Studio 54 MGM 1999

With not many shows played in 1999 there isn’t much to listen to from that time. My collection is thin from 1999 and consequently so is the blog. I intend to right that wrong by taking in a couple of shows from that year. I have already taken in the Mill City festival, and today I will listen to a show from the beginning of the year at Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas. This from a Sabotage release, and also covers another couple of shows, but it is the show from January 2nd that interests me most. An eclectic mix of songs sees some strange bedfellows, I Would Die 4 U bumps up against Get Yo Groove On, and the show is short for a Prince show so I am hoping for something infused with plenty of energy. It looks good on paper, fingers crossed it delivers.

2nd January 1999, Studio 54, MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas

We ease into the show with an easy Push It Up. It takes some time to make itself known, but that’s no problem at all as I enjoy it right from the start. With a steady beat and the band chanting “push it up” the funk is slowly added by the slightest of guitar. With Prince intoning “The funk keep on rolling” he, in a couple of words, sums up the exact mood of the song, it does indeed roll. The song stays with a low roll and even as Prince sings the chorus it doesn’t rise to anything more, it stays low in the groove all the way. Things do become more lively with the introduction of Jam Of The Year, with the groove still locked down it’s the lyrics that raise the excitement levels and some added keys is certainly a plus.

Talkin Loud And Sayin Nothin has the band changing gears and cutting into their work, with Larry Graham doing his best to get things going. Hand waving, and some funky music has me feeling it, although Prince does pull things back a couple of times and breaking the flow. Mike Scott delivers a quick solo as the party begins in earnest with an action packed keyboard solo following close after. Its funky and something I would normally expect later in the gig, nevertheless it gets things moving early on and sounds great.

Rosie Gaines singing Carwash is perfectly in keeping with what has come before and it is seamless in setting the party vibe already set. It follows right on the heels of Talkin Loud And Saying Nothin, almost as a medley- the groove never stopping. It may sound dated, but it is of its time and is very 1999.

Likewise Let’s Work comes after, without pause or let up. It does lack some crispness, whether it be the recording or the performance I don’t know. After years of listening to Prince bootlegs I know that it does lack the fire and passion that was present in the performances of the song in the early eighties.

Delirious also harks back to the early days and it fares better at this show than the previous Let’s Work. It still has a brightness and a bounce that carries the day, and the best moment is the brief piano solo that appears midsong bringing a smile to my face. Rock N Roll Is Alive (And Lives In Minneapolis) is played as an instrumental coda, leaving the song finishing on an energized high.

 

There are plenty of great live versions of Purple Rain in circulation, this is not one of them. It has a dreariness about it, and sounds uninspired throughout. Even the guitar solo that is usually uplifting is instead laborious and for the first time in my life I find myself counting the minutes until it ends.

The gentle swells of Little Red Corvette restores my faith. With the guitar delicately emphasizing the rise and fall of the keyboard it has a gentleness to it that washes against me. It is a somewhat unusual arrangement, after an extended introduction Prince sings the opening verse and chorus before Mike Scott takes the solo and the song suddenly ends. Even in this truncated form it is still a classy few minutes and worth it just for those opening minutes alone.

I Would Die 4 U sees the crowd cheering and gleefully singing along. The next few minutes the songs come thick and fast, and this is a fine introduction that gets the crowd involved. It’s only played very short, and as such has a brightness to it that keeps things moving as Prince quickly introduces the band with Get Yo Groove On before the segue into I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.

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I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man has a pounding beat as Prince toys with some guitar playing. A minute of teasing and the song kicks into the familiar riff as Prince sings. Of course it’s all about the guitar, and it isn’t long before Prince dispenses with the singing and heads straight for the guitar solo. The solo isn’t as long as I want, and it slows to some interesting guitar noodling which shimmers and swirls before occasionally flickering into life.

The intensity levels drop as Rosie Gaines takes the microphone for Redemption Song. It’s not a bad rendition, it’s just that it is not Prince. I try to get something out of it but it never sweeps me up. The song goes by without me feeling engaged or actively listening, it serves well as a backdrop without any demand.

Rosie stays on the microphone for Ain’t No Way, and this time I am much more engaged. Her voice with the keyboards underneath, gives it a soulful nostalgic sound and I wallow in the song for several minutes, enjoying all of it. With a full warm sound this is better than the previous Redemption Song and I find myself falling for Rosie all over again.

It’s no surprise that Prince and Rosie next take on Nothing Compares 2 U, and this lifts the show to another level as they belt it out for maximum effect. The organ solo is the heart of the song and gives it an emotional base. It is obviously hitting the right buttons with the audience as they actively sing through the song and give plenty of warm appreciation at the end of the song.

I forget that Come On was less than a year old at this stage, and at this performance Prince plays it in full, with plenty of loops and beats keeping it hopping. The singing comes across well on the recording, and it does have its own charm. I may not like it when Doug E Fresh does his thing, but I do enjoy hearing the crowd sing and chant along with him.

I was curious to hear 1999: The New Master live, until it actually started. It’s a mess, with beat boxing from Doug E. Fresh, and lots of rapping and crowd participation. Some people may like it, for me it’s not really what I want to hear from a Prince show. It does run for ten minutes which can make for hard listening, and I must admit late in the song I stopped paying attention as I wasn’t enjoying it in the slightest.

The loop of Gett Up has me perking up, but we stay with Doug E Fresh for the first minute before Prince hits the main riff and things get started. It’s not the greatest version, but there is no denying the ear-worm of a hook, and the guitar has me listening intently for the couple of minutes the song plays. The final couple of minutes it switches to Gett Off(housestyle), something I wouldn’t normally like but this evening I find myself liking it despite myself, and even Rosie’s scat raises a smile.

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The final Release Yourself is where Larry Graham and Rosie Gaines shine. The song is such that it is a natural fit for them, and with Larry’s bass rumbling underneath there is another chance for Rosie to sing. The song is yet another finale jam that runs for some time as an upbeat instrumental with plenty of organ and bass. When the singing does begin its as with the key players each taking a part, although Rosie is easily the strongest. Despite this, Larry is recorded best on the recording, a shame as Rosie is going for it near the end even though she is quieter on the recording. It is the finale and there is no surprise as it ends with a flourish.

I was overly optimistic when I set out to listen to this show. I knew 1999 wasn’t a great year for shows, yet I thought some of the songs would offer more. There was some good songs and moments in the show, but they weren’t strong enough to make up for the not so good songs. A run of shows like this and I would quickly lose interest in listening to bootlegs, luckily I know there are plenty more good shows from other years without having to dip into shows like this. An interesting enough experience, but no something I would want to do again any time soon.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

 

Le Bataclan 1999

Sadly this week Cynthia Robinson, formerly of Sly and the Family Stone, passed away. Sly is a certifiable genius, but to get where he wanted to go he needed a great band. And just as Prince had the Revolution to help him achieve greatness, Sly had his band Sly and the Family Stone featuring Cynthia Robinson on trumpet. Cynthia also played in Graham Central Station, and naturally enough played with Larry Graham and Prince late in the 1990’s. 1998/1999 isn’t something I delve into too often, there is plenty of material coming from Prince, but I feel that he is regrouping and finding his way for the next step in his evolution. He does indulge himself by playing with some of his heroes, and this brings us to where we are today, a gig from Le Bataclan Paris, with Prince playing with Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini, all former members of Sly and the Family Stone as well as Graham Central Station. As a rule, shows from this era generally don’t fill me with excitement, there isn’t much happening in Prince world in 1999, however I can’t deny that the set list looks inviting, and I know Prince greatly enjoys playing with Larry Graham. Having Cynthia Robinson playing is something I look forward to hearing and a fitting way to remember her wonderful life.Cynthia Robinson

17 November 1999, Le Bataclan, Paris

Things get off to a great start with a brief drum solo from Prince. The quality of the recording is surprisingly good, and Prince’s playing sounds light and playful. I know many people, myself included, like to hear him on various instruments and I always crave more whenever I hear him play drums, bass, keyboard or whatever. The drum solo is only a cameo and after a minute he picks up his guitar for a series of runs as the crowd chant “Let’s go” – a la Let’s Go Crazy. After this light-hearted introduction the funk comes on thick with the band vamping on Doing It To Death. Prince knows how to funk, and his guitar sound is all over this one. Again the band is still feeling their way into the show, and the groove only runs for a couple of minutes, but Prince has signalled his intentions, this is going to be one funky gig.

My summation proves correct as the horn section begins to play and Prince starts singing Bustin’ Loose. Initially it’s Prince and the horns that we hear most, the rest of the band have their moment later in the song as Prince leads us through a series of tempo changes as the song both speeds up and slows down. Kathy J plays a solo, and its leads rather nicely into another change as things slow again and Prince chants and sings. The whole song is saturated in funk, Princes vocals, the horns, the rhythm section, it’s all locked on the groove. As the song plays through I can almost feel the walls shaking and the sweat of the show.

Things sound promising as Prince calls for the keyboards to be turned up, and the guitar to be “turned way up.”  The introduction of Larry Graham gives us The Jam. Larry does a great spoken introduction, and the song sounds sharp right from the beginning. Perhaps I have listened to too many poor recordings of this song, this one seems to sparkle in comparison. Normally I am effusive in my praise of Morris Hayes, but I can’t hear his performance on this one, and its Mike Scott’s guitar break that kicks things off in great style for me. The NPG horns sound equally good, although I start to tune out later as Kip Blackshire sings, and Kirk Johnson plays a drum solo. The party mood is restored to my house as Larry plays and the crowd begin to chant and sing.

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Everyday People sounds much funkier too, with some of pop sparkle initially replaced with a deeper groove and funk. Sure, it’s still sounds like pure sunshine as Larry sings, but the intro has a groove to it, and I do like that Larry does his best to reclaim it from the Toyota advertising. The horns are turned up mid song,  before a trombone solo takes us off into a new direction. My mouth opens as there is a fantastic bass solo that pops along, before a choppy guitar furthers the sound in this direction. It’s all tied together by some great guitar and bass work, and there is a tightness to this band’s playing that I hadn’t expected. They looked like a random selection of players, but upon hearing them I can definitely see that they are a well drilled band.

I have to admit, I don’t know Eye’magettin’ very well (Sorry, I refuse to type in Princebonics). I enjoy it immensely on this recording, with lots of bass and crowd interaction. The rest of the band take a back seat for this one, it’s most definitely about Larry and his bass playing, and the man certainly does live up to his reputation. The song twists and turns a couple of times, and it keeps me guessing with what might come next. This is the early highlight of the show for me, and I hope there’s more like this later on. The sheering guitar sound at the end puts an exclamation mark on it, and I nod in appreciation.Rave 99a

We stay with Larry Graham, and after Prince fights some feedback, it’s the crowd themselves that begins to sing Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) The band plays and the crowd instinctively sing along for sometime as Prince gets the sound right on stage. There are evidently problems with feedback, as well as Morris Hayes organ being absent/low in the mix. Things immediately improve, and it’s quite noticeable as I hear the organ properly for the first time.  The delivery of the song is almost casual, you can hear the familiarity of the song both with the band and the audience. There is some nice back and forth with the crowd, and it’s very much an ensemble piece, with every member playing their part, including some tight horn work.

Prince takes his time next with a speech to the crowd. His sentiments are well placed, and admire him using his position to say something. It does distract me from the music, so I find myself waiting until it’s over and we can get back the show.

I am rewarded with an uplifting rendition of Purple House. This has been played plenty of times over the years, yet this one sounds a lot better than a lot of other bootlegs I have heard. There is a nice fat organ sound behind Prince as he plays early on, and then later in the song Larry’s bass underpins it while he lets fly on his guitar. His solo is strong and loud, he plays cleanly during the verses, but the guitar is very rock sounding for his solos. There may be better renditions of Purple House out there, but for now this is one of my favourites. Prince stays with the guitar for a further minute after the song finishes and delivers a minute of fantastic guitar shredding. I thought he sounded good during Purple House, but this cameo of a performance is more than its equal, and a nice addendum to the song.

Kiss has a very long introduction, with Prince singing a bass line as the drum begins. It’s not immediately recognizable as Kiss, and Prince takes some time to get some dancers up as the organ and guitar groove. A further surprise as there is a long bass intro while the band work up a head of steam. Finally there is a release as Mike Scott hits the guitar riff, and the song emerges from the jam. The rest of the song is almost a disappointment after the build up we had, and it follows a fairly standard script from here on in.

