Camden Palace 1988

The Palace in Hollywood wasn’t the only “Palace”  aftershow that Prince played in 1988. Earlier in the year he played a late night show at the Camden Palace in London, just one month before the famous small club gig that we all know and love. This concert is well known, in a large part due to the proshot footage that was later aired on “Prince: Musial Portrait” and “Omnibus: Prince Rogers Nelson,” both which provide a rare proshot glimpse into aftershows of the era. The concert itself is notable for three things. Firstly this proshot footage that hints that the full show remains on video tape somewhere in the vault. A tasty morsel of what could be an appetizing prospect should this whole show ever see the light of day. Then there is the guest appearance of Mica Paris, who Prince spots in the crowd and hands the microphone to for a guest spot. It is a glorious spontaneous moment that perfectly encapsulates the pure love of music and feeling that anything might happen at the show. Lastly, the show gains further luster from the guest appearance of Ronnie Wood, and immediately after  Mavis Staples. Although neither guest is heard on the bootleg (which sadly cuts out before they come to the stage), it still adds to the mythology of the show, and Sabotage have tried their best to give us a taste of what is missing by appending 20 seconds of Ronnie Woods appearance onto the end of the bootleg. It is a pointless exercise, but does serve to remind us of what we are missing from the recording. What we are left with though is a a fierce performance that touches on historic as Prince lavishes a hot and sweaty, yet utterly cool, performance on one of the most famous venues in London.

26th July (am), 1988. The Camden palace, London

It a special gift to Cat that introduces us to the bootleg as Prince gives a unique performance of “Happy Birthday” in her honor. It is a playful rendition as he flirts with different characters in his voice, and gives a gentle ad-lip with only heightens the lighthearted feel to the song. It is far from essential listening, but it does has its own simplistic charm.

“Forever In My Life,” is sonically far more serious, although the recording is less than ideal with its tape hiss just loud enough to catch my attention. The music that the band is cooking up is full of different flavors as Prince takes it from a campfire sing- a-long start to a song steeped in gospel and history, filtering it through a lens that colors it both with blues and funk while settling in neither camp. The guitar runs that appear midsong become the most fascinating feature as they carry the rhythm and the emotion of the song long after Prince has given up singing. Coupled with the popping bass sound, the song becomes the type of jam that contains far more rhythmic ideas than melodic ones, something for the feet rather than the ears.

The recording does no favours for the following “Strange Relationship.’ All the pieces are in place for a grand rendition, Prince’s guitar coupled with Eric Leeds horn sound as if they are prepared to inflict some serious damage upon the dance floor, but the recording remains willfully thin, all the more frustrating given that what we can hear is full of shadows and echos, a highly contrasting collage of sounds for the listener to luxuriate in. Prince’s guitar does whine and cut through the recording, but it never wails and howls as it would on a more full blooded recording, making this a neutered version of what we know would be a testosterone fueled performance.

“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is undoubtedly the high point of the show for a number of reasons. The introduction gives no hint of what is to come, the tape hiss stealing some of the intricacy from the performance, leaving only the bold strokes for us to hear. However, it settles down after this with the music elevated above mere trivialities. The vocals don’t fare so well, but as we approach the chorus the sound lifts as the sun bursts through the clouds of the recording. It is Dr Fink who first breaks this initial spell with his glistening and chiming solo. It does play to the divinity sound the rest of the band are weaving, with Eric Leeds following in a similar suit there is the feel that the band are indeed taking it higher. Prince’s guitar solo is different from the small club gig, in this case it is far more nuanced in the opening minutes, and Prince draws a slow build from his instrument, not so much playing rushing to hurricane force finish, but rather playing with the eddies and wind gusts before he finally blows us away with the gale force crescendo that follows. There is much more to come though, and as he spots Mica Paris in the audience he casually hands her the microphone for an impromptu performance that musically is just as rewarding as all that has come before. She grounds the song with strong roots, while Prince creates something otherworldly onstage Mica brings a humanity to the song that we can all relate to. This performance alone has me salivating at the prospect of a full proshot ever appearing.

