ONA – Budokan

My Japanese odyssey continues, we are still in Tokyo where today I visited the Budokan. For me it is a venue that I was always associate with the Cheap Trick album Cheap Trick at Budokan, an album that was played ad nauseum when I was a child. Prince has played at the venue during two tours, he did four nights there during his 1996 tour of Japan, and another two nights in 2002 during the One Night Alone tour. Perhaps in this case we should call it the two nights alone tour. I am going to take a look at one the shows played during the ONA tour, as much as I like the 1996 concerts the shows from 2002 are more attuned to my current tastes. Not everyone is a fan of the One Night Alone tour, I find the tour is divisive between fans – it is either one you really love, or one you really hate. I have yet to find many people on the middle ground. I am going to stake my claim early, it is a tour I am a big fan of, so expect the following write up to be completely biased for the positive.

18th November 2002, Nippon Bodukan, Tokyo

The audience know what to expect from the start as is the norm for the ONA shows Prince begins with a distorted voice and heavily distorted drum solo. I like it, although it has no flow to it and is little more than a minute of sound that builds anticipation to the opening “The Rainbow Children.” The unease that “The Rainbow Children” creates can be heard in the music, but as always it is kept in balance by the band and their light sound that counteracts some of Princes unsettling vocal effects. By the time Prince sings “Tokyo!” I am fully on board and ready for this song to roll on and on. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (and I’m aware of plenty of people who downright hate it) but I can’t deny, Prince’s guitar work is pretty sweet on the ear, and I would hope most people would listen past the lyrical delivery and instead gravitate to this mesmerizing guitar performance. I like that the song continues to strike new ground, and it keeps me fixated without ever repeating itself.

If anyone in the audience was worried about what might come next, Prince reassures them with the more accessible, and eminently more pop, “Pop Life.” Prince’s voice may not be as crisp as we have come to expect, but the rest of the song shines like polished silver, the recording sparkling as Prince turns the music this way and that under the lights. Renato and his jazz touch late in the song speaks to me, and I am filled with regret that I never saw this band live.

Prince brings discomfort to the pop audience with his introduction to “Xenophobia,” and the following song challenges expectations. At the time it came across as something new and shocking, fifteen years on I know what to expect and I am more than happy with the way the music unfolds over the next ten minutes. With Maceo playing there is very little to dislike, and as the horns run back and forth Princes message gets lost in the raw sound of the music itself. It is the last half of the song that is the most challenging, and it feels good to hear this again, something far removed from his 80’s pop sheen, here is something with grit and body, something that looks both backward and forwards at the same time, a song that contains something new every time I hear it.

Prince can’t quite keep to his promise to challenge and test the audience. It is “Purple Rain” that follows quickly after and soon enough any questions raised by “Xenophobia” are quickly painted over in the shade of purple. The audience recording is remarkably clean, there is very little background noise aside for cheers at the appropriate moments. Should I thank the recorder, or the restrained crowd, I don’t know,  but I do know it sounds very good indeed and I am more than happy with the performance of “Purple Rain” that matches it. It never ignites into the blazing wildfire it sometimes becomes, but it delivers everything that one would expect at a Prince concert, be it your first concert or your 100th.

“The Work Pt 1” surprisingly fails to fire. I had such hopes. I was expecting funk by the bucket load, instead I get a series of solos that never quite build into a much wished for payoff. I like the music just fine, but it is a platonic relationship and never becomes an intense love affair. Prince is too fickle and the music comes and goes as it pleases without giving me the time I need. I do like the “To-k-yo, woo-hoo” chant, something I may have been guilty of singing under my breath for the last three weeks as I wander the streets of Tokyo. The inevitable dancers on stage is the last straw for me, the heart of the song belongs to the audience in the building, and not us listening here at home.

For me, “Mellow” is all about the sound and vibe. I have very little idea what Prince is singing about, but I do love the feel of the song. This performance is cool, and “Mellow” lives up to its name, aside from the occasion burst of horn. It is unlike anything heard thus far on the recording, and for me it again highlights the scope of music Prince created. It wouldn’t be the first song I’d put on, but it is one that I always like when I hear it.