The following song is Gett Off, and it’s a shadow of itself former self, a lot of the power of the original is gone, and apart from that electrifying guitar riff, it sounds a much more relaxed groove. I would dismiss it, but guitar riff and accompanying solo is just too good, and I can’t turn away even for a second. The last half of the song is buried under Princes guitar sound, and a highlight is as he holds a quivering note for sometime before plunging into more guitar pyrotechnics.

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I almost laugh as Gett Off (Housestyle) begins. It is night and day compared to the guitar sound we have just heard, and there is plenty of horn all over it before Mike Scott plays a feather light solo that gains in power as it goes on. There is a fun sound to it all, and it’s hard not to smile as I listen to it, even though under normal circumstances the thought of Gett Off (Housestyle) would make me cringe.

A couple of horn blasts signal the beginning of Talkin’ Loud And Saying Nothing. In a clever symmetry the show is ending as it began with some James Brown and Graham Central Station. Prince can be heard on the microphone, but for me this song is all about the band and their strength in playing together. Typically for this part of a show things become a jam, and Prince throws a couple of songs into the mix as well as giving individual band members a chance to play.

The bass of Larry plays us right into Release Yourself, which skips along at a good pace. There are the horns propelling us forward, as well as the organ of Morris Hayes and some quick guitar licks that underpin the whole thing. The standouts for me are Larry’s bass early on, and a tambourine break that seemly appears out of nowhere. There is a lot going on, and instruments and sounds seem to be coming from every direction – there is no mistaking that this is last song and the band is throwing everything into it. It’s a frenetic end to the show, and I almost feel tired by the time it’s over. A final word from Prince reminding people to be careful and to love God and it finally comes to a close.

This is the second of the three Bataclan shows that I will be listening to, and although completely different from the others, it’s still just as every bit enjoyable. Prince and Larry are undoubtedly the key attraction here, but the rest of the band prove their worth and it’s a complete performance in my view. On paper 1999 may appear a weak year for Prince shows, yet this one shows us otherwise. A fun show at a fantastic venue, with some of Princes (and mine) funk heroes, this one I can safety recommend to all.

Rest in peace Cynthia, thanks for the music.

-Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lakeland 1983

This week I am rolling back the clock to 1983 for another 1999 show. Although the shows are all very similar, I still love listening to and watching young Prince in action. What the shows lack in variety, they make up in energy, showmanship and pure enjoyment. I have written of other shows from the 1999 tour, and this one doesn’t differ much from those, so this will be a shorter entry. I haven’t heard this one for a while, so I can’t wait to hear a few old favourites.

Lakeland 1983

1st February, 1983, Lakeland Civic Centre, Florida

Its classic Prince as the spoken intro of 1999 intones before a thunder roll opens the show. The sense of anticipation builds as the drum beat of Controversy plays before the sound of the guitar and Prince appears in silhouette, astride the action on his high perch. He plays the whole song like this, just silhouetted and singing, and I find it really suits the song and the mood of the song – Prince the mysterious figure appearing in the mist to lay his funk upon us. The song has an air of causal professionalism, the band sound laid back in places, and it’s Prince’s guitar as well as some clunky piano that add the tension to the song. I appreciate that Prince calls out Bobby Z, and I love that there is a nice little guitar moment just as the song comes to a close.

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Let’s Work has Prince back in the spot light literally, while Brown Mark takes the spot light musically. I think when most people think of Prince, this is the image that comes to mind, him resplendent in his purple trench coat and finely coiffured hair piled high upon his head. The band all get moments on this song, and I enjoy hearing them all individually. I am surprised that Dez gets a solo too, in the 1999 shows his role is diminished, and the sight of him and Prince playing shoulder to shoulder in the Controversy tour is now just a memory. He still plays well, and his performance is fun, but that close knit look of previous tours is gone.

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Dez shines early on in Do Me Baby, his guitar line off setting some of the lushness, and for me it greatly enhances the performance.   As always, Prince plays the showman on this one, and his performance is visual just as much as it is vocal. The highlight for me is Prince standing atop a little side platform and unleashing a couple of howls, it’s something the teenage me enjoyed, and I still get a kick out of it today. Somehow it’s not as down and dirty as it looked on the Controversy tour, Prince has toned down his performance somewhat, nevertheless still very enjoyable.

D.M.S.R almost has me on my feet, but I am just a little too repressed to leap straight up and dance to it. The start of the song is great, with Prince, Brown Mark and Dez all playing together and pulling a couple of moves. Again it feels like a band performance, rather than Prince backed by a band. This is heightened mid-song when the three of them again play together and slide easily back and forth in unison. The song finishes and I realize that I have just been watching in awe, it’s a great performance.

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Lisa’s shimmering solo is always a pleasure to listen to, and although different in tone from what we have been listening to, it never feels like it has been shoehorned into the show. The crowd however are here for Prince, and there are plenty of shouts and screams as he appears and begins to play at the piano.

A brief introduction of With You before he grooves easily into How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore. I wonder what he can do with it this time, and after a couple of minutes of playing he begins his shtick. Prancing across the stage, lying on the piano, and a couple of good screams is par for the course here, and he delivers it all with aplomb. It gets better as he goes, and it peaks as he tells the crowd that as he was making love to another girl he screamed out your name. Obviously the crowd lap it up, and it’s all done with a nod and a wink that gives it a fun tone. The tootsie roll line has been done to death, but the intro of Lady Cab Driver comes right on top of and doesn’t give me a chance to dwell on the moment.

Lady Cab Driver sounds effortless smooth, and seeing Prince singing and playing his guitar on this song is a definite highlight for me. The song is very smooth sounding with the exception of Dez’s scorching guitar solo. Shirtless and throwing shapes as he plays, there is no mistaking he is the rock in Princes sound, both figuratively and literally. The song somewhat disappointingly ends here, leaving me hungry for more.

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I am surprised at how quickly I Wanna To Be Your Lover starts. The beat doesn’t stop, it just segues straight into it. I Wanna Be Your Lover is kept very short, a verse and chorus before Head gets even less, with a single line and a riff.  Its nice to get even that, and it’s a nod to those in the audience that have stuck with Prince, from his dirty days through to now as he is on the cusp of pop stardom.

Again the music doesn’t let up as Little Red Corvette follows straight on the heels of the previous two songs. There is nothing in the ways of build up, Prince starts singing right from the start. What I really like about it though is the bass is nice and fat sounding, and it’s much more to the fore. As always Dez’s solo is great, and yet it’s the bass that I keep coming back to, especially as his solo finishes. It’s as heard on the 12 inch version, and as the bass loops over Dez comes back with another solo. I would say this part of the show is essential, Dez’s solo is fierce before the band drops out leaving the bass line playing and Prince encouraging the crowd to clap. The song continues with the full band and that fantastic bass for another couple of minutes, and I could dine on this all day long.

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Chants of “We want Prince” bring our Casanova back to stage for the overworked International Lover. Prince plays his part so well, opening the song shrouded in smoke, before turning on the seduction as the song progresses. This song highlights how much a Prince concert has become a “show”. It’s not longer Prince and the band playing their songs in a furious assault, now the performance matters much more, and certain songs are tightly choreographed and done for show. This is the most staged of the songs, with Prince climbing high on his stage to the infamous hydraulic bed. There is plenty of screams as he performs a striptease before lowering himself to the bed. As he sinks from view I can’t help but think “what a great way to end a show!”

There isn’t too much time to consider this as the familiar opening riff of 1999 begins. Prince reappears, looking every inch a pop star in his shiny purple coat. This song sounded great on the radio, and it sounds just as good live. It’s a lot of fun seeing Bobby Z standing behind his drumkit, playing to the drum track, while Jill Jones and Lisa share a microphone and vocals. It does have a triumphant sound to it, and it’s the right song to end the concert with at this stage.  There is no better sight and sound than seeing Prince and band dancing and playing some great rhythm towards the end of the show. As smoke engulfs the stage the guitars begin to howl and one last pose Prince ends the show.

These older shows are always great, the freshness of the music, and the extra spring in the step of both Prince and Revolution. Even though the shows don’t vary much, I always enjoy listening to them, especially with The Time playing as well. It was about this time that I first became a Prince fan, so there is always a heavy dose of nostalgia when I listen to these shows-they may not be essential, but they are definitely a lot of fun.

Thanks
Hamish

 

 

Kansas City-Welcome to 1999

1999 is to me Princes best album. Many would disagree and say Sign O The Times, but for me 1982 and the 1999 album is where Prince finally delivered on his potential and recorded the first master piece of his career. 1999 is the album that cemented my fandom, and it’s still much loved by me today. So it’s somewhat of a surprise that I don’t hold the 1999 tour in such high esteem, and although I listen to the 1999 album a lot, the tour itself is often over looked by me. This is for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the 1999 concerts don’t concentrate on the 1999 album as much as I would like. Only about half the album is played, and it’s not until well into the shows do we first get a song off 1999. The 1999 songs miss that cold electric feel in the live setting, and there is more warmth to them. Secondly Prince firmly has his eye on reaching a larger audience. There is nothing wrong with that, but I feel the band has a little less fire and freedom then they do on earlier tours. There is no wild guitar breaks, and Prince has toned down his look, as well as doing away with some of his racier songs such as Head.  The shows are now streamlined, and a lot more predictable. On the plus side, the 1999 shows clearly sign post what is coming next with Purple Rain, and there is a newer professionalism evident that is required to reach the next level. Also the piano set makes its first appearance at these shows, and although short, set the standard for the future. An exciting transitional period, it’s worth hearing these shows as they capture Prince just as he is reaching a wider audience.

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19 March, 1983 Kansas City, Missouri

The first thing heard on this recording is the “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you” voice from the beginning of 1999. However it’s not 1999 that opens the but instead the electrifying guitar riff of Controversy. It may seem strange, but one of the things I notice is the reaction of the crowd is different from previous tours. The response is loud, but not wild, and there is more of a sound of expectation rather than wild abandonment. The recording is an audience recording, and it has aged well. The music sounds strong and bold, and Princes vocals are clear and easily understood. He calls to the crowd “welcome to 1999” as the band plays a polished version of Controversy. All Princes bands are well rehearsed, but here there seems to be an extra sharpness. They are very lean and polished sounding. The song is very tight, and even Dezs backing vocals are right on the money. It’s not a 1999 song, but it is a good opening song for the show. I really like the guitar sound through the song, and it gains extra emphasis in this tight arrangement. The song isn’t over played and doesn’t get played out quite as much as I would like.

Sticking with songs from the Controversy album the band play an equally tight version of Lets Work. This elicits a more wild reaction from the crowd and there are many squeals to be heard. This song also seems to have a very strong sound to it, and it pumps through my speakers nicely. Prince’s vocals are out front and strong and he is well matched by the synth. I normally hear the bass much more when listening to recordings of this song, however here it seems to be lower in the mix. As per Controversy the song is kept short, and Prince doesn’t jam on it in anyway at all. It’s got a good party sound to it, and Prince can be heard winning over the audience and working them well.

Third song in and we get the trademark slow song. Do Me Baby has a long intro and it quickly quietens the audience. Prince has changed since the Controversy tour and he doesn’t over work the song as he did on that tour. He is far more restrained in his vocals, yet they are still great and very strong, just he doesn’t pour as much emotion into them. Perhaps being a longer tour, or playing in larger arenas, he holds it in and just sings it straight down the line. The song itself is great, and I do enjoy it immensely. I love the long opening sequence before he sings, and as always his vocals performance and screams hold my attention. Performances like this are timeless.

Finally we get a 1999 song as the synths play the synth horn-line of D.M.S.R. The bass and the drums lock into step and it’s hard not to smile listening to it. It’s a little quicker than the album, I’m not sure if it’s due to the live performance or the tape recording. I can hear the audience clapping along, and that’s normally a good sign. The whole middle section is present complete with sirens and female shrieks, before some very funky rhythm guitar plays. Prince encourages the “White folks clap on the two and four”, acknowledging the changing colour of his audience. I could have happily listened to this song much longer (I was clapping on the two and four) but it ends in a wave of shimmering synths before things quieten again and there is another change of pace.