I find the appearance of “Colonial Bogey March” and “Under The Cherry Moon” to be nothing more but a diversion, although “Under The Cherry Moon” offers a fresh take on a familiar song with the keyboard squelching and heaving in a psychedelic way that would sit happily at home in any late 1960’s commune.

“Six” brings further interest, as Eric Leeds brings his horns and Jazz sensibilities to what would otherwise be a pop rock concert. The opening horn refrain signals what will follow, and the song throws down a challenge from here on in as Eric wiggles and squiggles across the beat for the next few minutes in a manner that suggests the wider palette that Prince was drawing from at the time. Its a far from the furious guitar rock we heard earlier in the show, and even when Prince’s guitar is heard it remains subservient to the mood of the piece, remaining busy without ever coming into full focus.

 

This audience recording finishes with some funk in the form of “Dead On It” and “Housequake.” “Dead On It” is notable only for inclusion, musically it doesn’t muscle up  to the other songs performed in the evening. “Housquake” is more rewarding, there is some punch to Prince’s performance, and the beat alone is  reason enough to always dedicate time to this song. Unfortunately this is where we leave the concert as the recording finishes midsong, leaving us to only guess what the following “Miss You” (with Ronnie Wood) “I’ll Take There,” “Chain OF Fools” (both with Mavis Staples) and “Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic” offer in the way of musical treasures. Part of the “Miss You” performance with Ronnie Wood can be seen on the circulating footage, with Prince giving a fine impersonation of Mick Jagger, and the Sabotage release of this show has tacked the 20 second snippet onto the end of the recording, a waste in that it doesn’t offer much listening value, although I have to admit the video footage out there looks fantastic.

This is almost one of the greats. A 1988 era aftershow, a bevy of guest appearances, and some of Prince’s finest music all makes for a memorable performance. On the downside, the recording is just on the rough side of good, and incomplete. In itself this would be no bad thing, but having seen parts of the video, we know that this show has so much more, and the thought that it exists on video out there makes for a frustrating listen, always there is the voice in the back of my head saying “this could be so much better” Until we do get a better recording of the show, we will just have to make do with what we’ve got. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely a show that every needs to hear at least once.

Thanks for joining me again
-Hamish

The Palace 1988

When it comes to bootlegs of aftershows in 1988, the Trojan Horse stands above all others. It is the most beloved and well known of the aftershows, but there are several others from the same year that deserve attention. The Warfield aftershow from November is highly regarded, as is Große Freiheit ’36 (especially by me). There is also the aftershow from the Camden Palace in London (sadly incomplete) and then the bootleg I will be listening to today, the early morning performance from The Palace, Hollywood. Superficially all these concerts appear to be similar, but I find that when I listen to them each has it’s own character and feel, and so it is with The Palace. It appears to be a standard aftershow set of the time, but it is played with a heavy dose of swing that is missing in the other shows. There is an element of fun, and the intensity that smothers the other concerts is instead replaced with a bright and breezy performance. The audience recording isn’t too bad, considering the era in which it was recorded, and even if the sound is thin in places, the performance can always be heard without distortion. It can probably be best compared to the Warfield show, recorded just four days later, the setlists are almost identical, and although two different recordings of that later show are in circulation, I prefer the sound of this concert.

 7th November 1988 (a.m.), The Palace, Hollywood.

It is the keyboards that roll out the red carpet and lead us into the show. The slow build into “Positivity” gives the song the solemnly that the lyric content demands, and as the rest of the band join there is the feel that something special is in the air. Without becoming too intense, the song lets the individual players feel their way into the music, along with the audience, and the song envelops the recording in it’s timeless mist.

A brightness enters the recording as Prince plays a sharp version of “Eye Know.” It is at this point that the recording briefly flickers, but the band and Prince remain upfront and loud, and there is an extra energy as the song and concert blooms into something a whole lot more colorful and celebratory. Despite the wobble in the recording, it is apparent that Prince is giving another star performance, and he burns with supernova power even this early into the show. The song isn’t as as complex as it is heard on record, but the band add a baroque sound that melds well on top of Princes bare funk that can be heard churning away beneath the song.

