Act II Vienna

Last month someone kindly suggested that I should take a listen to some shows from Austria, with the promise that Prince always played something special when he played there. The obvious place to start would be a couple of aftershows, or a main show from later in Prince’s career. Instead I have elected to run with an Act II show from 1993, mainly because I have a DVD of the show but have never quite got around to watching it due to the very 90’s looking cover. I probably have a better audio copy of the concert somewhere, but I know that during this period the look was just as important as the music (although I could probably say that about every stage of Prince’s career), and I am pretty excited to watch a full concert again.

25th August 1993, Vienna, Austria

The first minutes of the video are entirely typical for an audience recording of the era, filmed from the far left we begin with the camera out of focused and shaking. This is matched by the audio which is equally shaky and thin sounding. The visual aspect rapidly improves though, with the zoom utilized we have a nice close view of the action unfolding on stage, which is timely as the pseudo Prince onstage strips off his clothes at the end of “My Name Is Prince” to reveal Mayte’s shapely body. However, the audio never improves, and I resign myself to the fact that it is what it is and I had better get used to it. “My Name Is Prince” is a frantic way to start with plenty of motion all over the stage, although to be honest I only have eyes for Mayte.

Prince makes his appearance for “Sexy M.F.”, the greasy funk of it highlight by the person who can be seen crossing the stage with a mop.  The audience may have be agape any the bombastic opening, but they come forward for “Sexy M.F.” and can be heard all through the song with their singing and clapping. Asides from Prince and Mayte, it is Levi who gets plenty of spotlight, and I can’t deny it is definitely his guitar sound the oils the funky cogs.

 

The soft sound of “The Beautiful Ones” is unwittingly matched by the soft focus of the camera as we temporarily have a blurry image at the song’s beginning. The look of Prince is casual/cool, and this is equaled with his low key delivery of this normally heavy hitter, he maintains his facade of cool and never digs as deep into the song as I hope. This isn’t helped by the sound quality which stays shallow, and I am sure I would have a much better opinion of the song if I heard a better recording of the concert.

The concert is front loaded with hits, it is “Let’s Go Crazy” that vanishes any thoughts of “The Beautiful Ones” from the stage. With an elongated keyboard opening from Tommy Barbarella I am immediately impressed by the extra depth to it, and Prince delivers with his punchy guitar line that gives the song a steely force that I haven’t previously heard at this show. With guitar a blaze, and lights and streamers adding to the moment in a spray of colour, I expect the song to go for longer than it does, but we only get a few minutes. Prince gives us plenty in that time, but it only makes me hungry for more.

“Kiss” is too busy for my tastes, and the stage is awash with horn players and musicians which takes away from the stripped back funk sound that first drew me to the song. Visually Prince is looking great as he works his way back and forth across the stage, but I can’t find an entry point for me to really get into the song, and it leaves me feeling ambivalent about the whole performance.

The performance of “Irresistible Bitch” isn’t a patch on the original, and with the previous “Kiss,” this becomes a flat spot in what has been otherwise a funky show.

Redemption comes with a blistering “Always in My Hair” The organ stabs come as soft punches, before the Prince hits us with jabbing guitar that leaves a burning impression. Coupled with some of his trademark showmanship, one feels that at this point the show has reignited and the next portion of the concert might be the essence of the performance.

From the high voltage “She’s Always In My Hair,” Prince easily transitions to the pure pop of “Raspberry Beret” It’s always too sweet, and Prince knows this as he ends it quickly before one has time to tire of it’s upbeat joy. “The Cross” is a polar opposite, the music is joyous and the lyrics celebrating Princes spiritual beliefs, but it is a heavy and sincere rendition giving us a sense of how important this song is to Prince. All things considered, it is wonderfully filmed and Prince looks brilliant in the spot light while his Cloud guitar provides a stunning contrast in it’s deep blue color. This is easily the part of the concert that demands watching most, and I drown myself in the music through it’s entirety.

Prince stays with the heavy hitters, “Sign O The Times” just as compelling and every bit as intense as “The Cross.” They are a good match, despite the bleakness of “Sign O The Times,” it is countered by the note of hope that Prince hits in “The Cross.” Both sound weighty and deal with themes that you wouldn’t normally hear at a pop concert, and that excites me about the music even more. The music is the main focus of “Sign O The Times,” and even with Mayte being a visual supernova it is still the music that stays to the fore.

“Purple Rain” is light weight in comparison, but that may well be due the previously mentioned audio limitations. There is a lightness to Prince’s performance though, hand in pocket early on does give an indication that he is holding back from a full blooded performance. The guitar break more than makes up for it though, and I am most pleased to see him on top of the piano, head thrown back and guitar howling. If you’re looking for an iconic image of Prince, this would be it.

I have strong feelings about the medley of “Thunder,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Nothing Compares 2 U.” I don’t like it. The first two songs are merely throw away hooks that introduce the slightly longer “Nothing Compares 2 U.” All are instrumental, and even with Mayte providing some sense of spectacle with her dancing, my interest begins to wane. This interlude continues with “And God Created Woman,” and “Diamonds And Pearls,” but there is no doubt that without Prince on stage this feels like a different concert entirely.

Last time Prince was on stage he was blazing with his guitar, his return see’s him conquering another instrument as he delivers the intimate piano set. As is his way so often, this begins with the gentle “Venus De Milo.” With very little moving on stage, the melody is the motion that carries the performance and sketches out where Prince might go with this set.

If not for an annoying buzz on the recording, “Condition Of The Heart” would be be one of the quietest moments on the bootleg. Its only a verse, but the audience is reverentially  quiet as Prince delivers it. “Little Red Corvette” comes from the same place, and gets equal respect from the audience. It’s easy to forget how big this concert is as Prince draws the crowd in with his intimate delivery.

