Rock This Joint – Cologne 1998

After dabbling in Eye record releases for the past month, it is time to return to a one of the most influential and well known labels bootlegging Prince concerts and recordings -Sabotage records. Sabotage have a long record of quality bootlegs and is highly regarded in the Prince bootleg community. With a catalog that covers the full scope of Princes career, not every release of a winner, but they are for the most part of a high quality, especially compared to a lot of other labels trading Prince material.

The concert I am listening to today comes from late 1998 and is an after-show from Cologne, Germany. Although it is also released by Dreamline, I have chosen to listen to the Sabotage release, mostly for sentimental reasons. I can’t comment on any similarities or differences between the two, I simply don’t have the time now to listen to the concert twice, but the concert itself is outstanding, and I am sure either would be adequate for those wanting to hear it.

With Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Morris Hayes, Mike Scott, and Candy Dulfer in the band there is plenty of funk fire power, and if this combination of musicians fail to get you moving then I suggest the problem lies with you, rather than the music. The setlist consist of the usual suspects appearing in the late 90s – “Everyday People”, “The Jam”, “One Of Us”, and “Days Of Wild.” One could make a case for familiarity breeds contempt, but the band play with plenty of heart, making the show fresh, even if the music is well-known to all.

28th December 1998 (am), Live Music Hall, Cologne, Germany

I am raving and drooling from the very first moments as the band carve out an insistent groove that “Days Of Wild” rolls across. The song is a powerhouse, here even more so as the band lend their full weight to the groove, pushing the song across a sprawling twenty minutes. The groove is paramount and it takes sometime for “Days Of Wild” to rise out of the tight groove the band is laying down. In fact, the band is so deep down in the groove that the song almost sounds like a jam of “3121” – I half expect any moment for Prince to tell me to take my pick from the Japanese robes and sandals. As “Days Of Wild” emerges from the groove it is both Candy Dulfer and Morris Hayes who add the most to the swirling mix of sounds, they drive the first part of the song before Prince’s guitar briefly cuts through the density of the music later. However, the song ends on a downer as Prince chastises the crowd for smoking and insinuates that they won’t play on until some puts out “them funny cigarettes”. Apart from this it is an outstanding beginning to the bootleg, and one wonders how Prince could possibly top this.

The band pick back up into “Days Of Wild” for a brief coda, before steamrolling the rhythm across an equally forceful “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). It has the same feel and intensity as “Days OF Wild,” only lightened by the horn section playing sharp and incisive, cutting easily through the dark and dense swirl. It is Larry Graham that comes to the fore during this song, and he will stay at the centre of things for the next few songs.

It is a short and sweet “You Can Sing It If You Try” that follows, coming as a deep breath after the crushing intensity of the first numbers. It may be short, but it is perfectly placed in the setlist and allows the crowd to draw a collective breath before the band continue on.

Apparently all is forgiven in regards to the cigarette incident, as the band play a humorous cover of “Ole Smokey.” With Larry Graham on lead vocals it has a depth to it, which is off set by the gleaming horn section giving it some air. It is almost throw away to my ears, but there is just enough going on in the background to keep me listening.

The Larry Graham show continues with “Hair.” Oh boy, this one has me gasping for air as the song opens with some fantastic bass work that is fast, funky, and freaking awesome. The song is full of band contributions, but it is Larry’s bass that holds me enraptured, usually I lose interest without Prince on the microphone, but in this case I am enthralled from the first moment to the last.

I can still barely breath as “Love And Happiness” bounds into view. As Larry Graham leads the crowd through the lyrics, it is the rhythm section that has me squirming and shaking in my chair.  It is incredibly infectious, both uplifting and dance-able at the same moment. I was wondering how they could top the opening “Days Of Wild” – well this could be it. The funk flows effortlessly, it is almost magical the effect the music has on my body as Larry Graham and Prince conjure up a potion that delivers for nigh on nine minutes. It is a swaggering performance that never wavers from the sweaty fervor unleashed by Larry Graham in the opening stanza, an electrifying jolt that moves my body, yet paralyzes my mind in its crushing beauty and immersive electric wonder.