The concert energy again surges with engaging rendition of “1+1+1 is 3.” Of course it can’t lose with Maceo adding his years of experience with an instantly funky solo. Prince may claim that he is funky, but in this case it is Maceo who brings the funk to the party. There is a funky guitar underneath that is pure Prince, but for my money it is the horns that make this worth hearing. Nothing is added by appending “Housequake” and “Love Rollercoaster” to the second half of the song, and they could have easily been left off in my opinion.

The melancholy dip and swoop of Prince’s guitar brings the concert into a more traditional  realm, and the performance here could have come from any show in the last twenty years. That’s no bad thing, the guitar wail calling most Prince fans to duty with it’s mournful call. There is a heavy influence from the band, and the flashes of jazz later in the song reminds you just what configuration of the NPG this is. The final few minutes belong all to John Blackwell, and that makes this rendition well worth a listen as he kicks and stutters around the kit.

I am pleased to find that “Strange Relationship” is just as funky as it has every been, the band locking together in a solid squelching riff. If anything, it is aged even better, and like a fine wine I find it strong and more flavorsome than its 1980’s incarnation. Prince in particular seems to get a real kick out of playing this song, and he pulls the audience with him with his unbridled enthusiasm. It stands far above anything else heard on the recording with its energy and pure Princeliness.

“Pass The Peas” I am happy to take a pass on. I like Maceo, but Prince and the band don’t add anything to the song we haven’t heard before. It does give the horn section a chance to strut, but it pales compared to the previous “Strange Relationship.” Although, to be fair, almost anything would pale compared to that.

A torrent of guitar notes fly from Prince’s hands, and serves as a great introduction to “The Ride.” What is great about this show is that every song gets a full rendition and plenty of time to marinate in its own juices. Every song runs five to ten minutes, and after years of feeling short changed by Prince medleys with these concerts I finally feel Prince is letting us fully appreciate his music. His comment “Can I take my time” gets full approval from me. The song contains the unrestrained howl of his guitar as he finally lets it off the leash and it runs rampant for the next few minutes. It is a biting performance that snaps and chews in equal measure.

As a Prince fan I fail miserably, not recognizing “Sign O’ The Times” immediately as Prince elicits to shroud the intro with his chugging guitar. The song never really settles on a style from here on in, sometimes the horns come to the fore, giving it a brighter sound, while the record scratching pulls it in another direction entirely. And then pulling in in a third direction is Prince’s guitar. I would happily take any style, but to my ears all three don’t quite gel. There is some lighter guitar later in the song, which with the horns would be a much better fit for this band.

Ahh, the old “Take Me With U,” “Raspberry Beret” combination. Regular readers will be familiar with my feelings about this. I like sweet pop sugariness as much as anyone, but not so much now I am older and, ahem, more mature. I happily digest “Take Me With U,” but by the time Prince segues into “Raspberry Beret” I have had my fill and am ready for something more substantial.

“The Everlasting Now” wouldn’t be my first choice for something more substantial, but I do find it more rewarding than the previous couple of songs.  The first few minutes are a nice little appetizer as Prince gives us a taste of what’s to come with parcels of funk and chants. The main course comes with some Santanaesque guitar before the rest of the band add their sauce of horn riffs and piano twinkle. It’s a flavorsome combination, and one that I happily indulge myself in. It is Maceo that rounds out this feast of sounds, with his dessert of saxophone sprinkling chocolate sprinkles over all that has come previous. I am sold on it, and as it all comes to an end I feel well nourished and satisfied.

A short break lets me digest what we have heard so far, before the encores open with Prince at the piano. “Condition Of The Heart” is simply divine, I am beyond words as I sit and listen to it, letting Princes music and lyrics washing over me. It does become a medley, “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” getting a line, before Prince indulges us with a slightly longer “Diamonds And Pearls.” It is “Adore” that gets the most time and attention however, with John Blackwell ever so gently adding a heartbeat to the song. The crowd sit in an enraptured silence throughout, making this recording pristine and clean for the next few minutes.

