Troubadour, California 2011- Show 2

I feel cheated. It seemed like a good idea last week to write about both the shows at the Troubadour, but there was one fatal flaw in my plan – the bootleg of the second concert is incomplete, and by a substantial amount. To be honest the recording that exists of the show is merely a taster as it takes in a scant twenty minutes of what was a two and a half hour performance. I was disappointed when I realized my error, but I have decided to plough on regardless. The tape we do have is short, and only an audience recording, yet I feel it is still worth giving some time and consideration to, if nothing more to give me closure after listening to the first concert. The first concert set a high standard, and this later show promises to be even better. The setlist from this later show appears heavier, and with a much more aftershow feeling about it. Both aspects appeal to me, and I am sure this recording gives a good indication of what the concert was about.

12th May, 2011 (am) Toubadour, Hollywood, California

The party is well and truly underway as the recording comes in near the end of “Musicology.” The tape only catches “Musicology” in its final throes, nevertheless we can hear and feel the swing in the music, and the audience’s reaction is more than enough to suggest that this has been quite a show already. “Musicology” appears about half way in the setlist, so the audience have had plenty of time to marinade in the music, and their own juices, something readily apparent in the noise at the end of “Musicology”

The four minutes of “Musicolgy” is mostly crowd noise after the song finished, and it is “Crimson And Clover” that ushers us properly into the concert. It has a natural elegance, and an easy, delicate beauty that is beguiling, even when Prince isn’t to the forefront of the performance. Andy Allo is star that the song orbits around and she has an understated radiance that spreads a warm glow across the recording, the performance, and life itself as she charms all with her honey dipped vocals. The audience recording seems to fit the moment, with an out of focus softness that brushes all edges off the music. The rest of the band may be playing the music, but Prince is the song itself as he enters, and he appears as a thunder bolt for his crushing moment as the music rears it’s head briefly into “Wild Thing.” He personifies the song as he plays with a startlingly controlled fury, an exhilarating rock moment as the guitar embodies the true meaning of wild thing, will remaining tethered to the ideals of “Crimson And Clover.” This song makes up the bulk of the recording, and is reason enough to give it a listen.

The mix of “She’s Always In My Hair” is busy, and the drive and energy of the original is dissipated by the extra sounds that muffle the recording. There is a brief respite as Prince’s axe cuts through the baroque sound, it cleaves the song in two but isn’t quite as cleansing as I hope – the final minutes see’s it swamped by the bass and keyboards that the recording seems to crave. The final minute of the song features Prince’s guitar thrumming through the gears, but we never reach overdrive, the song finishing before Prince can fire us into the home straight.

The final two minutes of the recording capture the first half of “Play That Funky Music.” Surprisingly I find myself deeply attracted to it, perhaps because I am denied the complete show and this absence leaves me with a hunger for more.  It is an loud and unruly performance with the crowd contributing their own energy and buoyancy to the song and the show. There isn’t much to it, but it is eminently enjoyable, and that’s something I don’t say very often about “Play That Funky Music”

And that’s all there is. A twenty two minute recording of what was a much longer show, and one that sounds as if it was going off. I would have loved to hear more, but alas this is all we get. Being short, it is easy to recommend this one, it takes no time to listen to, and even if people don’t like audience recordings it is only twenty minutes so there is no real time lost to give it a try. 2011 is an odd year for me personally, and an odd year in Prince’s live performances. Shows like this give a little light, and I only wish there were more like this one for us to enjoy. No doubt a great concert to be at, the recording too is a nice listen.

Finally, I would like to note the passing of Synnove Soe this week. Synnove was a good friend, and a strong supporter of this blog. You can see her comments on many of the posts here, and she would often message me directly on Sunday night to offer her verdict on the concert I had listened to, and my writing. She was, as my father would say, a straight shooter, and I always knew where I stood with her – she had opinions, and she wasn’t afraid to share them!  I shall miss her terribly, she was a strong figure and a great mentor. She was also a kind and gentle friend. Rest In Peace Synnove.

 

 

Troubadour, California 2011- Show 1

On the afternoon of May 11th 2011, it was suddenly announced that Prince would be doing two impromptu shows that very day at the Troubadour, Hollywood. Of course this is completely in character for Prince, the attraction of playing shows at short notice has appealed to him since the early 80’s. Not only was the show announced a short notice, but there was to be two of them, one starting in the early evening, and the other just after midnight. With Prince’s residency at the Forum in full swing, this is quite a feast of music for local music lovers to enjoy, and the subsequent bootlegs are equally enjoyable for the wider fan community. The bootlegs of these particular shows may not be the best sounding you have ever heard, but the concerts themselves are fantastic, and both concerts are well worth the listen. The first show of the evening is notable for the last live performance of “Power Fantastic,” something that every hardcore fan would love to hear. The rest of the setlist is a combination of after-show standards,and marquee concert mainstays, all contributing to a heady mix of all that is good and great about Prince and his band.

11th May, 2011. Toubadour,Hollywood, California

The recording drops us right into the midst of the action, a swirling and ominous groove that parts to to reveal some light in the form of a “One Nation Under A Groove”chorus. Without settling on any one direction it keeps the listener guessing, while providing a showcase for this band comprised of John Blackwell, Ida Nielson, Morris Hayes, and Renato Neto. With Mike Phillips putting in an appearance, this is a band with the chops to move swiftly across the music Prince wishes to cover, and they tackle “Stratus” with plenty of finesse, along with a big chunk of pure music muscle, making Prince’s guitar contribution shine all the more brighter and potent as it lasers its way through the dense murk of a groove the band creates. Time is irrelevant as the band crush any other thought apart from music itself, and Renato Netos solo piece is otherworldly as it transports us from the confines of the room.

I don’t normally post pictures of bootlegs covers, but this one seems to capture the spirit of the evening

There is hiding the fact that this is an audience recording. It doesn’t have the crackle and fades that sometimes plague such recordings, but it does have plenty of audience noise and this does at times detract from the music. “Power Fantastic” is undoubtedly the highlight of the recording, but there is a lot of audience noise that comes with it. The song allows a chance for the band to breath, and the song plays as steady as a dreamers breath. Mike Phillips adds to this slumber like quality, and at just three minutes long I find I have to hit repeat a couple of times to fully appreciate the moment.