“Wade In The Water” gives the recording an extra depth, as Prince pulls us back to his roots, while delivering some feathery guitar that sounds as if it has been handed down from God himself. Prince stays on this route, “God Is Alive” bringing spirituality and funk together in a mix that is Prince at his very best, bringing these two desperate strands together to create something unique that bestrides both sides of this religious gulf. There is the feeling of God in the air, while the bottom of end of the music suggests all sorts of other sins, this unresolved tension creating a music that never gets tiresome or stale.

The piano introduction to “The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker” shines in the darkness in this recording, and the rest of the song is equally well served by the quality if the tape.  The nuance of the song is captured well, and as it segues into “Four” the piano and horns can both be heard, without either taking precedence over the other, making for another colourful and three dimensional moment caught on tape.

Boni Boyer does not disappoint as she comes forward for “Down Home Blues.” I prefer her performance here over what is heard at the Small Club gig (incidentally, the first live performance they did of the song) , she is more subtle here and rather than belting it out she instead gives it to us piece by piece, making for easy digesting before Prince makes his first major guitar move of the show with some surgical playing that neatly dissects the song. Boni Boyer returns for a final “Rock Me, Baby,” but it is Prince who burns the house down with one last fiery burst from his guitar.

It takes some time for the band to build into “Cold Sweat,” but even these opening minutes are funk fueled and one can almost hear the sweat dripping through the tape and the recording. Boni Boyer and Eric Leeds dominate the overall sound, and although the song is grounded it its forceful rhythm, it is these two can be heard adding the most to the overall feel of it. For all that though, it is a Sheila E. solo that brings the song to a close with a simple and effective break, only to be out done by the moment where Prince briefly sings the “Bad” bassline. Well worth checking out!

Some interlacing guitar work introduces “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” draping a soft lace of rhythm guitar across the sparse opening. At first Prince is swallowed up by the song, but he does emerge from this aching sound with a emphatic plea from the heart as the song builds to it’s emotional core.  It is the first pillars of the guitar solo that are the gateway into the heart of the song, and as the guitar cries in the darkness the song slips away, only to be replaced by raw emotion and the purity of music itself. It’s hard to know where to place this solo on the Pantheon of Prince guitar solos, but as it claws it’s way across the raw bloodied heart at the centre of the music, it speaks not to the ear, but to the very soul, making for one of Prince’s most powerful performances.

It is a frantic “Supercalifragisexy” that banishes any such sentimentality from the show, and Prince gives a furious and mesmerizing performance. With guitar in hand he ladles on great dollops of funk, all at a breakneck speed that never lets up through the ten minutes the song twists and turns in various shades of funk. It is Eric Leeds who is the foil to Prince’s kinetic sound, he matches him blow for blow through the song, both matching Prince and pushing him further. It is only in Prince’s final hurricane of a solo that he bests Eric, and after such a blitzkrieg it is hard to envisage what might come next.

What comes next is  “I Wish U Heaven (part 3).” With a heavy beat, the drums overwhelm the previous all conquering guitar, a heavy march compared to the guitar’s earlier wild night flight. The song smolders with the appearance of the horns, and as Prince hits his lines the song heats up, but it never quite bursts into flame as it promises. The rhythm though is undeniable, and it never once lets up in its drive and momentum as it powers towards the end of the show. The music glowers and growls, there is no bite, only the threat of imminent danger and darkness. It is a decisive finish to the concert, and the band unfurl their strident brand of funk in these final minutes, making a lasting impression that lingers on long after the concert has finished.

It has been quite sometime since I listened to this entire show, and I have to wonder why it doesn’t get more play at my place. An excellent show with Prince and the band at the height of their powers, there is a lot to love about this bootleg.  There is very little rock or pop to be heard here, it is all about the funk, and Prince gives us plenty of his own unique style of funk as each song is brushed by his sound and sonic flavor. This bootleg is easy to overlook next to the highly esteemed Small Club, but it holds it’s own in comparison, and should not be discounted. As a record of Prince’s funk style at the time this recording is outstanding, and is not to be missed.