There is a major tape drop out for “Strollin.” The picture rapidly deteriorates into grainy static, before stopping all together a minute into the song. When the picture resumes it is in time for us to enjoy the final portion of “Scandalous.” Prince whoops and squeals to the crowd, but without the foreplay of the first half of the song it is a unsatisfying climax.

The NPG do a fine job of taking us back to 1986 with their take on “Girls And Boys.” Eric Leeds may not be in the line up, but Prince has the band stuffed with horn players, all who are eager to make their mark on this song. It isn’t particularly clean sounding, but it is energetic and engaging and that more than makes up for any audio inconsistencies.

On audio boots, the Arabic intro is enjoyable enough, on video boots it becomes much more as we witness Mayte dancing with a sword perched on her head. I’m not convinced it belongs in a Prince concert, but there is no doubt that this is just the kind of thing we expect at a Prince concert. Expecting the unexpected was always part of the anticipation of a new tour or album, and Prince certainly delivered that in the early and mid 90’s.

Predictably, it is a smooth “7” that follows. The person filming is evidently in love with Mayte, and the camera follows her relentlessly for the first part of the song, Prince only seen when she is nearby. Prince gives a highly staged performance, it is almost too slick, every note and moved planned,all rehearsed with very little sign of spontaneity in the song. I enjoy it, but it just makes me wish he would break out and give something extra at this stage of the show.

The encores open with another predictable song for the moment – “1999.” With the large ensemble on stage it becomes lost in the crowd, the song is there somewhere, but I can’t see it for all the bodies and different sounds emanating from the stage. It is only near the end as Prince and Levi play up with their slick guitar sound do I finally engage with the song, and just in time too for the quick transition into “Baby I’m A Star.” This is a far better song for this group, this time all the bodies and instruments make sense as they have a strong hook to play against and plenty of time to display their skills. It becomes and evolving jam at this point, and as “America” pounds out I am completely in awe of the moment, even the slightly tacky US flag made of fireworks has me excited. The horns are a fantastic addition to the song, and one can only imagine how overwhelming this musical assault must have felt in the flesh.

The funk continues to flow through “D.M.S.R,” this time the trombone becoming a key player and adding some depth to a recording that is otherwise high in treble. Morris Hayes cuts into his work, fleshing out the sound further with his muscular keyboard. Prince’s diversion into the lyrics of “Gett Off” doesn’t enthuse me, but the NPG is simply untouchable throughout, and I fall easily into their orbit. Another drop in the tape breaks me out of this moment, and when it resumes I find Prince in the middle of “Johnny,” a song so laid back it is almost comatose and a million miles away from the previous rambling medley.

Prince ups the pace as he closes the concert with a quickfire “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.” It comes at breakneck speed, and there is barely enough time to register what song it is before Prince ends with his traditional “thank you, good night.” The crowd reaction isn’t as vocal as I expect, and I think a lot of them find it hard to believe that it is actually all over.

This would not be my first choice to watch or listen to from this time period. We have better videos circulating from the Act I tour, and soundboard quality audio circulating from the Act II tour (especially the Germany festival show just one week later). However, this show does have its place in the bootleg canon. It is yet another record of the NPG as they were really hitting their stride and driving Prince’s music in a new direction. There are parts of this show where I felt the NPG were almost upstaging Prince, and with Mayte serving as a visual foil there were times when Prince disappeared into the performance going on around him. With a setlist nicely balanced between old and new tracks, the concert is a marker of the two eras Prince was straddling, the slave era is almost upon us and this is a final goodbye to his back catalogue for the next few years. It is difficult to recommend this bootleg, but I know how addictive this game is and I am sure most fans would want to see it anyway.

Thanks for reading,
Back next week for more of the same
-Hamish

1993 New York – 26th March

Sometime ago I took a listen to a concert from the Act 1 tour; 24th March in New York to be precise. Now here I am a couple years later taking a look at the recently surfaced footage from the same venue just a couple of days later. The show is exactly the same, but the new footage is very well shot, especially considering it is audience filmed. Although I am well versed in the performance Prince put on throughout the Act 1 tour, this new video has me again enthused and the quality of the filming makes it a rewarding couple of hours. I cannot speak highly enough of this new footage, the years rewound as I watched it and the concert tour seems only yesterday in my mind. It’s hard to believe it is almost 25 years ago.

26th March, 1993 Radio City Music Hall, New York.

It is an aggressive looking (and sounding ) Prince who takes the stage for the opening number. 24 years on, his outfit looks slightly ridiculous, yet he owns the look and comes across as a strong character rather than a figure of ridicule. “My Name Is Prince” carries this strong image and aggression, the lyrics spit hard and the music is forceful. Tony M is a good fit in this context and I find I warm to his rap and with a guitar solo from Levi Seacer the song is forceful and bold. Add the outstanding footage to the mix and we are off to a great start.

With “Sexy M.F.” the concert slows, yet it retains an intensity. This time it is Tommy Barbarella who provides a focus, his solo is long enough to be interesting without derailing the song. Levi also provides a solo, in this case he does ‘fly’ under Princes command, the notes taking flight from his guitar as he has his moment.

“Damn U”, now we’re talking. It may not have the momentum and push of the first two songs, but it stands strong in it’s own right with Prince lounging against the piano as he sings it provides plenty of memorable images early on. Later, Prince takes centre stage as he provides a smooth lyrical delivery that is well served by the recording.

Prince puts the piano to good use for “The Max”. The music regains some intensity, and with Prince banging on the piano there is plenty of energy in the performance. However, the final few minutes are giving over to Prince and Mayte posing and preening, and the music, while staying focus, loses some of it’s drive and energy. It’s hard to complain about this though, especially as it looks so great.