Coming from a similar place is “Somewhere Here On Earth,” its lighter touch filling the recording with further dreamscape sounds. The song can’t match “Power Fantastic” for nostalgic weight though, and as good as it sounds, especially Mike Phillips again, it can’t compare to the previous few minutes. I wallow in the joy of Mike Phillips playing, and I would recommend this far more highly if not coming straight after “Power Fantastic”

The cascading guitar at the beginning of “Boom” is inviting, before giving way to a heavier riff that is the signature of the song. From here the band surprise me with an instrumental jazz jam appearing, and again the best moments don’t belong to Prince, but rather to the superb players he has surrounded himself with. The performance is better than we hear on the recording, the audience is silenced from the outset, hinting that perhaps they are watching opened mouth at this moment. I cannot understate how good Mike Phillips is during this song, and for me that has been one of the most revealing aspects of the recording – previously under recognized performers coming to the fore and demonstrating just why Prince bought them into the fold. The final frenzied combination of Renato Neto and Mike Phillips is an absolute treat, and eclipses all that has come before.

The band are onto something good, and they continue to mine this rich vein with a ten minute jazz instrumental. It is not as intensive as the previous jam, and there are portions where it threatens to meander. Overall though, it is another hit out for the band, with Renato Neto taking the lead in several fast piano passages that piques my interest. It’s an undemanding listen that contributes to the overall feel of the recording, without becoming essential in itself,.

“Let’s Get It On.” Figuratively and literally. What an inspired cover version this turns out to be, and with Andy Allo on hand to lend some vocals this becomes another surprising  moment to be cherished. Andy doesn’t have the depth to her voice that Marvin Gaye does (does anyone?) but she brings her own touch to the song and without ever threatening the original it becomes it’s own quiet storm. The appearance of a vocoder and lines lifted from elsewhere brings an unique aspect to an otherwise familiar song, as the band definitely stretch it to their own means for the next few minutes.

There is an unexpected “Colonized Mind,” featuring very little of the guitar that we have come to associate with the song. Instead that guitar grunt and sinew has been replaced by a thoughtful delicacy provided by Renato Neto and Mike Phillips. They take the song and spin it the other way, molding it to fit the jazz sound of the previous few songs. It brings new life to the song, and it burns just as bright in this setting as it does in the fury of more guitar orientated sets.

“When She Comes” appeared on the 2015 album Hit N Run Phase 2, here we have a much earlier version that is far more of it’s time. It’s sound comes from the same fertile soil as “Somewhere Here On Earth,” and it is a nice fit into the setlist. However, it fails to generate any sort of emotional response from me, and as nice as it sounds I just can’t connect to the music I am hearing. It does become a long jazz jam though, and this I find far more rewarding as again Mike Phillips comes to the fore with an array of new sounds and fresh ideas.

Normally it is the punch at the start of “Shhh” that grabs me, in this case that punch is neutered by the quality (or lack of) of the recording. It still delivers though, but like everything else in the evening it is through the jazz lens that this band filters Prince’s songs through. It is Mike Phillips with the first contribution that signals what direction the song is going, rather than Prince’s vocals its is his horn the opens the door on the song. Prince’s vocals aren’t as in your face on this recording, it is the rest of the band that pick up the slack, along with some fantastic singing from the audience as Prince leads them into a soft rendition of “U Will Be” over the music of “Shhh” In many ways it works better, and I am more attracted to the song without the sometimes hokey “Shhh” lyrics. It is far more mature sounding, and the lyrics match the direction the music is flowing. It takes a moment to adjust to the alluring sound, but the song draws me in over its ten minutes, and I find that this is the standout song on the recording. Ignore the quality of the recording, this is a performance that needs to be heard. The final guitar solo from Prince confirms this as he makes an emphatic statement in the final minutes with a whirlwind performance that sweeps all aside without ever becoming hurricane force.

There is a good old fashioned stomp towards the finish with the incisive guitar riff of “Controversy” appearing, along with John Blackwell’s trademark pound. After a funk intro, everything is seemingly turned up to ten at once with Princes howling guitar leading the way. This is a misleading step and once again it is Mike Phillips who blasts his way through the bulk of the song, adding plenty of spice to its bare funk sound. The highlight for me though is the crowd chanting their way through the “people call me rude” chant for sometime.This version has a unique feel and it reinvigorates my love for a familiar classic.

“Musicology” shuffles into view, the intensity derived from the twin attack of Mike Phillips and Princes vocals. They both carry the impetus that propels the music forward. On record, “Musicology” isn’t always the most appealing song to me, but I can’t deny that in the live situation it is a great song to get pulses rising and the crowd moving. The most interesting part of this performance is the final half of the song as it breaks down and the band noodle around various aspects of the riffs. No ground breaking material to found here, but it is a pleasant enough diversion.

The recording doesn’t capture every song of the night, but it does finish on an all time high with a divine version of “A Case Of U.” There are of course more famous versions in circulation, but I am delighted to hear it here at this concert. The bootleg isn’t perfect, but the performance sounds pretty close, Prince’s vocals and piano weaving a magical spell before Mike Phillips appears on the shoulder of the song, adding the sweetest of touches with his saxophone. All in all it is an endearing performance, and one that we would all be talking about if only it was a soundboard recording.

Sadly, the bootleg finishes here, missing the final two songs (“Pop Life” and “Beggin Woman Blues”). There is no need to be too disappointed, there have been plenty of treasures sprinkled throughout the show. Obviously, the final “A Case Of U” is breathtaking, as is “Shhh” and “Power Fantastic.”  It seems each week that I write that despite the quality of the recording, whatever show I am listening to is worth hearing. I can’t help it, I am a fan of bootlegs, and it matters little to me whether a recording is soundboard or audience recording. It is certainly the case with this recording, the setlist and performance far outshines the recording, and for a hardcore fan such as myself it demands listening. Casual fans may skip this at their peril, for the rest of us there is plenty here to enjoy and reflect upon.

Join me next week for the second performance from this evening, one that is equally good.