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Next Lisa plays a lovely interlude. There is more shimmering synths that come in waves adding layer upon layer of sound. It’s a good couple of minutes and I am happy to hear Lisa showing some of her talent.

The sound of the piano marks the return of Prince and he takes a solo turn at the piano. He warms himself and us up with an instrumental arrangement of For You. It serves as a nice introduction to his piano playing and is a sweet couple of minutes. It’s a good chance for Prince to showcase another one of his talents to the crowd, and they do show their appreciation with applause.

Still Waiting has him singing, but its slight and his vocals are soft sounding. I get a lot of enjoyment from the song, but I am mostly listening to the piano and Princes vocals don’t make much of an impression on me.

How Come You Don’t Me Anymore is much stronger, both in his piano playing and his singing. He can be heard playing the keys much harder, and his vocals are sung with more gusto. This song is still a regular in the piano set to this day, and listening here I can see why it’s made such an impression all these years. The vocals are playful, and tell a story most can relate to, while the piano has a lilt and swing to it that is irresistible. It also contains some great screams near the end, as well as a hint of Princes smutty humour as he asks “Don’t you want to play with my tootsie roll?”

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What follows next is my personal highlight of the show as they play Lady Cab Driver. They manage to capture the dry sound it has on the album, and the bass and synths are excellent. Prince has a detached sound to his voice, and for the first time I really feel like it’s a 1999 show. Prince also has a brief but fine moment with his guitar near the end of the song. The only let down is it’s nowhere near as long as it is on the album, and as an abridged version it sounds far more like a pop song. I do like it though, so I play it twice in a row.

The ‘pop hit’ follows next as Prince and the band play and upbeat and sharp version of Little Red Corvette. It’s almost perfunctory in it’s delivery and it’s not the highlight you may expect. I would have thought Prince could do more with it, but he shuts it down right after the guitar solo, we are denied even hearing the album version.  I feel cheated as even the introduction keyboards are very short before Prince begins singing. The song does sound OK, but as it ends it seems like a wasted opportunity.

The sound of a woman moaning heralds the return of the Prince I know and love as the band swings into a raucous version of Dirty Mind. For the first and only time in the evening we hear Prince and the band play in a style I am used to from previous tours. There is a lot more energy in the song, Prince is singing his dirty lyrics, and the whole song has an exuberant feel to it. It also gets the jam treatment, which I like. There is a long bridge with plenty of keyboards, before a rough sounding guitar is heard underneath. The song comes to an end in a cascade of keyboard and guitar and I couldn’t be happier.

“Fasten your seatbelts” and the seductive sounds of International Lover begins. Another professional performance follows as it played almost note perfect to what’s heard on album. The stand out moments for me is as the music fades and quietens Prince delivers up some great vocal work and especially some excellent shrieks. There is plenty of crowd noise as Prince goes through his stage show and it’s obviously going over very well with the audience. The recording is very clean here, and I love that I can hear every instrument and sound so clearly. Amazing sound for a 30 year old audience recording.

1999-3

The song fades and instantly the synth riff of 1999 sounds. It’s got a good driving sound to it, and I like it that it’s the synth that is driving it, rather than the pounding drum beat we hear on later tours. Prince’s vocals aren’t as clear as the other singers, but the music is the hero here, and that is perfect. The synth trumps everything, and at times it’s almost too much for me. Things become more balanced later in the song as the guitar sound becomes more prominent, as well as Princes vocals becoming clearer. It’s no surprise at all that this is the party song of the evening and it closes on a high note with Prince and the crowd singing together. There is one final refrain before a glorious keyboard riff and the howl of a guitar wraps it up. The final crescendo is magnificent as Prince shreds the guitar over a wall of keyboards.

My earlier assessment of the 1999 shows was perhaps overly harsh. I can’t deny, I greatly enjoyed listening to this show. There was some flashes of greatness from Prince, and I can’t deny the band was so tight and well-rehearsed that they were flawless. My only problem was it was too professional, too dry. I liked the looseness or Dirty Mind, and again the final couple of minutes of 1999, but for the most part it was following a pretty tight script. Still, an interesting listen to the evolution of Prince, and a big step towards Purple Rain and world domination.

Take care
-Hamish

 

 

London 21 nights – September 12th

I really liked the 21 nights in London shows. They were aimed at the masses, yet the set lists were varied every night, and there was just enough there for more serious fans. This show from the 12th September 2007 is a favorite of mine. Again, it was a show I was lucky enough to attend, but after repeating listening’s on CD,and watching the DVD I find that it’s not just the thrill of being there, this is a very good show and worthy of repeated listening’s. As with the previous recording from the 21 night that I covered, I apologies in advance if I stray from purely the recording onto some more personal observations. For me this is a total package.

12 September 2007, O2 Arena, London

The hall of fame opening gets tiresome if you trawl your way through all the recordings from this run of concerts, but on the DVD I am watching I find it’s a nice inclusion. The familiar talking heads gushing about the genius of Prince is quite touching, and I find I enjoy it more now than I did at the time. I don’t have the urge to skip it, and it’s a fitting introduction to the show.

Prince 2007

Opening the show is 1999. It’s played exactly as is on the album, with the robotic voice beginning. It’s a fine choice to open with, and serves as a good ‘on your feet’ type number. Prices vocals sound thin on the recording, where Shelby J sounds big and bold. My ears do adjust to the sound, and it’s not too bad. This is not a sound board recording, but for an audience recording it’s not too bad at all. The keyboards do carry the bulk of the song, I certainly hear them a lot better than any other instrument on stage. I love the sound of Princes funky guitar, but it isn’t heard much here at all, just a little near the end of the song as the band quiet down as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” The song ends with Prince calling “London, I am here, where are you”

There is plenty of nostalgia early on, the very next song is I Feel For You. It has plenty of pop and sparkle, even after all these years. I hear much more Shelby on it than Prince, but she does a good job, and she doesn’t take over the song, Prince is much more in the mix as the song progresses. The horn section give it a brassy sound, as you might expect from a horn section.

Things move along at a fair clip as we segue into Controversy. I enjoy the electric sound of it on record, but this performance has lots of horns and backing singers which fill it out much more than the song I love from the early eighties. It’s very much played for audience participation, and Prince gets the crowd singing along early. This continues on to the “People call me rude” sections he has then sing the lines back to him before the ‘Clap your hands, stomp your feet” becomes the chant from him and Shelby. The horns get a nice break, and then this is further empathized when just the drum plays while they jam some more. I am not a big fan of it, but next Prince calls for Maceo to solo, and this blows the doors off it. He sounds awesome, and I have a whole new appreciation for horns. I can see why the man is a living legend. Maceo plays for a good minute, and he is really going to town on it. Prince changes tack shortly after by asking the crowd if they know about the Quake, before encouraging them to jump up and down. As always, I aren’t a fan of this. It would be fine if you were at the show, but on the recording it leaves me feeling shortchanged. Luckily he only does it briefly before closing the song out.

Prince 2007a

A bit of blues next as Prince and Renato Neto start a smoky rendition of Satisfied. It feels like quite a jump after the last few numbers, but its par for the course at a Prince concert. Prince plays up the song as much as he can, and you can hear the audience reacting to him as the song progress. With just him and the organ, it’s the lyrics that matter most, and the crowd is hanging on his every line. Mike Phillips breaks up the proceedings with a sharp sounding sax solo. It’s not my cup of tea, and but I do like it when Prince ends the solo with a few screams of his own. There is plenty of humor in the performance when Prince runs through ‘the rules’ He begins with “Can I talk to just the ladies” which immediately brings forth plenty screams and whoops from the crowd. He then runs through the rules, such as “learn to work the toilet seat, if it’s up, put it down” He half sings half speaks, and as he runs through his lines I can’t help but laugh out loud. It’s all funny, because it’s true. He ends it with one more “satisfieddddddd” and the steady beat of Cream begins.

It doesn’t sound great on this recording, the beat is a too insistent, and I find it’s all I concentrate on. The band plays well, Prince sings well, but the mix has me scratching my head. Prince saves the song somewhat with his brief but worthwhile guitar solo. For a few moments I stop concentrating on that beat, and I enjoy the song. The last couple of minutes of the song are decent, and I am happy as it transitions to U Got The Look.

U Got The Look isn’t too guitar heavy. With only Prince on guitar there is a little more space, and I enjoy the drumming much more. Prince keeps a good rhythm line going on his guitar and it’s not too loud or distortive, but it does have a nice little buzz to it. His solo is reined in, and surprisingly I enjoy it just as much like this. He plays sharp but not too extravagantly.

Musicology is neither here nor there. It’s not good enough for me to enjoy it, yet there’s nothing bad about it. The song moves along, but it never moves me. I do like it as Prince moves around the band for each of them to play. The drums and trombone In particular I enjoy the most. Things take a very interesting turn as Prince injects Prince And The Band into the song. It takes my brain a few seconds to register what I am hearing, but yes, Prince And The Band is a nice fit to it musically. “Ohh Funky London” is the next chant we hear. But after listening to quite a few of these concerts, it’s something I could happily pass on. The crowd sound like they are enjoying it, and it certainly achieves its goal of getting the audience involved. Greg Boyer ends the song with a funky few seconds of trombone. A song of ups and downs, the jury is still out on this one.

Next is the highlight of the show for me, the Prince piano set.  Prince prefaces it by telling us what a beautiful thing music is, and how a little music can make everything all right. The first song in this piano set is Little Red Corvette. Little Red Corvette has taken on many guises over the years, but I always enjoy a piano rendition. The crowd obviously enjoy it too, and they sing along. Prince’s vocals don’t sound 100% focused on the music, but his piano playing is delicate and sweet. He toys with the audience a little before the song ends with a cheer.

I am not a great fan of I Would Die 4 U, but the piano arrangement played here is my favorite version of all time. I absolutely love this part of the recording. Prince starts singing and playing quietly and softly singing but after the first verse he starts playing the keys harder and harder, his head starts bobbing and the song becomes much stronger. His vocals take on that impassioned sound (real or faked) and it’s got an emotional feel to it. It’s a shame it’s only a minute, but it’s a great part of the show for me.

Prince 2007b

How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore has long been a stalwart of the piano set, and here is no different. I still enjoy it, but it’s no different from any other version I have heard. The quiet bits are quiet, and the loud whiny bits are still loud and whiny. Everything is as it should be. I am impressed that he doesn’t shorten it here at all, and he plays it right through to the fade out of “Why don’t you call me sometime…”

Another great song follows with Something In The Water. For me there is plenty of emotion in the song as Prince plays it alone at the piano. The stripped back sound leaves just Princes voice to listen to, as there is very little happening at the piano. His vocals don’t have the cold empty sound of the 1999 recording, they are more rich as he plays with the arrangement. It’s not outstanding, but it is very good.

There is a real 1999 flavor as he follows this with Delirious. I dislike this song, but I find in the piano set that it is very fun and enjoyable. If it was like this more often I could really warm to it. It’s rockabilly sound comes through well on the piano, and you get the sense that it was written in this way.

Another 1999 treat next as Prince plays Free. Not one of the stronger tracks on 1999, it gets much more of my attention on this recording as it’s played surrounded by other piano tunes rather than surrounded by the cold electro funk of the 1999 album. Prince plays it delicately and it lacks some of the cheesiness of the recording. This is a great piano set, and it’s a pleasure to hear so many songs from 1999 get an airing.

Prince 2007d

Darkness, then the sound of the introduction of If I Was Your Girlfriend – ‘look at the bargains over here ladies.” I become excited at prospect of hearing If I Was Your Girlfriend, but it quickly changes to the chant of we will rock you. This flows nicely into an up-tempo bright brassy sounding Lets Go Crazy. I am not crazy about the song, but it does fill me with hope that we might hear the set similar to the super bowl set. The horns keep it moving brightly along, and with the keyboards it has a very full sound. Prince does play his breaks, but they are somewhat overshadowed by the band, and this is further heightened when he does some call and response with the crowd which seems to take more attention away from his playing.

There is the fanfare of 1999 and Prince keeps the party going with Baby I’m a Star. We are definitely getting the super bowl set, and I’m pretty damn happy about that. Baby I’m a Star is just a transition song, and we are very quickly into the next song.