Thanks again
-Hamish

Große Freiheit ’36 1988

I haven’t covered an after-show for a few weeks now, so today I look forward to listening to one of my favourites. Recorded on the Lovesexy tour, this after-show from Hamburg ticks all the boxes. A couple of covers, a guest appearance, and a few personal favourites make this one a joy to listen to. I can’t wait, so let’s take a listen.

Hamburg 88k

31 August, 1988, Große Freiheit ’36 Hamburg

The show gets off to an excellent start with Just My Imagination (running away with me). There is very little in the way of build up, Prince is right into the song from the jump. The recording is raw, and the audience is right in the microphone, it’s very much an audience recording of its time. It doesn’t detract too much from the song, Princes vocals are strong and steady and after a few minutes his guitar break begins. It’s not as soaring or as sheering as I have heard, but I still listen to it captivated. It segues beautifully into some horns and that rolls things up nicely. The recording doesn’t capture the guitar great, but when Prince comes back on the mic I can hear his vocals nice and loud, and I love his vocal ad-libs near the end as he sings “was that you, in your red dress?” The crowd sing with him “Just my imagination” and it has a fine intimate sound to it all. With the snare coming in, Prince plays another break, but again the recording doesn’t quite do it justice. Maybe I am just too used to hearing the quality of the Small Club gig. His solo here is quite different, and it would be interesting to compare the two if this was a quality recording. There is another guitar break, and I’m guessing its Miko. It’s more relaxed sounding and clean, and in a lot of ways I enjoy it more than Princes. Miko definitely brings his own style and sound to the band, and he adds a lot. Its gives it a more rounded sound, and I find that listening after all these years it is something that keeps me interested.

Hamburg 88b

Prince briefly introduces a couple of the band, as well as his “new friend, the blue angel”. I wonder where we are going next as he says “we going make up something now, they don’t know what I’m going to do” and then calls for the beat. The recording gets a little rough, but I stick with it as the music is definitely more interesting. There is two funky rhythms running in and out of each other, and it’s very cool to hear. Prince starts to sing “Rave” and Rave Into The Joy Fantastic really begins to get cooking. It’s more laid back than the Small Club gig and the crowd seem to be much more with it too. Eric adds his sound to it, and we get something very different from what is heard on the Small Club gig. It’s fascinating to listen to, and you can hear the music unfolding right before you. I would soon tire of listening to these shows, if not for all the improvisations and jams we get. This one is outstanding, especially as Eric Leeds plays more and more as the song continues. As the crowd chants “Junior, play the bass” he more than obliges. Again, it’s unfortunate that the recording doesn’t capture his moment as well as I would have liked, but it’s still very listenable. The break for the drummer sounds good, the recording picks up the drums well, and for the rest of the song the drums are all I find myself listening to. There is a nice guitar sound, and I am sure on subsequent listens I would get much more out of it.

Hamburg 88

Without pause Prince begins to sing “I only knew her for a little while” before he proceeds to first few lines a capella. The rest of the band joins, and the funk levels go up several notches with Girls And Boys. There are several instruments and sounds worth listening to, but as always its Eric Leeds that I really dig. He comes in early with a break, before Prince calls him later for a much longer sax solo. Just as I think he’s finishing up, Prince begins to chant “Eric blow your horn” and I am pretty happy as we get another minute of his work. There is a break down and some funky guitar, before Prince plugs in and plays a scorching solo. Please excuse the cliché, but it’s an apt description as his guitar playing is so hot at this point. I wouldn’t have expected it to suit this song, but once again Prince proves me wrong.

Things take a gentle twist as the piano of Venus De Milo begins. It’s as brief as it is beautiful, however I can’t complain as it’s the perfect intro into a short piano set.

Starfish and Coffee sounds as equally good in this setting. The crowd are clapping along and I can feel them, as Prince plays and sings it feels so intimate I can almost feel the heat coming off the stage. Prince keeps it short, opting for a single verse and chorus before he segues into Raspberry Beret.