WOW. I still haven’t recovered from “Love And Happiness.”

Give me a minute here.

PHEW!

There is time to recover as Prince and the band build slowly into “Oye Como Va.” There is the sense that Prince is preparing to cut loose, but the first minutes he steadily climbs aboard this musical horse from which he will later ride. The guitar whinnies and neighs beneath his hands, while Morris Hayes offers a carrot in the form of some dark, dense organ. However, the song stays at a steady trot, never breaking into a gallop as Prince keeps the music, and his spirited guitar, on a tight rein.

Prince lets the guitar do all his singing though “A Question Of U.” The opening stanza of guitar giving way to a free flowing minute of molten rock spewing forth from Prince’s guitar. This is one of the shortest songs of the performance, but also one of the most guitar heavy.

The funk returns as Larry Graham resumes his place in the lineup  for a performance of his “Groove On.” It is Mike Scott’s guitar that the funk slips and slides across, his guitar almost liquid in sound as it greases the blocks of heavier music moving around him. Prince’s lead guitar is the centre of attention as burns in the light, but Mike is at the heart of the song, key to everything else happening around him. Candy’s late solo made all the more funkier by the grease under her.

This feeling is maintained through the easy “Joy And Pain” that comes seamlessly straight after. Little more than rhythm and chant, it has all I need at this point.

I am immediately reminded of “Everyday People” as Prince sings “Forever In My Life,” and I understand why as the band segue into “Everyday People.” It is a perfect match with the rhythm connecting the two seamlessly. Prince holds Larry Graham in high esteem, and usually defers to him throughout “Everyday People.” In this case Prince is far more prominent, and contributes heartily to the verses and chorus himself. The song becomes a celebration of the everyman, a mood that is brought into sharp focus by the audience joining Prince for chanting and singing in the final half of the song. The “aw aw” chant is irritating on the bootleg but the “everyday” chant is far more pleasant and representative of the the show in general.

You would expect that with this band “Release Yourself,” would be another showcase for Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, or maybe even Prince himself. Yet it is Morris Hayes who provides a shimmering tension to the song with his keyboard bleeding through every level of the song. The song is awash with his signature sound as the song sails across his swells and waves of organ, while other times it is his melodic style that catches the sails of the song and propels it forward. The stage may hold some legendary performers but these ten minutes belong solely to Morris Hayes and his titanic talent.

Larry Graham picks up where Morris Hayes left off, with his vocals and bass taking us naturally enough into a deep and all encompassing “The Jam.”  There is a connection to the previous “Release Yourself” with Mr Hayes again prominent early on before the song spins out in all directions as the each band member pulls it in their own direction. There are occasions where “The Jam”  is overly long and unfocused, and while this version is long it never once falters for energy or interest. Prince and the band sound sprightly, and the song skips along at an lively pace.

Prince brings his spirituality into the show late with a reverential cover of “One Of Us.” The religious message of the song seeps out of every pore, and nowhere more so than at the point where Prince’s guitar enters with a guttural choke before its fingers curl around the song, squeezing every drop of holy blood from the music. This is reinforced as Prince is at his evangelistic best late in the song with a homily and spiritual message for all in attendance. It is an inspiring moment, and even on the bootleg one can feel the power of the moment and his words. As a climax to the show it is perfect, and the holy spirit lingers with me for some minutes after the song and concert finishes.

 

It is easy to overlook this bootleg. 1998 is not held in high regard when it comes to Prince concerts, and on the surface this release doesn’t seem to offer much. I must admit, I did have my doubts when I saw the cover art. But as the saying goes – “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” There is actually a great concert hiding behind this facade. The look and sound may not be classic Prince, but the performance is full of enjoyable moments and some wondrous  musicianship. Sabotage usually deliver when it comes to bootlegs, and this is no exception with a fine concert and tidy release complementing each other. After listening to this show I am beginning to see 1998 in a new light, and may have to dig deeper into some other performances of the era.

