20TEN, Vienna

I remember 2010 well. I separated from my ex-wife, changed jobs, moved house, and came back to my own country after living abroad for six years. It was a year of upheaval, change and uncertainty.  Stability was a stranger to me. So when Prince toured through Europe in summer, playing another greatest hits package, I found myself devouring the shows as soon as they became available.There was a satisfaction in hearing the comforting songs I knew so well, and it was reassuring to know that those songs still existed as they were when my life was on steady ground. I often dismiss these hits shows, but these songs tie us back to a time when Prince was on top of the world, and his songs were the soundtrack for every aspect of our lives. Thirty years on they remind me where I came from and who I am as the world swirls around me in constant change. Sometimes it good to have that rock in our past that we can anchor ourselves to.  I have  rarely listened to the 2010 concerts since then, they are just on the wrong side of vanilla for me, but as a live package presenting some of Prince’s most well known material, they serve their purpose well.

13th July 2010, Vienna, Austria

Of the summer tour of 2010 this was the only concert to be played in doors. The assumption is that ticket sales weren’t as strong as expected, and from that we can further infer that Prince isn’t playing to a strong fan base here, there are more fans that fall closer to the casual end of the scale rather than the hardcore end of the spectrum. If that is indeed the case, then “Purple Rain”  is the ideal choice to open the concert with. A song that appeals to the most casual of casual fans, it immediately sets up the greatest hits show as it unfurls its away across the first minutes. The introduction itself is almost seven minutes, the tide slowly rising with the trickle of keyboards that slowly rise to a river. The first fingers of Prince’s guitar wraps themselves around the song, crushing the delicate and intricate lace of the keyboards and giving the song an extra power and emphasis. In this case however, the song doesn’t belong to Prince, but rather to the crowd who are involved throughout. Prince knows he is onto a good thing and doesn’t give them anymore than they need – his final guitar solo plays within the flow of the song, and instead of an emphatic exclamation mark it is little more than than a pleasant outro that equals the introduction of the keyboards several minutes previous.

 

“Let’s Go Crazy” is little more than a thin veneer over the insistent beat. With chants, the scantest of guitar riffs, and a quick verse and chorus, there is no real meat to the song. Its recognizable, but is an anorexic version of the Rocky-Balboa-punch of a song we know so well from the 1980’s

I prefer “Delirious” in this case, it is longer with punchy drumming and some added harmonica which brings a different flavor to a familiar tune. It is hardly a pulsating performance, but it keeps the show bouncing forward and provides me a chance to sing along.

The “Let’s Go Crazy” coda with it’s “Oh no, lets go” chant isn’t worth mentioning, but “1999” certainly is. I often underrate “1999,” and I have been dismissive of it’s live performance more than once on this blog. If “1999” was a person I would  apologize to it right now. Prince and the band play a lean and cohesive rendition of it at this concert, and to my ears it has never sounded better. With a sense of purpose it brings the concert onto an even keel, as well as satisfying the old school fan inside me that wants to hear these songs as they should be heard. It’s an exhilarating few minutes, and if it is nostalgia you want to hear then this is the place to start.

The opening stabs of “Shhh” contain far more keyboard than drums, and it doesn’t come as the intoxicating rush as we so often hear. The vocals though are far more noteworthy, Prince is in his element as he weaves his vocal magic through the song before topping it with the beguiling guitar work I have been waiting for. I am almost sick as he plays a head-spinning few minutes, the sound and the emotion perfectly enmeshed making for an alchemy that can be only found on live recordings.

“Cream” comes from the other end of the scale. Where “Shhh” had depth and emotional weight, “Cream” is shallow and narcissistic.That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable though, and with Prince’s guitar still adding body to the song, it does come across better than I expect. A lightweight and creamy sounding song, here it has a bolder sound that Prince will carry forth for the next few numbers.

That punchy guitar sound stays front and centre for “Dreamer.” No real surprises there, but it is an arresting few minutes as Prince and the band up the intensity and assault of sound from the stage. The only time this assault eases is when the harmonica makes an appearance and Prince eases the band back to allow the  crowd to clap. This merely signals things about to get a whole lot better, as Prince takes up his axe to deliver several killer blows that close the song on a murderous high.

“Stratus” is forceful and makes it mark with plenty of purse and direction. Sometimes I find it meanders, but not at this concert, Prince and the band play a tight version that contains several key elements – Prince’s guitar, the harmonica of Frederic Yonnet, and the drumming of Cora. Taken as a while they become a feast, and I dine on each of them individually as they have their moment on stage.

Sheila E. is on board for “The Glamorous Life” and although I love the song, I find this rendition just a little too thin sounding. It may or may not be the recording, but other songs have sounded strong, so in this case I’m going to assume it is indeed the performance. Prince isn’t on stage, leaving plenty of space for Sheila to get some shine. The singing is good, but it is the final percussion that makes the song valid and real, bringing something to the show that only Sheila can bring.

The natural pairing of “The One” and “The Question Of U” stands alone as the towering landmark at the centre of this concert. Building from Prince’s quiet lyrics it becomes an intricate maze of delicate vocal performances before the strident guitar builds architecture around  these more organic moments. It doesn’t have to be loud to be the most captivating part of the concert, I am completely enthralled throughout as the music continues to intrigue and swirl. Forget the rest of the recording, skip straight to this song and stay there.

I feel completely deflated as “Musicology” plays, the preceding song has sucked everything out of me. It doesn’t help that the recording sounds distant at this point, and a lot of the emotional tension that Prince has build up dissipates as the band rumble through the song. Sheila on percussion is a positive, but overall the song feels hollow and empty, leaving e hoping that the following numbers will raise the ante.

The hits arrive in the form of “Take Me With U.” Confident from the start, it sounds like a different concert entirely as Prince does his best to recreate his 1980’s sound. He’s not quite there, it harks back to the sound of his 2007 concerts more than his 1984 concerts, but it still retains an energy that gets the crowd moving. I think it sounds good, until I do actually compare it to a rendition from 1984. It’s at that point that I realize that it is missing a spark that lifts it from an energetic performance to an exhilarating ride.

From the same place comes “Kiss.” All the key components are in place, yet it remains flat when compared to its younger self. It’s dangerous to always look back and compare ourselves to the people we were 20 or 30 years ago, but when I hear “Kiss” on the radio I have no choice but to compare it to the more recent versions. Its still a great song to sing along with, and this performance has plenty to recommend it, but its not what it once was.

With Shelby J. singing with him, Prince plays a version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” which again consigns Sinead O’Connors version to the dustbin of history. With Rosie Gaines in the 90’s and Shelby J in the 2000’s, Prince’s live version has consistently eclipsed the more well known version, and he has clearly stamped it as one of his great songs. At this particular concert we get a solid rendition that still stands head and shoulders above Sineads rendition, Prince and Shelby invest themselves in the song making it much more than just a greatest hit.

Prince continues to reclaim his songs from other artists with a feisty performance of both “The Bird” and “Jungle Love.” They are watered down from what we have come to expect from The Time, nevertheless they fit well with the set Prince is presenting, giving the show a push towards the all dancing, all singing last half hour that Prince was doing at the time. With a couple of funk tunes thrown into the mix (“Play That Funky Music”, and “(I like) Funky Music”) Prince makes it quite clear where he is coming from. Neither excite me, but the blowtorch of a guitar break does have me raising my head with a smile.