One of my favorite songs from the Symbol album has always been “The Morning Papers” and I find the performance of it here delivers all I want from it. With Prince singing and playing at the piano the song builds, before Prince takes to his guitar to add some extra expression and colour to the song. The guitar never reaches the expected heights, but Prince makes up for it in the following “Peach”. Prince serves up a guitar onslaught, complete with plenty of posing and preening, that makes the next few minutes a highly enjoyable and entertaining watch. These two songs leave me, and I am sure more than a few in the audience, with a big stupid grin on my face.

“Blue Light” is as warm as a summers breeze, it never ignites into anything but it is nice come down after the guitar filled “Peach”. It is “The Continental” that has me again sitting up and taking notice, with it’s insistent guitar line and Prince’s forceful vocals, the song becomes an embodiment of the whole performance and evening, all that is good and great about the Symbol album is right here. And it’s not just Prince and his guitar that shines, Mayte takes her turn as the music slows and she provides some easy lines. This mellow vibe stays with us for sometime as Prince pulls dancers on stage, normally I would find this unsatisfying on a recording, but the visual are clean and easy to look at and I find its an equally enjoying part of the show.

The concert continues on quickly at this point, “The Flow” comes and goes, it is fresh and Prince engaging with the band, before this slow for yet another personal favorite “Johnny”. As much as I love the lyrics, I find it is the solo by Levi that captures my attention. He provides a sharpness to the mellow groove and stops the song from meandering as Prince talks to the audience and the dancers. He does take his place at the piano for the final minute and this heralds in the next section of the show.

Seated at the piano, Prince presents a gentle “Sweet Baby” before offering up his pièce de résistance of the concert – “When God Created Women/3 Chains Of Gold” I still find it extraordinary every time I see it, even if it is overworked and outside anything else Prince has ever done. It takes itself very seriously, and perhaps this is why Prince gets away with it, he is truly believing in what he is playing and presenting.

Prince gets to take a break as Mayte takes centre stage for her sword dance. It may not make for the greatest of musical moments, but it is suitably weird and typical of Prince to provide something unexpected. There is no surprise as “7” follows this. Upbeat and infectious, it is strangely out of place compared to some of the other more demanding music presented at the concert. It does provide a lighter moment and Mayte on roller skates seems a completely normal event.

“Lets Go Crazy” is equally out of place, yet it elicits squeals of delight from the crowd as it begins. I find it jarring when songs like this appear when Prince is musically in another place, but one can understand why it must be in the setlist. Prince plays a shorten version and as provides only the briefest of guitar breaks before moving onto “Kiss”. This works better as it has another new arrangement (no surprise there) and it takes it place easily among the other music Prince is promoting at the time. With the dancers fully utilized it again becomes a visual experience and one captured well by the taper. There is a completely natural segue into “Irresistible Bitch” that  jumps off from the guitar line. Prince’s funk tunes work best for this show, this song highlights the point as well as anything that has come previously.

The show becomes a whole lot more serious as Prince again picks up his guitar for a great rendition of “She’s Always In My Hair”. Of course, I am a huge admirer of this song, so any version rocks my world. This one does have an extra kick to Princes guitar playing and I can’t take my eyes from the screen as he plays. There isn’t much to the vocals, the guitar is the main focus, and rightly so when it is at this level. The song is short but serves as a punch in the face, the concert intensifying with this performance.

“When You Were Mine” sees Prince staying with his guitar jam. The song may have it’s nostalgic sound, but Princes look is anything but and he plays with a fierceness throughout. With the previous song, these are the most straight forward moments of the show and they work as the crowded stage gives way to something simpler, Prince and his guitar playing rock music.

Next comes the obvious pairing of “Insatiable” and “Scandalous”. With Prince at the piano, the show again regains a basic format, the only embellishments coming from the appearance of Mayte again on her roller skates! That’s not quite the only nod to a stage show, strings of diamonds lower from above, no doubt being recycled from the Diamond and Pearls tour. Of the two songs, I prefer “Scandalous”, but that is neither here nor there, they are both seductive and spellbinding. As Prince falls to the floor shrieking, I am completely mesmerized, this is one bootleg I will be coming back to again and again.

“Gett Off” doesn’t quite reach these same heights, nevertheless it is still fascinating to watch. There is plenty of Prince and Mayte dancing together, but the best moments come every time Princes fingers flash across the fret board. The guitar riff is hypnotic, and I am well and truly caught up in the song by the time it finishes. “Gett Off (Housestyle)” is a lot of fun, and although I can’t see the crowd, I am sure they are all on their feet. The song is ended in darkness as the band take it to a slow groove for “Goldnigga” Not normally something I listen to, it this case it’s only half a minute, and with Princes creamy vocals singing the lines it does have its merits.

There is quite the sing-a-long before Prince takes the microphone for the opening lines of Purple Rain. The rendition here, although not unexpected, is surprisingly good. I have heard this thousands of times, yet Prince still holds me enraptured as he sings his signature song. It is a full version that is played and Princes gives a sincere and focused vocal performance before he resorts to his guitar. Once again I feel fully engaged with his performance and despite my ambivalent feelings about Purple Rain, I am still swept up by the moment and spectacle of it.

With pimp cane in hand, Prince rips through the encore of “Partyman”, he promises to tear it up and indeed for the next few minutes he does. It is fast and furious, a lot of the subtlety of the song is lost under the heavy and quick groove. With chants of “Party up”, Prince’s intentions for this song are abundantly clear, and the party rolls on through a wild sounding “Loose” that he tacks on to it.

The band storm through “1999”, Prince is relentless as he and the music stay in constant motion, bringing the end of the show to a frenetic finish. Prince dances, sings, and plays guitar in a flurry of activity that makes me feel tired just watching. As the song evolves in “Baby I’m A Star” this momentum is maintained,Prince slows down but the band and music stay focused and forceful.