Prince piles on all his tender ballads at this part of the show, and “The Beautiful Ones” brings a further string of heart tugging moments. It is almost too easy listening, some of emotional strength of the song sapped by its easy sheen and polish. I am engaged though, even if its not the heart stopper it used to be.

Its very hard to clear my feelings about “Nothing Compares 2 U.” A song I heard countless times in the 80’s from Sinead O’Connor, and then hundreds of times since from Prince, it is a song I am overly familiar with. Sometimes it breaks through and gets me in a soft moment, and sometimes it passes by making barely an impression. The rendition on this recording is good, but it fails to break my jaded exterior and I find I listen to it in an almost emotionless state.

On the other hand, “The Ladder” shoots straight for my heart and does make the emotional impact I crave.  The drums are a little too much, but Prince’s vocals and delicate piano carry the moment. It is one of the shortest songs on the recording, barely a minute and a half, but it feels real to me and sincere.

This pleasant stroll through Prince’s piano songs is rounded out by “Starfish And Coffee” It may not be on a par with the other ballads and emotional heavyweights in the setlist, but it does keep things light.

The final song featuring the piano is “Sometimes It Snows In April,” a song that has taken on an extra significance since Prince’s passing. This rendition is a fitting tribute, his vocals alone out front in the recording, smooth and velvety and carrying a hint of emotion that makes it all the more powerful. A moment to sit back, listen, and reflect.

“Days Of Wild” isn’t as sinister and threatening as sometimes heard, but it is still a stone cold classic. There are better versions on this tour (see Antwerp a month earlier where I swear Prince tears the roof of the place), but it is still eminently enjoyable, and as always I find my head bobbing and without even being aware of it I am singing along with Prince. The grind and churn of the song brings several different players to the surface, Dudley D can be heard on the turn tables midsong, and it is the horns that bring a different feel to the song. The song drops intensity half way through though, and as the bass is pumped up for the first time the recording distorts. This mars the occasion as the final few minutes becomes a difficult listen. The rest of the recording has sounded great, making this part sound all the more worse.

This show is fairly typical of the ONA tour, but is very well recorded (asides from the final “Days Of Wild.”) There is a plethora of material available from the ONA tour, I would happily listen to any one of them, but I do enjoy this concert for the  quality of the performance and the recording. The setlist doesn’t throw up anything too much in the way of excitement, but this bootleg does a nice job of capturing the standard ONA show. Very good without being essential.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

Le Bataclan 2002

When it comes to these shows from Le Bataclan, I have saved the best for last. The last couple of shows I have written about were good, today’s one is another level all together. In my research for this one I found that many people spoke of it as being one of the greats, and some thought it was even better than the small club show of 88. I have already praised one show from the ONA tour as one of the greatest (Copenhagen aftershow), and my first impressions of this one is that it might just trump it. The setlist has some highlights, and some great song selections are in there. It’s also better than the Copenhagen gig in that it runs for two and a half hours, so there’s a whole extra hour for me to enjoy right from the go. I have been looking forward to listening to this one for some time, and I think it’s a fitting way to end this Bataclan trilogy.

29 October, 2002. Le Bataclan Paris.

The show has barely started, and already I am saying wow, wow, and wow. The first song of the night is an instrumental, not that there is anything too unusual about that, except this one gets me. The drum shimmers and Renato Neto plays some figures over it, and it’s a mature jazz sound that I warm to right away. It’s not too often that I really feel Renato’s playing, here is an exception. There are the drums, piano and a bass, and it starts the show in fine style. The playing gets hotter, and then cools off before it begins to build again. Each movement draws me in more, and Prince plays his part for the first time of the night with some guitar playing that has his loud strong style that was often heard at this time. It’s not crunching, but it’s definitely the heaviest instrument playing. Things get serious later when everyone hits the same groove, and I get the feeling that the warm up is over, and the band is together, and tight. A brief drum solo, and then we spin off into another direction, the horns appear and we hear a hint of funk. It’s doing the song a disservice to write about it, this has to be listened to rather than written about. This is a fantastic opener, and if the rest of the show is this good then it will certainly be one of the greats.