I am fully on board for “Controversy.” It is another exercise in nostalgia, and one I happily buy into as Prince plies us with lashings of scratch guitar. The performance is tightly focused, and even with the audience interaction and harmonica solo it remains insistently on course and funky. It may not be as dry as some early performances, but it works well in it’s updated form.

It is Princes guitar that introduces “A Love Bizarre,” and if there was a song that was going to get me on my feet, this would be it. The crowd evidently feels the same, there is a noticeable increase in crowd enthusiasm as the song begins and this is maintained throughout. At only three minutes, it comes as a short, sharp shock, a feeling that is only heightened by the high voltage guitar break that short-circuits the song and introduces the next number.

Ah yes, “Dance (disco heat),” I had forgotten that this was a regular on the setlists through 2010. At the time I found it unappealing, and as I listen to it now I find that that feeling hasn’t changed. The clapping and guitar are relentless, but they never build to anything rewarding and I feel shortchanged by the performance. I want to like it, I really do, but this just isn’t for me.

The inevitable come down from this mad party follows, and that comes in the form of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” The concert is transformed again as Prince takes us from the stomping dance numbers to a revealing piano confessional. I revel in the contrast and am rewarded by the backing singers joining Prince in the final minutes to lift it into the realm of spiritual music. A surprise package this late in the concert, it was well worth the wait.

An out of kilter lilt to “Mountains”  leaves me off balance as the band begin. It isn’t helped by the left turn late in the song as they veer into “Shake Your Body” Much like “Let’s Go Crazy” earlier in the concert, it is shorn of its cohesive sound as Prince breaks it down to a collection of ear grabbing soundbites, none of which work as well as the song as a whole.

There is something entirely predictable about “Everyday People” and “I Want To Take You Higher” Neither are show stopping in their intensity, they keep the show simmering rather than bringing it to a boil over. The show still sounds as if it has more to give, but these songs don’t bring us to the climax I crave.

I was looking forward to hearing “Ol Skool Company” again, and I am more than happy with the feisty performance on this recording. It has sass and attitude that elevates it beyond a mere recap of all that has come before. Even the “funky” chants in this climate sound better, and to my ears this is better than the funky songs that Prince played in quick succession earlier. Prince is indisputably better when he sticks to his full renditions of his own songs, rather than watered down covers, or abridged arrangements of past glories.

The last song on the recording is “Peach.” A late encore, we miss the first minutes, but it matters not as the joy lies in the unbridled guitar flurry that makes up the back end of the song. Prince doesn’t dominate though, as he has throughout the concert he lets Fredric Yonnet have time to come centre stage with his harmonica. The final burst though is pure Prince, and just as regal a guitar solo as we have ever heard. The final slash from the guitar is only fleeting, but a timely reminder of who Prince is and what he could do.

All in all, an enjoyable show. As you can see, I wasn’t enamored by every song in the performance, but at two and a half hours, there was plenty of something for everyone. Three songs stood out above all others for me, “The One,” “A Love Bizarre” and “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore.” All three had an emotion to them that appealed to me, and played on my feelings of nostalgia. Prince was often at his best when he was looking forward, in that aspect these concerts from 2010 don’t serve him well. But they are a fitting time capsule of how far he had come, and as a look back these concerts do serve a purpose. 2010 is a year I would prefer to forget, and these concerts will probably go back in the vault now for sometime. They served their purpose and got me through at that time, but like Prince I too am at my best when looking forward. Sometimes it’s good to glance back, but it’s dangerous to spend too long there.

Thanks again, next week I continue with my Austria concerts and will be taking in an aftershow.
-Hamish

2010 Copenhagen Aftershow

This show appeals to me for a number of reasons. It’s available on several different bootlegs, which is always a good sign of the quality of the performance. It’s also in Copenhagen and I know Prince has had a couple of other concerts there that I greatly enjoyed. And finally, looking through the setlist I can see that even though it has a couple of songs mid set that don’t thrill me, there is also a quality opening and the appearance of “Sticky like glue” has me particularly intrigued. I have no doubt that I have listened to this bootleg several times over the years, but looking at it now I have no recollection, so the best way to remind myself is have a listen now and break it down.

NB: The photos below come from a variety of shows Prince played through 2010

20th October 2010, Copenhagen

 

There is an enticing keyboard at the beginning of “Stratus” that paints it in a new light for me. As much as I enjoy the musicianship during “Stratus”, often it is a song I could take or leave. Maybe its just my mood, but today I dig it. It does its job of bringing me into the show and opens the curtain on what sounds like a fantastic atmosphere in the room. I know plenty of people in Denmark read this blog, if anyone was there let me know – there is only 950 people present and it sounds like they are having a great time. Prince drops in and out with his guitar, but what really holds my attention for the duration of the song is Renato Neto. Now I am no Renato Neto apologist, but I have to say on this particular recording he sounds sublime, and I enjoy his contribution the most.

Ida on bass and Cassandra on keyboard make “Sexy Dancer” an entirely different experience. Although Prince is singing, it is these two who make the greatest impression with their groove and funk. The song is only three minutes, but it certainly lifts the tempo of the evening and gets the blood flowing here at home.

Prince stays in the background and it is Shelby who leads us through “Give it to me Baby”. There is something humorous in Prince covering a Rick James song, and it is a great moment in the gig. Shelby gives a great performance. I don’t say that lightly, I know just as much as anyone how one can tire of her hyping the crowd, but in this case she sings and emotes just right, providing the song with a good energy and bounce. If she was like this for every song I’m sure she would be valued much higher in the Prince community. “Give it to me Baby” is the longest of the medley that it opens, “What have you done for me lately” follows quickly after before that too becomes “Partyman”. The bass is the driving force throughout these songs, and its buoyancy can be clearly through “Partyman” and the following “It’s Alright”. With both songs barely a couple of minutes, there isn’t much to grab on to, and a brief “We party hearty” rounds out this quick fire medley of firm aftershow favorites from this era.

As good as this all is, I can’t say I’m too sad when it’s over. Shelia E provides one of her trademark drum breaks, cool and without the fire that I would normally expect. The song and the show meanders at this point, but it’s about to get a whole lot better and the following songs are the real meat of the show.

The guitar solo that Prince lavishes “D.M.S.R.” with is immediately headline grabbing. For the first time in the show I feel Prince is grabbing me by the scruff of my neck and demanding I pay attention. With my attention grabbed, Prince and the band keep the groove going, without letting it become slow or stale. Renato Neto provides another electric solo, it certainly wins be me over without ever reaching the same levels of intensity as Prince’s earlier solo.

The singing contained within “I want to be free” is the sweetest moment of the concert. After Prince sings a beautiful rendition, he hands it over to his backing singers who take it to the heavens with their softness and delicacy.  I am not normally one for singing when it’s not Prince, but in this case it is exceptional and I must admit I was carried off on the vocal harmonies. This is a song that accents the nuances of a Prince concert, and at 14 minutes it gets all the time it needs to be fully appreciated here at home. For my money, this song is reason enough to listen to this recording.