Hamburg 88a

Raspberry Beret to my ears always sounds better solo on the piano. I love hearing that melody on the piano, and although I have heard it maybe too much in my life, I still smile as it begins. Its only Prince and the piano, and he gives it the same treatment as the previous song, that is just a verse and a chorus. The crowd is appreciative, and Prince acknowledges this with a “Oh, you guys are too nice, I’m gonna stay here a while”

With the crowd steadily clapping I get my first surprise of the recording, as Prince solo at the piano begins to play People Without. I am so used to hearing it on the Small Club recording, that any other arrangement sounds new and fresh to my ears. It lacks some of the weight of the Small Club gig, and yet in some ways I enjoy it much more as Prince plays the piano and sings. It’s not a fully formed song, and Prince sings a couple of lines, then the main refrain for a couple of minutes, and asides from that there’s nothing more to it. Still a good moment, and another reason I should listen to this more.

Next Prince plays Condition Of The Heart. It’s an excellent choice, and wins me over right from the start. Prince sings the first verse before the crowd comes on board for a loud “Condition of the heeaarrrtttt”. Prince dryly comments that “oh my goodness, how many singers we got?” before telling them “Now I’ll play one you don’t know”

Hamburg 88 d

Still Would Stand All Time on record has never come close to the live versions I have heard. On record the soul of the song seems to be missing, it’s been so polished and worked that the emotion of the live performances is missing entirely. The arrangement on this recording is fantastic. Prince sings gentle, but his voice aches with emotion as he sings the first chorus. I am so caught in it that I am practically holding my breath as he sings. He works the audience into it, coaching them through the first chorus, before delivering the lines himself dripping in an emotional quiver. The song does meander for a time, but it’s always pleasant even when its lacks direction. Things pick up as Prince works the crowd through the chorus before introducing Taylor Dayne for a vocal solo. I had forgotten just how good she was, in the 1980’s I used to listen to her a lot, without giving any thought to just how good she really was. She doesn’t get much time here, but having her vocals does add some colour and interest. Things do slow down after this and Prince does his spoken/singing part. It’s not as crisp and clear as I have heard, and he is a little devoid of ideas on this one. There is a coda as the song suddenly takes on an upbeat swinging sound. It’s definitely fun, and the singers can be heard having fun keeping up and adding their parts to the song. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly enjoyed it. Still a great song, and another great performance.

Hamburg 88 e

A “One, two, three” brings on another firm favourite. Strange Relationship is irrepressible, and my head moves immediately as I hear it. Like the other songs, the recording doesn’t do it any favours, and I can’t hear the horns and keys as well as I would like. Prince’s vocals though sound great and the drum has a great sharp sound. The bass plays a solo, and I don’t remember hearing that in this song before. It’s a good sound and it segues beautifully into a keyboard solo, absolutely seamless. Dr Fink plays the keyboard solo, and it’s got his distinctive sound all over it. It’s great to hear his style and sound is still present with Prince at these gigs, and it draws a line right back to his early sound. The song continues on to Prince and his “Is he good to ya?” and lots of sounds are thrown into the mix. Prince calls for horns to swell, and the keyboard too comes back into the mix. It’s a lot more loose the second time round, and has a great live sound. The trumpet comes to my ears for the first time in the show, and its shrill sound easily sounds over the top of everything else. There is plenty to smile about as Prince and the crowd start barking before Prince says “Look at Boni’s face, she scared to death that groove gonna come back in”. There is plenty of chunky piano as the funk carries through right to the end of the song.

Hamburg 88j

An elastic sounding bass kicks off the next song, and it’s not immediately apparent to me what the song is. There is a classic Miko guitar line before Prince begins to sing Love Bizarre. This song is true to an after show gig, it’s drawn out, and has a different sound with this band. Eric’s playing is freer sounding, and the bass line is very strong under pinning the whole thing. It’s much less a pop song, and much more a jam. Levi is very prominent in the song as is Miko. Both of them sound very strongly, before Eric gets a nice long solo. He plays for quite some time, and the song really becomes his. There is the sound of Prince later in the song with his guitar, but its lost in the mix somewhat, and Eric dominates.