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The guitar jam that follows has a very different vibe. Prince riffs as he sings to the crowd “Good morning to you”. I can’t think of anything more fitting, and after this initial riff there is some suitably heavy guitar playing as the horns join in. The crowd joins in next, picking up the chant of “Good morning to you”. It seems so simple, and yet I find myself enjoying it just as much as I enjoyed the complexity of the opening jam.

The song morphs into Bambi, and I aren’t surprised to hear it in this context. The sound of the show changes, and I find I don’t have to listen as hard as I am so familiar with the song. It’s not as heavy as I have heard, the guitar is nice and clean sounding, and I am impressed by how much guitar noise Prince can generate just by himself. His soloing in the latter part of the song swirls around in my head, it’s something I could listen to for days. It does stop unexpectedly, giving Prince a chance to sing another verse before his guitar re-enters the fray. As with the previous two songs, I rate this very highly.

We rock on well and truly next with Prince’s take on A Whole Lotta Love. Prince nails the main riff and then Renato Neto surprises me again with a fantastically futuristic solo. Prince backs it up with one of his own, before a howl signals a break down a chance for the crowd to sing. This leads to Prince singing as the band quietly plays behind him. I keep waiting for the music to explode back, but Prince strings me and the crowd along for sometime before switching to Family Name.

Family Name starts with just Prince and his guitar, and soon enough the rest of the band join. The horns and the guitar are what I hear most, and the song moves along quite quickly. Things get more interesting later in the song, Prince stops singing and lets the music speak.  There is some loud guitar work, which Prince acknowledges at the end of the song as he asks the audience “Ain’t too loud am I?”

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A guitar strum and clap throws me initially, but the band joins and we get a very different take on Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) It’s very mellow sounding, the cold feel of the drum machine is missing, and replaced with an organ sound, and some sharp and loud guitar work by Prince. The organ is quiet, and holds it together while Candy plays a sweet sounding solo. It’s totally in keeping with this band’s sound and the make it their own. What I like most is a drum break on the tom toms near the end of the song while Prince plays sharps of guitar, it’s very cool, and makes me feel like a Beatnik.

The opening riff of The Question Of U snaps me back to reality, as Prince plays the riff over the drum sound. His voice is sounding as good as ever, and before I know it I am singing along. Renato adds his sound with a piano solo that fits the mood very well. Prince returns for his stark sounding guitar break as I nod along, smiling knowingly.

I love hearing The One in this setting, my only negative is it’s only a minute, which is a real shame because I could have easily listened to it all night long. Prince sings, and then as he begins his solo we switch to Fallin’. He only sings a line or two before his guitar work really takes over, and his playing is superb. I don’t have any words for it, its short and yet every note is perfectly placed.

Prince steps back as the band shows their chops with an easy take on Take 5. Renato excels in this, and his solo early on is just as good as Prince’s solo we have just heard. Very different in sound, but just as brilliant. Maceo adds his sound to the mix, and the crowd can be heard yelling their approval. As Prince sings Ain’t No Sunshine the song takes a darker and quieter sound, and at this stage there is some very sweet singing and interaction between Prince and the crowd. Like everything previous at this show, everything has its place and sound perfectly in line and as it should. The song ends with the men and women in the crowd trading lines, something that sounds surprisingly good.

Surprisingly good is apt for the next song, for it is both surprising and outstandingly good. She’s Always In My Hair is always a must listen for me, and this one has some of the best guitar work of the show. It’s heavy when it needs to be, and also light when Prince demands it. His latter solo in particular is a show stopper, it certainly stops me and I just sit and listen. The song doesn’t have the break down that I have come to expect, and it ends just under three minutes.