“Push” is the final song of the night, although for the most part it is an instrumental jam. Prince is an integral part, he plays the purple axxe through the song and it is a lot of fun to watch. With Prince interacting with the band, playing with them individually, there is plenty to hold the eye. Tony M has his moment, but this song is all about groove rather than lyrics and vocals. The show closes with a quick rap from Prince, before he and the band dance off the stage, bringing to a close what has been a phenomenal show.

A lot of great recordings have surfaced over the last 12 months since Prince passed away. Of the ones I have stumbled across, this is the best. Previous footage from the Act 1 shows has been circulating for sometime, but none of them come close to the quality of this one. A brilliantly filmed show from one of Princes most fascinating years, this one merits a second or third look.

Thanks again
Hamish

Act II Aftershow -Zurich

“A funny thing happened to me on the way here today” begins the old joke, only in my case those words do ring true. A funny thing DID happen to me on the way to writing today’s blog, and the show I will be listening to is not the one I originally intended. I have been meaning for some time to take a listen to the Paris Club Rex show from 1993, but I never quite get around to it. I thought that this week the time had come, and I was looking online for more information about the show when I stumbled across a forum where someone recommended this show from Zurich in the same year. Although this show is equally well known, it too remains waiting for me to write about, and since it was closer to hand than the Club Rex show it will be the one I will listen to now.  I am fooling myself that I am living life spontaneously, but really it’s just more effort to find the Club Rex show in the archives.

30th August 1993, Kaufleuten Zurich

This recording has been circulating for years now, in many guises. I am running with the 4DF release, mostly because it has been cleaned up somewhat to move the audience noise back to their rightful place -the background. On first impressions I immediately like the set list, I see Blue light listed (many don’t care for it, I do), plenty of funk jams, and then what looks like a rock fuelled ending.

The recording lives up to my expectations from the opening moments, a rising horn riff and the crowd on board from the opening seconds. They introduce themselves as The New Power Generation, and that is borne out by the following performance, it is a complete band performance with Prince being very much band orientated for the bulk of the show. Deuce And A Quarter is right in line with this thought, Tony M does the speaking, while it up to Kathy J to provide the early initiative on the horns. She is of course ably assisted by Michael Nelson and his trombone solo. With the band swinging, Tony M does his best to hype the crowd, and I am most surprised to hear it’s working for him. The party is already starting in style.

Deuce And A Quarter may have started the party, but its’s the following Black M.F. In The House where things take off. The band plays as the first song, only more so. The horns are brighter, the band funkier, and Prince sings his lines with great relish. It’s hard not to like it, and I find I am singing loudly here at home, at least until my wife comes in to see what the heck I’m signing about. As the crowd gives a rousing cheer it feels more like a house party than a concert, the audience and the band are already connecting.

Prince keeps in theme with Race following naturally enough after. The recording does give a wobble at this point, it’s no real problem, and Prince and the band are still chewing it up on stage. Race isn’t as intense and full on as I sometime hear, it’s more relaxed and flows easier. The band are playing brilliantly and keeping it in the pocket without ever pushing the song, I think I prefer it this way, and I am thankful the recording is sounding as good as it does.

I haven’t used the word ‘intense’ yet, but that is about to change with the introduction of The Undertaker. With its creeping bassline and misty horns swirling there is a feeling of impending seriousness. Prince delivers that seriousness in his lyrics and with the backing singers it does lose that party vibe as it slips into darker territory. There is the much admired guitar break, but what demands listening from my point of view is the Tommy Barbarella keyboard break that pulls us deep into the swampy sound. Its thick and all enveloping, a juicy warm sound that you can lose yourself in, and that’s exactly what I do for the next ten minutes. The final coda sees some funk enter the picture, and we are left on an upbeat groove that contrasts all that has come before.

Some guitar and keyboard interplay, and before I know they are playing Six. What a great song to be able to pull out at a moment like this, and with the horn section on board it gets a work out in the full sound it deserves. It’s the keyboard and guitar that leads us into it, but come the chorus the horns make themselves heard, and they are the key component for the rest of the song. I can’t stress enough how good this all sounds, the song and the band are a perfect match, and this is certainly one of the standout songs of the night.

The horn section stays at the front of our minds, and the sound mix, as they next tackle Intermission. It’s lively and sharp, something I enjoy, but at only a couple of minutes it’s much shorter than anything else heard at the show.

I was surprised to see Delirious clocking in at over seven minutes, but all is explained as I listen, it’s played as a swing-time jam, with plenty of horns bouncing back and forth, and long guitar break by Prince that keeps in this theme, and a joyful sing along by the crowd. The mood and tempo is kept up the whole time, and it’s adds a lot of lightness and fun to the evening.  Prince does very little singing and instead it’s the band that gets all the shine as they play.

Typical, I was looking forward to hearing Blue Light then when it starts I don’t immediately recognize it. After the beat and a few seconds of lead guitar it settles into the groove I recognize, especially as the horns begin to play. It has an easy way about it, and flows easily in and out as Prince and the crowd sing together. The horns give it the sunshine feel, and with the crowd singing along it seems to work much better than it does on album.

Come gets things moving again, with its smooth sound much more driving than the previous Blue Light. There is a slippery guitar underneath which I always listen for, and the crowd clap and chant their way through the song. They aren’t intrusive at all, and the overall effect is one of unity between the band themselves and the crowd. All in all, it’s a very smooth and clean performance, something I could easily listen to again.