Hamburg 88f

For me things become less interesting as Boni sings I’ll Take You There. I can’t deny, she’s a fine singer, but the song itself doesn’t ignite, and as I listen I really am waiting to see what’s coming next. The music does pick up as it goes, and Boni unleashes some great screams before things quickly change to the Down Home Blues.

Hamburg 88g

The song starts relatively slowly, Boni speaks to the ladies in the crowd as she explains what the song is about. She sounds very confident on this song, and it’s obvious that this is a great fit for her voice, and a style she is very familiar with. The keyboards and horns play some nice swells in the background, and I am transported to another time and another place. Prince brings me back into the here and now as he plays a guitar break in his unique style. The song gets much better to my ears as Boni gets into the swing of things with some hearty screams before there is another guitar break that takes things off into a different space completely.

Cold Sweat is much more my thing, and even though it takes minute to really start properly I get into it straight away. There is some cool drum patterns played initially before things settle into a groove after a minute or two. There is very little Prince early on, and the first section of the song is Eric Leeds playing a much more laid back solo than we have heard previously. There is another drum break, and I do wonder if it is Prince himself playing as I can’t hear him anywhere else on the song. There are several stops and starts, and then a funny moment as Prince briefly sings the bass line of Michael Jackson’s Bad. It’s very short, and amusing.

Hamburg 88h

Things go up a gear as the guitar chugs and grooves along with the keyboards into God Is Alive. This is another highlight, the groove is very heavy and strong. Prince is singing with a lot of passion and that is infectious to me. The keyboard plays a strong loop over the bass, as Prince and his guitar play. His vocals have a growl to them and he sounds like he is singing from the heart. It’s the vocals that really get me, but then he stops and lets his guitar do the talking. The guitar sound doesn’t match the intensity of his singing, its strong without being the main focus. The chant of “Cat, where is at?” is fun, my only problem with it is that it detracts from the earlier intensity of the song. However that intensity returns as Prince sings “God is alive” and the guitar is turned up in the mix. The reason for the Cat chant becomes apparent as she raps her lines from Alphabet St. It’s not bad, although I am normally no great fan of it. The song becomes very interesting as Prince talks about Camille, and the influence. It’s absolutely fascinating, and brilliant to listen to, and Prince even draws on Eric to play some smooth grooves as he talks. Prince talks about Camille making the album, then not naming it. The recording drops a little at this point, but once I make the adjustment I can still hear everything OK. Prince ends the song talking about Lovesexy. It’s not what I expected to hear, but as a whole it’s a must listen. To hear Prince talk frankly about his beliefs is an insight to his inner world, and in this case it’s not preachy at all.

Hamburg 88c

I never would have guessed to hear Purple Rain at an after show, but that is the song that closes the show. I am so surprised to hear it, its halfway over before I even start listening properly. Prince plays the shorter arrangement here- skipping straight to the guitar break after a single verse and chorus. The audience sense that there may not be much in it, and I can hear them begin the “aww,awww” singing almost as soon as the guitar break begins. Prince ends his first guitar break to sing with them, and it’s at this point the recording ends, leaving me to wonder what happened next.

This show looked good on paper, and despite the flaws in the recording it lived up to those expectations. There are plenty of highlights for me on this, and the two that immediately come to mind are God Is Alive, and Still Would Stand All Time. These 1988 after shows are really something, each one is similar and yet different in many ways. There is some tough competition for a favourite, but you would definitely have to count this one up there.

Hamburg 88i

 

 

 

Warfield Theatre, 1988 Aftershow

I haven’t heard or read many people talking about this recording, but it is a gig and a recording I really like. Aftershows throw up a wide variety of songs, and no two are ever alike. This one has several songs that appear on numerous other recordings, but also a couple of others that aren’t played as often, and these are the ones that really make me excited about this recording. The recording is muted, but clear, but it is short- clocking in at just over an hour. But a very enjoyable hour it was indeed.