Prince 2007c

Proud Mary is up tempo and mostly horns. As with Baby I’m a Star it very short, no more than a verse and chorus before the music turns around and we get something darker and slower.

Prince begins All Along The Watchtower with a nice guitar break. I say nice, but I mean great. He plays much longer than he does at the super bowl show, his guitar playing goes for perhaps a minute before he sings. He makes the guitar moan and whine, and it’s a more expressive solo. There’s nothing fast in it, just song clean drawn out notes. Already it’s on my highlights reel of this show. I am so used to hearing the sound board quality of the super bowl show that I first I find Princes vocals a touch off here. But that’s the recording, rather than Prince himself. He sings the first verse, before the music takes an upswing and the next highlight strikes us.

The Best Of You sounds just as good at this show as it did at the super bowl gig. Sure there isn’t the added intensity of the falling rain, but Prince definitely has his funk face on as he contorts himself with the guitar sound. I would have liked to hear the guitar clearer, it’s mixed in with the rest of the band, but the song does sound good, and it’s worth it just for the showmanship.

Prince 2007e

Take Me With U follows on, and it feels light and breezy after the heavy guitar tones of all Alone the Watchtower, and The Best Of You. It’s not quit as poppy as it sometimes sound, there is too much in the sound, but the crowd are definitely enjoying it, I can see plenty of hand waving on the DVD.Princes vocals are a little ragged, which is unusual, normally his vocals are crisp and clear.

The opening strum of Guitar keeps the tempo and vibe up. Prince sings, but I’m not really interested at this stage, I want to hear what he can do with his guitar. Like the previous song, his vocals still sound rough so it is a relief when he stops singing and moves into “guitar god ‘mode. His guitar breaks aren’t on the great level, but they are lots of fun, and a good listen. The advantage of the DVD is I can see how much he turning it on for the crowd and it’s about the show as much as the playing itself. And on a personal note, when I was at this show there was a guy in front of my with his young daughter, and as he came to our side of the stage he saw her and gave the biggest nod and wink before pulling out another face driven solo. The song finishes with Prince standing still and delivering up one final guitar break.

The songs from Lets Go Crazy to Guitar had been played without break, so it’s somewhat of a relief when Prince pauses to address the crowd. He breaks things up with his patter about “what can I play next, I got too many hits” The opening strum of Kiss ends this moment and he gives us a very smooth rendition of Kiss. The first part of the song I don’t find very interesting, but I do like it much more when he picks up his guitar for a funky rhythmic break. He changes the “You don’t have to watch’ line to “Big Brother” thus firmly dating this as a mid 2000’s performance.

Prince 2007f

Purple Rain is one of the weaker songs on this recording. The mix seems to be all out, it opens with the keyboards, but they feel out of balance, and things don’t improve when Prince sings. For most of the song it sounds to me like Princes voice is overtaken by the keyboard.  It doesn’t have the clean sound I associate with it, the sound where I can hear every instrument playing together, instead it sounds like they are thrown up against each other and it’s a battle to who will be loudest. I cross my fingers that it will improve when Prince starts his guitar break. It does improve, Princes guitar is much louder and cuts across everything else. And what I really like is that he is playing it on the Horner, which to my mind is the way it should be played, as that is how it was originally recorded. Prince keeps the guitar break modest, and the crowd is soon singing their “oowww owww ooooswws”. All in all the song is kept very short and tidy.

There is now a break before the band return for the first encore. The encore begins with the song Chelsea Rodgers which sounds like a classic pop song here. It begins with some nice bass and threatens to be funky, but when the band join it becomes very pop. I do like the song, and this is a good performance of it. Princes vocals aren’t heard very well, I can hear Shelby J better than him. The horn lines aren’t as intrusive as I expect, they lack a sharpness, but they do have a break which gives them a chance to be heard. Maceo gets another break later in the song as does Greg Boyer on trombone, and both of them sound great to my ears.

Prince calls for the lights to be turned off, and we here the synthesizer sound of Sexy Dancer. The music is Sexy Dancer, but its Le Freak that Shelby and the band sing over it. Prince himself doesn’t sing, but he does provide the rhythm guitar underneath. There’s not enough Prince in the song for my liking, it’s all Shelby and the horns, with Prince calling the shots. Renato does play a solo on the keyboards, its note perfect but fails to move me. Things improve immensely when Prince plays, we have a minute of funky rhythm guitar before the band move back in. The song finishes up with Princes rhythm guitar and the band.

Prince 2007g

Play That Funky Music finishes before it begins. The rhythm guitar kicks off nicely, but after the band join in Prince ends it after only a few lines. It’s not a must listen to me, so I aren’t too upset by it at all.

Shelby J comes to the spotlight again as she leads the band through Crazy. I like her vocals a lot, and she does a fine job singing this. As much as I enjoy it, once again there is very little Prince in it, so I find my attention waning. I love the vocoder sound playing the background, and this is one part of the song I listen to the most. Shelby then proceeds to sing I Can’t Get You Out of My head, but here I feel she overdoes it, and it’s not as good as the original. With a final shout out to Shelby from Prince the song ends.

Prince then comes back on to the microphone for Nothing Compares 2 U. It’s very much Princes song, but he only sings every second line here, preferring to let the crowd do the rest. It’s great for the crowd, but a frustrating listen here at home. Mike Phillips improves things no end with a fantastically enthusiastic sax solo. He gives it all he’s got, and it’s the best part of the song in my eyes. Prince then sings one more chorus with the crowd before the song ends. This song could have been so much more, but it feels like they skimmed over it a bit, the only thing that really stood out was that great sax solo.

The main show proper ends at this stage, but Prince does return for another encore with a sampler set. As you well know it’s going to be a lot of teases and short snippets, but we will give it a listen anyway.

The first song to get an airing is Sign O The Times. Prince doesn’t mess around too long at the start and surprisingly sings the whole first verse before we jump right into Pop Life.

Pop Life is another surprise, he doesn’t tease it at all, and sings the entire verse and a chorus. Being the sampler, the music sounds exactly as on record. Prince sings from his stool, and freed from any instrument engages the audience with lots of eye contact and waving.

Mountains is another pleasant surprise to my ears. Unfortunately this time it really is a tease, before just a few moments of Irresistible Bitch is played.

Doves Cry fairs a little better, Prince does sing the first verse and a chorus. As always I am hungry for more, but Prince moves on.

The opening of Erotic City has me disappointed, as I know there was no way he was going to play it. Sure enough after a few bars he moves into something more suitable to his current convictions.

Alphabet St has the crowd dancing. Once again there isn’t too much I can say about it, as it too only has the opening verse. Its good while its there, but its barely there at all.

Prince takes the cheers of the crowd, before telling them “I gotta do this for me” and the funky shuffle of DMSR begins. Another 1999 song, it has me overjoyed. As is the way of the sampler set, I get my hopes up and then it fades away. I am just thankful we get the first verse as we do.

Raspberry Beret probably gets the best of the sampler set. Prince has the beat playing on the sampler, but then plays piano live over the top of it, which gives it a nice simple feel. He trades lines with the crowd, for the first verse and then finishes the chorus, and the song with the audience singing “I love her” and him replying “I love you too” Theres nothing great musically here, but it is a nice way to finish the show with the audience. The recording and the concert end at this point, no bombastic finish, just this easy sentiment.

Asides from the sampler set, I thought this show was great. It can be broken down section by section, he started with a block of hits, then a nice piano set, the superbowl set, a block of guitar heavy songs, a dancey/party encore and then the sampler set. Purple Rain was a disappointment as was the sampler, but everything else was about as much as I could ask for, especially hearing so much off the 1999 album. If I was choosing a good mainshow to listen to, I would choose this one. The fact that I was there is just the icing on the cake.

Take care
Hamish

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Mill City Festival, 1999

1999 is an odd year in the world of Prince. No tour this year, just a steady stream of one-off shows and appearances. Prince was well off my radar at this stage, I had grown weary of his output, and found it lacked the excitement and creativity that I previously enjoyed. But looking at my recordings I see that I do need to have a dig and look at something from this era. I have chosen a recording of his appearance at the Mill City festival. The set list looks slightly interesting, and with Larry Graham in the band the stage is now set for the next change in his life and music.

Mill City Festival 6 September, 1999 Minneapolis

The lone notes of Princes guitar begin the recording. His tone is unmistakable, and there is a nice minute of just his playing alone. The beat begins as the guitar whines its final note, and I am immediately enthused as Sign Of the Time starts. The sound of his guitar playing at the beginning really adds a lot to it, and my excitement. In fact his playing through the whole song is great- nice and fiery. It’s a nice contrast to Princes vocal, which is suitably detached. This song works great live, and I am surprised it doesn’t get played more often. As the title track of one of his most critically recognized albums I feel it should get a little more love. For all the great lyrics in this song, and the fantastic beat, it really is the guitar that dominates in this live version, especially later in the song, before it finishes very sharply. This was a great start to the recording.

Another Sign Of The Times song follows, as the steady drum beat of I Could Never Take The Place OF Your Man begins. Prince takes his time to thank the city and festival, and then brings out Larry Graham to the stage. He tells us that he has a few surprises lined up later, and then comments on the crowd. It’s a good minute and a half before he starts playing on his guitar, then after a brief moment the band jumps in and the song starts proper. What I enjoy about this one, is I can hear the organ very well, and it helps fill out what is a somewhat thin recording. Prince seems to understand what the main attraction of the song is, and after a brief verse he jumps straight to the guitar break. It’s sounding good, but nothing great or off the wall here. I enjoy it much more when the band fall silent and Prince draws out a longer more mournful guitar break. He never returns to the song and it ends with him playing guitar like this.

There is a small break again between songs as Prince delivers a spiritual message. It’s well intentioned, and leads us appropriately enough into The Christ. Although I don’t like the fact that Prince is trying to rewrite his history, I do respect his beliefs and admire that he is prepared to stand by his convictions. However, this song will always be ‘The Cross’ to me. It seems that it would be impossible to play a version of this that I wouldn’t like, but here it comes close. Larry Graham sings the second verse, and although I love his voice – love, love – here it sounds out of place to me. Prince’s vocals sound a little messed up when he returns for the next verse. I am not sure I can blame the quality of the recording for this, it sounds like he is ad-libbing at the mic, buts it’s not very clear, and sounds a little amateurish. He does serve up another guitar break, but again it’s nothing spectacular, and is a little truncated.

Millcity1999

“Thank you very much hometown” Prince says, before the keyboard intro of Lets Go Crazy begins. The guitar sound here is fairly neutered, and the song has lost of the power it had during the Purple Rain era. This is a pretty standard run through of the song, it has a couple of verses cut, and even the guitar breaks fail to lift it to anything special. I thought it might have picked up when Prince played his last guitar howl, but even this is a damp squib.

She’s Always in My Hair is a deadset classic, and its appearance next raises my interest considerably. Both the guitar and the keys via for my attention, before Prince closes the deal with “Can I play my guitar?” The guitar break is everything I could ask for, and although not stratospheric, it’s exactly what I need. The song seems to be very short, only the first verse and chorus are played before the guitar break, and the song ends immediately after the guitar solo. Short and sweet as they say, I could have done with a little more for this one.

Keeping with the rock theme the next song played is U Got The Look. It has a nice energy and simmers along nicely. The set list so far has been crowd pleasing, and heavy on guitar songs from his most popular albums. U Got The Look has a very clean sound to it. Sure, there is some nice throaty guitar, but it still sounds well polished throughout. I was wondering if they would do something different with it, but it’s very much as heard on the album. Its enjoyable, but nothing to write home about, or indeed to write a blog about.

I was wondering where Prince was going next, as over a steady beat he addresses the crowd, and especially the ladies in the audience. It all becomes clear when he says “Ladies, do you know how to kiss?” There is a brief moment of sampler and scratching before the very familiar guitar line of Kiss begins. There is some sampling and horns in the song, but they fail to add anything to it, and if anything they detract from, the minimalist charm of it. There is an interesting moment when the band stop and just Prince and the crowd sing. OK, so interesting might be an overstatement, but it is a nice variation in the song that wasn’t really doing much for me.