Take care
-Hamish

North Sea Jazz Festival Night 3

Before I take a listen to today’s show, I feel I must first apologize. Reading some of my more recent posts and comparing them to some of my earlier ones I see that my standards are slipping, and my recent posts have been shallow and empty. I read them, and I can see that I am not really feeling what I am writing. The problem is, like many people, I am very time poor. You might think that its easy to find a couple of hours to sit down and listen to a Prince show, but I barely have two hours to spare. Often I am racing against the clock, and I can see that my enjoyment and appreciation of the shows is dropping. So, instead of knocking this out quickly between other attention grabbing activities, I am dedicating as much time to this as it takes. My doors are locked, my blinds drawn, and my mobile phone turned off. Prince and the third night of the North Sea Jazz Festival has my complete and undivided attention.

Obviously I have quite a few Prince bootlegs, and there is plenty to choose from every time I have an urge to hear a live show. My criteria to decide on what to listen to is quite simple. The first and overriding consideration for me is setlist. I want to hear something unusual, something I haven’t heard before- be it B-sides, deep album cuts, or unreleased tracks. Secondly, the intensity of the performance is important to me. Shows where Prince is on fire, and you can hear him singing and playing with a lot of passion. Thirdly, the quality of the recording. I can overlook this, if the first two criteria are more than met, but if its an average recording of an average show, then its unlikely to get much play at my place. The last thing I look for is pretty shallow- a cool cover. Anything eye catching and interesting, for example any boot with a cover by The Reverend gets me interested. There is plenty of boots out there that look better than the album covers of Prince’s official albums, and that’s one thing that makes the bootleg scene interesting for me.

This third show of the North Sea Jazz Festivals ticks several of the aforementioned boxes. The setlist looks great on paper, I see a couple of B-sides, some rare tracks and a couple of internet only releases, as well as an unreleased track -what could be better! I can’t comment on the intensity of the performance yet, but the quality of the recording is just fine, and the art work is pretty to look at, so I have a confident feeling for the show.

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11 July 2011, Ahoy, Rotterdam

Right from the start the show lives up to expectations. Laydown is a song that sounds like it was written to open shows. Prince has so many great songs for opening a show, and this one is just as good as any other. What I like about it is that it’s a statement of intent from Prince. The sound of the music matches his lyrics, as he sings about laying it down there is an intensity that has me believing it. Even with it not sounding as sharp as I expect, I still find plenty to admire about it, and it does hook me. Prince’s guitar is to the fore, often I am torn between my love of rocking Prince and funky Prince, on this recording we start with rocking Prince,and that’s just fine with me.

A sudden change of music and styles is common from Prince, and as a fan I expect to hear a variety of styles from Prince throughout a show, throughout an album, and even within a song. He lives up to  this as the intensity of Laydown quickly fades as the band lower the mood with The Question of U/The One. The opening strains of The Question Of U sounds, before the band quieten and Prince begins singing The One. The One is a fantastic song, and its a shame its not known by a wider audience. Sure, most Prince fans know and love it, but the Purple Rain/Raspberry Beret causal radio listeners never got a chance to hear this one, and that’s a travesty. Prince’s lyrics are clever and heartfelt, and at this show he delivers his lines with a lot of passion that I don’t always hear on this song. Often he is very smooth as he sings it, here he is throaty and sings from a deeper place that gives me a sense that he singing for me as well as him. Maceo plays later in the song, at earlier shows he was outstanding, and on this song he is much more restrained and sounds very good without ever taking over the song. Its to his credit that he plays within the song rather than over the top of it. I think the song is coming to an end, but Prince teases it out further, and it feels much more like an aftershow gig. He firstly plays some fragile sounding guitar as the music comes up, and then after a couple of minutes steps back to let the band play -and play they do, the sound becoming more free as they progress. The music gains intensity as Maceo plays again, and then Prince returns with another guitar break that by now is sounding like a completely different song. The music pulls back once again, and over the top of The Question Of U Prince begins to sing the unreleased Gingerbread man. The lyrics are intriguing, a simple story of the Gingerbread man that with Princes vocal delivery sounds like it could mean so much more.  Its then that Prince brings out his secret weapon- Morris Hayes. Morris Hayes is the special ingrediant of Prince’s band, even though it took me many years to recognize it. He has played with Prince for such a long time, and he delivers at every show, his playing filling out Princes sound, and his solos are always right in the pocket. His playing should not be under estimated, and he deserves much more credit than he gets. I listen carefully to his organ break, and I have nothing but admiration for him. By now the song has been running for a good 15 minutes, and every minute of it has been worth the listen. Its Prince playing for the love of playing, and he is giving us a great vocal delivery, some sweet sounding guitar, while the band play beautifully behind him. I am not sure the rest of the gig can match this, but I certainly hope so.

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Things stay on track as Prince next plays When Eye Lay My Hands On U. Its not the show stopper that the previous song was, the band is fine and so is Prince, its just that I don’t enjoy the arrangement so much with Prince singing with the backup singers. Shelby is a shade too much for me, and I preferred earlier when I could hear Princes voice alone. I don’t have too long to think about this, as Prince begins to play his guitar, and with plenty of face pulling he plays a very tidy solo. Its not one for the the ages, I couldn’t pick it out of a line up, but its good in that it fits nicely in the song, and that is an art in itself. The second half of the song is much more to my tastes as Prince sings alone over a quieter band. I like that I hear his voice much better, and he adds some humanity and soul to a fairly clean sounding song. Its enough to save it in my view, and he even adds some moans and howls that seal the deal.

The song segues easily into Brownskin, with Shelby taking the lead on the vocals. This arrangement isn’t as intense as I have heard elsewhere, and usually I dismiss it as a a throw away, at this show I like it much more, especially as Maceo comes and adds his sound to the mix. The song starts gently but soon is fiery and gains an added push as it goes. Prince is playing guitar, I can’t hear him in the mix, its very much all Shelby and Maceo. Maceos second break is the one I like the best, its a little longer, faster and sharper. There is a bonus later in the song as Prince begins to play guitar matching Shelby’s vocals lick for lick. The song returns to its structure, but now I am satisfied as I can hear Prince much better and his guitar sound is what drives the latter part of the song.

Empty Room sounds like the classic that it is. Princes opening guitar and vocals are soft and gentle before he ups the intensity and emotion. The music is good, but its the lyrics, as well as Princes guitar, that really make this song what it is. I can hear Princes lyrics clearly, and the song gains a lot from that. He sings his lines with a full sound, before stepping back and playing his guitar, emphasizing the emotion with his playing while giving us time to digest his lyrics. The guitar and lyrics compliment each other well, both highlighting the emotion of the other. Its a fantastic balance, and even though I don’t always give this song a lot of thought, I can’t deny that its great.