Thanks for joining me again,
I look forward to doing it all again next week
-Hamish

Nighttown 1998

In retrospect I was perhaps a little harsh on last week’s show I listened to. It was a perfectly serviceable show from 1998, and it certainly had its merits, even if I didn’t fully appreciate it. Part of the problem of being a Prince fan and listening to these bootlegs is that I am constantly judging him, not against other artists, but against his own high standards. Even if I consider a show to be ‘average’, it’s still far beyond what others were doing at the time, and especially so with the aftershows. There is no other artist out there playing aftershows and these jams just for the love of the music such as Prince does. I would take an average Prince aftershow over any other musicians show any day. Today’s recording has my heart a flutter already as The War is on the setlist. I still remember the day that the cassette mysterious appeared in the mail, and although I consider the late 90’s to be bit of a dry spell, The War is a definite highlight in my book. I know its appeared at other shows and recordings, but I don’t recall hearing it before, so this will be a good chance to sit back and recapture some of that magic. So I’m all set, let’s give it a spin.

1998 Prince

12th August 1998 (am) Nighttown, Rotterdam

A whoop, a cheer, the crowd clapping a beat and chanting start this one, and they quickly fade out as the guitar is heard playing a subtle, delicate, and yet funky, riff. Its par for the course that these recordings contain some audience chit chat, although thankfully in this case it isn’t too intrusive. The riff isn’t too strong, but it is a real earworm of a hook, and I can hear the band and the audience playing around it for some time. It is a slow burning, slow building take of Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothing, and the band do play various parts on top of the foundation that has been set, without ever exploding out of the blocks. I wait for things to cut loose and get wild, but that moment never comes, instead Prince and the band are happy to play as long as it takes with their slow build. The release does finally come with some funk infused keyboards, and a loud cheer as Prince begins to sing. Its music to dance to as much as listen to, and I wistfully dream I was there as the keyboards battle it out in my headphones. This feeling is made stronger by the chanting and singing as the band, and the party, begins to heat up. Things burst into flames as Prince has firstly Mike Scott and then Morris Hayes play solos, both bring an intensity to the performance that has me wanting more. I laugh as Prince admonishes the sound guy with “Was that feedback, who’s adding that to the mix, who thinks that is necessary?”. He has a point, and it’s well delivered.

Let’s Work throws me right back to the 1980’s, in both its freshness and its clean funk sound. Mr Hayes adds his warmth to it, but asides from that it’s the bass sound of the original that I cling onto. It bumps and funks along, with plenty of fat swells around the chorus. We don’t get too comfortable with this nostalgic trip, however the three minutes we get is  plenty, and it’s guaranteed to bring a smile to most people’s faces.

1998 Prince (4)

I am not so enamoured by Delirious, yet again I can’t deny it’s a nod to his past, as well as being just downright fun to listen to at a show like this. The thing I like most about hearing this tonight is Morris Hayes, his fat sound adds a more serious weight to the song, and I do feel for it more as his organ pushes the sound forward. Things take a turn towards the rock sound as a lead guitar appears and we have a coda of Rock N Roll Is Alive. They are strange bedfellows, but as always it works, and I feel much better for hearing this new sharpness added to the sound.

As we move to That’ll Work Prince takes a few moments to thank the crowd for attending the concerts, before the music begins to sing, literally, with a wonderful cameo from Marva King. Larry Graham makes an appearance at this stage, as the crowd chant him in, it’s surprisingly funky and enjoyable as the crowd chant over the music for some time like this. Larry has his thumb working overtime, and encourage by the crowd he serves up a fantastically fat sounding solo.

The sound of his bass carries us easily to the next song, which is logically enough Hair. The deepness of his bass is amply matched by the deepness of his vocals, and my head moves gently to the sound of it as he sings. I can’t tell you who is doing what on stage, but I do know that there is some fine keyboard sounds matching Larry, and the addition of Jerry Martini on the saxophone changes the sound of the band again. There is time for everyone to play, and it’s not only Larry front and centre. The guitar and organ both shine in their respective moments, and there is the feeling that this is very much a band performance rather than one or two people dominating.