I may have spoken too soon. “Sticky like glue” runs at an incredible 13 minutes and shines both in its appearance and its performance. It gets the extended introduction that it deserves and is all the better for it as the audience marinate in the groove for the first few minutes. The song does stick like glue, the beat and rhythm stuck in my head long after, at almost 15 minutes there is joy in the repetition of the beat and groove. Embellished by a light piano solo from Renato, and a bass solo from Ida, the song moves across several instruments, yet retains it’s core sound. Like the previous song, it is the vocalists I am finally drawn to, as they close out the song with several minutes of their own groove and sway. It serves as a fitting end to the main part of the performance and Prince and the band take a well deserved break at this point.

It is Prince’s guitar that introduces the band back to the stage for an instrumental performance of “Guitar”. As much as it is about the guitar, I find it is lacking a focus without the vocals and although Prince does embellish it with several solos before he eventually comes to the microphone, it still fails to fire as far as I’m concerned.

The next few minutes come as a complete contrast as a more soulful performance follows. First there is a instrumental version of “How come you don’t call me anymore” that is gentle on the ear, before the singers offer an equally soft rendition of James Brown’s “Please, please, please”. It is short, but is obviously a crowd pleaser as they continue to sing and clap the song for several minutes after it has finished. I have already praised the vocal performances at this gig, but here again they are at the fore and a real high point.

I can hardly contain myself as the band play “Which way is up”. I am normally quite restrained, but this has a serious groove to it, both Shelby’s vocals and Prince’s guitar give it some meat and it comes on hard and funky. It does become nothing more than chanting and guitar, but that’s fine with me as the groove is the important thing, and it never once lets up as the band ride it until the very end.

The concert is finished with “Dreamer” – all guitar and heavy groove. Prince signals his intent from the start with his guitar tone set to “ominous” and the song lives up to this with the guitar appearing with a murderous howl throughout. When not soloing, Prince has it riff heavy underneath, giving the song some rock credentials to match his flash on the breaks. The song does lose momentum as Prince has the crowd sing along, but I can’t fault it for that, after all it is all about the live performance rather than what I am listening to here at home. The song and the show come to a fitting end with the audience chanting for the last four minutes, which very much puts me in mind of another great bootleg in Copenhagen. Listening to shows like this I think that they really are the best fans, and I admire them for there input and love of the music.

 

Overall, this recording wasn’t quite what I expected, but like most Prince concerts I was won over in the end. The crowd was exceptional, and apart from a couple of songs early on that suffered from over familiarity, I found the remainder of the show arresting. A nice little bootleg and probably something I would listen to a lot more if not for the 100’s of others circulating. The one fact that became apparent as I listened to this, I definitely need to get over to Copenhagen sometime!

Viage, July 2010

Last week’s show was almost too much for me. I loved listening to the show, and three hours of Prince was just brilliant, it’s just that writing about a three hour show isn’t as much fun as listening to a three hour show. This week I have reined things in a little, and I have gone for a shorter show played at the same venue a few months previous. Today I am listening to the Viage show from July 2010. It’s got a different vibe from the November show, and the set list is quite different. It’s also much shorter, which suits me just fine this week. I can’t remember if it’s good or not, so I’m looking forward to taking a listen and finding out.

11th July, 2010. Viage, Brussels

The first half of the show is very Larry Graham heavy, and when I look closer I see that indeed Prince is guesting with Larry Graham and GSC initially. The start of the show is a nice change from what we normally hear, and I like hearing Larry Graham on the microphone singing his songs. The first song of the recording is People, we are missing the songs played before that at the show. People has a nice fat sound to it, and with Larry Graham singing in his deep voice it does feel like I am being smothered in a warm comfortable sound. The sound of it takes me right back to when I was a child and hearing this type of music, and listening to it now I feel very at ease and relaxed. Larry does talk to the crowd for some time midsong, and it’s hard not to hang on his every word- his voice commands your attention. It’s a very good song to ease into the recording.

Viage 2010a

I am not the least bit surprised to hear Dance To The Music next. After a slow start, the band suddenly begins to bounce as the horns sharpen things up. I really enjoy the version on this recording, the band is sounding sharper, and with the song earlier in the show it gets things moving. On other recordings it seems to appear near the end of the shows, and is a throw away. At this show it’s played much more carefully, and passionately. The singing is lively, but it’s the horns that really steal the show. They are so bright sounding and lift the sound of the song right up. Prince is still deep in the band, playing guitar, and as yet I haven’t heard him make his mark on the show. It’s very much Larry Graham for the next few songs.

The Jam follows up nicely to Dance To The Music, and I can hear more of Princes guitar playing now. He is still playing in the band, but I do hear his guitar sound early in the song. The Jam follows its usual template, and every member of the band is heard. As I say every week, it’s the organ I like the most, and this one is no exception. It’s a nice moment, and the only thing that counts against it is Prince takes a short guitar break straight after which makes me forget it immediately. It’s not an outstanding break, and it’s not turned up to 11, but it’s still an enjoyable moment. There is also the usual call and response with the crowd, and the crowd sing Larry Graham as well as GCS. As much as I enjoy it all I do begin to lose interest after about five minutes, and just as I think nothing more interesting might happen Prince gives a very cool, sharp guitar break. The song rolls by easily after this another couple of keyboard solos.

The bass of Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again) starts and again this is a very tidy rendition. The bass is nice and sharp in my left ear, and the horns again sound sharp and lively. The horns do disappear for periods, and that’s a shame as the song sounds like a different beast altogether when they are in there. There is a funky guitar break provided by Prince, its understated and doesn’t rate too highly on my funkometer©. They song swirls and shimmers later as it goes on, and it does work itself into my head for some time afterwards. The second guitar break is sharper, and shorter, and this time I find more to recommend in it. I am just beginning to sing-a-long when the song segues straight into I Want To Take You Higher.

This is the high point of the Larry Graham set. Everything I have enjoyed and commented on in the earlier songs is present in this finale. Larry is in good voice, and organ is loud and swirling, there is lots of horns, and funky guitar licks from Prince. The recording has a fuller, party sound to it, and this feeling is emphasized when Frédéric Yonnet plays a very lively harmonica solo. I am in no way a fan of the harmonica, but it does have its charms on this recording and is played with a fierceness and passion that is infectious. I would even go so far as to say I would like to hear more of it. Predictably the song builds to a crowd pleasing climax with horns, keyboards and chants, before it closes with a minute of the crowd alone singing “higher”. It’s a fitting end to a great set from Larry Graham.

Viage 2010b

When Will We B Paid has a brilliant start. The piano and keyboard play stabs at each other, each getting louder and louder as other instruments join the mix. The harmonica joins the fray, as Shelby and Liv begin to sing “When will we be paid, for the work we have done” The band quieten initially as Shelby begins to sing, but they build back up to the previous levels soon enough. The drums join half way through, and the song gains a second wind. Shelby sounds very good, and she’s right in the song and not over the top at all. It’s a classy performance and a song I rate very highly on this recording.

Next up is a drum break. It doesn’t amount to much, it’s listed as drum solo, but I have heard much better in my life. This one lacks direction, and never really takes off. In its favour, it’s only a couple of minutes, and the show isn’t derailed too much.

You Bring Me Joy/Be Happy is all Shelby. It’s very smooth sounding, and Shelby is well suited to it. The first half is her singing while the band groove smoothly behind her. There is a short guitar break from Prince, before Shelby sings the next verse. The song continues in this way verse/guitar/verse, and it’s sweet to listen to. It’s very polished, and later in the song we hear Prince on the mic for the first time as he encourages the audience to show their love for Larry Graham. I should also make mention of the guitar and piano tickling underneath the groove, a nice line to listen along to. The bass also draws my attention later in the song, and I am right into it as it finishes.

