With not many shows played in 1999 there isn’t much to listen to from that time. My collection is thin from 1999 and consequently so is the blog. I intend to right that wrong by taking in a couple of shows from that year. I have already taken in the Mill City festival, and today I will listen to a show from the beginning of the year at Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas. This from a Sabotage release, and also covers another couple of shows, but it is the show from January 2nd that interests me most. An eclectic mix of songs sees some strange bedfellows, I Would Die 4 U bumps up against Get Yo Groove On, and the show is short for a Prince show so I am hoping for something infused with plenty of energy. It looks good on paper, fingers crossed it delivers.
2nd January 1999, Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas
We ease into the show with an easy Push It Up. It takes some time to make itself known, but that’s no problem at all as I enjoy it right from the start. With a steady beat and the band chanting “push it up” the funk is slowly added by the slightest of guitar. With Prince intoning “The funk keep on rolling” he, in a couple of words, sums up the exact mood of the song, it does indeed roll. The song stays with a low roll and even as Prince sings the chorus it doesn’t rise to anything more, it stays low in the groove all the way. Things do become more lively with the introduction of Jam Of The Year, with the groove still locked down it’s the lyrics that raise the excitement levels and some added keys is certainly a plus.
Talkin Loud And Sayin Nothin has the band changing gears and cutting into their work, with Larry Graham doing his best to get things going. Hand waving, and some funky music has me feeling it, although Prince does pull things back a couple of times and breaking the flow. Mike Scott delivers a quick solo as the party begins in earnest with an action packed keyboard solo following close after. Its funky and something I would normally expect later in the gig, nevertheless it gets things moving early on and sounds great.
Rosie Gaines singing Carwash is perfectly in keeping with what has come before and it is seamless in setting the party vibe already set. It follows right on the heels of Talkin Loud And Saying Nothin, almost as a medley- the groove never stopping. It may sound dated, but it is of its time and is very 1999.
Likewise Let’s Work comes after, without pause or let up. It does lack some crispness, whether it be the recording or the performance I don’t know. After years of listening to Prince bootlegs I know that it does lack the fire and passion that was present in the performances of the song in the early eighties.
Delirious also harks back to the early days and it fares better at this show than the previous Let’s Work. It still has a brightness and a bounce that carries the day, and the best moment is the brief piano solo that appears midsong bringing a smile to my face. Rock N Roll Is Alive (And Lives In Minneapolis) is played as an instrumental coda, leaving the song finishing on an energized high.
There are plenty of great live versions of Purple Rain in circulation, this is not one of them. It has a dreariness about it, and sounds uninspired throughout. Even the guitar solo that is usually uplifting is instead laborious and for the first time in my life I find myself counting the minutes until it ends.
The gentle swells of Little Red Corvette restores my faith. With the guitar delicately emphasizing the rise and fall of the keyboard it has a gentleness to it that washes against me. It is a somewhat unusual arrangement, after an extended introduction Prince sings the opening verse and chorus before Mike Scott takes the solo and the song suddenly ends. Even in this truncated form it is still a classy few minutes and worth it just for those opening minutes alone.
I Would Die 4 U sees the crowd cheering and gleefully singing along. The next few minutes the songs come thick and fast, and this is a fine introduction that gets the crowd involved. It’s only played very short, and as such has a brightness to it that keeps things moving as Prince quickly introduces the band with Get Yo Groove On before the segue into I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man has a pounding beat as Prince toys with some guitar playing. A minute of teasing and the song kicks into the familiar riff as Prince sings. Of course it’s all about the guitar, and it isn’t long before Prince dispenses with the singing and heads straight for the guitar solo. The solo isn’t as long as I want, and it slows to some interesting guitar noodling which shimmers and swirls before occasionally flickering into life.
The intensity levels drop as Rosie Gaines takes the microphone for Redemption Song. It’s not a bad rendition, it’s just that it is not Prince. I try to get something out of it but it never sweeps me up. The song goes by without me feeling engaged or actively listening, it serves well as a backdrop without any demand.
Rosie stays on the microphone for Ain’t No Way, and this time I am much more engaged. Her voice with the keyboards underneath, gives it a soulful nostalgic sound and I wallow in the song for several minutes, enjoying all of it. With a full warm sound this is better than the previous Redemption Song and I find myself falling for Rosie all over again.
It’s no surprise that Prince and Rosie next take on Nothing Compares 2 U, and this lifts the show to another level as they belt it out for maximum effect. The organ solo is the heart of the song and gives it an emotional base. It is obviously hitting the right buttons with the audience as they actively sing through the song and give plenty of warm appreciation at the end of the song.
I forget that Come On was less than a year old at this stage, and at this performance Prince plays it in full, with plenty of loops and beats keeping it hopping. The singing comes across well on the recording, and it does have its own charm. I may not like it when Doug E Fresh does his thing, but I do enjoy hearing the crowd sing and chant along with him.
I was curious to hear 1999: The New Master live, until it actually started. It’s a mess, with beat boxing from Doug E. Fresh, and lots of rapping and crowd participation. Some people may like it, for me it’s not really what I want to hear from a Prince show. It does run for ten minutes which can make for hard listening, and I must admit late in the song I stopped paying attention as I wasn’t enjoying it in the slightest.
The loop of Gett Up has me perking up, but we stay with Doug E Fresh for the first minute before Prince hits the main riff and things get started. It’s not the greatest version, but there is no denying the ear-worm of a hook, and the guitar has me listening intently for the couple of minutes the song plays. The final couple of minutes it switches to Gett Off(housestyle), something I wouldn’t normally like but this evening I find myself liking it despite myself, and even Rosie’s scat raises a smile.
The final Release Yourself is where Larry Graham and Rosie Gaines shine. The song is such that it is a natural fit for them, and with Larry’s bass rumbling underneath there is another chance for Rosie to sing. The song is yet another finale jam that runs for some time as an upbeat instrumental with plenty of organ and bass. When the singing does begin its as with the key players each taking a part, although Rosie is easily the strongest. Despite this, Larry is recorded best on the recording, a shame as Rosie is going for it near the end even though she is quieter on the recording. It is the finale and there is no surprise as it ends with a flourish.
I was overly optimistic when I set out to listen to this show. I knew 1999 wasn’t a great year for shows, yet I thought some of the songs would offer more. There was some good songs and moments in the show, but they weren’t strong enough to make up for the not so good songs. A run of shows like this and I would quickly lose interest in listening to bootlegs, luckily I know there are plenty more good shows from other years without having to dip into shows like this. An interesting enough experience, but no something I would want to do again any time soon.