1998 Prince (2)

Things slow down next as the blues takes hold in the form of Sex Machine. Its low and slow, with plenty of guitar work from Prince to wallow in. He plays very tightly and restrained, and I do enjoy hearing another style of his playing. The blues sound that he stakes out is kept with by both Morris Hayes on the organ, and Larry Graham on the bass. They play in the same manner, and keep us firmly rooted. The sax work of Jerry Martini adds a brightness to proceedings, but Prince buries us in the blues when he returns for a stronger, heavier guitar break. It’s still smoky and bluesy and even when the notes come in a flurry it still sounds dark and tightly in the groove.

The moment I have been waiting for arrives, and at first I fail to recognize it. It starts with a simple bass loop, and for me it sounds a lot like the start of Miles Davis So What. There is no mistaking The War as the keyboards begin to emerge from the background and Prince intones his “One, two”.  This song interests me in so many ways, and it is very Prince sounding in lyrical content. In many ways it points to the direction he will take with the Rainbow Children in a few years’ time both with the music and the different slant on lyric writing. The lyrics have a weirdness to them which only makes me listen more carefully, and even if the music doesn’t always have me fully engaged, Prince and his lyrics certainly do. The sax of Jerry Martini again lifts us, but it’s against the backdrop of the darker swirling sound, wah-wah guitar, and Princes spoken manifesto.  Mike Scott soars with his guitar break and things loosen briefly and we come out of the darkness. Any hopes for a 26 minute, or even 45-minute version, are dashed as Prince wraps it up at 10 minutes, ending with an appropriate macabre laugh.

1998 Prince (3)

We end on a high with a furious take on the Santana medley. Although the recording isn’t great, Prince tears it up at this stage, and his guitar rips through the songs. I would have loved to see his face as he plays, he certainly sounds like he is playing with great abandonment and plenty of joy. The guitar sings in places, howls in others, and is undoubtedly the star of the show for the last ten minutes. Even as the song ebbs and flows, the intensity is maintained throughout by Prince and his playing, and I don’t tire of it for a single moment – it is essential listening throughout. The final stabs shoot out at me, and end the show on a high that would be hard to top if they continued to play.

This show is redemption for the show I listened to last week. Last week I bemoaned the lack of intensity and fire, this show recorded a week earlier has plenty of both and delivers on all fronts. Hearing The War live was undeniably a real treat, and the highlight for me, but there was plenty more to this show to recommend it. Larry sounded great, as did Jerry Martini, Marva King and the irrepressible Morris Hayes. It would be unfair to compare this to Prince shows from other eras, but on its own it stands as a worthy listen.

Thanks for reading, have a great week
-Hamish

 

19th August 1998- Copenhagen

It’s very easy for me to overlook certain years, such as 1998. Why would I pick something from 1998 when there is so many gems from the 1980’s and early 1990’s to choose from. 1998 hardly seems like the most exciting year of Prince’s career, yet recently I have been thinking about these shows and finding there is interesting moments that I have an urge to hear. Today I am listening to an aftershow from 1998 where Violet The Organ Grinder is played. That’s enough of a hook to lure me in, and I am further intrigued by some of the other songs played as well. Perhaps not my favourite band of all time, but there are enough key players there for me to have my hopes up for another great aftershow.

19th August, 1998(am) Vega Mussikens Hus, Copenhagen

I am liking it already as Prince lays the ground work with some mellow organ as a guitar and bass flicker in the background. It is just a warm up, yet I find it an easy way into the recording before we start proper.

The warm positive feelings stay with us as the band begin to jam from the start. The instrumental is smooth and cool, and has a groove that is effortless in its cool. There is a very intimate feel as the band is introduced and a sense that we are building to something greater with the yell of  “and we got the man, we got the man!” as an introduction to Prince. The groove is locked tight with the bass, guitar and organ playing as one, in a way that only Prince and his band do. It grooves and rolls and is a fine introduction for the evening.