There is a wild card entry next as the band play an unexpected version of Cream. It seems a lot of the crowd don’t immediately pick it, and it’s only after Prince’s first line do they cheer. The song is a nice fit to the after show, it’s not as pop sounding, and some of the different elements are stronger, giving me more to listen to. The keys have a good shimmer to them, and the guitar sound is louder in the mix through the song. Prince plays his customary guitar break, before there is some nice interplay between the organ, guitar and harmonica. I like the extra dimensions added, and it moves further away from the recorded version as the band play off each other for the latter part of the song. Prince doesn’t sing much after his guitar break, its instrumental with Shelby singing the refrain over and over. The guitar and harmonica both get stronger, as well as the piano, and it maintains my interest through to the end of the song.  The song draws out to near the ten minute mark, and it’s very nice surprise, I got a lot out of this song.

Viage 2010

We get another treat next as Prince plays a song off the 20TEN album. Future Soul Song gets the full treatment from Prince as he requests for the lights to be turned down. There is a cascade of a guitar sound before the girls start singing with some great harmonies, and I am reminded of just how good they sound together. The girls sing the title a few times while the music keeps on the beat behind. Prince himself doesn’t sing, but he does speak to the crowd a lot, eventually having them sing along with the girls. And then just after this he does sing, but he doesn’t croon, instead he sings directly to the crowd, ad-libbing words to include them. There is another very tidy harmonica solo, and I am really warming to this guy.  The song then retreats back a little, and it’s mostly the crowd singing and clapping along while the girls sing the refrain. It comes to a soft landing, and although very pleasant there wasn’t anything that I could really latch on to.

There isn’t any time to reflect on what I have just heard as the band picks up the beat of All The Critics immediately. The crowd pick up the clapping as the bass rolls over and over. This is another song I enjoy, and although it’s not as fierce as it used to be, it still pushes me along at a good rate. Some of the sharpness of the 80’s sound is missing, but I can hear the quality of the band. As you might expect Prince sings it as “All the critics love U in Belgium”. The instrument I hear most is the harmonica, it’s playing in the groove, and its stands out just a little bit more than everything else. Prince calls to Shelby to bring some people up as the band sings “dance, dance”. The song takes on a very bare laid back sound, nothing leaps out of the speakers at me, and it rolls along in its own time. There is a solo from Renato, but it lacks any real intensity or fire, and pretty much sums up my feeling for most of this song on this recording. There is a very fun part as Prince has the men and women in the crowd doing ‘Meows’. He has them eating out the palm of his hand, and it does make me smile as I listen here at home.

Sexy Dancer sounds much more intense right from the start. I am temporarily thrown as the girls sing Le Freak over it, in retrospect it was entirely predictable and I should have seen it coming. I listen carefully, but eventually decide that I don’t like it. I would prefer to hear one or the other, but not both songs. The ever dependable harmonica makes a return, and my mood lifts considerably. Things get even better as for the first time in the show Prince plugs in and turns up with a soaring guitar solo. He returns to earth to get down and dirty with it, and the song takes a turn. With the girls singing ‘I know you got soul’ the band strips back to a beat, the bass, and a series of stabs.

Viage 2010c

I don’t recognize the bass line, but it’s listed as Partyman, and as soon as I read that I think, ‘oh yes, of course’. The girls sing Northside as the band moves into groove territory. There is a few songs thrown into the mix, and we hear snatches of Water, I Wish and What Have You Done For Me Lately. It’s definitely a party jam, and even sitting at home I find myself grooving along. Prince is deep in the band, and we don’t hear too much of him in this song. We do however hear the harmonica again, and I wonder if Prince secretly aspires to play it himself. The harmonica gets a good long solo, before the band stops leaving just the drum beat playing. The drum plays in and out with the crowd chanting ‘party’, before it eventually stops leaving just the crowd chanting.

There is a break as the crowd chants and claps, before Prince returns to play How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore. A solo piano plays and with the crowd accompanying him Prince plays a gentle version of the song. It’s devoid of any intensity or passion, and although it sounds good, I feel Prince isn’t truly invested in the song. For all that though, this is the most Prince orientated moment of the show, and for the first and only time we get to hear him sing and play. There is a great moment as he begins to sing Please Please Please with the backing singers behind him, and it’s got a classic feel to it. The harmonica also chimes in at this point, adding its unique sound to the mix. With a final “please, please, please, don’t go” Prince does indeed go, thus ending the show.

This recording differs from most that I listen to, in that Prince himself does very little singing, and his sound isn’t all over every track. It is however very good, and the fact that Prince isn’t front and centre for the show doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. This wouldn’t be first thing I would listen to if I wanted to hear an after show, but it was a nice listen on a relaxing afternoon.

Thanks to everyone who has been and touch and offered their support recently. I have enjoyed meeting you all, and adding a little more to my Prince knowledge.
Have a great week
-Hamish

 

 

 

 

Viage 2, 2010

I have listened to a few aftershows in the last few weeks, but this one is something special and well worth a listen. This one looks particularly good as it’s a nice long set, and a good balance of songs. Some of the selections wouldn’t be out of place at a main show, but here in a smaller setting they take on a different sound in a different context. 2010 doesn’t feature highly when I select shows to listen to, so I am hoping to have some nice treats in this show. My only reservation is that its 3 hours, and as much as I love Prince, I can’t say I’m well known for my patience and ability to sit still for more than a couple of hours.

7 November, 2010. Viage, Brussels

This isn’t my favourite Prince band. I admire their technical abilities, but most of the time I find them too sterile and safe. The beginning of this show is a good example of this. The band begins by playing an instrumental version of Joy In Repetition. That gets a big thumbs up from me. The song strongly highlights Renato Neto on the keyboards, and as much as I love the idea of an instrumental of Joy In Repetition, I can’t quite find a way into the recording. Its smooth and sweet sounding, and to my ears it’s missing the emotion that Princes lyrics and guitar bring to it. Without these two key elements it’s nothing more than a very pleasant piece of music. Maybe a more piano sound, rather than the keyboard, would give it some depth. But it is what it is, and I am reluctant to be too critical as I have listened to this plenty of times and greatly enjoyed it, it’s only today as I listen closely and think about what I am hearing do I find it lacking. It is an interesting opening for a show, and I give the band credit for doing something different.

Prince 2010 Euro1

A drum roll, a woman’s voice, I wonder what is coming next. Whatever it is, it’s in no hurry as the drum roll carries us a couple of minutes. The drum builds, then with a final roll and a crash Stratus begins. Prince’s unmistakable guitar sound is present, and the sound has a deep rolling groove. After the previous song, the show now feels like it is beginning proper. The bass is captured excellently on the recording, and over its ominous roll there is plenty of action on the guitar and the keyboard. Both up the ante as the song goes on, and I have to rate this as one of the better covers of Stratus I have heard. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is, this is the one I would choose to listen to first. There is a lot to enjoy and listen to here, be it the drums, the guitar or the keyboard, there is never a dull moment, or a point in the song where it loses momentum. There is a quieter moment where the piano plays, but that is fine for me, I like the sound of the piano after some of the other fireworks, and that rolling groove underneath pulls it all together.

