I can’t even remember the last time I listened to a Jam Of The Year concert, let alone wrote about one. I can’t offer a good excuse, looking at this show now I can’t see any reason not to listen to it, or even dislike it. Yes, it does have some weak moments, but these are offset by a run of classic hits, party grooves, and a Carlos Santana guest appearance that brought me here in the first place. This show was recommended by someone whose opinion I value highly, so I do expect it to exceed any expectations I might have.
10th October 1997, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, California
The opening intro leaves me cold, I don’t really need to hear snippets of his hits to hype me up. I have always had a soft spot of “Jam of the Year”, and this performance is everything I could ask for. It is stronger than on album, giving the concert a great push from the start. The performance and concert tour hinge on this song and, although Prince does hype the crowd in the midsection, it sets the tone for all the will follow.
The jams keep on flowing, with the band grooving on “Talkin Loud and Sayin Nothin” It is as one might expect, a solid groove that has the crowd on their feet as Prince encourages them to dance and clap. The highlight for me though comes when Mike Scott makes an appearance with a sizzling guitar solo that catches me off guard yet has me enraptured as he plays. I’m not so fussed on Prince and the crowd chanting which comes next, but the song does it’s job of enthusing the audience. A Prince piano solo ends the song on a high for me, and I find that all in all it is enjoyable few minutes.
“Let’s Work” initially has me on a nostalgic trip, but interest wanes later in the song as it begins to take on a plastic sound. The outro of “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Alive” is where the real fun is, especially as Prince provides a ferocious guitar upon it that cuts through all the groove and jams that have been heard thus far on the recording.
This loud and heavy guitar tone is maintained through the following “Purple Rain” which begins with a snort and a grunt and ends on the most epic of howls. With Carlos Santana in the building, Prince is putting on a show worthy of his influence and although its not overlong it does give one a taste of Princes guitar abilities.
Things stay in the early ’80’s as the warm swells of “Little Red Corvette” introduces the next section of the concert. Personally, I think it’s a let down. After a great introduction that had me raising my expectations through the roof, the next couple of minutes sees Prince racing through the song leaving me feeling that it was a lost opportunity.
I am caught off guard by how good, and downright fun, “Get Yo Groove On”. It has a lively pop to it, and would sit complete at ease on any radio station in the late ’90’s. As much as I love it from the outset, it does loose its way after a couple of minutes, but the guitar solo from Kat Dyson snaps me out of this thought, and the rest of the song is an easy groove that I would happily dance to when I’m home alone.
As much as I enjoy “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” (especially singing along) I always find that in the live performance I am drawn to the sudden stop in the song when Prince sings “How can I get through days when I can’t get through hours” The ticking clock and the way the band jump in and out of the song always has me sitting in admiration of their professionalism and abilities. As for the rest of the song, I sing boisterously along to what is proving to be a very good audience recording.
“Face Down” is one of the pillars that the concert is built around, and it monsters the recording for the next ten minutes. With its big beat and infectious vocal hook, I am am completely drawn in, the following few minutes I am in another world. Prince knows what he is about to unleash upon the crowd, the first few minutes particularly interesting as he warns those with children that they should cover their ears or take them out before he hits us with the full force of his agenda and power of the groove. The bass comes like a tank, rolling across the land, for the final few moments, and this emphatically seals the deal for me – this is just what I want to hear.
Contrast, contrast. The following two songs not only come from a different time, but also a completely different place musically. “A Case Of U” gently grounds the performance and brings an intimacy to the arena not previously heard. The bump and grind of the opening half hour replaced by an emotional pull and thoughtful lyrics. “When You Were Mine” is equally compelling, this time the emotion replace with a simple energy that is completely natural and can’t be replicated. With Prince playing alone for these two songs, his natural abilities are spotlighted and he draws attention to this with his final comment of “I would like to apply for the position of King” – a sly reference and dig at Michael Jackson.
The arena is again filled with sound as the band rejoin Prince for “The Cross” It lacks some seriousness of earlier tours, here is it is a joyful stomp through a song that has become a celebration. This is underlined by the guitar solo that Prince brings to it, all shrieks of joy and howls of passion.