Prince, Larry 1998

Johnny is fantastic, a laid back jam that is almost trance-like. The guitar and organ play around each other in a delightful groove that is dripping. The lead guitar breaks things up without over playing and we stay with the summer vibe of it all. Prince sings, and the mood stays exactly the same, his vocals staying with the laid back sound. There’s only a verse and a chorus, but it hardly matters when the groove is this delicious. We have twelve minutes to wallow in this sound, and to be honest I could have easily eaten up another twelve minutes’ worth of the same. There’s even a sax solo near the end to liven things up which is a nice exclamation mark on the whole song.

The transition to Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa is every bit as smooth as you might expect, and for the first time this evening we can hear Larry Graham. What captures my attention though is the saxophone again, Tony Morris is adding a lot to this show, and it lifts it from the slow heavy groove to something brighter and it demands closer listening. The other instrument that features prominently in this song is the heavy swirling sound of Morris Hayes on the organ. The song becomes a very quiet sing along with just the faintest hint of keys and guitar as the crowd carry the song for a couple of minutes. I do like this part of the song just as much as anything else we have heard thus far, and the band work themselves steadily back to the groove for a finish in a way that sounds pretty cool to me.

larry Prince 1998

The Jam fails to fire my enthusiasm at first, there doesn’t seem to be anything new in there for me. Of course I always enjoy Mr Hayes contribution, and tonight it’s when Mike Scott comes to the party with a guitar solo that has me sitting up and taking notice. It’s short, and for the half minute it plays he has all my attention. Likewise, the sax solo has a touch of fire that has me interested, although it too is short and sweet. Mentally I tune out as Larry plays, no offense to Larry, but I have heard him for many years now and tonight he doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

The following jam is of more interest to me, and has a few different things in the mix. The steady groove is still firmly in place, and sounds almost shuffling at times. As the music moves up and down we have Prince singing Push It Up before the song becomes an all-inclusive singalong. Usually these don’t sound great on recordings, tonight I am feeling in the moment and happily listen to it and try to imagine what it was like to be there. Come On, and Acknowledge Me are also in the jam in various forms, and the whole thing works as an evolving, tumbling jam.

P 98

The change to Gett Off is subtle, and I almost miss it. The lyrics suddenly come at me, and although the music is a soft jam there is no mistaking the words and Princes delivery. The organ swells behind him, and we are a million miles from the Diamonds and Pearls version. The key hook is absent, instead we have Mr Hayes filling the spaces with his heaving organ. The hook finally appears, but only just as we swing into a jazzy Violet The Organ Grinder.

It is jazzy sounding, with Prince scatting against a jazzy toned guitar. Some noodling by Mr Hayes adds to this feel, and when Prince does sing Violet The Organ Grinder it’s with a croon that completely throws me. That’s not to say I don’t like, I love it, it’s just not what I expected right now, which is exactly why I love listening to these shows and I never tire of listening to Prince and his bands. Prince playfully returns to his scat for the last couple of minutes of the song, but returns to singing just as the scat was coming dangerously close to out staying its welcome.

After a lengthy break the music and funk returns with a long jam. It’s much faster than before but not as heavy sounding. The instruments play quick and light and it does sound quite different from earlier jams, especially with a choppy guitar sound. There is the obligatory “I like funky music” chant, yet it’s all about the music and is a mostly instrumental jam. I am surprised to hear the lead guitar sound fire up, and Prince does give us a brief solo before the song becomes Release Yourself with a chant and singing to match. Although it goes for some time, it doesn’t reach any great heights, and it’s only a brief burst of guitar that sparks a flicker of interest in me. The rest of the jam is fine, but compared to the rest of the show it is a comedown.

P 1998

The show ends at this point and I am left to gather my thoughts. The show encapsulates everything I dislike and like about this period. There are some great moments and overall you can’t really fault the show and yet at the same time there is something missing, a fire, a passion or an excitement. I get the feeling that Prince is comfortable and playing well within himself. I do like the song choices and the different arrangements keep me interested, it’s just enough to keep me coming back for more. For me this is an enjoyable ‘middle of the road’ show that is well recorded, I would happily listen to it without ever feeling the need to recommend it to anyone.