A pounding drum, a scream and the opening riff of Endorphin Machine opens the next part of the show in style. The guitar isn’t right to the front as perhaps most would like, but that hardly matters as Prince sings the lyrics, his guitar sawing back and forth underneath. It’s bold and energetic, and as Prince launches into the guitar break I am sold on it. He sings with a hint of venom as he spits the lines before his guitar flies, it’s captivating even on an audience recording listening here at home.

Peach starts slowly, before Prince turns everything up to eleven to give us a rendition to remember. His vocals are full throated, and only matched by the full blooded guitar sound he gets out of his axe. There is some interaction with the audience, but we are all here for the guitar pyrotechnics, and Prince delivers on that front bringing out the best of his playing. I’m not always a big fan of Peach, this one has me all in.

What Is Hip? is intriguing from the start, with plenty of horn work (obviously) and a very funky guitar, it is constantly moving and evolving. Morris Haynes playing a swirling organ solo is an added bonus, and without Prince singing again it highlights how much of a total band performance this show has been.

Prince is back on the microphone for a final stomp through House In Order. With a call of “everyone go to church y’all” there is definitely a church vibe as the crowd claps and the band swings. The first few minutes are great, but it’s the scat and funky guitar that appears midsong that floors me, they slip between gospel infused singing to funk in a heartbeat. Prince keeps the crowd just as involved as the band, and as you might imagine there is plenty of chanting, singing and clapping in the final few minutes, Prince always leaves the crowd finishing the show as if they are very much a part of it.

And just like that it’s over. I wasn’t 100% confident about this recording, but the show is yet another good representation of the aftershow experience. The real surprise was how little Tony M was heard on the microphone, and how much the audience noise had been toned down. This recording has been around for a long time now, and I’m glad I gave it another listen with fresh ears. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

Barcelona Aftershow, 1993

Recently I have become very interested in the evolution of Prince, and in particular the missing link between the Act I, Act II concerts, and the shows that we would see in 1994/1995. When I look at the recordings on hand, I can see that the clues for the sounds and songs that are to come are there in the aftershow concerts. The frequency of these aftershows increase markedly in 1993, and Prince sustains this rate for a good few years afterwards.  Several songs from Come and The Gold Experience can be first heard in these 1993 aftershows, even though it is a couple of years before they have an official release, and there are also the Goldnigga songs in the mix too. Add in the Undertaker project and songs from the time, and 1993 begins to look like a very fertile creative period indeed. Today I am listening to an aftershow from later in the year. It wasn’t my first choice to listen to, but due to computer problems it’s the one I have to run with.

23 August, 1993 Estàndard, Barcelona

The Sacrifice Of Victor didn’t get played regularly on tour, so hearing it here is a nice treat. The horns have a swagger to them as the song begins, and it’s a nice way in. A simple riff, repeated over and over, its sounds too easy and it always works. Having a horn section gives it a more mature sound, and it’s much more laid back than it sounds on record. I find that even though the recording is an audience recording, I much prefer this arrangement of the song to that on the record. The band has a swing to them, and Prince sounds very relaxed and happy as he commands the band. What is great about it is that he isn’t sounding like he his pushing them too hard, rather he is just guiding them in direction. As the song progresses I feel some regret that it wasn’t released in this form, like a fine wine it has matured at this point, and now is ready for me to digest.

Prince doesn’t mince his words as he introduces the next song “Black mother fuckers in the house!” Black M.F In The House from the Goldnigga album is bit of an oddity. It’s one of the few Goldnigga album songs that I like, and this is due in the most part to the guitar line that runs through it. Here again, its guitar line that holds my attention. The horns are again in fine form, but its slippery guitar sound that I love so much. There are better live versions of this song out there, this one is good – although not the first one I would choose to listen to.

Prince 1993

The lyrical meaning of Race is highlighted next as Prince speaks the lyrics before the song begins. It’s still a year away from this being released on the Come album, and much like the other songs here, it’s got a much more laid back sound at this stage. Prince seems to come up with these laid back sounding songs, then amps them up and adds extras hooks and tightens them up for release. It’s interesting to hear it like this, and its lacking some of the intensity in the chorus, and with the horn section playing more relaxed all over it, it has a different vibe. The slippery guitar sound is present, and is giving it that same groovy sound as the horns. It takes on a different feel with the lead guitar playing a break, however the break is only short and we soon return to a great funky sound. The last minute has a cool sounding guitar refrain that is a great way to finish it.

Another new song next, with The Ride. Its public debut was only three weeks before this, so it still fresh to the audience, and I guess to the band too. It’s a little faster than what is heard in the following years, the beat is just a shade quicker. Prince doesn’t slow it right back, and this makes it more interesting for me to listen to. The recording is pretty good, and I like the sound of Prince’s guitar break, it’s nice and crisp sounding in the speakers. Sometimes I get bored of this song, here I don’t, and I find myself listening intently all the way through, the guitar has some different sounding breaks and Prince solos, and he doesn’t repeat himself, nor does he make it scream. It’s tight, and well worth the attention.

The crunching guitar sounds out the beginning of Honky Tonk Woman. I was surprised all those years ago when I first heard him play it, but now I see it’s a good fit for this band and this sound. The guitar isn’t as in my face as I’d like, at the show I’m sure it was plenty loud, it’s just not picked up on the recording. Prince takes a solo early on, and the song is sounding a lot more Keith Richards than Mick Jagger. Vocals are secondary to the guitar sound, and the only negative thing about the song is that it ends much too soon.

We go back further in time with a performance of Jailhouse Rock. As with Honky Tonk Woman, one gets the feeling that Prince isn’t particularly interested in singing it, rather he’d rather play his guitar. It’s a tease of a song and ends after a couple of minutes, but not before Prince has played a couple of solos and called “Vegas!” to finish it.