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Calhoun Square next, and even though we hear it plenty at aftershow gigs, its still a surprise as he begins to play it here. Its missing something on this recording, and I wonder if its the sound, or the venue. Its too relaxed sounding, that’s not a big criticism, its just not as I usually hear it.  I can’t complain about the band sounding relaxed, they have sounded relaxed all show and it gives the sound of the show a joyful sound, the band sound best when they are having fun. Calhoun Square feels very short compared to the previous songs, and it quickly ends as Prince stops and quickly speaks to the crowd.

The following song is People Pleaser and Prince introduces Andy Allo to the crowd as she takes vocal duties. As a people pleaser myself, I really like the title of this song, as well as the lyrical content. It sounds pretty good live, and Andy does a great job of getting it across to the crowd. Maceo also adds some weight to it with his playing, and it would be a pretty miserable sort of person that didn’t enjoy this song. Its not heavy with Prince,and not as funky as some of the other songs played tonight, but it does have its place in the set list, and gives us a fun break before Prince takes the show back.

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Prince claims the stage back in style as the opening riff of She’s Always In My Hair sounds. Its not as heavy as the 3rdEyegirl version of late, nevertheless it’s still got Princes distinctive guitar sound all over it. I find that even with Princes guitar sound, there is still something missing. It’s too clean sounding to my ears, and lacking that raw, impassioned sound. Its still great to listen to, and Princes guitar break does have me smiling, yet its much shorter than the current configuration, and ends quickly after Princes guitar break. Its a timely place to end, I am just hungry for more as Prince closes down.

Future Soul Song pulls us gently into Princes softer side. Its great to actually hear Prince play something off the current album at that time, and I applaud him for that, as its something that doesn’t happen enough now days. I like it when Prince has confidence and faith in his current music, and is wanting to share it with us.The song is very smooth, and Princes spoken middle section adds to the gentle feel of the overall song. The band is quiet, and this only heightens the message Prince is singing. The guitar playing again has has Prince pulling faces as he plays, and I can never quite decide if that means he is really feeling it, or its just part of the act. Although the singing is nice, its Princes guitar playing I keep coming back to, and he gives us another couple of guitar breaks, both short but heavy on his tone and feel. As a Prince fan, its exactly as you might want to hear. The song ends just as softly as it begun, its not the most memorably song of the evening, but it is the most pleasant.

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I get a chance to collect my thoughts for a couple of minutes as Prince spends some time getting the sound just right on stage, he has obviously learnt his lesson from the first night. What happens next is a surprise and a casual moment that I appreciate. Prince begins to play, then tells the audience “this is what happens in practice” as he turns to John and talks him through the beat. The real surprise is what comes next as Prince begins to sing Girl. Now, this is one song I never expected to hear. An airy sounding B-side, it stands up well in the live setting. I used to play this a lot in my early days, and I find myself singing easily along with it as they play. Princes sings the first verse, then the lovely Andy Allo sings the second, with the sweet lyric change of “boy..” The bass bobs along more prominently than in the original, and Prince adds a guitar sound, that although slight, fills it in a little more. Maceo has his horn also in the mix, and as much as I love it, I still think I prefer the original. With that said, I would love to hear more of it live, so Prince can do what ever he wants with it, so long as he plays it onstage. The latter part of the song is a very laid back sounding groove, as Prince squeaks and tweaks his guitar. Its not captivating, instead just a lovely pleasant groove that has me in mind of a lazy Sunday. This feeling is heightened as Maceo plays the last minute, and for a second I close my eyes and imagine that I am in a Georges Seurat painting.

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A brief band intro and Prince basically tells us that the party is about to start “That kick drum ain’t going to stop.” The first song they play is Partyman, although I struggle to pick it, asides from the lyrics. Rather strangely Prince calls for the crowd to pull their cell phones out, this from a guy who is always telling us to enjoy the show in the old fashioned way. Its just after this that the party begins, and Prince and the band hit their groove, with the keyboard horn sound especially prominent. I can’t complain about it all, but its just not my thing, its a little hollow and fake sounding. I change my mind somewhat as it drops to just the beat and the crowd very loudly sings “ohh way oohh” in a way that suggests that a great time is being had by all.

What follows is You’re The One For Me, a song I didn’t previously know before I heard it here. Shelby takes the lead vocals, and its a song that I immediate warm to an enjoy, I think I really need to go back and hear the original of this. Once again, Prince introduces me to another song and act I hadn’t previously known. Prince plays guitar on the back half of the song, and he has that Santana sound that he often favors on the guitar. John Blackwell gets a chance to play a solo, before the song moves on.

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With the kick drum still pounding, I am not the least bit surprised to hear Controversy next. What does surprise me is how fresh and raw it sounds here. Not raw in the rocked out sense, rather its the urgency of it that takes me. I find that in the last few years, about this stage in the show, Prince plays Controversy, and its an uptempo dance number  where the crowd get to sing and jump. This performance its gains some more of its funk sound, and the drum and synths are right in my ear, and they really give it a big push. True to form, later in the song Prince has the crowd jumping up and down, but I am more that satisfied with what I have heard up until now.

The kick drum continues as the keyboard sounds and Prince begins his spoken word intro to Let’s Go Crazy. Its disappointing that this is the arrangement of Lets Go Crazy that I don’t like. Prince and the band fair race through the song, and there’s no much left for me to enjoy. Prince sings the chorus a few times, briefly plays guitar and then finishes it without a guitar break. Its a song I have heard thousands of times, so I didn’t feel I needed to hear a kick ass version every-night, but I would rather not hear it at all rather than hear this truncated version.

Delirious is fun,a s always, the band persist at breakneck speed, and me and the crowd both appreciate Princes free spirit. Another aspect of the song I liked, was that the band got a chance to solo, only very briefly, but still the had that chance.  Prince then returns to Lets Go Crazy, and this time he does close out the song with his guitar howling.

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The medley is dispensed with, and we again get a full proper song with 1999. This is the type of 1999 I like to hear, there are no bells and whistles, the song is heard just as it was 30 years ago (That sentence makes me feel old) The syths are nice and loud, and Prince sings in a strong voice. The only part that I would want to hear better is his rhythm guitar, but later in the song I do indeed hear it much louder and clearer. Even played in full, the song still feels very short, and soon Prince is waving farewell to the crowd as the song ends.