My first thoughts are ‘Oh wow” as a guitar picks out a soft intro to Sometimes It Snows In April. The rest of the band back it, but they are light of touch, and it’s the crisp yet gentle guitar that is the main focus here. The spell is temporarily broken as somebody loudly whistles, but the guitar then plays the vocal line and I am enraptured by it all. The balance is just right between the guitar and the rest of the band, and this instrumental version is just stellar. The keyboards add some nice strings to it, and later in the song the keyboard itself carries the main melody. I am often generous with my praise for songs and performances, but if there was ever a moment worth praising to the skies, this would be it. Like so many of these after shows, Princes brings new life to a song that is more than 20 years old, and there is a freshness through the song that is uplifting. I am almost disappointed as the song ends, and my first reaction is to go back and listen to it again.

Another instrumental follows, and this time it’s Delirious that gets the instrumental treatment. This one is interesting, on record Delirious is a short sharp pop song, here it is played to the hilt and runs for nigh on 13 minutes. It begins with the familiar synth lines, before Prince comes on board with his lead guitar and begins to lead us into unfamiliar territory. He does play with the guitar, giving us a mix of styles as he plays lead. As the band plays on the synth line disappears a long piano solo begins. Prince encourages with a “Take your time brother” as the crowd pick up with a hand clap. The piano is well complimented by the guitar, and the two play hand in hand for quite a while. It’s not right in my face, but it demands my attention just on pure musicianship alone.  There is a warm feel to the evening as the crowd chant “Delirious” before a cool, low key organ begins to play. It doesn’t jump out of the speakers at me, but the more I listen to it, the more I hear as it unfolds. The music drops right down low as the guitar plays, and by this point the original sound of Delirious is just a memory. It stays in this way for a few minutes, and it’s easy to forget that this is Prince I am listening to, I’m so lost in the smoothness of the groove.

Things kick back as the band play Soft And Wet. Like everything else so far this evening, it’s an instrumental. The thing I hear most when listening to this is how well drilled the band are. They play sharply, and although the song doesn’t have the funk or energy that I normally go for, it’s still a nice couple of minutes and is just as good as anything else we have heard thus far. It is however only a couple of minutes, and I sense the crowd is in a similar mood to me as the song ends, a steady beat begins and the crowd can be heard shouting “we want the funk”

The band pick up the coda of I Want To Be Your Lover and as the crowd shouts I am taken back to a rawer dirtier time in Princes career. The band does a fine job playing on it for a couple of minutes and I do enjoy the synth squiggles and the driving bass. There are a couple of whistles thrown in too, which I can’t decide if they add or detract from it. Near the end some squelching guitar is played by Prince, and this really perks me up. Its only half a minute, it could have been more as I am really feeling it.

The opening salvo of Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad sounds, and my heart briefly stops as I anticipate what is coming next. And what is coming next is bitter disappointment as after the opening riff Prince stops and say “We aren’t gonna play that one”. I should be used to these Prince teases, but I still fall for them every time.

Prince 2010 Euro2

Sexy Dancer follows and Prince instructs Shelby to get some dancers. There is a lot of hand clapping, and Prince plays some more of his lead guitar over the track. It’s not heavy at all, and adds to the groove, as does the keyboard that plays on it. This is another instrumental, and I can already see that this is shaping up to be a very long show.  Some of the guitar lines sound familiar, and I am sure I remember them from Clockin The Jizz back in 1991. The keyboards take over later in the song as the guitar disappears. Things take a further twist as the bass and drums strip back to a groove while Shelby encourages the crowd. For the first time in the show we have some singing as Shelby sings Give It To Me Baby. This is great, Shelby has her detractors, but she can sing, and sing well. I love hearing her, that is until she falls back to encouraging the crowd and having them scream. I much preferred her singing, but at this stage the band is starting to warm up and there is a definite funk flavour to it all. Normally I aren’t a fan of these “somebody scream” moments, but on this recording it sounds like the intensity goes up a lot at this point, and the party is indeed starting. Le Freak follows on rather naturally and easily at this point and Shelby’s voice is joined by Liv. I have heard it plenty of times from era, and there’s no real surprise at this point. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable though, and it’s hard not to smile as I listen.

The atmosphere created is continued as the band play an instrumental Party Up as the crowd helps out with plenty of chanting. It’s not as raw as it used to sound, but that is to be expected with this band. The band is sounding pretty hot at this point, but I am slightly distracted by various audience members singing into the microphone “Party Up”. Things improve moments later, as the band strips back and Prince plays some very crisp funky guitar as the crowd chants. It’s easily my favourite moment of the song, and it harks right back to that Prince funk that I used to love.

Now all these first songs have been played as an instrumental, with the exception of the last medley which Shelby sung. As I said this isn’t my favourite band, but it does have its strengths. I grew up with garage bands and punk gigs. Rawness and energy was what drove me when it came to music, and the quality of the musicianship came second. It was raw emotion that I wanted. Young Prince and his dirty raw songs, a furious guitar sound and heavy funk appealed to me. This band is a million miles away from that, and yet I find that as Prince has grown and matured, so have I. This band is smooth, and at times almost disappears into the background. But listening today I find myself listening for every note, and admiring their professionalism. 30 years ago I could never have sat and digested a mature sound like this, but I have definitely grown over the years, and I find that this is perfect as I sit after a hard day’s work and enjoy a drink. There is nothing wrong with getting older and finding enjoyment in different things, I can always go back and pull an older recording if I want that raw untamed Prince, but right now this is doing me just fine.

That old school funky Prince appears next as Uptown begins to play. The bass in nicely in the groove and for the first time Prince begins to sing. He is well accompanied by the crowd, and by me here at home. He avoids some of his lines, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps. The guitar is low and the mix, it’s the vocals that are most prominent, and Prince is right up front. The song is barely a couple of minutes, but I was won over in the first few seconds.

“One, two” starts Raspberry Beret to a loud cheer from the audience. Predictably enough Prince asks the crowd to sing it if they know it, and they do just that. However Prince doesn’t drop out his vocals as he is inclined to do at many of his shows. He sings all the way, although the song is abridged. I feel he puts more in to it here than I have heard at many of the main gigs, and I get the feeling the audience appreciates that.

Prince 2010 Euro

Cream follows up, a song I could happily skip on most recordings, I am pleasantly surprised by it at this gig. Prince sings, the girls sing, the crowd sings, and everybody is having a good old time. Prince’s guitar break sounds different from what is normally heard, there seems to be something extra in it. All show I have complaining of the smoothness and lack of personality in the band, then they go and prove me all wrong by delivering an organic, fun sounding Cream. Yes, I am completely won over.

The transition to Cool seems perfectly natural, and it feels more like a main show rather than an after show at this point. I do like Cool a lot, and this one is very cool. It follows closely to what is heard at the main shows, with the girls and Prince leading the crowd in all the cool chants. Things heat up as Ida gets funky with the bass later in the song, and I wish we heard from her more often.

At this point I turn to my girlfriend and say “Shit this is a good concert!” as the guitar riff of U Got The Look drives in. The sound at this point is just right, and the guitar is how I like it, not too much and not too little. Often this song is out of balance, but this night it’s perfect. The song isn’t the greatest in Princes repertoire, there are others that show of his guitar talents to a greater degree, but U Got The Look is perfectly serviceable and it’s certainly a lot of fun at this show, without ever going into guitar overdrive.