The scream at the beginning of Gett Off has me reaching for my phone to check my messages (I have the scream as my ringtone), but it’s the real deal and the recording takes a more interesting turn. The song takes a long time to begin and is much more of a jam. There is a lot of interaction between Prince and the crowd. There is a few sounds and sample thrown into the mix, and keeps me listening trying to catch them all. Princes vocal delivery is very laid back, and smooth sounding. He sings rather than speaks the lyrics, and it’s very enjoyable. There is a low-key guitar break, before some funky chanting “Come And Dance With Me” This is very cool, and funky, before things heat up. There is an upswing in tempo and the band begins singing I Like Funky Music. The beat has a Latin feel to it, and Prince introduces Maceo Parker to the crowd. Maceo delivers immediately and delivers a fast and funky sax solo. Prince begins to sing “I like funky music” and I have to agree, I do too! The song continues in this vein for sometime, and I enjoy every second of it. From here on it’s very much a funk jam, with Prince directing the band and Maceo, there is a few minutes of stabs, funky rhythms and percussion breaks.

Things stay on the same track as the band slip into Talking Loud and Saying Nothing. Here the horns really come to the fore. I was just thinking how good they were sounding, when Prince calls them out, and they do a fantastic break. I am not a horn guy, but this is very good, and I enjoy it immensely. Prince is again directing things and the band is tight right through. I can hear some calls, and I am sure if I could see it he would be directing things with his hands and movements.

Without pause we get Let’s Work, and it’s nice and horny -with horns that is. They pump it up a lot, and its one of Princes songs that I find works well with real horns playing over it. Prince’s vocal is sounding good as ever, and it has a bit of pop to it. This song got me moving, it was sounding great. I was expecting it to go for longer, but just as it was beginning to really groove the band transition into Delirious.

Delirious also gains from having live horns played over it. Not a favorite of mine, I find this recording quite refreshing with the horns playing on it. There is even a horn solo, which I presume is Maceo, and that too is awesome. Delirious is always a slight song, and here it slips by very quick, but well worth the listen. There is an instrumental section that plays it out, featuring some guitar work- but it’s neither here nor there and doesn’t add anything.

Next there is a short pause why Prince engages the crowd. There’s a bit of “You don’t love me… You love Larry Graham, but you don’t love me”. The crowd responds as you might expect, and then after half a minute of this there is another break.

The beat then resumes, and Prince tells the crowd that his new single “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” is on sale next month. No surprise as he next begins to talk of record companies and being free. He then sings a smooth version of Everyday Is A Winding Road. Its nice enough sounding, but its not very distinctive until the chorus, then it picks up a lot. There is some nice organ in the background, and Prince is singing nice and strong. Actually the whole song gets stronger and stronger as it goes on, and after Prince acknowledges that it was written by Sheryl Crow the band move into a long groove with it. Well, not too long, it finishes up just a minute after this, but it is enjoyable as it lasts.

The seductive beat of Love Thy Will be Done draws me in slowly but surely. Prince delivers a spiritual message for a couple of minutes over the beat, but this time it seems to work well. Then when he does begin to sing over the same beat, its not Love Thy Will Be Done, but Do Unto Others. It has a nice groove to it, and my head is quickly bobbing. There are plenty of organs and Prince sings with Larry Graham.

Millcity1999a

I am really feeling it, and then it gets even better as Prince sings Sometimes I feel Like A Motherless Child. It’s very much a favorite of mine from the period, and Prince delivers it with plenty of heart and passion on the recording. His singing sounds like he is really putting himself into it. There is then a trombone solo, which doesn’t derail the song at all, in fact it brings a lot of color to it. The band then return to singing Do Unto Others, while Prince busies himself on the guitar. There are plenty of squeals and wailing, all the while that steady beats keeps plugging away underneath. There is a false ending, but just as I think its done Prince comes back onboard with his guitar, and there is another couple of minutes of him blasting out another solo. He is definitely warmed up by this stage, and the whole thing sounds great. The song ends quickly after, but it’s already made an impression on me- I will definitely be coming back to this one.

Prince begins Prettyman by telling the crowd that he wrote it for Morris Day, but it was so funky he decided to keep it for himself. He then goes on to do a spoken intro, speaking the lyrics until the band get on board after a minute. It is indeed funky, and Maceo is all over this one. After Princes intro I can totally imagine Morris singing this one, but Prince is equally adept at delivering such lyrics. There is a lot of character as he sings, and the lyrics are hilarious. Things get very funky when Prince calls for Maceo to blow his horn. As you might expect, he more than delivers. All in all it’s the funkiest song of the show.

The band jump straight into Purple Rain after this, and initially it’s a little jarring after the funkfest we have just heard. But there is a nice long intro which gives me plenty of time to calm down and sit back to enjoy it. And it is very enjoyable. Not one of the great versions, but Prince gives the song plenty of room to breath, and during the introduction he introduces his new guitar, Hibibi, and then treats us to a minute of nice guitar noodling before we get to the meat of the song. There is some nice low-key horns playing in the song, and it adds a little bit of sharpness, and stops it becoming just like any other version. There are also some nice lyric changes from Prince, nothing too much, but again it keeps me listening. When Prince unleashes Habibi on us for the guitar finale its well worth the wait. He plays the standard solo, but the guitar has a fantastic tone to it, and even though I have heard it plenty, this one still manages to excite me. The reprise has more of the saxophone – I am assuming its Maceo, and it takes the song to another level. By the fade out I am pretty happy that this one is more interesting than a lot of versions of Purple Rain out there.

I had forgotten about the song Come On, until it came on. I enjoy the live versions of this one far more than what’s on record, so even though this isn’t great it’s still an improvement. It gets the full funk treatment here, a nice long intro, with calls for hand clapping hand waving. There isn’t too much that can be said about this recording, aside from the fact that I like it. I could well imagine this going on for a good 10-15 minutes, but it finishes surprisingly quickly after just 5 minutes. With the long intro it didn’t leave much of the rest the song for me to enjoy.

A pounding beat and “oh way oh” starts us into Baby I’m A Star. It’s not quite how I remember it from the Purple Rain days. There are lots of horns which is good, but they do swamp the song that I know. But the song is a Trojan horse and after a minute it’s over and we are into 1999.

1999 gets the Vegas treatment. The horns are again to the fore, and the song is treated as a fun sing-along. There is very little in the way of verses and chorus, just a lot of yelling and chanting with the crowd. It’s all very shiny and light, and somewhat showy, but I find that I don’t enjoy it too much. I can see that he is going for the party vibe but, as is the case with many of these gigs, it doesn’t translate well to the recording. There really is no substitute for being there.

The set ends with Prince being presented with a key to the city. At least I think that is what happening, it’s not overly clear. After this there is a Larry Graham set, with Prince guesting. I am not going to write about that here- or this post will take days to read.

I am not sure what to make of this recording. It has a good set list, but overall comes across as a little weak. I enjoyed it overall, but Prince seems a little unsure of what he is at this time. Coming off the slave era, and moving towards the legacy era, this is a time where he doesn’t really seem to have an agenda to push, musically at least. For all that, this recording is solid, it was a good diversion on a Sunday afternoon.

Thanks again
Hamish

Parade Tour in Sweden

Was there ever a bad show on the Parade tour? Maybe, but this one certainly isn’t it. Today I return to one of my favorite tours- The Parade tour, and take a listen to a recording from the Swedish concert. This is a fairly well known recording, it is available in video and audio, and one that I know many people enjoy – myself included. My two go to shows from this tour are the warm up show at First Ave, and the Cobo birthday show, but this one is a close third place behind those two. So, let’s sit back and enjoy what we have here.

22 August, 1986, Johanneshov, Sweden

The classic “Please welcome Prince and The Revolution” begins the show, while the band plays the beginning of Around The World In a Day in darkness. There is plenty to enjoy in the music at the beginning, lots of different instruments to pick out and enjoy, and these senses are heightened by the fact the band are playing behind a curtain. I do like this song a lot, and don’t really know what to expect from a live version, and the first thing that really grabs me is the wonderful sound of Princes voice. It has a well rounded and warm sound to it, and contrasts nicely to some of the instrumentation in the back ground. The rest of the band joins and the song starts proper, but after a minute of some great bass work and fanfares from the band we move into Christopher Tracey’s Parade.

Prince Parade

There is some guitar work in the left at the start of the Christopher Tracey’s Parade that seems a little out of place, but overall the sound and the texture of the song is just wonderful. I especially like the keyboards playing after the first verse. Lisa is playing some great stuff as well as providing backing vocals to Prince. The second half of the song the band moves up a gear and Prince takes his first break at the organ. He doesn’t play anything mind-blowing, but the organ adds more warmth and fullness before we move without pause to the next song.

New Position sounds very full and colorful here in comparison to what we hear on album. The horns play some nice wiggly lines, and the rest of the band fill out the song much more. In particular I can hear the guitar much more on this number. The song ends naturally enough with a flourish from the horns before the tempo changes.

I Wonder U is quite a change from what we have just heard, and the atmosphere of the recording changes with it. Here it’s again the keyboards I enjoy most, although the singing from Wendy is fine enough, it’s not a showstopper. Atlanta Bliss on the trumpet though, now that is a nice touch. He plays a break that sounds shaky but is actually very good. Already it’s my favorite moment of the first ten minutes of the show.

Prince asks if we are ready to rock and roll before the horns introduce Raspberry Beret with a flourish. Prince uses the song to encourage the audience to clap their hands and to sing. He himself sings most of it, which has me a little surprised as I expected he would leave it mostly to the crowd. The song sounds good enough, but I find that with verses cut out it does lack the charm of the story telling original. Again Prince teases us with just a brief moment on the organ, before the song transitions into the next part of the show.

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Prince does some cool sounding vocals at the start of Delirious, and then the band joins in and we go racing off. The vocals at the start are well worth the few seconds they get, I can imagine him doing more with it like this, especially when he stretches his voice out. The rest of the song is a fun dance along number, with plenty of time devoted to Prince and his back up dancers.

The funkometer goes up to ten next as the classic opening riff of Controversy begins. Always my favorite part of the Parade gigs, this is where the show starts for me. The song starts with plenty of funky guitar but the keyboard and horns also come in heavy and it’s a great funk sound. It could have derailed when Prince goes into his cigarette smoking routine, but things are saved when the next song starts.

Prince owns Love Bizarre in these live performances. The sound is funk yet still there is plenty of pop in there. The band and Prince deliver it all with such intensity, not just the music but also the performance. Wendy and Lisa sound great on the backing vocals, and the guitar playing is just as good too. There is a keyboard groove that keeps me moving, and I think groove is the perfect word to describe this song. The guitar and keyboard are relentless, and the horns add just a splash of color. Eric does get a solo moment, and he sounds as good as ever. Prince does encourage the crowd with “who’s house, Wendy’s house” and I want to sing along here at home. At one point the band drop out leaving just bass and drums, and I don’t need to reiterate, it’s so funky. ‘Stop on the one’ has Prince in band leader mode, but he doesn’t play up on it too much, content to just sit back and let the band play. The song ends with Prince on the drum riser, and I wonder how he can top that.

Prince Parade 1

Again the tempo drops, and Prince delivers a slow burning classic rendition of Do Me Baby. As always his vocal delivery is top shelf, but on this recording it’s the backing vocals that I notice most. They are right behind him on the chorus and it’s perfectly complimentary. Prince Wendy and Lisa really do sound wonderful together, I can’t deny. This is one of the better versions I have heard, Princes vocals are very clean sounding on the recording, and I can hear every note and inflection in his voice. The horns playing give the song and extra push near the end, and add to the seductive nature of the song. When I started writing about this show I didn’t expect Do Me Baby to be one of the highlights, but it is. The end of the song is breathtaking, and I don’t say that lightly, as Prince pulls the band back and sings as the crowd clap along. His lyrics sound excellent, and he throws in some appropriate screams and yells. He finishes up with the crowd singing with him. If the show ended right here I would be happy.

I still haven’t worked out why How Much Is That Doggie is in the set list, but I easily forgive them when the brief instrumental of Lady Cab Driver is played. Its only seconds long but its enough to remind me how much I love that song. The band move easily onto Automatic, which is no bad thing as it also is a favorite of mine from the 1999 album. Its not as dark as it sounds on album, on this recording its much more of a dance song, especially with all the horns thrown in, and Prince plays up this aspect for all its worth, with plenty of dancing throughout.