11 November 1988  Warfield theatre, San Francisco

Like many other Prince gigs, this starts with a steady beat. Just the drums playing a relatively simple beat. There is just a touch of bass, but I don’t recognize it at first, until there is a loud cheer from the crowd and Prince starts to sing Positivity. The keys enter at the same time, and even though it’s somewhat quiet, it’s an excellent start to the gig. It’s hard for me to give an unbiased opinion about this song. Lovesexy is regarded as the highest creative peak, in terms of albums, that Prince ever reached. And I know that for many people, their favorite song on the album is Anna Stesia. I love Anna Stesia too, but I also have an equal amount of love for Positivity. Its tone and mood captures my imagination, and there is all sort of interesting moments in it that excite me. So for me, to have it open this show is fantastic, and I am all in right from the start. The song gets better and better as it progresses. The keyboard gets louder, and more clunky. After a quiet first verse, Prince sings the second verse much more full throated, and it has a nice full sound to it. It’s more human and not as mechanical as it sounds on the record. There are plenty of cheers (some of them might be from me on the couch) as a long sax solo begins. Ah yes, Eric Leeds, no need to tell you again how much I love his playing. He finishes one solo, there is a brief pause by Prince, and then he calls for another solo from Eric. Not a word of complaint from me, I could listen to this stuff all day. The song then moves into a form more in line from the album, with plenty of Princes singing. He’s not as cool and laid back as you might expect, and the song is so much stronger. The bass too is not so buried in the mix, and it well heard in the last couple of minutes. With a “Hold on to your soul” the song comes to an end. What a brilliant opening to the show.

The muted chord progression of Dorothy Parker begins. I am only listening to the show, but already in my mind I picture it as a dark smoky type of gig. Both these songs have that sound to them. Dorothy Parker sounds good, there is some nice horn and piano playing, and a great moment when Prince ad-libs “Mind if I turn on the radio, Madhouse was on!” This is followed by a piano break, which has a cool jazzy feel to it, as you might imagine. The horns and piano are what this one is about, the horns never dominate, but they do add a lot of color. The song drops down a bit, and over a repetitive couple of chords the sax plays for a while. It’s a very cool couple of minutes, I can’t properly describe it, but to me it sounds like this picture looks……

Piet Mondrian broadway boogiewoogie

Prince sounds pretty relaxed as he thanks the crowd for coming out, and tells them “this beats hanging out at the hotel watching Letterman” He immediately begins Housequake, and this is again a very strong version. He sounds like his heart is really in it on this night, and his vocals are quite impassioned. The band is very cohesive on this one, and there is nothing loose or wild about it. The horn solo is brief and tight, and it played as heard on Sign O Times. It’s no bad thing at all, and this is one of my favorite renditions of this song. Not that there’s anything special about it, just its played with a lot of heart. Later in the song things become a little more exciting, there is a couple of ad-libs from Prince, and the band begin to swing off a shade more. It has a funky false ending, before Prince calls the band back for a finally couple of lines.

Prince then says “I think I want to play guitar” and we are treated to some beautiful lead guitar. He’s warming up, and playing some nice lead lines. With a hushed “one, two” the familiar sound of Just My Imagination begins. The first couple of minutes of guitar set the bar high, and it’s almost disappointing when the song begins proper. Princes’ singing is warm and inviting, and I find myself falling under his spell as I listen to this. The guitar break is equally alluring, and it draws me in slowly before Prince begins to crank up the pressure. This is one of my favorite renditions of Just My Imagination; the guitar break is passionate, but not too fast or furious. Prince sounds like he is holding back but it sounds great. I especially like what comes next- some very impassioned singing of Noon Rendezvous by Prince. It takes me a few seconds to register what I am hearing, but when I realize what it is I am blown away. I love it when he sings “I don’t care what you got on your feet baby, I just want to meet you, I just want to greet you, I just want to take off all your clothes and eat you”. Oh yes, we miss you a lot ‘Dirty Prince’. There is a loud cheer as the song ends, but I don’t think the audience realize just how great that was!