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It doesn’t matter too much for people who like Prince’s guitar work, as he next gives us some guitar soloing for a minute of two before the band pick up a groove. He continues to solo as the crowd chant “It ain’t over” – nothing too fierce, he plays in and out of the music before the horns enter with the It Ain’t Over riff. I did expect it to go like this for some time, until Prince begins to talk about “here she comes in them hot pants” and I know a change will be coming soon. He does draw it out, with the crowd providing a soul clap as the horns and band swirl around. The moment I am waiting for never comes, as Greg begins to solo on the trombone, not a guitar in sight. The other horns join and I think the guitar will never enter, until suddenly it does for a minute. The chant of “It ain’t over” quickly returns and the song ends with Prince singing us straight into Shake.

Shake, now I didn’t see that coming. Prince leads the crowd in the singing of “Shake!” while he provides the lines in between. It’s very refreshing to hear Shake again, and Candy gives it a new sound with her energetic solo. Prince sings her praises, literally, as the ‘it ain’t over’ refrain sounds on the horns and the audience keep up the shake chant. It ties together beautifully, and I am beginning to understand how some people lose their heads over this recording.

The band pick up a funky groove, and I aren’t surprised that it’s James Browns I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself). Prince does well to weld it to his own The Work, Pt 1. There is a natural fit there, and Maceo is right in his element as he takes an early solo.  The band pull back and there is some funky play between the horns and Prince’s guitar which I just love. When the groove resumes its much more horn infused and it’s the riffing of the horns that carry it along. The Work Pt 1 is much more evident at this stage as Prince sings it proper. There’s plenty more of Candy to come, and I don’t mind that at all. Even John has a chance to play a drum solo before the song eventually comes to a close.

777-9311 is short, and leaves me floored. Prince is jamming on the bass, and he is sounding fierce. Normally it’s the drum pattern that I listen for, in this case it’s Prince’s bass work that demands my attention. This alone is worth the price of admission.

Prince thumbs us easily into Hair. It’s considerably more laid back than anything else we have heard in the last half hour. It’s twice as long as 777-9311, but still much too short for my liking. Prince plays a brief bass solo which I hope will go on, instead he defers to Renato who plays a cool sounding solo that takes us to the end of the song.

Brick House continues this easily flow, Prince’s bass playing is loud, and for this one the horns make their presence felt, especially Maceo’s solo. The song is not much more than a verse and a solo from Maceo, and I dig every second of it.

Things stay in this vein as Prince gives us a laid back Skin Tight. I have heard this very funked up on other recordings, tonight he sounds more laid back as they play it. Prince chooses not to play the whole song, and it gets a brief treatment before they segue into Cool.

Cool is indeed cool. It’s not over worked, and the mood stays laid back. What I appreciate about it is that Greg gets to play a trombone solo, which generally isn’t cool, but in this case most definitely is. The pace quickens mid-song and the bass work of Prince and Rhonda catches fire. There is some great stuff in there, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As the crowd cheers Prince calls “touch the bass” but I feel like it is the bass that has touched me.

There is some spirited clapping and chanting by the crowd before the music returns with All The Critics Love U In Paris. A pounding beat and some great electronic noises get things moving, there is futurist keyboard solo that starts things off very nicely. It’s the keyboards for the first couple of minutes that really get my attention, much more than the groove and the beat. There is no singing, and it’s very much a jam over the top of the rhythm track. Both keyboards sound excellent, and the song fantastic.

The guitar is back to front and centre as Prince plays Alphabet Street (Including The Ballard Of Jed Clampett). It’s light sounding coming after All The Critics, and yet just as enjoyable. Prince doesn’t jam on it at all, and it’s just a pause before the next song begins.