We stay with 1999 with a short but cool version of DMSR tacked on to the end. Again, it’s a medley version, with plenty of horns, so we don’t get to enjoy the fullness of it, but I know that as soon as I finish writing this I will be pulling out the 1999 album.

The simple keyboard riff of When Doves Cry is enough to get the crowd screaming. It’s played true to the album here, if anything it’s got an even more stripped down sound, the beat that Prince sings over is very sparse sounding. Part of the beauty of this song is the sound of Prince voice out alone in front of the music, and it is definitely true in this case. Its very melancholy sounding, and even when the bass enters that feeling remains with me. But the best part is definitely Wendy’s solo. The guitar tone is brilliant, and it’s got the sound of a lone instrument. The beat is still barren with just the occasional bass sound as she plays, and it’s a great rock moment. The full band enters soon after this point and the horns are finally heard, and sound oddly out of place on this recording, even thought I have enjoyed them plenty on other occasions. The coda has the horns playing while Prince plays at the organ, and I warm to them at this stage, it could well be another song but the sound is fantastic.

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This show gets better and better, I can’t believe how much I have gushed over it already, but still it keeps delivering. Next we have Prince alone at the piano, and instead of starting straight in on a song we have a couple of minutes of him improvising. Even if he is just warming up it sounds great, and I could happily listen to it for much longer. He does start to play Under The Cherry Moon, and I am even happier. Just the sound of his vocals and the piano are perfect and it seals the deal for me- this show is one of the greats. Prince and the piano are backed very well by some other keyboard work, but its never intrusive and Prince still has plenty of time to play his piano parts.

My favorite song from the Parade album is Anotherloverholenyohead, and to hear now with this band on this tour, well it doesn’t get much better. Lisa and Prince sound great, I was expecting to be writing about Eric Leeds, but it’s the girl’s voices that get my attention first. Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss do get their moment later in the song, and as you might expect they live up to their billing. Everybody seems to chime in for their part on this song, and Prince introduces Lisa as we get a long break of her piano playing. There is some great chords, and some fast delicate playing as well, and I can’t speak of it highly enough. In a show packed full of highlights this is yet another one.

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17 Days is another song that we need to hear more of. The bass line on this recording is nice and strong, and the full band makes for a much fuller sound than we hear on record. Like everything it’s a compromise, we lose some of the morose feeling of the original, but there are so much more great things to listen on here. The horns take over as Prince engages with audience, and throws bundles of flowers to the fans. The groove gets deeper and darker as the song goes along, and Prince gives us some organ play which fills out the sound a lot.

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“I hate rock n roll, who wants some head?” and the nasty part of the show begins. Head has a nice intro, moving from bare rhythm guitar to dirty horn stabs. Head is dirty by name and dirty by nature. I can hear the guitar lines on this one very well, and they lay a nice layer over which the horns and keyboard stabs play. Any show that has Head in it usually has me writing that it was a highlight. I am reluctant to say that, with a show packed with highlights, but it is the moment when I most wanted to put down my laptop and enjoy the music. Dr Finks solo sounds great, it’s a little different sounding than I am used to but still has me listening intently. The song breaks down to a nice long jam, and Prince calls for Bobby Z who lays down a nice snare beat. I was waiting for Prince to take his time and dance for much longer but instead he returns to the organ for another break before he starts dancing again. Head gets the full treatment, its drawn right out, lots of audience interplay and Prince playing band leader. He breaks into his electric man routine as he lies on the floor, which would be great if I hadn’t of seen it so much already. But as he calls for Booby to hit him with the snare I’m back on board. The band is on fire and of the whole show this is the performance I enjoy most from them. There is a little bit of everything. Prince even picks up a guitar to deliver some suitable dirty guitar to the proceedings, then walks off the stage as he finishes his guitar break and the band play us out in darkness.

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The tone is lightened again as the band strike up Pop Life. Live it sounds just as joyous as it does on record, and it starts off with Prince singing “Life it ain’t too funky, life it ain’t too funky” The rest of the song follows as heard on record, the main difference is that Princes vocals sound much stronger, and the keyboard riff is more to the fore. It does have a great live sound, Prince vocals are a little ragged, but it still has that pop. It also nice to hear Eric Leeds playing the flute solo live, a nice little touch that I didn’t expect. There aren’t any surprises musically or performance wise in the song, it does exactly what you would expect from the title. Prince does try for an audience sing along before the end, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the song ends at this point.

Girls and Boys sounds funky, but lacks the deep funky sound I associate it with. But I am in no criticizing it, I enjoy this performance a lot. As with the last song, it seems to gain an extra emphasis from the raggedness in Princes voice. He’s never rough sounding, but it does sound a little more throaty than earlier in the show. The best part for me is near the end when Prince lays down his spoken part. It sounds so strong and funky and for me it’s a great way to end the song.

The band keep up the pace with a quick segue into Life Can Be So Nice. There is plenty sound on this, but its kind of hard to pick out all the instrumentation, the mix is such that at a couple of points there is too much sound to digest. I love it for this, it’s an ambitious live song, and once again I find myself in awe of The Revolution. The second half of the song is where the groove really goes, and as is so often it has that sound that The Revolution might just play on like this for days. However the song does fade to a halt with The Revolution singing the main refrain over and over.

1999 sounds so good, it feels that this band could sleep walk through it and it would still sound great. There is just a touch of horns in it, rather than the full on horn treatment it receives in later years, and it still has that synthesized 1999 sound. With all the band members and dancers from the Parade era revolution I wonder how far they will push the party time coda, but it’s played straight and doesn’t out stay its welcome.

Prince Parade 8

There is a break for perhaps a minute after this. A chance for us to collect our breath before Mountains begins. Mountains sounds great right from the start, there is nice deep organ sound that can be heard underneath at the start of the song before Prince starts singing. The song doesn’t deviate too far from the original, but it’s great to hear it live. Especially Wendy’s guitar seems to sound more funky and raw live, an over all more organic sound. If I had any complaint about this song, it would be that it seemed to go by in a flash, but every moment was a joy.

The arrangement of Kiss on this recording is also very cool. The main riff is played on the keyboard, and the guitar only has a very low key presence through the song. The horns start the solo, and they sound sharp, before Wendy plays her solo, and the guitar comes to the fore for the rest of the song. As much as I love Wendy, I would have to say it was the first half of the song I preferred more, the sound of the keyboard playing the main riff was very cool to my ears. That said, the last 30 seconds with just the bare sound of Wendy’s and Mikos guitar has me reconsidering my words. They both have different sounds, but at the end of this one they sound great together. Its 30 seconds that I could listen to for hours.

Prince Parade 9

A single spot light on Wendy playing guitar takes us into Purple Rain. The introduction is very short, Wendy plays the opening chords only once before Prince starts singing immediately. I have heard plenty of drawn out introductions, so this on is actually a nice change. Prince doesn’t push his vocals too hard, and the keyboards sound way too loud compared to everything else – at least in the first verse, but again it’s not a bad thing. Another thing I notice about the mix, the girl’s voices are very loud and clear. It’s a good thing, I can easily hear how well they work together. There are no surprises in the guitar solo, but I had a good few minutes playing air guitar along with it, so it’s just as enjoyable as any other I have heard. He does play it for all he can, so we do get a nice long rendition. There seems to be very little crowd singing along with it, but this maybe a reflection on the recording, rather than the audience at the concert. There is a good 5-6 minutes of guitar to close out the show, and it’s nice to see him with his guitar again in a show that seems to have a touch of everything.

I love Parade shows. This one doesn’t offer up too much when you see the set list, the set list is average, but the show is anything but. The performances are what make this one so good, both musically and visually. Its well worth listening to if you want a reminder of just how great The Revolution were, they were all outstanding. This one is a great document of the Parade tour, and is essential for any collection.

Thanks again
Hamish

Purple Rain Atlanta

The Purple Rain tour is very well documented in the bootleg world. There were several very good shows I could have chosen, but I plumbed for one I have a DVD of. The Purple Rain shows are standard from show to show, they didn’t deviate too much from a set formula, and listening to them is sometimes a little repetitive. I especially tend to lose interest in the mid portion of the show when there is a lull in the proceedings. However I love watching the shows, the Purple Rain tour looked great- the costumes, the dancing, there was something exciting and exhilarating about the whole thing. It really was an event, not just another gig. So with that in mind, today I will be watching a show from Atlanta 1985, Prince playing his most successful album to an adoring audience.

January 4 1985, Omni Atlanta

I don’t mind admitting that even after 30 years I still feel a thrill of excitement when Prince says in darkness “Hello Atlanta, my name is Prince, and I’ve come to play with you.” The organ swells that we know so well, and the spoken intro of Lets Go Crazy gets screams of anticipation from the crowd, and when the single spot light hits Wendy for the main rift there is a further scream before the stage lights up and the show begins in an explosion of light, noise and flowers raining down. I have seen it I don’t know how many times, and I still get a kick and a rush from it. The song does not do much more than what we hear on record, there is no piano break in the middle, or drawn out solos, but it does lack any intensity or punch. And to my mind there is no greater sight in concert than seeing Prince playing the guitar lead here, leaning back, face contorted with the music, and his pink stole blowing in the wind over his shoulder. This will always be the Prince I reference when people ask me about being a fan. The song ends much as we have heard plenty of times before, Prince wailing on his guitar. He doesn’t solo too long or hard, but it’s still a perfect opener to the show.

Atlanta 1985

There is plenty of noise from the band next as they stall while Prince hands of his guitar and removes some clothes. Things suddenly take a pop turn as with a shout from Prince of “one two” the band strike up Delirious. I often dismiss Delirious as its not my cup of tea, but even my ice cold heart enjoys it here, its a lot of fun to watch Prince prancing and dancing around the stage. The music doesn’t do much for me, but the visuals more than carry it. As an up-tempo fun number it does it job and keeps the show moving a fast pace.

1999 next and its performed as we see it on the video clip. Prince dons his shiny purple trench coat and we really are back to the 1999 era. The vocals from the rest of the band aren’t great, but I’m going to blame the sound recording rather than them personally. Now days Prince often races through this one near the end of the shows, so it’s a joy here to hear it given the full treatment. And the vocals from the rest of the band do improve as it goes, and by the end of it I have nothing negative to say. It sounds better here than it did on the 1999 tour, and it has a little more energy to it. The band seem to enjoy playing it, and again its great to see them dancing and interacting together. Perhaps the last minute is my favorite, after the “mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” Prince plays a nice guitar break, them ramps its up as the song ends in a crescendo of sound, light and smoke.

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The other big hit from the 1999 album follows close behind, with the warm swells of Little Red Corvette beginning as the sound and fun of the last song fade. There is the sweet piano refrain played, which I know I have said before I love. Wendy does of course hand out flowers to the crowd before encouraging them to clap their hands. It’s contrived, and yet I find it very endearing. Prince begins to sing bathed in red light, and it’s obvious that this show couldn’t fail, everything seems to have a touch of class to it. Princes vocals are getting better and better with each song, and on Little Red Corvette when he sings “oowwwww owwww owwww” it’s a great concert moment for me. He does his dance while the guitar solo plays, and while I do enjoy it, I find that it distracts my attention from Wendy. One thing I will comment on about this show, is that Prince and Wendy are the centre of everything. The other band members don’t get the moments that Wendy gets, and she does have plenty of interplay with Prince. Sure, a large part of that is the fact she is the guitarist, but I would have liked to see Brown Mark and Prince more often, or perhaps Lisa given more time. Little Red Corvette ends with a sudden handclap, and the rolling drums from the start of Take Me With U Begins.

Prince is right in his element for this one. Right from the start of Take Me With U, he stomps back and forth across the stage, guitar to the fore. I can hear Princes vocals very well, but unfortunately the girl’s vocals are lost in the mix. I can hear them, but not loud and clear like I would want. However, all that is made irrelevant as after a quick verse and chorus everything just becomes a big beat and groove for Prince to play guitar god over. And play he does, the next minute is guitar playing Prince at his very best. There is no sweet delicate playing here, it comes at us fast and furious, and plenty of rock poses thrown in to boot. I should be cynical and point out how clichéd it all is, but in truth I lap up every single moment of this. I love this arrangement, and this performance. The only problem is it ends way too short for my liking.