With the beat still pounding Prince starts intoning his “People call me rude, I wish we all were nude” talk from Controversy. Prince calls for the lead line, and the band rip into one of the better versions I have heard of late. Prince, the band, and the crowd all sing in unison and it’s got a loud in your face sound to it. Prince squeals, sings and encourages the crowd, even getting them to chant “oh Belgium” before asking them to pull their cell phones out. He doesn’t revert to his “clap your hands, stomp your feet” until well into the song, and there is plenty of time for the song to marinate. As the crowd chants, Prince does plenty of talk himself, and it’s all jolly good fun. The chant and the groove continues for quite a long time, I never tire of it though, and there is a treat later in the song as Prince plays some brief lead guitar that harks back to his 80’s sound.

The piano plays softly and I recognize the beginnings of Free. It’s sung by Liz, and she gives it a different twist, but it’s still just as good as ever. Shelby joins her for the chorus, and the two of them singing over the piano has a pure sound that is nostalgic and beautiful. I enjoy it for its simplicity and its easy sound. There is a horn sound later in the song as it fills out in sound, and its sharpness seems to sit on top of everything else.

The song segues to Pearls B4 The Swine, a song that I very rarely listen to. The appearance of it here doesn’t persuade me to listen to it more often. The girl’s voices are lovely together, and I like the song, but I need a lot more Prince in there. It’s all very pleasant, but it’s not my cup of tea tonight.

Love Thy Will Be Done follows, it’s played with a much fuller sound, with Shelby leading the singing. The drum beat is over taken by the other instruments and it doesn’t have the basic sound of the original. I am pleased to see it in the setlist, but after hearing it I’m not so enthusiastic. It’s got a crowded sound with all the voices in there, and lots of keyboards.

Next Prince and his guitar sound return to front and centre. There is a nice loud keyboard accompanying him as he plays the opening of Always In My Hair. I have heard this song plenty of times in the last few years, but this one has a different sound with a larger band, and the keyboards are far more prominent. It’s also a nice touch having the backing singers sing the chorus with him. I expected it to go for some time, but after only a verse and a chorus Prince and the band switch up a gear.

Prince 2010 Euro4

The guitar stays the main focus as Dreamer begins. It’s a step up for Always In My Hair, it has a lot more energy and liveliness to it. Prince makes the most of it, with plenty of guitar work. There is no singing, only the sound of the audience chanting. The guitars get heavier and starts riffing as Prince speaks to the crowd as has them chanting “Dreamer” It’s at this point that Prince begins to sing the lyrics. The vocals are secondary, it’s the music that stays at the centre of attention. Prince has the band on a tight leash, and they are pin point accurate as he works them “Right back where we were”. The song changes again as Prince begins to solo for the last few minutes of the song. It’s by the numbers, and I don’t find a lot of joy in it.

The joy returns with the upbeat sound of the synth playing I Feel For You. Shelby, Liv and Elisa take on the vocal duties. They do a good job of it, I still prefer Chaka Khan though. Dreamer started off lively but was leaden by the end, so this brings some lightness back to the show, and even though I would have liked to hear Prince singing more, it’s still a nice couple of minutes, and a look back at another gem from the catalogue.

Prince starts the crowd clapping as Chelsea Rogers begins, and I know that this will get the crowd dancing. Shelby is the centre of attention, she takes on all the vocals for this one while Prince is playing with the band. I shouldn’t like this one, and yet I find myself happily nodding along. I can hear all the lyrics just fine, and at some stages Shelby speak/sings which is kind of cool. To be honest, Shelby owns this song, and it’s a definite highlight of the Shelby I have heard.

Disco Heat doesn’t sound quite as good to me. It’s got a nice sound to it, I think it sounds too shallow for my tastes. As Shelby starts calling “Party” I decide that to be there live would be much better than listening here at home. But like all Prince shows, things move quickly and after a couple of minutes we are on to the next part of the show.

I do a double take as I hear Baby I’m A Star. Now this is more like it, the song is sounding fresh for its 25 years, and I forget for a moment what band this is. Having the girls singing with him is just great, and a welcome addition. There are only a couple of stop/starts and the song ends with an enthusiastic “Vegas” as Prince introduces the band over the crescendo.

The Love We Make is a nice come down after all the previous noise. Prince and the piano are heard above the drum beat, it’s got a low key melancholy sound, and yet uplifting at the chorus. The guitar tone offers a sound of hope, and despite the early downbeat feeling its finishes up sounding very uplifting indeed. The guitar break is excellent, and I love the next line “Precious is the prayer that asks for nothing”. Prince plays out to the end with the girls accompanying him, before finishing with another sunny guitar break. I have to say, this song is another highlight of the show for me.

Prince 2010 Euro3

 

The party/jam section of the show follows, as Prince and the band take a long groove into Get On The Boat. The first minutes contain the crowd singing America, as the band just groove smoothly behind. It’s all very low key and played gently, the first few minutes it’s all just building up. The piano comes up in the mix, as does the guitar and still we wait for the song to really kick off. John is heard on the drums much more about the four minute mark as the song builds. The release comes a minute later as Prince calls “one, two!” and the riff of Get On The Boat starts proper. The keys do good job of providing the horn parts and stabs, and things move along nicely. Even with the song being played by everyone here, it’s still has a low key feel, and it’s a laid back groove rather than an intense jam. I do like that there is a piano solo, played over the top of the horns sound it provides a nice balance. There is even a lead break played by Prince on the guitar that seems to be swamped in the mix. The song ends with another round of band introductions as the crowd shows their appreciation.

As Cassandra plays the band transition into Which Way Is Up. Shelby is again at the front, and as she has all evening she does what she does best. The song gets funkier as it goes along, and there is some keyboard work that I just adore. I am surprised by how much I enjoy this song, and I am lapping it up. The song drops back to bass and drums, and the bass has the elastic sound that I always listen for. It gets even better for me as the drums drop out leaving just the bass, it’s unfortunate that the bass isn’t as fat sounding at this point. The groove of the song carries me on for a long time, and I could easily listen to it again as it finishes.

Mountains sounds very thin as it begins. It’s an abridged version that is played, and somewhat of a lost opportunity. I was excited to see it in the playlist, but upon hearing it I find it is missing the x-factor, and it fails to wow me. It’s shallow in sound and I am not too disappointed as Shake Your Body Down To The Ground is sung over the last minute of the song.

A pounding beat and we breeze easily into Everyday People. The gig is definitely accelerating to an end here, as it too is only a couple of minutes. Prince is singing, but it’s the voices of the girls we hear most as Prince sings backing for them. I enjoy the song, it’s a shame it doesn’t play on for longer. There is just a hint of some interesting things happening, only none of them are followed up on.

Keeping with the theme the next song is I Want To Take You Higher. Prince trades lines with Shelby, and like the show overall there is the sense that things are accelerating to a finish. The crowd are very vocal as they sing “Higher” and the band increases the tempo. There is a swirling guitar solo by Prince, low in the mix. It’s got a great sound to it and I would have loved to hear much more of it. The crowd are happily chanting as the song comes to a sudden halt leaving them chanting unaccompanied.