Prince begins a slow groove and the crowd picks up the chant “NPG in the motherfuckin house”. I am laughing as Prince stops the music and tells the crowd they got the wrong chant “We aren’t going to do nothing to nobody’s mamma up here tonight” The music resumes with the crowd chanting “NPG in this funky house”. Over the groove Candy begins to play. Everything is slow and very relaxed sounding. I like her solo, and I like when Prince has the crowd singing “Oh Candy” as she plays. Things stay on this gentle course with a piano solo following. Like everything tonight it’s a joy to sit back and listen to.

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All The Critics Love U In Paris next, and this time it’s in a different form. It’s much more insistent, and Prince sings the lines as you expect. The guitar and keyboards are lively and the horns too add their sense of urgency. Prince commands Maceo to blow the roof off, and he gives it a good effort. It has me wanting to get up and dance, and that’s a sure sign that it’s pretty damn good. Renato too seems to have found an extra gear and he more than does his part in keeping the up-tempo groove going.

I couldn’t imagine what they might follow with, and I am delighted to hear that it is Dolphin. The opening guitar is full of emotion, and it’s a credit to Prince and this band that they can still play something so heartfelt after such an extraordinary show. Prince’s vocals are just as clean and beautiful as his guitar playing, and during the chorus he switches from singing the chorus to playing it on his guitar instead, just the sort of thing I like to hear. I can’t decide what I like most about this, his vocals, his guitar, or the piano playing behind him. All of it is worthy of my time and attention and truly the sum is greater than the parts, and the parts are mind blowing. It’s one of those songs that I never want to end, and as soon as it finishes I decide that this is my new favourite bootleg.

The Santana medley that follows seals the deal, and there’s plenty of Prince on the guitar as well as some frenetic keyboard from Renato. Prince excels in these medleys and the he does the sound of Santana so well, as does Renato Neto on the keyboards. The two of them trade solos on their respective instruments. I am running out of words for this show, I would love just to switch off the computer and sit back and enjoy it. If ever a show deserved to be called a ‘headbuster’, this would be it. It has it all, and there’s so much to enjoy at such a high quality.

Even after two and bit hours, the crowd still chant for more, and they are rewarded with an instrumental Come On. The bass is fat and full which is nicely offset by the keys and some scratching. Prince starts a chant and very aptly it’s “party till the sun come up” The choppy rhythm guitar has me bobbing, and I find myself subconsciously chanting along.

Prince sings Housequake so slow and relaxed it’s far removed from the album. A rhythm guitar, bass and drum are the main building blocks as Prince sings his lines slowly before building the crowd to a chant of “Time to get funky”. The horns swell through the song, and there are a couple of solos, all of them on point. I am thinking it might slide by in this way until the end, but there are more fireworks from Prince and his guitar and the song gains in intensity. Suitably he finishes his solo and the song as the crowd continues the chant for another minute.

I admit it, I slept on this one. I have to agree with what others have said about this recording- it certainly is one of the greats. I can’t fault it, the performance is tight, the band is on form, the setlist is perfect, and the crowd is a big part of the fun. I may have overlooked this show in the past, but it will be on high rotation now for a very long time. Just fantastic in every way, and a fitting way to remember all the great shows from the Le Bataclan. I am going to go listen to it again right now, have a great day where ever you are, see you next time.

-Hamish

 

Copenhagen We Be Shakin

I am going to go out on a limb here. This recording, in my opinion, is the greatest Prince bootleg of all time. The default setting for most Prince Fans is to say Small Club is the greatest bootleg, but I feel this one slightly edges it. There are a few reasons for my opinions on this. Firstly the quality of the recording is fantastic. Its soundboard, but its better than 90% of the other soundboard recordings I have heard, the mix on this is outstanding. The band and the playing are excellent, and the set list contains a great mix that showcases all of Princes styles. The first part of the gig is guitar heavy rock, before he moves through funky jams, ballads and ends with a knock out version of Dolphin. Top notch in every aspect. This recording is not my favorite bootleg, but it’s definitely the best out there. So let’s have a look at ‘The Greatest Of All Time’

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26 October 2002, Copenhagen

The recording starts of with the end of the DJs set. It’s a nice touch, and sets the scene for what will follow. Even this part of the recording is pristine. The DJ spins Gett Off, Poom Poom, and then a hip hop song before a flurry of guitar work has Prince warming up his fingers. He plays fast and furious from the start, and after a minute of fret work the band begins with Who Knows. It is, as you might expect, just a showcase for Prince to dazzle us with his guitar work and he delivers. I have found over the course of writing this blog that it is impossible to properly express the sound of his guitar. Let’s just say, that in this case, its hot.