Thanks for reading, next week I’ll take in another show from 1998 that is worth a closer look at

-Hamish

 

 

R U Gonna Go My Way

The best thing about writing this blog is rediscovering recordings I had completely overlooked and under-appreciated in the past. This recording from an after show in 1998 is just such a recording. I am sure I listened to it when I first got it, but since then I don’t think I have played it at all, until I was reading an online forum where people were discussing Prince predicting 9/11.  Towards the end of this show he did sing about Bin Laden, and bombs, but he far from predicts any actual events. I was very curious when I read this, so I took this one out for a listen. I was further surprised and happy to hear that Lenny Kravitz plays with Prince here, and the show itself is great. I don’t know why it is, but the Dutch always seem to get great after show gigs. Plenty of guests, and covers make this a special show.

24 December 1998, Tivoli, Utrecht

I have read that Lenny Kravitz plays drums on the first three tracks, my ears aren’t good enough to tell if that’s true or not, but it does have that sort of vibe to it. It is confirmed at the end of the song when Prince can be heard saying “You know who that is on the drums?” The first song of the evening is Cissy Strut. It is a classic start to such a show, the band build a groove up and then Candy begins to play all over it with her sax. It doesn’t grab me by my collar and shake me around, rather it lures me in slowly. Candy plays as you might expect, and although I enjoy it my interest level jumps up several notches when I hear Prince and his guitar play. He plays in a rather high tone here, it’s got a real whine to it. Again it’s good without grabbing me at any stage. The tone is set now for the rest of the song, and Morris Hayes follows with a swirling organ solo. No surprises here, and as yet the gig has failed to ignite. There is the feeling that the band is just warming up, and the real fireworks are still to come.

The band then begin to play Superstition, and its shaping up to be funky. However after some funky keys Prince calls “wait a minute, we didn’t write that” and the band proceed to play another cover.

Chameleon is a cover of a Herbie Hancock song, and is led by the horns, and a funky bass line. Its reasonably loose sounding, and it’s a good song to groove along to here at home. There is nothing in the way of vocals, it’s mostly the sax and I can hear and the heavy keys. There is an organ running underneath, which fills the sound nicely and stops it becoming unbalanced. I enjoy Morris Hayes organ break the most, it snakes in and out and is excellent. This is followed by some enthusiastic chanting by the crowd of ‘Go Lenny, Go Lenny” but to be honest he fails to do much.

Prince 1998d

Lenny is replaced by Kirk Johnson on the drums next, and the band plays Asswoop. It’s again a jam, with everyone taking a turn to solo. We once again get Candy Dulfer first, before Mike Scott takes a turn to play. His guitar sounds very sharp and has a high tone to it. He only plays for a minute, and I have a whole new appreciation for him. I already appreciate Morris Hayes, and his solo that follows is an excellent one. It’s a synth solo, and sounds nice and spacey to me. He gets plenty of time to play too, and it gives him a chance to warm to the task. What follows next is a nice moment as Hans Dulfer plays a break, before Prince introduces Candy Dulfer again to play. Her playing has gone up a notch since the opening couple of songs, and she is very expressive on this one.

My interest in the recording remains high as Prince calls “Y’all want some Larry Graham?” and they begin to groove on The Undertaker. It’s got a great heavy groove to it with Larry and his bass, and the funk levels go up when Mike Scott plays a funky rhythm break while the crowd chants “Go Larry, go Larry” It really does sound like a fun night. Mike sticks on his funky loop for the rest of the song while some interesting sounding keyboards and effects are played over the top. With a call of “B flat” the music changes and suddenly lightens. Then begins to play Joy and Pain and the crowd joins in effortlessly. They fall silent as again the keyboard goes all spacey, but I love it. This song is a head bobber all the way through, and it’s impossible not to feel it as well as hear it. It pauses like it may finish, but the groove picks up again, and over the same groove Prince begins to sing I Know You Got Soul. There is a brief pause for the piano, before the organ kicks it all off again, and Prince gets the crowd clapping along. These types of songs are impossible to write about, they need to be heard and felt, and words just don’t do them justice. Prince gives Larry Graham plenty of shine as he sings Groove On, and follows it with some of the bass playing he is renowned for. Indescribable, how I would have loved to have been there. Prince stops the band on a dime, and they pick up straight into Hair.