Usually I skip right over the Yankee Doodle Dandle section when listening to Purple Rain shows. It doesn’t do anything for me musically and I find it annoying. I have never properly understood what is happening on stage at this time, and even watching the DVD I’m not sure what’s going on. Mercifully it is quite short, but in future I think I will go back to my normal ways and skip right past it.

The next section starts with Prince sitting at the keyboard, and I am much more comfortable again. I do enjoy watching him play the piano, it’s hard to believe it’s the same man who floored us with his impassioned guitar playing just a minute ago. The piano set begins with some very soft and delicate paying from Prince, and I enjoy this just as much as any song he plays. He does settle down and begin to play Free. Free works a lot better live than it is on record. It’s not as over the top and the piano playing is much better without being drowned in the other distractions.

Prince leaves the piano next and delivers up Do Me Baby. This performance is very nice, he has all his moves and vocal styling’s down, and comes across very smooth. It’s not the greatest sounding version I have heard, the instruments are too loud and Prince is fighting against them to be heard. But the showmanship more than makes up for it, this is to be seen as well as heard. It’s very short on this recording, I was expecting more from it. Not the greatest I have heard, but still a vital part of the show.

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How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore has Prince back at the piano, and initially its his piano playing that excites me the most. He does interact with the crowd to get them clapping along, but it’s the vocals and piano playing that are the most important things here. There is showmanship, but its all in his vocals and the looks at the crowd. That changes however when he does the whole “I’m gonna stand over here until you make up your mind” The crowd shriek and yell in delight, but I have heard it too many times by now to get excited. The song progresses to the point where Prince really plays with his vocals and demonstrates just how good a singer he really is. Like everything its just a few moments, but its enough. This guy really can do everything.

Things pick up when Prince starts with a spoken intro to Lets Pretend We’re Married. We now know that the spoken intro would later become the song Temptation, but at the time it was new to our ears. Prince teases us with the vocals, some piano playing and at one stage throwing off his jacket. Finally the teasing ends and Prince kicks into the song. His piano playing is very expressive and it’s a nice full sound he generates from the piano. The song played as we know it is only very short, it’s all about the tease at the start. There is a good energy to it, and Prince delights me, and the crowd, by leaping off his stool and playing standing up.

Father’s Song gets only a minute, but it’s my favorite moment at the piano, and of the whole show. In almost complete darkness Prince plays the refrain, and it’s filled with a melancholia that stays with me long after the performance. Sometimes the shortest moments are the best moments.

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The lights come back up a little as Prince begins to play God alone at the piano. With smoke swirling at his feet it does have a heavenly appearance. This is tempered somewhat by his vocals early on being fuzzy on the recording. After the first few lines this does improve, and I can better sit back and enjoy the song. The song does sound good, and Prince delivers some great screams near the end of the song. He loses me shortly after with his conversation with the audience being played out on stage and the bath sequence. Listening to the show, this part goes for too long, and even watching it I find myself just wishing it would end. Yes, it was cool the first time I saw the bath sequence, but now I just want it to end so we can get back to the music.

The purple part of the concert starts next as Lisa asks Wendy “is the water warm enough”. The next seven songs are all off the Purple Rain album and it’s quite a performance. First Prince rises from the stage to play Computer Blue. The song starts with plenty of keyboards. I usually associate this song with guitars, but the keys are nice and strong and form a nice thick sound for the guitars to play against. Prince starts off singing and playing well, and he gets louder and louder from there. His solos aren’t spectacular- they are as you hear on the album, but once again it’s the performance of the song that has t be seen. Firstly Wendy gives Prince simulated fellatio while he solos, then later in the song Prince puts down his guitar and dances. He dancing isn’t delicate, but he does capture the mood of the song. And visually its looks quite striking, especially when he dances next to the rest of the band.

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In a seedy red light Prince next sings Darling Nikki. An audience favorite, I am sure most of them just want a chance to sing the x-rated lyrics. There is several opportunities’ for the audience to sing various lines, asides from that the arrangement is as heard on record. The fun part comes later in the song when the good Dr plays his solo and the band all look like they are having a good time. I also appreciate the end of the song when the backwards music we hear on album is played forward and we hear Princes ‘hidden message’

The Beautiful Ones is, well, beautiful. Up high and in softy blue and red light Princes plays piano and sings the emotional high point of the Purple Rain album (asides from the Purple Rain song itself) Princes piano playing is good, buts its the other keyboards dong all the work, and Dr Fink and Lisa fill out the sound with plenty of swells and swirls. Prince leaves his piano for some delicate dancing, and to concentrate on his vocals. This is his best vocal delivery of the night, there is no distracting talking to the crowd, no guitar playing, its all pure vocal delivery. He looks suitable moved and drops to his knees to deliver some passionate screams and whoops. He eventually rolls on to his back for a final howl before the keyboards play us out with a couple more swells.

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Doves Cry gets the full treatment next. There is a brilliant long intro, with just the bare beat and the piano lead line played over it. It builds plenty of anticipation in the crowd, and for me here at home. The lead line on the piano is the key element in this song for me, and even through I have been listening to it for most of my life it’s still something I enjoy immensely. Prince begins his lines, but has almost too quiet, and I don’t get the strong vibe as I hear on the record. The lyrics of Doves Cry are amongst the best he has written, and it’s a shame I can’t hear them better on this. I used to think that the bass line would detract from the song, but it’s actually quite funky to hear the song with a bit more bottom end in the mix. Prince introduces Wendy to play the guitar solo, and I must admit that I fall in love a little. She plays so well, and she looks dead cool while she is doing it. The final section of the song features a lot of dancing from Prince. He doesn’t always look cool, but I have to admire his efforts to entertain us.

There is then a very long pause as the crowd chant for more. Finally the band return and the next song is I Would Die 4 U. It has a lightness and pop sound to it and is enjoyable right from the start. Wendy’s vocals sound good next to Prince, and there is a nice moment when they share the microphone before Prince engages in some enthusiastic dancing. There is some very funky guitar playing later from Wendy while Prince sings a long with the crowd. It is reminiscent of the 12 inch version, and that is absolutely fine by me. However after only a few minutes it segues into Baby I’m A Star.

Baby I’m a Star is an absolute joy to watch. Musically it’s awesome, and having the extra players on stage means there is so much to take in. Early on its Eddie M who I enjoy the most, his saxophone playing gives the music an edge. Prince also takes the opportunity with the extended line up to indulge in some James Brown style dancing, and band leadership. As is par for the course there are plenty of stops and starts form the band. After such a choreographed show it’s wonderful to see the band playing here, and there is the feeling that anything might happen musically. Baby I’m A star as we know it disappears and the funky jam takes over. Its Eddie who really steals the show on this one, he is just killing it on the sax. There is a funny moment when Prince begins to take the band off, before stopping to the calls of the crowd. It’s staged, but has me smiling. Prince gives us a little of everything, he sings, he dances, and he takes the piano for a while too, always keeping the groove and the beat going.

Atlanta 1985 1

Finally the last song begins, in what I’m sure was the high point for everyone there. I have heard many arrangements and performances of Purple Rain over the years, some are great, and some not so great. But for me the definitive version will always be the one played on the Purple rain tour, starting with the beautiful chords played by Wendy. Here is no different, the song begins with Wendy alone playing the soft chords I have heard a thousand times before, and I’m not tired of it one bit. She does get a few minutes along to play and I feel the song slowly drawing me in. The appearance by Prince is understated, and he adds his lead lines into the song. Playing the Horner he plays his delicate pieces, not hurrying at all, but slowly building the song up. I think this is my favorite style of his playing, when he’s softly playing lead guitar. He keeps it fairly short and begins singing early on. At first his vocals are a little lost in the echo, but it soon sorts itself out after a few lines. He is singing here in his vulnerable voice, rather than the triumphant tone we sometimes hear in Purple Rain. After only the first verse and some softer guitar he leaves the stage and returns with the cloud guitar. He immediately plays a more hard rock and anthemic sounding solo before singing the next part of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocal performance, it’s not the notes he hits or the strength of his voice, it’s the emotional delivery and personality in his voice. Normally I would be writing about his guitar playing, but in this case it’s the vocals that have made the bigger impression on me. Prince does finally get to the guitar solo, but he doesn’t seem to pull anything special out for it. It’s played straight, and it’s only much later that he begins to let off some fireworks on the fret board. I have certainly heard other solos that have left me opened mouthed, but not this one. Despite that, my girlfriend tells me I did watch the TV transfixed while he was playing, so he must have had some sort of magic in there. He clambers to a high point to deliver one final blast before the keyboard twinkling ends the show.

Writing today’s entry was definitely a labor of love. The show was an excellent record of Prince at the peak of his powers, and despite the material and performance being very familiar to me I still loved all of it. There was a reason that Prince became a global superstar, and this is it. If you ever needed to see him during his purple period, this would be the place to start. Its not perfect, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

thanks for reading

-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

Koko Rocks

This weeks recording -I am going to take a gamble with this one. Todays recording is not a favorite, much loved recording, but instead a recent one which I have never heard before. Today I will be taking a listen to Prince playing at Koko London from last week. Before I have even heard a note, I already have mixed feelings about this one. At first glance there are a couple of positives and also a couple of negatives. Firstly the negatives – it is a audience recording, and a greatest hit show to boot. I am not a great fan of either. On the plus side – it is a smaller venue, and also a recent show, so it will be something new to my ears and I won’t have any preconceptions about it. The other thing about it which is making me curious is the songs from Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue as they say. So, lets drop the needle and see what we got

February 2nd, 2015 Koko London

Prince Koko 4

As the recording begins you can actually hear the anticipation as the audience awaits the music to start. The opening chords of Purple Rain is greeted with plenty of cheers and squeals as you might expect. The recording is actually not too bad- I can hear everything I need to hear. The crowd is all onboard right from the start and you can hear them singing along line for line. Prince himself sounds fairly relaxed, there is no intensity to his singing, and the whole vibe comes across as casual and happy. His guitar sound early on sounds like this may be a pretty rocking gig. It was just after I thought this that I can hear some audience members talking, which instantly takes me out of the song. Soon enough Prince and the band get a little louder and more raw and I am happy again. Throughout I can hear his guitar sound nice and deep and I hold my breath as I wait for the solo. And, it’s a good one! All the usual elements are there, as well as some nice deviations by Prince. Nothing too off the chart, but it does have a good rocking sound to it. The crowd is well in the mood for “ahhh, ahhh, ahhh” but Prince closes them down soon enough. The reprise is short, there is a minute of crowd singing before Prince brings it to an end with his guitar. We are off to a good start.

Prince tells the crowd that they are going to play 14 hits in a row and the band start the grind of the modern take of Lets Go Crazy. I am not always the greatest fan of this one, but I haven’t listened to any 3rdeyegirl recordings for a while, and it’s not the chore that I sometimes find it is. It sounds like its going across well tonight, and I enjoy the guitar divergence midsong. It adds a little lightness to a song that sometimes sounds bogged down in its modern incarnation. The band sound tighter than some of the other shows I have listened to, and looking at it I guess they have been together quite a while now. They have certainly lasted longer than I expected, and full credit to them. My only quibble would be that perhaps the song lasts a minute longer than my attention span does, but as always that’s my problem rather than a recording problem.

Take Me With U takes me by surprise with its nice fresh sound. There is a nice guitar sound at the beginning that is playing what was originally a keyboard on record. It’s only a small thing, but it has me listening right from the start. The song is nicely balanced, and although the guitar leads it, it still feels light and has a pop shine to it. Liv’s singing is very good, and it’s nice to hear her adding to the fullness of the song. I should have tired of this song years ago, but today it’s still getting me moving in my chair.

And joy of joys, the next song isn’t Raspberry Beret! Instead we are treated to a solid performance of U Got The Look. Sure I have been critical of this in recent blog posts, but again on the recording it’s a nice crisp performance. Both the guitars have a clean but heavy sound, and I can clearly hear what they are playing. It’s a change from some other performances where the guitar is lost in muddy sound or distortion. Liv can once again be heard doing her thing, and I admire her voice for standing up against all the guitar sound. For a minute I thought it was going to degenerate into a guitarfest, but the band quickly moves into Funknroll, much to the delight of the crowd I might add.