Keeping with the guitar based songs he follows up with Bambi. The band sounds very strong behind him, he is way out front with the guitar sound, but the band is really pushing it along – especially the drums and bass. I really feel the buzz in the room when Prince calls “Turn me up Scotty, want to feel it in the whole house” Cue more guitar heroics. The guitar comes in waves, before it pulls back to give Prince space to sing “All your lovers look just like you”. This bit is quite enjoyable as Prince sings it in his deeper speaking voice, something I want to hear more of.

The song segues straight into the main riff of Led Zeppelins ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ I love this intro, especially as the riff blasts out, in the left speaker you can clearly hear someone lose themselves in the moment and yell “Whhhooooaaaa” I love that! If I could have been there I think I would have done the same thing. The guitar is deep and throaty and its a really nice contrast with Prince singing in his usual falsetto. A couple of verse chorus and Prince pulls out not one, but two spectacular psychedelic guitar solos. Really, you gotta hear these. I’m still flying as the crowd gets a quiet moment to sing-along with “A whole lotta love” Prince ends their moment with a “Turn it up!” and yet another (short) killer guitar solo.

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The pace is brought down a lot following this when Prince plays the opening refrains of Question of U. The keys enter and the whole mood and tempo of the evening is changed. As he sings “What is the answer to the question of you?” I realize just how great this recording is. The quality is apparent when I listen to him sing, you can hear just how great is voice is, perhaps the one instrument people forget that he most proficient with. After there verse I half expected another guitar outburst but instead we are hit with sublime piano playing. There is really good variety and variation throughout this show. Of course there is an inevitable guitar break after the piano, but again he surprises me by moving onto singing “The One”. This is one of my favorite sons, and I think it is one of the most underrated songs in his catalogue. For me the lyrics are fantastic and heartfelt, I really feel every word. My pulse quickens when Prince says “Go ahead Eric”- any band that has Eric Leeds in it is alright by me! The sax here is very nice indeed, and Eric demonstrates that less is more. Very delicate, and missing the “Honk” that I usually associate with Eric Leeds. (I mean that in a good way!)

“On the one” Prince stops the band in an instant. “Didn’t they tell you no cameras?” he asks the audience. I wonder what is about to unfold as Prince chastens the crowd for taking photos. I laughed when he said “I got a nice warm hotel bed waiting for me” then instructs the crowd that next time someone takes a picture the person next to them should grab them and twist their neck. After saying one more time “No pictures please” the band resume with another verse before Candy Dulfer has a chance to shine with a sax solo. Its better than I am making it sound, trust me. Prince sings a couple of lines of “fallin” by Alicia Keyes, which I think is a really nice touch. The horns and piano then take centre and we have Take Five played into the mix, you’d be surprised by how good it all sounds. The song then ends with a drum solo. How about that, a bit of everything! What a sequence, the last ten minutes have been amazing.

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Things take a funky turn with the bass taking a prominent stand. First we have Brick house. The bass leads in before the horns and band join in. Prince is singing, but it’s the bass and horns that are the heroes here. Prince names checks Eric for a solo and then we stay in the funky vain as the band start playing Skin tight. Another favorite of mine from back in the day, this version is just too short for me, I want more, more, more. Prince singing has a funky sound to it, especially as he sings “She’s a bad, bad lady, in skin tight britches.” Another call of “on the one” and the bass plays the distinctive intro to 777-9311. But before I disappear into a cloud of excitement they quickly move into Hair. Oh such a shame, I would kill to hear a full version of 777-9311. The song Hair itself is good enough, and it does have a very fine Trombone solo (its not very often I get to write those words), and Candy also gets another chance to do her thing. The song ends with a very distorted prince guitar drowning out everything else. Again it’s another spectacular ten minute sequence that leaves me hungry for more.