The bass is right in my face straight out of the gate. Larry plays fast and funky and with a shout of “turn his mic up!” from Prince he begins to sing Hair. I have heard this a few times from Prince, this one is more enjoyable in that it’s played with more conviction and enthusiasm. It has certainly sounded better and cleaner, yet I like this one for its passion. Larry is in fine voice, and Morris Hayes organ underneath is great. There is an energy level to it that was missing earlier in the show, and for me the show goes from good to great at this point.

Prince 1998b

The show doesn’t let up as they next play Al Greens Love and Happiness. Larry sings, and the song bounces along nicely. The audience get a chance to sing along, and they are very vocal indeed. The bounce continues as the keyboards and horns play off each other. I think that is probably my favourite song played at the show, it’s got a timeless sound to it, and it’s something I will come back to again and again. It has Mike Scott playing a guitar solo encouraged by Larry Graham, before a heavy groove carries us through to the end.

I was surprised when I heard what came next, I should have expected it, yet when I heard Prince playing Are You Gonna Go My Way on the piano I was caught completely off guard. This is just the sort of thing I love, a well-known song played in a completely different way. The main guitar riff is played on a piano,and Lenny Kravitz joins the band again to sing his song. Its sounds tight, and Lenny doesn’t sound as loose and wild as he does on the original recording. He sings in a classic rock style, but underneath the band is really swinging. The guitar solo is replaced by an excellent sax solo by Candy, and its every bit as good as the original guitar solo. The organ really drives it home later in the song as an appreciative crowd claps along to the end. A great rock n roll moment in the gig.

Prince follows this by calling to Larry to “give us The Jam”. There is a feeling of anticipation as the music builds before The Jam begins. It is as we have heard plenty of time over these years- Prince calling to each band member as they take their turn to solo. There is plenty of keyboard sounds all over it, but its Mike Scott’s playing that I like the most. Larry Graham too is well worth the listen. At times I do feel I have heard this all before, but nevertheless it’s still a lot of fun.

After a good few minutes of cheers and clapping from the crowd the music resumes with an organ solo from Morris Hayes. It’s short and serves well as an introduction for what comes next. It’s listed as an organ solo, but a solo organ would be more descriptive. The notes draw out before the drums join and we start the next part of the show.

Mad receives a rousing cheer from the crowd as it is played. I really didn’t expect to hear this one, but I am very pleased to hear it get an airing. The star of this for me is the guitar, it’s not right in front, but it does play some very funky riffs. The song itself isn’t quite as I remember from the recording, it’s a lot busier. Prince sings his lines in a far more relaxed manner, and the song sounds much lighter and more fun than it does on the original. I feel a little ripped off when it suddenly stops and the band segue into an instrumental of I Want To Take You Higher.

I Want To Take You Higher is incredibly laid back, and short. It’s very much got a summer feel to it, and the crowd can be heard merrily clapping along to it.

Prince 1998a

There is another quick change and the mood and tempo shifts as Prince sings the “oooh oooh oh” of Days Of Wild. The bass builds behind him as the crowd joins him in the chant. This song is always killer, and here is no different. It opens with the chanting as the sax begins to play. The ominous sound of the bass builds, but it is undercut by a lighter sounding guitar, and when the organ joins it too has a lighter touch to it. The band sound good, and I am left disappointed when Prince wraps it up after all that build up and no more.

With this band, it’s no surprise that Days Of Wild becomes Thank You (falettinme be mice elf again). You can still hear the bass and swirling organ of Days of Wild, but Prince enthusiastically sings Sly’s song. Prince throws in a few random lyrics, and I barely notice as I nod my head and let the music carry me. The song slows near the end as the main refrain is sung, and it ends soon after.