Prince live at Koko, London.

It’s very cool, and as usual I like the live performance of it much more than the album recording. The band really own this one and it’s very obvious that this is one song that they all buy into, and belong on. The breakdown and Princes guitar sounds like a lot of fun, and gets plenty of shouts from the crowd. It sounds very much like a good time, and I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there. I think cool is the word that suits this song tonight, and Prince plays us out with some more cool guitar playing.

I have tried to avoid using the word funky too much when writing this blog, but I can’t help but use it for the beginning of Controversy. 3rdEyeGirl strike me as being a very unfunky band, the opening guitar rhythm is right on the money. They don’t let up as the song kicks off properly, and this stripped down band takes me right back to the original sound in the eighties. I have to be honest, I was even clapping in the air at one point. The crowd are feeling funky too, with a chant of “Ow wee ow” starting mid song. Prince comments “I see you all come to jam tonight” before singing controversy. There is then some very fun call and response between Prince and the audience, they can’t quite match his squeals and sounds, but they more than make up for it with volume when he says “now somebody scream!” The song ends, and I find myself thinking this was the best version of this song I have heard for ages.

The timeless intro of 1999 moves us right along, and I can feel the smallness of the venue and the vibe of the band. It’s very heavy on bass, with everything else floating along over the top. Prince sounds like he is having as much fun as the crowd and I marvel at his ability to play at such a level still after all these years. An average gig by Prince is still better than 90% of everyone else’s, and this gig is far from average. They more than do the song justice, and like all the best versions I can hear plenty of Princes guitar in the mix.

Staying with the 1999 album, next song up is Little Red Corvette. It’s played in his modern ‘slow down style’ but its not as drawn out and emotional at the start as other times I have heard. It’s slightly let down by crowd noise in places, and although Princes voice isn’t always clear, his guitar certainly is. After 30 years I still feel a rush as he plays the guitar solo, before pulling it back and taking it down a notch to his slow hand guitar, and eventual “slow down” refrain. There is a lovely moment before his slow down lines, where he emotionally sings about “I know what I want, I want you” The crowd gentle sings “slow down” in the background while Prince delivers his lines. For me it was a surprising highlight, and I find myself totally in the moment. Mindfulness with Prince, who would have thought. The song continues to offer surprises as it ends with Prince and the women of the audience singing “oohhh oohh ”

Prince Koko 3

It gets even better when Prince sings Nothing Compares 2 U over a bare keyboard. In my mind this is the way it should always sound. The band joins after the first verse, but the song still holds its emotion, and Prince ups his delivery when the drums and bass enter. I have to say, I was a little worried when he says “on the guitar, Donna”, but her solo is pitched just right, and is kept nice and short. Prince comes back with plenty more character in his voice, and the crowd carries us home. It’s short, but all done in the best possible taste, and like all good things leaves me wanting more.

I love this version of Kiss. Anyone who has read any of these blog posts knows that this is quite a statement from me, I am what they call “a hater” when it comes to this song. But here on this recording I find it very appealing. It has some interesting keyboard running through it, and is seriously lacking its distinctive guitar signature. Although not a fan of the song, I have always liked its guitar sound, so for him to drop it out, and I find I like it even more, I am very surprised. That same guitar sound returns in the second half of the song, and it’s nice and strong. I could just listen to that rhythm all day. If you want to hear a different take on a classic, I recommend you bend your ear to this. The band jam on it a little later in the song, and its all good to me.

I am not very familiar with Paloma Faith, but Princes cover of her song Only Love Can Hurt Like This is just divine, and Liv gets a chance to do what she does best on it too. Gentle at the start with some beautiful singing during the verses, the chorus skyrockets when Liv gets her lungs right behind it. As an unfamiliar song to me, this will certainly be one that I will be revisiting. There is some very decent lead guitar in the latter part of the song, but it’s Liv that holds it all down, and the second half is very much her voice versus the power of Princes guitar. Princes guitar wins out, but I am never going to complain about that. I would like to hear a better recording of this one, and maybe a better mix from the desk, but it is definitely a cover with potential and I’d like to hear more of it.

Prince Koko 2

Prince then asks for the lights to be turned off with the comment “it’s not a country and western show” and that brings a smile to my face. That smile gets even bigger when I hear the opening of Doves Cry. Although not a pristine recording, it’s good enough when the music is this good. After a few bars the music stops and the leaves the crowd singing. Yes, it is the dreaded sampler set. But tonight Prince plays this one pretty straight and I am pleasantly surprised as we get four minutes of the song played in the form I know and love. There is some interaction between Prince and the crowd, with a few “owww owwws” from both.

I wait with baited breath as Sign Of The Times begins. Will this be cut short, or will I get a good chunk of the song? Thankfully it’s the latter, and there’s also some meaty guitar work in there for me to enjoy. It’s not particularly sharp, but it is suitable grime and has a heaviness to it. Once again the crowd is in good voice, and Hannah on the drums gets a good work out near the end of the song. On a better quality recording this would be a standout.

Hot Thing get the familiar sampler set treatment, as Prince teases us at the start, before delivering the song proper. It’s got a nice groove to it, but the beat is slightly weaker. Prince pushes it out forcefully in compensation, and both me and the audience enjoy it. I am happy to see this one get a real play rather than a sampler tease, and by the end I wish it was longer.

One if my all time favorites is next with the big sound of Love Bizarre. I would just seconds from leaping to my feet and dancing, but instead I am bitterly disappointed when it ends after just 40 seconds of intro. Such a lost opportunity, I think it would have gone down a storm.

The sampler tease continues as the music of Darling Nikki is played next. There is no way in the world he was ever going to sing it, and as we all expect it ends after 30 seconds.

Pop Life has me back on board, although it’s played very short at least we get a verse and a chorus. A classic pop song, it’s impossible to hear this without feeling some sort of joy. I find myself singing along loudly with it, and I am sure my neighbors are thankful when it quickly ends.

I Would Die 4 U sounds upbeat and fits with this ‘pop’ section of the gig. I would have loved to hear a little more of it, but Prince ends it after the first chorus with a simple “Thank you so much, good night”

It is of course another tease, and immediately the beat of Forever In My Life begins. This is no tease, and Prince takes his time with the intro, before singing the words we all know so well. I mouth the words rather than sing along, I don’t want to miss a note of this. Prince sounds great and I find myself inwardly moaning again that this isn’t a soundboard recording. The arrangement played here somewhat resembles the one that appears on Sign Of The Times movie, and there is plenty of time for the crowd to sing along with “alright, alright”. The only thing missing is Boni Boyer singing the house down, but we are nicely compensated by Prince providing some bass lines. A very electric sound cuts through the vibe as we near the end, but the mood is restored by some great singing by Prince, and the audience doing their best to emulate him.

Prince  Koko 1

I’m not sure this is the band for Housequake, but in the sampler set they seem to get away with it. My ears aren’t sharp enough to tell you who is playing what, but it all comes together alright. Not the funkiest version in the world, but the sampler provides the kickin beat while Prince keeps the energy levels high. Ida gets a moment on her bass, and this is probably the high point of the song for me. Donna also plays a brief solo, but I find it takes me out of the song, and I am pleased they don’t play on it too much longer. They hold it together long enough to get through it, but I fear it may unravel after another minute.

Oh WOW, was my first thought as they begin U Know. Its sounds like its going to be fantastic, but Prince says “You’ll cant have that” and I know we aren’t going to get too much more. Sure enough it ends before it even starts. There are a few boos to be heard from the crowd, and I can fully understand their feelings… I am quietly booing here at home. You can’t always get what you want.

I feel similarly cheated when he plays only the intro to Gold Standard. It’s good to see he isn’t biased, both old and new songs get the short shrift, but I would have liked to have seen a little more faith in the newer songs, especially the ones that get an obvious reaction from the crowd.

If I Was Your Girlfriend gets the same shabby treatment, it’s barely worth mentioning here for the time we hear it. I barely register it before it ends.

Normal service resumes with a loud, slightly heavy rendition of Guitar. Prince’s voice on the recording comes across as a little muffled, but the guitar is the real star of this one. Its sounds great not only during the verses, but also when the solos start. Of course this suits Donna very well, and her solo is on point throughout. I am even happier when Prince adds his guitar to the mix later in the song. At this stage I find the recording slightly uneven, but there is not a huge dip in quality. Once again Prince wishes the crowd “Good night” before bringing us right into Plectrumelectrum.

I like the song well enough, but it just sounds a touch labored here. It has plenty of rock flourishes, but they do sound heavy handed to my ears. Of course I am listening too carefully to it, and I find that once I close my eyes and go with the sound it’s much more enjoyable. To me it sounds like a good rehearsal song rather than a song that got a proper release. I have no real problem with the song, but it does out stay its welcome by a minute or two.

Prince begins again by saying “I would like to dedicate this to a friend of mine”. There is a brief moment while he gets the stage sound right, before a gentle intro to breakdown. My favorite song on the Art Official Album, when I saw this on the setlist I was immediately very excited to hear it. I was not disappointed in the slightest. Sure, the recording isn’t the greatest, but I can still hear that Princes voice is note perfect. The song sounds a little lighter in the live setting, it seems to be lacking some gravitas, but I can’t quite pin point what it is that’s missing. Maybe it’s the fact that I can hear the audience talking during several segments of the song. But there is enough there for me to love every moment, and when the guitar enters it adds just a shade more emotion. Very good song, and on a better recording it would have been excellent.

It’s followed up by a fantastic intro to Whats My Name. I love that this is getting an airing. There are better renditions of this song out there, I enjoy hearing this one but its not top shelf. A lot of the crowd sound somewhat disinterested, and the again it does affect the quality of the recording and listening experience. All the pieces are there, but it’s not as strong as I would like. This song could be much more muscular and beefed up, it’s a shame it’s not at its full potential here. Things get better when the guitars are in full flight, buts its not quite there.

Stratus is sometimes great, and sometimes not so great. I know its purpose is to show off the different band members talents, but some times I just don’t feel it. This is one of those occasions. Donna’s first solo is nice enough (the fact I used the word nice rather than something else should tell you enough) but by midway through the keys I find I am beginning to tune out. Things are better in the second half, a little more heavy sounding and some good bass and drum. And surprisingly to my mind it’s enough to save the song. By the time it finishes I am pretty happy with what I have heard.

The opening chords of Sometimes It Snows In April fills me with joy, and as Prince sings the opening lines I am off to my happy place. But sadly he ends it after the first couple of lines, and the guitars jump in with Dreamer.

This band is well suited to Dreamer, and even though I was disappointed about Sometime It Snows In April, I am very happy with Dreamer and its performance here. The guitar playing is less pedestrian and the band sound like they are energized once again. The song is saturated in guitar solos and all of them are sounding good. After the solos ease back, there is some nice heavy guitar work that sounds good, before Prince sings the title a few more times. The song ends just after this, and despite clocking in at almost seven minutes it still feels like a shorter song, the energy kept me in it throughout.

Lets Work caught me off guard, with its heavy intro. I am much more comfortable once its classic groove takes up the song proper. Late into the show now, and yet Princes voice still sounds fresh and he does a nice impersonation of his younger self. The bass playing on this is excellent, and I find myself grooving along to it nicely. I didn’t expect this band to play it so well, but it is very good.

I am further surprised when 3rdeyegirl take on Cool, and they make a good job of it. Liv takes on a lot of the load here, especially when she first starts to sing Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough. It does sound a lot like other renditions we have heard in last few years, but that’s not a complaint at all. The first half of the song is all Liv singing Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough, before Prince sings Cool proper in the second part of the song. This is very much a crowd pleasing song, and there sounds like a lot of fun is being had when Prince gets them singing. There is a coupe of cool moments when Prince gets the crowd to soul clap and I am instantly transported to his 1980’s hay day. The song ends with the classic Prince “Las Vegasss!”

So all in all a very fun gig. The setlist and performance are good without being great. The recording is as one would expect for an audience recording, its fine- it’s far from being terrible, but there were moments when I found myself wishing for a soundboard. This is not an essential must listen, but you have access to it then it’s a fun couple of hours.

Next week we will stay with the London theme and I will take a look at a gig that is very close to my heart.
take care
Hamish