording from a tour I know so well, but any reservations are well and truly laid to rest when that glorious clean soundboard recording is heard. The sound leaps out of the speakers, and Princes youthful enthusiasm is evident for all to hear. Uptown sounds great, and one of the things that strikes me most is the bass sound. It’s not deep and heavy, but it has a fantastic popping sound to it, and the recording captures it perfectly. I like that the sound is much more even on this recording, and no one instrument dominates as you often hear on audience recordings.
After a short Uptown Prince calls “Are you ready” in his full sounding, deeper speaking voice and we spin off into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. The guitars seesaw behind him, and again I am struck by the balance of the recording, they are well behind his voice, and never too loud. I must say, Prince is sounding on top of his game, and his voice is playful and strong. As the guitars start their soloing there is some excellent bass pops that the recording picks up, and I am thankful I can hear this as it was meant to be heard. Prince calls “John!” right before the second section of the solos, I don’t know who it is directed at, or what it is about, but after listening to hundreds of bootlegs like this I sometimes find myself wondering about little moments like this. The song ends with a coda from Prince, and for me this is the real highlight. It’s not a howling guitar solo, just some fun licks on his guitar for a minute, but it adds to the sense of youth and playfulness.
When You Were Mine elicits no surprise from me, and again I rejoice in the quality of the recording, especially when I hear Prince’s vocals and every inflection in his voice. He sings, he speaks, he pouts, he emotes, and I can feel the whole performance through the recording. There is more playfulness near end of the song as Prince plays guitar runs and speaks during the breakdown. He draws it out, and I almost find myself screaming along with the ladies in the crowd. His voice is teasing and fun, and he backs it with guitar playing that sounds similar in nature. We are three songs in, and already I have decided that this is my ‘go to’ recording for the Controversy tour.
This thought continues as I Wanna Be Your Lover begins, it sparkles and shines, and it too has a youthfulness to it. The vocals of Prince and Lisa are bold and loud, the whole song sounding very strong throughout. I appreciate it for what it is, but being the fan I am, I am already anticipating the song that will follow.
Head is the centre piece of the concert, it runs for 13 minutes, and is everything you could possibly wish for. The guitar is slippery, the keyboards heaving, and the bass and vocals are both dirty sounding. Like everything else on this recording, the balance is perfect, and there is many small details for me to enjoy as I listen close. I love the vocals of Lisa, as well as Prince. The energy of the show is very apparent, and as I said earlier, it really does jump out of the speakers at me. I don’t get the nostalgic feeling at all, it still sounds fresh and new to me, and I feel younger just for listening to it. I decide not to bother writing anything at all as the singing stops and the bass and guitar take over, it’s all too good and I want to wallow in the sound of it. Needless to say, it doesn’t disappoint at all.
The keyboards of Annie Christian gain a lot on this soundboard recording, they sound brighter and louder, while the guitar is more in the background. Prince’s vocal performance is energetic and the song itself gathers a lot of momentum as it goes, and there is a great release when Prince starts his guitar break. It’s only the last minute of the song when the guitar is more to the front than the keyboards, and I am enjoying the mix of this recording just as much as the performance itself.
I wonder how Dirty Mind is going to go, on some other Controversy shows it is the highlight for me, here we have had many highlights already and I wonder how it will compete. It gets off to a good start with a slightly longer intro, and Prince sounding more relaxed as he begins to sing. I don’t have to tell you, it’s energetic and lives up to my expectations. Prince’s “Somebody say yeah” shouts add a sense of urgency and energy to it all, and I really get a kick out of it when Prince asks “Does the groove feel alright?” I like that I can clearly hear Bobby Z play on this, and indeed I can everyone very well, it gives me a lot of new things to listen for.
It’s game over as Do Me Baby begins, seriously I am just about to turn off the lights and start some ‘night manoeuvres’ as it plays. It doesn’t have a long intro, but Princes vocals more than make up for it. It’s easy to forget that he is playing for 8000 people at the show, his vocals are dripping with lust and emotion, and the crowd is feeling it too as he stops and lets them sing a few lines for themselves. I would love to see this performance as well as hear it. Prince ad-libs mid-song, using his “Do you believe in love at first sight, do you believe in making love on the first night” -lines that I normally associate with Dirty Mind. The song runs for nigh on eight minutes, and I have already mentally filed it as a song I must revisit again soon.
Controversy lacks the intensity of the previous half hour. The song is tight so I can’t fault it in any way, however it does feel like a step down from what we have just heard. I think it’s because I can’t hear the guitar as strongly as I like, and it’s very much a keyboard driven affair. I do hear the funky guitar later, and its sharpness adds some shape that I was missing earlier. It gets even better for me at the five minute mark when the guitars come right to the fore. Prince still sounds like he’s having a great time with his vocals, and the song ends on a high.
The 4DF recording ends with Let’s Work. Prince works the crowd, and there is lots of interaction between Prince and the band, as well as the audience. It’s a difficult song to sit and listen to, I feel music just as much as I hear it, and when I listen to this I have a strong urge to get up and dance. The bass and drum combination is tight as you might expect, and the wonderful thing is you can hear their interaction and togetherness clearly on this recording. There is a long breakdown in particular where they hold the groove down, and there is plenty of time to enjoy their talents. Listening to it here you can also hear how much of a horn line the keyboards are playing, it’s very easy to imagine those lines as horns playing, and you can see Prince is making the most of what he has available to him in terms of instruments and personnel.
My very first bootleg was a recording from the Controversy tour, and it’s still a favourite to this day. I never thought I would hear another show from that period that filled me with the same sense of enjoyment and energy, but this recording proved me wrong. This is an outstanding recording, the songs may not be new to my ears, but the quality of the show is very high, and a lot of things gain an extra dimension when I listen to them in soundboard quality. I have heard many shows, and now when I listen to bootlegs I find it’s the little things I notice and enjoy most, and having a show in this quality there is many little things that I pick up and enjoy. 33 years after the fact this recording is just as exciting as anything I heard when I was a teenager. I am hoping the full show on Eye records is every bit as good as what we have here.
Thanks for reading