Come is another of the songs from this time that was around for quite a while before Prince finally released it on the Come album. It’s got a jam quality to it, and the audience is very quick to pick up the “come” chant. It sounds loose and easy to listen to here, and I prefer this to the released version. I wonder if it was stale by the time Prince released it, and perhaps he has worked the life out of it in the year and a half it took to release it. Here it’s fresh, and very enjoyable to listen to.

Prince 1993 b

The guitar introduction to Endorphin Machine is excellent, and not in a way you might expect. It’s not a full sounding guitar riff at the start of the song, rather it’s a thin sounding guitar playing the riff. I like that it’s not a full out assault, instead it creeps up on you, and it’s only at Princes scream does it take off. It’s still a whole two years away from its official release, and yet all the parts are in place and its sounding complete. Tommy plays his solo well, and it’s a nice mix as Prince comes over the top with his guitar break. It’s a shame we had to wait so long to get the official version, but it was worth it.

With the crowd calling Mayte, Prince plays a song about her, Peach. There is nothing new in the guitar in it, instead its Prince singing in a raspy throaty voice that gives it a real rock sound here. The audience do get a chance to sing along, before Prince takes over with his guitar and drives us right through to the end of the song. The song is a little light for my tastes, but I can’t deny that it sounds like a lot of fun, and I always get a buzz from hearing Prince shredding on the guitar. He gives it plenty, and throws in a couple of false endings that tease me at the end.

Next we get the first public performance of the Undertaker. I am very used to hearing it from The Undertaker release, this one is different, but every bit as good. The horns add a different dimension to it, and Princes guitar break is more intricate, and it’s got a fine tone to it that I really like. This one is a must listen, and in a lot of ways is the most interesting song of the show. The band get to showcase their talents, there is a bass solo as well as the guitar solo, and the horns add just enough brassiness to make it shine. There is also a really strange sounding solo later in the song that I want to come back to and listen to again. Actually, make that two solos, this is better than I imagined.

Sing A Simple Song is a song we have heard many times now, but this recording is the first time it was played by Prince at a gig. It’s very much a band performance, and no one person stands out, even Prince himself is well in the mix. He is singing, but the song doesn’t seem to highlight his singing, or his guitar playing, instead it’s the song that is the thing here, and the entire band play tightly on it as the crowd sings. Prince also sings some lines of You Can Make It If You Try, but it’s not really worth mentioning as the song finishes at this point.

Prince 1993 a

Get Your House In Order sounds good, but it seems to be a much better fit for Mavis Staples rather than Prince. However the horns sound great on this track, and the band is very sharp through it all, even if Princes vocals don’t seem quite right. The song turns into a groove and a jam. At this point I enjoy it much more, and so does the audience from the sound of it, as they again get to sing along, as the various band members get a chance to play. Even here at home I find myself nodding along and chanting, usually a good sign when I am listening to one of these shows. The horns shine a little brighter as the song continues and overall it’s a good representation of the whole show.

Prince leads us in Johnny with a “J..O..H..N..N..Y”. Like he has done a couple of other times in this show, the song is more laid back. I seem to remember it’s a little more lively on other performances, this one is only a little more laid back and I like it too. Its a casual way to finish the gig, and Prince and the audience sound very at ease as they sing and chant their way through the song. Levi has plenty of time to play before the sax break comes in, and his part is my favourite part of the song, understated yet very good. There is a hint of a Prince guitar break, I’m sure I can hear his guitar for a few seconds, before he has the crowd chanting “NPG in the mother fucking house” which is the last thing we hear as the band stop and the crowd continues chanting.

The importance of these 1993 aftershows shouldn’t be underestimated. A lot of what will come in the next couple of years is laid out in these shows, and I could have picked any aftershow from this year and been well satisfied with it. Prince and the NPG are laying down the blue print of the sound that they will follow for the next couple of years, and some of the songs that will define that period have already been written and performed regularly at these aftershows. I will definitely spend some time revisiting shows from this period, so expect plenty more blog posts relating to this time period from me in future. This show was very good, perhaps not my favourite aftershow from 1993, but it’s a fine place to start. Anyone with an interest in Princes evolution as an artist should pay close attention to these shows.

Thanks for reading
Have a great week,
-Hamish

 

Rock Over Germany

It’s very rare that I listen to an Act II show. Not that there is anything wrong with them, or that I strongly dislike them. But they do fall between his 1980’s golden period, and his interesting and fascinating symbol era. Today’s show from Germany 1993 is a great show, and it’s unfortunate that I overlook it. The set list is a hotchpotch of songs and styles, but it’s all of a high standard, and a couple of songs in the set list have my mouth watering. And best of all, because I listen to this so little, it is always fresh sounding to me.

3 September, 1993 Flugplatz Lüneburg, Germany

A very rock n roll introduction from the announcer on this one. Its clichéd but exciting as he says “And now…..without further ado…please welcome Prince and the New Power Generation!!” Prince goes on to say “there are no kings on this earth, only Princes” and a very funky My Name is Prince is played by the band. The bass, drums and rhythm guitar lock in very tightly and the guitar especially catches my ear- it’s minimal but funky. There is a sample of I Wanna Be Your Lover which seems to be an odd choice, but utterly works. Princes rapping is good here, he doesn’t try too hard as he does on other recordings, and in this case it serves him better. He raps in his deeper voice, but resists temptation to yell as in some of his rap songs. The power of Michael B comes across very well on this recording, and it’s a joy to listen to him pounding the drums.

The silky guitar line of Sexy MF gets the next song off to good start, and Prince intones easily over it. I don’t love the singing, but the music is brilliant. The sound of that guitar, and then the nice horny chorus. Tommy Barbarella plays his part well, and adds an organic sound to the smooth shiny funk. Levis solo is distracted by Prince speaking to the crowd at the start of it, but he plays out long enough that there is plenty for me to enjoy. The second part of the song after this isn’t as enjoyable for me, Princes rap sounds corny to my ears, but there is a horn solo which I get right into and leaves me with an overall positive impression of the song.