Prince takes a break now, and we get Maceo and the band playing Pass The Peas. It excited me not one jot. It does have its time and place, but right now, listening close, its something that I want to skip over to get to me next Prince fix. However the sound is good, the band is in fine form, and Maceo’s playing belies his age.

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Prince repays my patience with the always excellent Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) This was one song that I really latched onto in my teenage years, and I am always thrilled to hear it live. Prince sings at the microphone, leaving the piano to played by the band. I get the feeling that it maybe would have been better with him at the piano, as his hands move and swing with the music, making it look like a dance song rather than a plea to love lost. His vocal performance cannot be faulted and even though its not as emotionally wrought as I like, its still excellent. Prince ends the the song by confirming that it is Cassandra on the keys.

Another emotional love lost song next, this one has a completely different feel to it though, as Prince and Shelby give us a sonically full Nothing Compares 2 U. This song doesn’t mean as much to me as the previous song, and yet I can’t help but feel the emotion in it. Both Prince and Shelby are in fine voice, and they more than do the song justice. Asides from Shelby and Prince, the other highlight of the song is the Morris Hayes organ solo. He really is great, and I am listening to him more and more carefully on every recording.

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There is barely enough time for us to catch our breathes before the band pound into Take Me With U. Its not a classic performance of it, but I haven’t heard it for a while, and I find myself easily enjoying it. Andy is stronger sounding on the mic than Apollonia ever was, and the song is sounding much stronger and fuller overall.

The old one two punch follows with Raspberry Beret very naturally coming next. There is plenty of space for the crowd to sing, but they are sounding rather quiet by this point. Perhaps the recording isn’t picking them up, or maybe they are jaded and a little over the Take Me With U/Raspberry Beret combo, much like myself. Prince still seems to be enjoying it, and its is uplifting to see him still playing pure pop.

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Cream has a strong Maceo presence, and it feels so natural and good I am wondering why this arrangement wasn’t played more often. Prince doesn’t sing too much, only the first verse and chorus, and from then on its all Maceo. Its a good use of the sax, and something I find interesting.

Cool is absolutely timeless. Prince does more than enough to reclaim the song, and he is indeed the epitome of cool as he sings and struts across the stage. The almost obligatory Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough is thrown into the song, and the band are sounding like they are having a lot of fun onstage. The groove comes effortlessly, and I could see the band just sitting on the groove for hours. After some time for dancing, Maceo gets a chance to play, and he gives a nice riff before Prince calls “Vegas” and the show comes to an end.

I thought the second show of these three was outstanding, but in many ways this one was just as good. It was a delight to hear some of these selections in a live setting,and in particular I really enjoyed hearing Girl live. There was a sense that perhaps Prince wasn’t entirely happy with the sound, but it certainly didn’t come across in the recording. All three of these shows had their own unique character, and perhaps the best way to appreciate them is to listen to all three.  This one was my favorite, but any other given day I may well say the second night.

Thanks for joining me, next week more of the same, but completely different
Take care- Hamish

 

 

North Sea Jazz Festival Night 1

I seem to be listening to a lot of shows from 2010 and 2011 recently, and that will continue for the next few posts as I listen to the North Sea Jazz Festival shows from 2011. I missed a lot of shows from 2010 and 2011, at that time I separated from my wife and in the same month my city was flattened by an earthquake- both events still impact on my life daily. In 2011 listening to Prince and following his tours was far from a priority as I dealt with things on a day by day basis. Calmness has returned to my hometown now, and I finally have some time to go back and catch up with what I missed at that time. I had the shows, I just never got around to listening to them, so now as I pull them out, I find I am listening with a freshness, and new enthusiasm for what I am hearing.

When Prince was at the peak of his powers in the 1980’s it would have been difficult to imagine him ever playing at a festival. He was too singular in his vision, and to see him on a bill with other artists would have been jarring. Of course his tours celebrated his creativity and songs, and with his league of protégés and other projects in many ways his concerts were a mini festival of sorts, a festival of Prince. In recent years he has embraced festivals, in particular 2010 and 2011 in Europe.

These three shows at the North Sea Jazz provide an interesting mix of songs and styles. I do like that each of them has a sizable portion of songs that I could see lifted straight from a mainstream show, with some more interesting songs and moments grafted onto it. Also every night is different from the other, and there is a few rarities in the mix that always keep me interested. This first show is not my favourite of the three, but I do have to start somewhere, so why not the beginning. So let’s wind back to 2011 and take a listen to the first night of the North Sea Jazz Festival.

9 July 2011, Ahoy, Rotterdam

I find the first few minutes of the show slightly usual, and a little confusing. The show starts with a comfortable beat, and the band play a tepid version of Foxy Lady. You would think this would be tailor made for Prince and his guitar histrionics, but he elects not to play, instead only appearing later in the song. Andy Allo handles the vocal duties, she does a serviceable job for a song that doesn’t seem to play to her strengths. The music behind her is insipid, the Hendrix guitar groove is carried by the bass, and an acoustic guitar which doesn’t give it the intensity of the original. I thought Prince could have used this song to make an immediate impression, but it’s all quite low key -that is until mid song when he finally appears, and does indeed lurch into his guitar god mode. The latter part of the song is a definite improvement, Andy dispenses with the singing and Prince plays a guitar solo that you would expect.

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Controversy is much more conventional, although the first minute of the song the Prince calls instructions to the soundman as he gets his set up on stage just right. It’s played as a groove with Prince playing his scratch guitar while chanting “Oh North Sea”. I like that he sounds relaxed, as asides from chanting he takes time to tell the crowd that he has plenty of surprises for the next few nights. It’s obvious that he is having trouble with his sound as he calls again and again that the sound is too bright and brittle. For a perfectionist like Prince I am sure it must be incredibly frustrating, and he does sound a little agitated as he strives for the right sound. Apparently these issues are resolved and he does begin to sing the song. The song sounds good to me, but the sound problems persist for Prince as he asks for the lights to turn down as again he calls for the sound to be adjusted “more bottom” Under normal circumstances I would just like to hear the song, but I do listen with interest as Prince strives to get the sound right. You can feel that he is really working hard on the stage.