Forever In My Life? I never saw that coming. It’s played with the full band, and like a few of the other songs here it has a good swing to it. The crowd sing along with Prince and it has a very relaxed feeling to the whole show. This is fun to hear, but is far from my favourite rendition of this song. It’s only a minute and a half, and a nice lead into Everyday People.

Everyday People is just as loved by the crowd and I can again hear them singing throughout. The first half of the song is as you might expect, with plenty of Larry, and the crowd. The second half the guitar can be heard strumming as the organ and horns increase in intensity. I prefer this part of the song as it becomes looser, yet the groove tightens. The horns play some nice stabs, while the guitar and piano play in and out.

With a call of “Bring it down, just the drums” Prince begins to play some rhythm guitar which drives the groove home just right. It loops over and over and I could listen to it all night long. The organ comes on board, and then pulls out again as the guitar continues on and on. The track is listed as ‘Guitar Jam’ and that is exactly what we get- its rhythm guitar overload, and is just fabulous. Other pieces come and go, but the guitar is constant, and a joy to listen to. It was a real shame when it finally came to an end.

There is another break next, and then after much noise from the crowd Prince returns with a proper Rock God guitar break. Playing alone he pulls a few tricks out of his guitar playing bag as he solos for a couple of minutes. Without a song, or emotional centre I find it aimless and empty, there is a feeling that it’s just playing for the sake of playing. It is however to be admired and I do enjoy it for his skills.

Prince1998

The guitar playing in the Santana medley that comes next is what I really love, and is far more enjoyable. I always enjoy the Santana medley, I like how Morris Hayes gets to add his sound to the mix, as well as the fun of Princes soloing. This one in particular has a nice feel to it, I think being in a smaller venue adds to the enjoyment as well as the live sound of it. I can’t pinpoint what I like most in the mix for this one, to be honest I just liked all of it, and just sat back and soaked it all in. The rumble in the second part of the song as Candy plays is a nice touch, and it’s always good to have her as a counterpoint against all the guitar work in this song. Things ease off later in the song, and it gives it just enough room to breathe.

The steady beat and guitar line of The Question Of U follows, and it sounds crisp and sharp. Prince doesn’t sing, instead his guitar does all his talking for him. The crowd oblige by clapping out the rhythm as he plays. The solo is pretty standard for The Question Of U, that is great, but there isn’t any surprises of twists and turns.

The next twist comes as the squeal of Gett Off is heard before the guitar plays the main refrain. For a while nothing seems to be happening as the main beat plays with occasional guitar riffs interspersed, but then the crowd begin to chant and the main lead line is played with the full band and Prince begins to sing. The crowd sing the chorus for him, and he only sings one verse and plays the guitar line again before taking a solo.

The sound strips back again as Prince takes up the opening riff of When You Were Mine. It sounds like pure pop joy, and is very easy to listen to. After some of the long jams here it’s almost throw away, and yet its well-crafted pop is more than welcome here. Instead of the final guitar break we have Candy playing her sax again, and it’s a lot of fun to hear her on this song.

The next song begins with Prince telling the crowd he has to go home “to America, get ready for the bomb’, before he begins to sing “Osama bin Laden getting ready to bomb”. He sings this several times, of course he has no idea how things will pay out in the future, but it is interesting to hear that he is aware of what is already happening in the world. He sings this several times for the first few minutes of the song- telling the crowd “that’s the new groove” He even sings “Osama bin Laden gettin ready to bomb, 2001”. He is of course dropping the song title That’ll Work (2001), rather than predicting the future. The most of the song is call and response with the crowd and a steady groove that has another funky guitar line. The song ends with the wail of a siren, and the show ends at this point.

Prince 1998c

I really should pay more attention to some of the recordings I have. It’s a shame that I haven’t played this one more over the years, it was full of pleasant surprises. I enjoyed Lenny Kravitz far more here than I did at the Rave 2000 show, he fitted in much better with what was going on at this show. I also found Larry Graham enjoyable here, and appreciated what he bought to the table. All in all a very fun show, and another one I will leave out for a while so I can give it a few more spins.

Have a good week, see you next time
Hamish