Prince ActIId

I didn’t see The Beautiful Ones coming, but there is absolutely no complaint from me as it begins. The keyboards swells sound just as divine as they always have, and the sound of live horns updates the feel of it. Princes vocals aren’t as good as they are on the album, but really- could anything match that performance? He does sound great here, but the spoken ‘perfect picture’ sounds too contrived and loud on this recording for my personal taste. He makes amends with some screams, and closes the song in the style which I know and love, along with a nice little horn flourish.

Lets Go Crazy’s organ intro is the next thing we hear on the recording, and its nice and full sounding. Prince gives us “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life” before the pounding beat and the band come onboard. Although an excellent recording, the mix here is a little off, and mostly we hear Prince and the beat while the other instruments are somewhere lost in the mix. That changes when Prince begins the guitar solo, and that comes at us front and centre. The solo disappears into a funky rhythm and some encouragement to the audience before the rhythm of Kiss begins.

Prince Act IIb

Kiss begins with the trademark funky guitar, but it’s backed with some heavy sounding bass, and plenty of horns. It’s far from delicate sounding, and it’s the bass gets me shaking. With the horns there is a Vegas sound to it, and they give it a lot of push and fullness. Prince vocals are stronger than I expect on this song, and in fact his vocals have been very strong so far in the show. This is quite a likable version of kiss, I can’t say it’s particularly faithful to the original, but it’s a lot of fun. For all the sounds and going ons, its still the horns that I come back to, they are that good. The song ends with plenty of call and response with the crowd.

There is a segue into Irresistible Bitch, which I can’t speak highly enough of. Like the previous song, this one is heavy on the horns, but still lacks a little of the heaviness that I have heard on other tours. But its still one of his funkiest and its inclusion is a definite highlight. It’s with great regret that it only lasts a couple of minutes, but all is forgiven when the next song starts.

The familiar riff of Always In My Hair has me out of my seat. This is two gems right next to each other, and is another stand out for me. Prince’s guitar is crisp and clean, and I am much relieved when he strikes up the first solo. Its anything you could want or imagine, and I’m pleased to see a show so heavy on dance and props still has time for a classic Prince guitar moment. He doesn’t stretch the solo or the song out too long, and the song moves naturally enough to him jamming solo on his guitar. And this is where things really go up a notch. The playing is playful, sometimes light, sometimes heavy but always it sounds a lot of fun. It gets faster and faster, and ends with me shaking my head. Brilliant.

Prince Act II

Things take a pop turn next when the band strike up Raspberry Beret. A feel good song, if ever there was one, this one lives up to its reputation. Without being able to see the ActII stage and costumes, this sounds like its straight out of 1985. Prince ends it after a single verse and chorus, but once again I am not too disappointed when I hear what is next.

The Cross has a nice raw sound here, especially Princes vocals with have a fantastic live sound- as you would fully expect. The first couple of verses I listen carefully to Princes voice, but once his guitar takes over its unstoppable. It’s got a great garage sound to it, but no garage band has played a solo as good as the one Prince plays on this track. His vocals become very impassioned as the song goes on, and the last verse he is singing half way between a sing and a scream. It’s not as long as I want, but I add it to my list of highlights from the show so far.

Sign O The Times also gets added to that list, as its unmistakable beat begins. Princes vocals have a great sound to them again, it’s strong and raw. The guitar is something I haven’t heard before, the solo is cleaner than I expect and goes in a couple of different directions. Prince then throws in an adlib with “Lets get married, have a baby, we can call him Michael B, if he’s a boy” and Michael B obliges with some great rolls before Prince gives us more excellent guitar work. This whole section of the show has been fantastic, and it doesn’t let up as the band begins to play Purple Rain.

Purple Rain begins with plenty of keyboards and a nice firm drum- just the way I like it. There is a nice organ swelling, and the piano is in the mix as well. Prince adds a heavenly guitar line, and I am salivating where I sit. We are only a minute in and already this is a great one. The heavier crunching guitar plays, and again its just right. It doesn’t overwhelm and slowly adds to the feeling. Prince takes a break from the guitar and we get a classic “owww” from the man. He then sings the verses and his voice and this recording are both top shelf. He is loud, clean and crisp, and so is he recording. I usually tire of Purple Rain but this one has me listening all the way through. Prince begins his guitar break midway through his last few lines, and as it begins proper he calls “Live for Love”. Maybe I avoid live main shows too much to concentrate on after shows, but this is one main show that has my full attention, and I can’t speak highly enough of this Purple Rain. I don’t quite get to the point of singing along, but a dare say after a few drinks I certainly would have. The last notes fade, and I sit back pretty satisfied.

Prince ActIIe

There is the sound of thunder next and I immediately know what’s coming next- or so I thought! Prince intones the opening lines of Thunder, but the song never starts, instead we get a cool little rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. It’s an instrumental, but in everyway I love it. It’s a nice change in pace, and a nice reminder of what else Prince has in his bag of classic songs. It only goes for half a minute, but that’s just perfect.

I am knocked sideways next as the band begin to play And God Created Woman, not because of its inclusion in the set list, but the fact it sounds so good. I had forgotten about this song, and that’s a great shame, as in this show its sounds brilliant. Again, it’s another shortened instrumental, but just the taste of it leaves my dying to hear more. The horns play all over it, and sound great. I would have loved to hear Prince on it, but just hearing this small piece has me thinking I should pull the album version out next. There is then just a snatch of Diamonds and Pearls played instrumentally before we return to the main show proper.

The recording resumes with Prince playing the piano. Always a favorite part of the show for me, this one begins with the beautiful Venus De Milo. Of course its part of a longer medley so we only get another small taste, but it’s a nice start to the piano set.