Prince 2010 Euro5

This doesn’t last long, as the funky bass of All The Critics Love U begins. I never grow tired of this. Prince sings just as he has always done, this time with “in Brussels” at the end of the appropriate lines. There is a big deviation as a funky sounding piano plays a break. It’s not a strong sound, and I guess that it’s Renato. I had expected the song to follow a groove all the way, so the twists and turns thrown in catch me off guard. There is a drum break down, and then things are slightly faster as a synth plays a snaky solo. The bass solo from Prince has the crowd singing his bass parts back to him, which is just fantastic, and one of my favourite moments of the show. Prince resumes with “Body don’t want to quit, gotta get another hit” and he sounds just as fresh as he did three hours earlier. A couple of turn arounds from Prince followed by a call of “end” finishes the show, and as he says “we the best” I am inclined to believe him.

This show is a real gem. I think if it was a scratchy recording from the 80’s, it would have a mystique to it and we would all be raving about it. As it is, it’s a clean sounding recording from recent times, and that seems to count against it. Don’t be mistaken, this show is the business. A three hour set, a great opening hour with loads of instrumentals, and a band that can go where ever Prince wants them to go. I’m not prepared to compare this to some of the greats, but I am going to recommend it to anyone who enjoy Princes music. A top notch show that deserves a wider audience.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

Purple Rain in Milan

I have lost count of how many times I have heard Purple Rain in my life. It’s heard at almost every live show since 1984, and is universally the first song that non fans name when thinking of Prince. I am sure Prince is just as tired of playing it as I am of hearing it, yet he still manages to play it with a passion and gives the fans what they want every night. In the last few years, the video of him playing it at this show in Milan is often cited as one of the best renditions in recent times. He certainly seems to playing it up in the video, but I am not convinced that it’s as good as often stated. And seeing it stand alone like this, I often wonder how it fits in the wider picture of the gig. Today I taking a listen to the show as a whole, and see if this thing is as good as people say. At the time I thought the 20ten tour was a little bland, and I am hoping that upon second listen its better than I remember.

3 November, 2010 Mediolanum Forum di Assago, Milan

The show certainly starts well, I have heard Stratus plenty of times, but not opening a main show like this. It’s a very casual start to the show, with Prince seemingly just strolling out with his guitar and beginning to play. The drums and the bass and nice and full sounding, while Prince places with his guitar over the top. It’s almost after show like, and has that sound of the band warming up and easing into the gig. Princes playing is very relaxed, and I get the feeling that right from the start he is in guitar hero mode. Apart from Princes soloing there’s not much else happening in the song, that is until the space age sounding keyboard break by Renato Neto. This is immediately followed by Ida and some tidy bass work. I can’t fault it, but it fails to move me. The final guitar break by Prince is one too many for me, yet it’s the best played in this song. I have mixed feels about if I wanted this to go on and on, or finish. I was somewhat pleased when Prince makes the decision for me and the band play Mountains.

Prince Milan 2

Mountains has a very light feeling on this recording. All the pieces are there, and yet they don’t come together in a cohesive way I would like. I do enjoy it however, and especially I enjoy Princes guitar sound and vocals. The guitar sound is very sharp and I can hear it way above everything else when he plays. It’s an interesting start to the gig, I wouldn’t have expected to hear either song so early in the set list, but it does work for me. Of course, I am a fan and would enjoy anything he played. Parts of Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) are sung, and soon after the song further morphs into Everyday People.

Everyday People and I Want To Take You Higher are played together, as a Sly Stone one/two punch. I loved the original of Everyday People, but to be honest I don’t get much out of Princes version. There is that spark missing, and even though it sounds pretty it doesn’t speak to me. I Want To Take You Higher works better for me. The horns sound good on it, and there is a couple of other sounds thrown into the mix too. The band and Prince gain energy as it goes along and I can see the crowd becoming more animated as it progresses. There is a sing along and plenty of jumping as the song reaches its peak, and I love it when Prince finishes the song with a shout of “Veegggas!”

Things go dark, and a weedy thin version of the Lets Go Crazy intro begins to play. It’s OK, yet very thin sounding. Prince intones “Dearly beloved” beautifully back lit, and playing some epic sounding guitar. The rest of the song begins and it becomes much more party sounding. As of the time, it’s horn filled and brassy sounding. Prince keeps it to what people want to hear most, that is him and his guitar. He plays the first solo, and then abruptly changes the song to Delirious.

Delirious grows on me with every blog post I write. As the years progress I find myself enjoying it more and more, and today I find myself grinning throughout. It’s played with a smile and it adds a lot to the fun sound. Renato plays a fitting solo, and Prince enjoys prancing and playing as he sings the song. This one is pure fun all the way. All the band members join the party in one way or another and they all capture the spirit of the song well.

Prince Milan 4

With chants of “Oh no, let’s go” Prince again picks up his guitar and Let’s Go Crazy resumes. The reprise is little more than the chant and then Prince finishing of the song with his guitar break.

1999 sounds great. The beat isn’t too domineering as is sometimes heard, and the vocals all work very well off each other. Prince is sounding and looking youthful through the song, and the years roll back as I sit and listen to this one – I can feel myself getting younger. The song passes by in a flash, I must have closed my eyes for a second too long feeling nostalgic. Shelby can be heard encouraging the crowd through the “Party” chant, I do like her but I would rather hear Prince. The final minute is my favourite piece as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb”

Bathed in red, I have to say I register zero surprise as Prince draws out the opening guitar notes of Little Red Corvette. He milks it for all its worth and toys with the crowd for a minute as the song builds. The crowd is strangely silent on the recording as he begins to sing, I had expected them to be far more vocal in singing along. They are however back for the chorus, before Prince again slows things down with his guitar. I always associate the guitar solo with Dez, no matter how many times I hear it. Prince goes someway to reclaiming it, as after the recorded solo he plays for a minute more in his slower expressive style. What I like about this part of the recording is it’s not crowded, there is an empty sound, and Prince doesn’t over play, he does just enough to give it a warm emotive sound. The last few minutes are a completely different song to me, and one that I enjoy immensely.

Prince Milan 3

Prince tells the crowd “These are my songs, and I love each and every one of them” which I think is a nice sentiment, and probably has an element of truth to it. Finally the funk arrives as Prince’s chicken scratch guitar begins to play, and Controversy gets a long and welcome introduction. Prince has the crowd chanting long before the song starts, and once the rest of the band do join it becomes a monster. Maybe it’s not the recording, maybe it’s not the show, maybe I am just a fan who really loves this music and really loves this song, but here to me it is sounding wonderful. The crowd chant “ooh Milan” throughout the song, and Prince gives them plenty of funk to move to. There is a very long section where the crowd chants while Prince plays a variety of funky guitar breaks. Sometimes writing a weekly blog is a chore, but right now I’m loving it. The song itself disappears, and it is just a funky groove as Prince plays with the crowd. The song does however finally end, and I feel like a sit down and a cup of tea.

Things slow down next as Prince takes a break and Shelby sings Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. Shelby sounds great, she doesn’t overdo it, and it’s suitably emotional. I appreciate the song even more now that I know that Sarah McLachlan wrote it about the death of Jonathan Melvoin. Elisa joins her, and their vocals together are beautiful. Things get better when Liv joins and all three of them sing the song to the end.

Prince Milan

Prince returns and keeps things at an emotional level with a rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. I always like it when he sings this with Shelby. Shelby has a lot of detractors, but her chemistry with Prince can’t be under estimated and they bounce well off each over through the song. Shelby sings with plenty of passion, while Prince sounds smooth and this seems to work as a nice contrast. Prince calls the crowd to show their appreciation for “The baddest piano player in the world” and Renato plays a nice little flourish. The song ends with some lovely vocal touches from Prince and a gentle landing.