The next songs begins with a steady drum beat and surprisingly some record scratching and sampling. Actually it’s not a bad thing, and I enjoy it. To hear it, I could have never guessed what song it was coming. The band enter and there is a really nice groove going, the horns play a very good rising line and then Prince hits us with “One more jam, one more Jam, for Prince and the band” The crowd immediately take up the cause and keep the chant going. Candy starts to play, and I still have no idea where this song will go next. I can’t help but laugh when he says “Ain’t you gotta go somewhere tomorrow, Ya’ll as crazy as me!” “It ain’t over, it ain’t over” The crowd loves the “It ain’t over” chant and keep it going. They definitely don’t need any encouragement from Prince.

Finally Prince plays the main riff of Peach and I know where this is going. Normally I ain’t a fan of Peach, but of all the recordings of it, this is my favorite version. This one is not so saturated in guitar, the verses have plenty of horns, keyboard and sampling, the guitar only really dominates at the end of each chorus when Prince lurches into a solo. The solos are excellent, as always. The solos end, and the band groove on and on. Prince leads the crowd into “Copenhagen, we be shaking” while there is a couple more solos from the horns. The groove sounds effortless, and I could listen to it all day. There is some very funky sax to be heard here. With a “From NPG we love you all, good night” from Prince and the song comes to its climax and ends.

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But it ain’t over! The crowd claps and chants “Copenhagen, we be shaking” for two minutes, with out pause. Its pretty impressive and adds to the feeling of this whole recording. The band obliges and the drums take up a new beat, supported by some sort of sampler and scratching. Prince sings Prince And The Band, but to be honest it’s a little disjoined and messy. There seems to be some sort of problem and a couple of times the song breaks down. I always have liked this song, but this version is one to forget. I’m not sure who’s playing what, or why it doesn’t work. Its obviously distracting to Prince who loses his flow a couple of times. For all that though, I think it doesn’t detract from the recording. It’s good to see that even Prince can have his problems on stage, and he is at the mercy of temperamental technology. Phew, I’m not the only one!

All The Critics Love You In Denmark follows up. Although crowd pleasing by title, it hits my sweet spot too. The long groove gives plenty of time for the horns to play their thing. The track isn’t too busy, and Candy plays some very nice sax on it. I find that I am not writing much, I am too busy drumming along with it on my desk. Sometimes it’s good to just enjoy a song rather than over thinking it. The keyboard in this song was outstanding, and it was a nice to have something not so guitar heavy near the end of the show.

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I failed to pick Dolphin when it first began to play. Its starts very slow with some nice gentle guitar playing. The whole song is played in this way, slow and more minimal. For me this is the outstanding performance on the recording. I don’t normally enjoy Dolphin, but I find this more slow and soulful version very moving. It suited the lyrical content much better, and one can feel Princes emotion in it as he sings. I think the best word to describe this song here would be beautiful. Its overused, but in this case this is one very beautiful song. Prince’s guitar solo that close the song is retrained and right on the money. A great way to end the show.

For me this is the greatest Prince bootleg. I know 90% of people would disagree with me, most choosing Small Club over this. But by the time this had finished it really did feel like I had been on a musical journey. I feel this had better variety than small club, the recording quality was about the same, but the audience is more in the mix giving it a better live feel. Some might say that the disastrous performance of Prince and The Band detracts from it, but to me it adds a more human aspect to the show, its a bit more Rock n Roll. Also having the horns on this give it more color and again shows another aspect of Prince as the band leader.

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In fairness, I will look at Small Club next week, something that I don’t listen to too often having overplayed it when I was younger. Another knock out show, it’s something I will look forward to writing about.

Take care
Hamish