Next Prince begins to play I Love U In Me. Despite the corny lyrics it still manages to sound very good here, mostly due to its stripped back sound and some nice piano work from Prince. He also personalizes the lyrics at one stage, which is always a nice touch. His vocals are deep and smooth and it’s a good match to his piano playing.

The band joins in for the next song as we move onto Strollin. Its nice easy feel is enhanced with the horn section adding a bit of sunshine to it. The drums are too much for my taste, but it no way detracts from the song. Just on the chorus they are a touch loud for me. The rest of the song glides by very easy.

Scandalous is another highlight. Prince’s voice leads the whole song, and the rest of the band sound well in the background. It’s a good performance, and more enjoyable after the run of shorter songs we have just heard. The horns play another excellent break, and it’s clear how much they added to his sound at this time. Hard to believe in another couple of years they would be gone from his sound. The song is either Prince voice, or the horns at this stage, and both play hard to out do each other. It’s not as smooth as you might think but it’s still another great part in what is proving to be a classic show

Prince Act IIc

Prince introduces the next song with a couple of lines from Girls and Boys before he says the old cliché “I’m gonna stay over here until you make up your mind”. Sure it’s old and corny, but it still gets a cheer from the crowd. Girls and Boys starts again, and it’s slightly slower, and heavy on horns. It lacks some of the sassiness of the original, but still has a funky feel. Prince sings with plenty of passion in his voice, and this helps inject some energy into it. It does become one for the crowd, as the horns play over Prince encourages the crowd with some call and response and ‘clap your hands’. After this it’s the horns all the way until the finish line.

The next thing we hear is the intro music to around The World In A Day, which has be slightly confused at first, but it quickly gives way to some drumming from Michael B before the first chords of 7 are played on a guitar. 7 sounds fresh, and the crowd are strangely quiet as it begins. The first minute of so it has very much an Arabic feel to it, in fact its not really recognizable, which might account for the lack of audience response. Things change when Prince sings the first few lines and the music then begins as we know on album. The song is played as heard on record, although Prince does call to the crowd from time to time. It’s a come down after some of he songs we have heard in the last 40 minutes, but the crowd seem to like it well enough. The last minute of the song Prince reminds us that there are no Kings on earth only Princes as the band play out the last section.

The encore starts with Prince yelling “Whats up y’all?” He then presents Mayte who addresses the crowd in German – sorry no translation available! There is then a helter skelter rendition of 1999. The drums are a monster, and this one sounds like a train, it comes so fast and powerful. The band fly through it, Prince sings the first verse and chorus before the party continues with the last part and the crowd singing ‘party’. It’s a disservice to a classic song, but at the same time it is a party moment. And by this stage there is very much the feeling that we are accelerating to the finish line.

Prince ACt IIa

This is enhanced as the band without pause play Baby I’m A Star. To be honest I didn’t expect to like it, but I did despite myself. Especially I found the horns quite vibrant, but I didn’t get too long to enjoy it as its part of a longer medley.

The next song in the medley was rather surprising America. It’s not played the way I remember it to be back in the day, but it’s so good to hear it in the set list. Its not as tight as the original, the band are a little more loose and it does have a bit more swing. The horn in this is usually a highlight, but sadly it very much misses having Eric Leeds on it. A good concert moment, but we aren’t back in 1986, and that band casts a long shadow over this song.

DMSR gets thrown into the mix next. As with the last song it’s not as tight as I am used to. It doesn’t get played long enough for me to really complain about it, and the medley keeps moving quickly along.

Gett Off is the song I know and love in name in only. It’s stuffed full of horns here, and a funky keyboard. Prince sings the lyrics, but without the screams, classic beat and lead line it’s just a pasty imitation. But to be fair I do like as part of this feel good party medley. Prince does scat near the midsection, with the crowd failing to keep up with him. I would like to see this part of the show, as it does sound like a lot of fun. Just the songs flash by a tad fast for me to really enjoy. Prince displays his humor when he tells the crowd he can’t sing any more, maybe he should lip-sync. He quickly banishes that idea with a “fuck that shit!”

As a long time fan of Pope, I am very happy to hear a live performance of it. It’s slowed down, which gives us more of a chance to listen to Princes rap. His delivery is uneven, but as with most things on this recording it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment at all. After a couple of verses and chorus the band takes over with some very funky instrumental work. Some funky guitar and piano has the whole thing moving along nicely, before the horns enter and play Beautiful night. I wasn’t sure how much we were going to get, but its instrumental jam section of Beautiful Night, and Prince has some brief interplay with the audience. It very much reminds me of what we hear on the new years gig from 1987, this time without Miles Davis of course. After a couple of minutes Princes ends the song with a simple “What’s my name……confusion!”

After a minutes break the heavy crunch of guitar brings the audience back to life. Prince speaks the opening few lines of Peach, and then after that it’s all on as the guitar comes to the fore and the band joins the fun. I love the guitar sound on this recording, unfortunately I feel Prince is trying too hard with his vocals to match it. They do sound somewhat forced and a little ragged. All is forgiven however when he steps back and lets his guitar do his talking. The momentum is lost when he engages in call and response with the audience, and then some vocal adlibs. But the guitar is the thing and Prince soon returns to the solo before the song winds up. Of course it’s a false ending and there is several more minutes of heavy guitar action following this. It all sounds great, but nothing strikes me as spectacular or noteworthy.

A very well balanced recording, this one was well worth listening to. Some people have commented that it is their favorite, and I can understand why. Although not my favorite period, there was plenty here for me to enjoy, and I am confident it would stand up to repeated listenings. Not a top 10, but an excellent recording nevertheless.

Take care
Hamish