The Sexy Dancer/ Le Freak arrangement follows quickly on the heels of Controversy, and this time I aren’t the least bit surprised to hear it. With Shelby and Liv on the vocals, Prince retreats into the band, but this time he steps in after the first verse to play a tidy sounding solo. He is much more in control at this gig, and his guitar playing is focused without being scorching.

(Theme song from) Which Way Is Up is next, and this is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. I can hear Maceo in the mix, and this is another song where the band is the real strength. Morris Hayes plays a solo, which I would like to heap praise upon, if it was only more prominent in the mix. I am questioning Prince playing a song like this so early in the show, but to his credit it is a jazz festival and I would assume the audience would be open to hearing much more than Prince playing the hits.

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I try very hard every week to enjoy Play That Funky Music, but I just can’t. The lyrics aren’t interesting, and the groove always sounds laboured to me. This week’s arrangement is better, in that Prince plays a guitar break for most of the song, and listening to it I find my mind wanders from the main groove. The guitar break is as good as it gets however, as they return to the chorus for a final refrain before the song ends.

There is another odd twist as the band picks up the groove of Controversy again and Prince praises Maceo Parker in a speech to the crowd. This is a great moment, as Maceo lives up to all the hype and plays a scorching solo. The band is stomping and Maceo feeds off the energy and gets better and better as he goes. There is a good reason why Prince chooses to play with people like Maceo and Larry Graham. Not only does he learn from them, he also introduces them to a new audience. But not only that, there is a reason why Maceo is a legend, his playing is fierce and is a great addition to Princes band.

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Amazing how quickly my enthusiasm wanes, the next song is Pass The Peas with Maceo and this time I am less enamoured. Yes, I love Maceo and his playing, the problem for me here is that I have heard Prince and the band play Pass The Peas countless times, and I find very little in it that is new to my ears. Morris Hayes rescues the song somewhat, but not quite enough for me. However there is a drum break and some more organ that sounds pretty cool, before the main groove resumes.

The show loses it momentum next as Andy Allo sings Let’s Get It On. It’s nice enough, but nobody can touch the original. Her voice is beautiful and she is lovely to look at, it’s the choice of song I have trouble with. I can understand why Prince is giving her plenty of shine, and I wait patiently for the song to finish so we can get back to the Prince show proper. Prince does close out the song with some sweet sounding guitar playing, before the next song gets me up and out of my seat.

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I curse as D.M.S.R starts, the keyboards sound incredibly bold, and there is a great mix with plenty of bass and piano high in the mix. This is the Prince I signed up for back in the day, and I am overjoyed to hear D.M.S.R sound just as good as ever. Ida’s bass has a great fatness to it, and I turn the stereo up to ‘neighbour annoying’ levels. The breakdown is my favourite part of the song, normally I’m not a fan of this part of the song -this time Ida has me completely revising my opinions. There is a further sound to listen to as Prince adds some percussion as the guitar and bass squelch along. This one I can feel deep inside of me.  Maceo gives the song some funk credentials as he adds his sound to the mix, and by now I am pretty close to heaven. What I wouldn’t give to be there.

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We go from funk with a capital F to some pure pop with Pop Life. Of his pop songs, this would have to be my favourite.  This arrangement is as we have heard previously from this time period, after a poppy rendition of the first half of the song, the band then pull back and play a jazzy instrumental, with the piano featuring heavily. I love that Prince challenges the audience and widens their range. I know that he has introduced me to many new acts and genres that I would have never otherwise heard. The best thing is that as he changes he pulls us all along for the journey too. I have discovered so much music through him, and if I ever had a chance, this is what I would thank him for most.

Musicology goes down a treat at this show. It’s tighter sounding than the Musicology tour, it’s still a jam, except without some of the excesses of those shows. Maceo is the star of the show, his horn is nice and loud and he gets plenty of time to play. There is another fun moment for me as Prince raps through Prince And The Band. I am never quite sure if I should take he seriously of not, but I always like to hear it.

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My recording is missing a couple of songs at this point, although I do have the full concert on other configurations, but I am not too concerned as what comes next is fantastic.

I was going to write off Love Bizarre as Prince plays a long intro and asks Janelle Monae to join him. Boy, was I ever wrong, and this one is the highlight of the show for me. The sound is better than it has been at any other time in the show and after a lengthy guitar and drum intro the song explodes. Everything brightens and at this stage the show sounds like it has finally turned into a party. Janelle sounds great with Prince and having Maceo in the mix is a real bonus. As Prince calls him, he steps out and really shakes things up. This sounds great here at home, and the song becomes a loose jam. It rolls and rolls, and it holds my interest as it evolves. It does strip back to just guitar, drum and audience singing and this is the great rock n roll moment that I look for in every show. There is the usual Housequake lines thrown in, followed by “jump up and down” but I completely forgive this as Prince plays a few seconds of funky guitar that jumps right out at me.

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I come back to earth as Everyday People begins and Larry Graham joins Prince on stage. I love Larry Graham, I love Everyday People, it’s just that I have heard it played in this way so many times that I am done with it, and I don’t feel the need to ever hear it at a Prince show again. That said, the song here is inoffensive and does keep the energy levels up at the gig.

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I get excited as Prince takes Ida’s bass and prepares for the next song. Only Heaven Knows isn’t familiar to me, but I definitely hear a lot of the song Johnny in it. I am disappointed it’s not a bass heavy song and Prince doesn’t work the bass as much as I was hoping. I do like the line “analogue pimps and digital hoes”, asides from that it’s just a nice groove song. Some heavy keyboards keep me in the groove, and Morris and his organ is again well in the mix. Prince hits the effect pedal and plays a fuzzed up sounding America. Its short, and the moment of the song that captures my attention the most.

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Every week I wonder how I am going to find something new to write about Purple Rain, and I know Prince must have the same problem finding a new way to make it interesting for himself too. This time we have Maceo playing over the introduction. I have heard Eric Leeds play a sax intro for Purple Rain, and I have to say I prefer Eric’s efforts to what we hear from Maceo here. I do applaud Prince and Maceo for making the effort to give us something different, but I don’t think Maceo really adds anything interesting here. The verses are perfunctory, and I am waiting to see if Prince can find another level when he reaches the guitar break. The guitar break doesn’t reach the heights I’d hoped for and Prince compensates by his expressions as he plays. The sound is noticeable off through the song here, and it sums up how a lot of the evening has played out.