In the dark Prince plays some quiet lead guitar, before he softly sings “she saw me walking down the streets of your fine city, turned me on, she looked at me and said” I wonder if he is going to do it, and sure enough the band kick into Uptown. My old school roots betray me, and I immediately feel a surge of excitement. The guitar sounds just like I always love, and the only real difference is the girl’s vocals all over it. The recording sounds very good, and Princes guitar is very clean sounding. My only complaint would be that the song is played way too short.

Prince Milan 1

With a count of “one two three four” the band take a pop twist and begin to play Raspberry Beret. Prince does no singing at all, the crowd are more than happy to oblige and sing all the lyrics. It’s fun, but somewhat hollow, I would have liked to hear even a line or two from Prince. It’s not too long, and is no more than a verse and a chorus.

Cream gets a much fuller treatment, Prince sings loudly and full, and the girls are once again strong sounding in the mix. Prince’s guitar break interrupts the smooth sound of it, and he again has a nice clean sound. I am never a great fan of Cream, it’s a cool song but it doesn’t ring my bell. Here is a nice sounding clean version that feels shorter than it really is.

The party starts with Cool. The crowd dance a lot to this, and listening to it here at home it’s hard not to be moved myself. Prince is very much front and centre for this song, listening to it his vocals and guitar are the things I hear most, that and that sythn loop playing over and over. The crowd are obviously singing along, but I don’t hear them well on the recording, and indeed it is noticeable on the recording there is a lack of crowd noise, which is a plus in this case. There is a lot of dancing and fun being had on stage, but without the visuals it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable.

Prince keeps things firmly in the 80’s as Let’s Work begins. The party mood is kept up with the crowd and there is definitely a lot of arm waving and dancing. The band is playing tight and smooth, and all the fun is coming from the vocals and performance. There is some amusing dancing between Prince and Shelby before he picks up his guitar.

Next played is U Got The Look, complete with Princes “girls vs boys” spoken intro. I like the sound of this song, even if I don’t always like the song itself. This recording is pretty decent, the guitar is front and centre, but not overwhelming, Prince keeps it nice and balanced. There is the usual guitar breaks but they aren’t over the top, and the crowd does have space to enjoy it.

Prince Milan 6

Finally we reach Purple Rain, the reason I chose this show. It does begin in the traditional way with the gently chords before the keys swell and the drums enter. Nothing is rushed, which anyone who knows me will appreciate I really enjoy. The crowd play their part, with “ooh, oohh, oohh” beginning almost immediately. There is some lovely cascades played on the guitar, and it gives it an extra feel of rain falling. The strings then play for half a minute before Prince appears waving to the crowd, and then playing some further lead guitar. His vocals are clean sounding, there is very little or no echo on them, and I enjoy them like this. It’s interesting to watch him here, I can see him working himself into the song, at first he is fairly passionless, but he emotes as he goes along, and you can see him working himself up as the lines progress. He looks like he’s really feeling it as he finishes his vocal duties and picks up the guitar break. With a jarring start we are off into the solo, and Prince is playing just as much with his face as anything else, and he is telegraphing everything he is playing in his expressions. I can’t decide if its showmanship or pure emotion, but I certainly enjoy it. The first half of the break is as to be expected, and the second half where he traditionally cuts loose is more enjoyable to me. The playing isn’t as breath taking as I have heard elsewhere, but I have to give credit here to Prince for a great performance. Prince finishes by placing his guitar on the stage before taking a bow and exiting. I liked the performance, but I can’t quite find it in me to love it. Without the visuals it would sound a lot like any other performance, and here I think it was Princes showmanship that really makes the song what it is.

The opening strum of Kiss sounds, and the band play an extended intro without Prince. There is the guitar sound, but it’s very much keyboard led, and Shelby does encourage the crowd to chant along before Prince appears to take his vocals. I miss the stripped back sound that made this song so distinctive, and with this band playing a fuller sound I find this song slips into the territory of Cream, a similarity I hadn’t noticed previously. Prince’s vocals are tidy, and his dance routine at the end gets a laugh and a smile out of me.

Prince Milan 9

If I Was Your Girlfriend is a song I would find very hard to be critical of. I am a big fan, and I enjoy hearing it every time. Prince’s vocals aren’t as high as when he was younger, but he still retains a smooth sound, and to be honest I am singing along too loudly to really notice. This song resonated emotionally with me when I was younger, and I am surprised when I hear it nowadays and it has a much lighter party feel. There is a keyboard break later in the song that I really should mention, its funky and fun all rolled into one, and plays for some time while Prince and Shelby dance. Prince matches it with some vocal yelps and the groove continues with that divine bass line. Renato gets to add his touch to it, with a piano solo that has a light touch to it. The song finishes on a high with a long play out and some cool chanting.

Prince begins to get some of the audience on stage with him as he begins to play The Bird. I get the feeling now we are approaching the end of the show, and Prince wants to end it as a party. The stage is pretty crowded as he begins to sing the Bird. His vocals are loose, and I am missing the tightness of Morris’s vocals that I normally associate with this song. As you might expect a large part of the song is dedicated to chanting, dancing and generally having fun. The band play well, but it seems secondary to the enjoyment of the night.

Prince Milan 8

Things don’t let up as the band slip easily into Jungle Love. I do enjoy singing along to it, but there’s not a lot else happening here. The crowd are still dancing and partying to the groove. I become more interested as Prince begins to play his solo, and it has a nice intensity to it which briefly causes me to reconsider my stance on these two songs. However as he finishes his break the chanting and dancing resume and we are back to the party.

I enjoy the sound of Love Bizarre much more, the bottom end especially sounds good. Prince puts plenty into his singing, and well he has to, just to compete with Shelby. I like it later in the song as Prince plays more rhythm guitar, and the band strip back. He maintains his funky guitar sound as the full band join in once again, and he maintains this to the end, and even throws in one more solo, which for me is the best guitar playing of the night. He downs his guitar for a round of waving to the crowd and then the party continues for another minute before a call of “Las Vegas!” ends it.

Prince Milan 7

With the stage emptied of people, Prince returns with his guitar and the band play Take Me With U. There isn’t much to the song, it doesn’t surprise me in anyway, and sounds pretty much the same as the day I first heard it. Having the girls sing strongly on it is a bonus, and they do well not to overwhelm Princes vocals. Its sounds empty after the previous songs, and it is a nice come down.

With a shout of “turn me up” Prince strikes up the opening riff of Guitar. It’s not as strong as perhaps I would like, however it does sound good. As throughout the whole recording, Princes guitar has a clean sound, and that is one thing I have really appreciated on this recording. This is the last song of the show, and I was expecting Prince to indulge himself in some guitar heroics, he is however very restrained. He does play some good solos, but he doesn’t go over the top, nor does he draw them out too long. The song wraps up quickly and even with a final reprise it is very short. With one final showman flourish the song and the show end.

Prince Milan 10

Purple Rain wasn’t as great as many people would have me believe, but the showmanship, and the rest of the show was worth the effort. The show was standard, but I did enjoy the effort that Prince put in, and I felt this is a good reflection of the 20ten shows. It was well paced, and it got better as it went along. A solid record of a good show- I’m still not convinced about that Purple Rain though!

Take care
Hamish

 

Prince Milan 5