Prince 1988 1

There is the sound of some lead guitar next, before the more relaxed sound of I’ll Take You There begins. The crowd sound as if they are enjoying it, there is plenty of handclapping, and a couple of whoops as Boni sings. I like the little guitar I can hear, but what I enjoy most is the singing of Boni. Usually I find it hard to get into a song that Prince himself isn’t singing, but today I find myself enjoying this one a lot. There is a few minutes of the singers repeating “I’ll take you there” while some nice guitar is played underneath by Miko. Nothing too heavy or in your face, just some nice funky rhythm. Things pick up after this and Boni and the music both start pushing much harder. The song ends abruptly, but I think it’s my recording rather than the band itself.

‘Take this beat, I don’t mind’ starts us into I wish U Heaven part 3 (Take this beat). Another favorite of mine from this period, it’s played nice and upbeat, with plenty of funk. Prince is sounding like he is enjoying it a lot, and sings “I gave you Levi, you don’t want him” a few times, before there is a great break for the bass. It gets better and faster as it goes, and it shows off some of Levis talents nicely. Now the band really begins to jam. Boni sings and we move into Cold Sweat. It’s played as we have heard before, pretty much the same as The Small Club gig. The band and Boni more than do it justice here, and its part of a much longer medley.

Next “Ladies and Gentlemen, on the drums, Prince!” He plays an enjoyable drum break, nothing too spectacular but it shows off plenty of his skills. The bass joins in after a bit, and there is a brief jam. Again, it all sounds very good, but there is nothing spectacular. A sharp “on the two” ends Princes time on the drum before the very Shelia E percussive sound begins.

Shelia E’s solo here is one of the more enjoyable ones I have heard from her. It’s much more colorful, and percussive sounding rather than just a basic rock solo. She plays some cool sounding fast rhythms, and it’s definitely a head bobber for me. As much as I love Shelia, I don’t always enjoy her solos, but this one plays to all her strengths, and it’s great. For the first time I find myself thinking “I wish that went for longer”. The recording is worth listening to for this alone.

Prince 1988 2

There is a longer pause after this, and then Prince instructs Boni to “Hit an F chord”. A moment of twinkling on the piano as Prince sings the first lines of Lovesexy, and then the beat comes in and we get a proper full-on rendition of Lovesexy. It sounds great live, the guitars can be heard much more, as can the bass. There is a lot happening to listen to, but it still keeps a groove about it. The crowd starts singing “hey hey” with Princes encouragement, and for a few seconds I can close my eyes and imagine myself there. The music swirls around, and Prince sounds like he is having a great time. He sings ‘Hollyrock’ for a bit, and I get the feeling that this song is really going to be stretched out. The bass and drums are right in front (mostly due to the recording I think) and it gives the song a much harder sound. There is a false ending, and then Prince starts pushing the band in different directions. All sorts of sounds and lines are thrown into the song. I hear a snatch of Glamorous life, as well as A Love Bizarre before somewhat bizarrely Prince sings a line from ‘Born in the USA’. This is followed half a minute later by a line from ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. The band really start smoking after this, there is a definite upturn in intensity, and then Boni starts singing Chain Of Fools. Unfortunately the recording isn’t great, and I don’t hear her as well as I might, but she sounds good. At this point the saxophone makes a very welcome return, this time playing fast and furious. The band is chugging along at great speed now, and moves effortlessly into a Beautiful Night. I often underestimate this band, but when I hear shows like this I am in total awe. They are awesome in every sense of the word. With a shout of “Vegas” Prince brings it all to a halt and the recording ends.

Prince 1988

I am very surprised that this recording doesn’t get more love. I have heard very few people mention it, but I thought it was outstanding. True, it’s an audience recording, and that does detract from it a lot. But the performance is hot, the setlist has enough in there to make it interesting, and the band is very tight. If this was a better recording it would be magnificent, but even as an audience recording I still find it totally absorbing.

I am looking forward to next weeks recording, I already have a few ‘must listens’ lined up
-Hamish