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If I Was Your Girlfriend, now this is more like it. Its sound is still off, but it does sound a lot bigger. Prince’s vocals do suffer, and I can understand why so many people complained about the sound through this gig. Ida’s bass should be the main component, and yet I can barely make it out, and that’s no fault of the recording, I’m sure.  Cassandra does sound nice on the piano, and this is one of the few positives I can find in what is normally my favourite song.

Tonight’s arrangement of Kiss is keyboard driven, one plays sharp while the other provides a cool squelch.  The song still has its basic sound, but there is a tiredness to the sound of it, and I wonder if this has been a tough show and the band just want to finish. The one part of the song that does seem to work is the coda, as Prince dances in the spotlight. The drum sound is good, and with the instruments stripped back the sound is softened. The show ends with Kiss, and there is no real big finale.

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This show was incredibly uneven. It’s obvious there were sound issues for Prince to contend with throughout, and although I ignored them early on, by the end they were too much for me to overlook. The high points of the show were D.M.S.R and Love Bizarre, and both of these songs benefited from being party jams, and as they both played it was easy to lose myself in the groove rather than pick out various parts of the songs.

Next week I will take a listen to the second show, which I believe is considerably better by all accounts. This one showed glimpses of brilliance, I am pinning my hopes on much more of those moments in the next two shows.

Thanks for reading, have a great week
-HamishNSJF1k

 

 

The Garden, February 7th 2011

All thanks this week to Ryan Mark, who asked when I was going to write about this show. At first I confessed that I didn’t recall it at all, but upon further prompting by Ryan I came around and decided to have a look. I am not one for the “Welcome 2” concerts, as much as I love the hits and enjoy Princes back catalogue, I enjoy something more fresh and exciting to my ears. Ryan did point out that Prince was in a great mood on this particular night, and the show was extremely enjoyable, so with that in mind I sat down and revisited it- and oh boy was Ryan right. It looks like a typical greatest hits show, with the additional pluses of a couple of guest appearances, some great performances, and as stated earlier Prince is in a great mood and very playful. It was well worth a second look.

7 February, 2011, Madison Square Garden

I had completely forgotten that this show opened with Laydown. After a brief spoken introduction Prince appears. It’s an unexpected surprise for me, and a very welcome one. The heavy bass opening is greeted with screams from the crowd, and Prince responds with a strong aggressive vocal. He does work the crowd while singing, punching the air and raising the roof. Things get more interesting from my perspective when he pulls out his guitar and begins to play. With plenty of concentration on his face he plays a gritty break that captures the whole essence of the song in half a minute. There is another verse before Prince starts showboating on the guitar and the song winds down to its conclusion. I like this show already.

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1999 is the more traditional opening I could have expected, and the crowd seem to rise as it’s played. I do like the fact that this is a nice clean version, that is the mix is closer to what we heard in the early 80’s without too many embellishments. Prince’s guitar is well in the mix, as is his vocals with the girls. I’m not surprised to hear that this is the abridged version, and the crowd is soon singing ‘party’ with relish. As always my favourite part is near the end as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” with the guitar accompanying him. It’s all fairly predictable, and yet perfectly enjoyable.
Prince Madison Sq2 A howl on the guitar as the band slow down and the lights turning red signals what’s coming next. After several moans on the guitar Prince sings the opening lines of Little Red Corvette. Another song aimed squarely at the nostalgic market, the crowd trades lines with Prince throughout. I do like the mournful sound of the guitar, I would like to see Prince push that sound much more. Most of the song is shallow in the emotional stakes, and it’s not until Prince goes into the guitar break does the feeling really come out in the song. He first delivers the guitar break as heard on album, before slowing down once again and begins to stretch his notes out. With only slight prompting the audience join in hand clapping, and it does give it a soft live sound. The best is yet to come as Prince gets on the microphone and recreates the moans of the guitar vocally. He moves to the slow down section with some dancing that is suitably gentle, and the crowd softly sings “Slow down”. I had tired of this arrangement, here it once again draws me back in.

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Over the sound of a piano Prince begins some pillow talk to the ladies before the lights come up and The Beautiful Ones commences. This performance here is a knock out. Not only is Prince on the piano and singing well, he is also joined on stage by Misty Copeland dancing. I don’t normally like dancers with Prince, I prefer to concentrate on the music, but Misty adds a lot to the show and I can’t take my eyes of her as she twirls around the stage. Any reservations I might have about the state of Princes voice at this stage of his career are dispelled as he builds to the end of the song, singing to Misty a top of the piano before they both finally disappear into the stage.

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The sound of the Controversy guitar next, and I know exactly what to expect. This performance is very typical of how the song has sounded over the last 5 years. The beat is loud and full, and Princes guitar adds the sharpness that the song needs. His vocals are a little lacklustre, yet the guitar sound is so good I forgive him for that. I lose interest as the crowd and Prince sing “New York” before we have the typical “clap your hands and stomp your feet” chant. He never quite loses me though, and I do enjoy the guitar solo that follows a minute later, for me that is what saves the song from being mundane. Prince cracks me up as he asks Shelby to find him someone to dance with “I want a big fine sexy Momma” One lucky woman is brought up on stage to dance the bump with him, and she looks like she enjoys every moment with him. There is further hilarity as Kim Kardashian comes on stage and stands still while Prince dances around her- before ordering her off the stage. Prince seems to be having a lot of fun with the crowd before eventually winding the song up.

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The set list seems to jump around a lot, there is fast song, slow song, fast song. He keeps to this as the gig again slows down as the opening music of Purple Rain begins. It’s a good one, with the crowd singing away for a bit, before Prince picks some gentle figures out on his guitar. He sings all the verses and he puts plenty into his vocals, there is never the feeling that he is just going through the motions. One thing I have noticed about his shows is that every night he plays Purple Rain, it’s always as you expect to hear, and yet in the last minutes on the guitar break he stretches out and finds new things to play. If not for that I would have probably given up listening to Purple Rain, as it is the one constant from all his shows and something I have heard hundreds of times. Here is no different and it’s the last minute of the guitar solo that I enjoy most.