“The Cross” is more than matched in the spiritual stakes by “One Of Us”, a song that takes the celebration of God to yet another joyful stomp. These two songs are the backbone of the evenings performance and Prince gives plenty of time to the introduction, the vocals, and the guitar solo. Each part of the arrangement is worthy of the time invested, but it is the final minute of the guitar break where the rewards are greatest, with Prince playing with finesse and power.
The band all have a chance to play as “Do Me Baby” begins, the opening minutes given over to the band introducing themselves and each playing a solo. I found this most enjoyable, but once Prince comes to the microphone the band are forgotten as he sings a timeless rendition of this seduction classic. The previous two songs may be the spiritual highlight, but “Do Me, Baby” is definitely the sexy highlight and a song I could happily listen to again and again.
The concert speeds up considerably at this point, and the next 15 minutes sees a quick romp through Prince’s back catalog. “Sexy M.F.” starts this off in fine style. It is uptempo and fun early on, before a surprising upswing occurs midsong that carries in away from it’s initial funk. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” likewise has an element of fun to it and although it lacks the intensity of the album version, it is still a rewarding listen here.
It’s with the piano set that Prince brings an air of intimacy to recording. Although he plays a run of truncated songs, it still brings a smile to the face. “Diamonds and Pearls” begins this set, but its “The Beautiful Ones” that follows where the real heart of the performance lies. However, the largest cheer comes for “Darlin Nikki”, and one can hear why. Prince teases the opening minute on his piano, picking out the hook as the crowd cheer him on at every pause. When he does sing, he only gives the first few lines, letting the audience loudly sing the risque lines.
As much as I love “Condition Of The Heart”, the rendition here is too short for me to get much enjoyment out of. “Girls and Boys” has my head nodding in approve, and even with only the piano for accompaniment Prince gives it the required funk and swing. Again its short, but a nice moment.
“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” begins with Prince, but sees the reintroduction of the band. It is much longer than the previous few songs and sees the concert pull back to a more traditional format. Personally, I think the song sounds great, but there is nothing for me to latch onto emotionally and I find it drifts by me rather quickly.
I am far more engaged with “Take Me With You” that comes quickly after. Only a minute, but it is joyful rendition that warms the cockles of my heart.
My cockles are less warmed by “Raspberry Beret” that comes paired with it. I don’t have a problem with the song, but the performance at this show is luck warm and it fails to build into the explosion of pop that it promises. It is the end of the main show however, before a lengthy break before the first encore.
The song that opens the encore is the reason this bootleg was recommended to be, a 10 minute jam on “Soul Sacrifice” with Carlos Santana. After a slow build the song really kicks off at the two minute mark as the guitars rise to the occasion and blaze across the recording. Insert any superlative you want at this point, the following minutes are beyond description and make this recording indispensable. Prince introduces Carlos as his hero, and he delivers a performance to match expectations. Forget everything else I have said about the performance up to this stage, this song is all you ever need to hear and it lays waste to all that has come before it.
“Soul Sacrifice” is the pinnacle of the show and the following “Sleep Around” feels quite a let down. It does play as a party jam, albeit a very ’90’s inspired party. I like to party just as much as the next man, but following after “Soul Sacrifice” it comes across as weak and almost throw away.
There is plenty of audience interaction for “I Like Funky Music”, but very little for us to enjoy here at home. The groove works, but with out seeing the dancers on stage or being involved, it does seem like a flat spot in the concert. No doubt a great concert experience, it does play as a poor bootleg experience.
There is no surprise at all as the final songs of the recording is “Baby I’m A Star” and “1999”. “Baby I’m A Star” serves as an introduction, its energy giving the show one final boost. “1999” plays as an almost full version, with plenty “Party!” chanting and funky groove playing us out for the final minutes. It doesn’t reach the heights previous hit by other songs in the the evening, but it does close out the show on the right note.
Ignore the flat ending, and the couple of weak spots mid setlist, there is no doubt that this show is worth listening to. “Soul Sacrifice” with Santana was what brought me to this bootleg, and it delivered far more than I could have imagined. Along with “Do Me, Baby” and “One Of Us”, it formed the backbone of the show. Despite some cliched ’90’s sound in places, the show was far better than I expected for a Jam Of The Year concert. It might be sometime before I get back round to listening to this one again, but I would have no hesitation in listening to it again in future.