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The concert takes an upbeat pop turn next as Raspberry Beret begins. Prince is absent at first, having disappeared into the stage at the conclusion of Purple Rain, but he does reappear a minute into the song to encourage the crowd to sing. It’s an interesting version, the first couple of minutes its instrumental, and even once Prince appears it’s sometime before he sings. He does seem to be having a great time, playing with the crowd and teasing them and encouraging them.

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The segue into Cream is smooth, and yet the energy levels seem to drop. The girls are very cool with their backing vocals, all fanning themselves as they sit on the piano. The song is neither here nor there for me, its smooth sounding yet there is nothing in it that I can really latch onto. A lot of people would enjoy it for its smoothness and I can’t really fault the performance.

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I love hearing Cool live, and the performance at this show is something I get a lot of enjoyment out of. Prince gets ?uestlove out of the crowd to play cowbell on the drums with John, and I feel a little sorry for him as he has to reach over John to play- it looks very uncomfortable to me. Prince calls for just the drums and gives ?uestlove a couple of shouts for the crowd to acknowledge. The crowd energy picks up a lot during this song, and I can feel their energy here at home. I do cringe a little at Prince and Shelby dancing, but their smiles and laughter are very infectious and there is no denying that they are having a great time onstage.

Prince runs the band well, as he calls the band to change and stops ?uestlove with a quick “Thanks ?uestlove”.  Ida starts Lets Work with some excellent bass work before the band fill out the sound. As with the last song there is plenty of Shelby and Prince dancing, and the vocals take the backseat a little as the dancing continues.

I was surprised to hear U Got The Look next, after all that dancing the guitar sound catches me off guard. Prince doesn’t bother too much with the song, with a yell of “turn me up” he plays a short yet rocking solo, before the song resumes with another chorus before Prince plays the riff out of the song. As he disappears into the stage again I realize that the song was only a couple of minutes.

There is a lovely long piano intro into Nothing Compares 2 U next. Prince is initially off stage as Renato plays, but he reappears and begins to address the crowd. There is a very touching moment as Prince dedicates the song to Bobby Z and wishes him a quick recovery. He tells that many people helped him along the way and Bobby was “a good fine soldier” He goes on to mention several other causes, before singing the opening lines of the song. It was worth the wait, as his vocals are just brilliant, and he is well accompanied by Shelby. The much maligned Shelby does a fine job, and her voice is strong and clear. The interplay between her and Prince is excellent, and there does seem to be genuine warmth between them. Mr Haynes plays a full organ solo, and with a call of “take us to church” he ups the ante. Not to be out done Prince gives his all for a final verse and chorus before the song ends.

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As the beat of Crazy begins I expect to hear Shelby take the lead vocals, instead is something unexpected, Ceelo Green appears to sing his own song. He gets quite a cheer, but not as loud as Prince gets when he appears and picks up his guitar. His playing is restrained, yet has a touch of fire to it. He doesn’t steal the song from Ceelo, but he certainly puts his stamp on it, there’s no mistaking whose show this is. As much as I prefer to hear Prince sing and play, I do enjoy hearing him just contribute his guitar sound to someone’s song. He adds a lot, without ever taking over the song completely, which I am sure must be a very tempting thing to do.

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Prince keeps his guitar on and calls a series of chords that eventually leads us to Lets Go Crazy. I do like his intro here, there is some extra guitar noodling which is fun and adds a sharpness to a sometimes tired song. I aren’t as enthused by the rest of the song, the keyboards are too bouncy for my tastes and the song doesn’t deviate from what I have heard plenty of times before. I am fortunate that it is kept short and half way Prince transitions into Delirious.

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I was wondering what he could do to freshen up Delirious, but Renato plays a quirky keyboard solo, the likes of which I hadn’t heard before and I am happy with that. As Prince gets the crowd clapping Renato plays another more rockabilly sounding solo on the piano before Mr Hayes takes a turn with the organ. It’s all very Vegas and fun and Prince leads the crowd back into chants of “oh no lets go” over Johns drum beat.

I get my wish for something newer next as Prince plays Dreamer. The opening of it sounds very good as it sounds out, and Prince is focused on his playing. It’s strong on the guitar sound, but this changes midsong as Frédéric Yonnet strolls up on stage and plays energetic harmonica (He does literally stroll up on stage). It gives the song another sound and dimension, that is until Prince reclaims it a moment later with a guitar solo. There is another treat as Prince plays the unreleased Welcome 2 America. Its little more than a few lines and a guitar solo, and a very good solo at that.

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Prince takes a break from the guitar as he sits at the piano. I was hoping for a piano set, but instead he opens with a sample of When Doves Cry. He calls to the crowd “we gonna be here all night, who going to pay the bill?” He doesn’t play much over the sample, after playing the intro and a couple of lines he begins Kiss.

He steps away from the piano to sing Kiss. It’s a very electric sounding arrangement, the keyboards have a very electric sound to them. I aren’t feeling the music, but I do enjoy the performance. Prince is all smiles as he plays with the audience. There is a lot of interaction as he sings and he works most of the stage. The song ends with a single drum beat and Prince dancing alone in the spotlight. He’s not as young as he used to be, yet he still moves smoothly even if his dance moves aren’t as extreme as they used to be. It’s enough to elicit plenty of screams from the ladies in the crowd, and a few men too.

I was half expecting the sampler set before, but it’s only now that he resorts to this box of tricks. He first teases the audience with Nasty Girl as the house lights come up, before another tease of Forever In My Life.

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He then settles on Sign O The Times, which is would be great if not interrupted by him looking at an imaginary watch and wondering aloud “how much time I got”. It does take me right out of the moment. Alphabet Street then gets a couple of lines before something better comes along.

That something better is Love Bizarre, and Prince gives it far more attention as he steps away from the keyboard. I can’t get enough of this song, and do generally enjoy it at every show I hear it. My only complaint here would be that the band sounds a little thin, but that may the recording rather than the performance. There is a fantastic keyboard solo that sticks in my head. That is the high point of the song for me, after this plenty of dancers come on stage as Prince begins to toy with Hot Thing on the sampler.

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I forgive this interlude as he plays a fuller version of Pop Life. It’s definitely full of pop, and there is plenty of smiling faces as he plays it. Prince does hover near the keyboard, choosing not to engage with the dancers on stage too much. It is frustratingly cut short as he lurches into another crowd pleasing I Would Die 4 U.

As good as I Would Die 4 U sounds I don’t get my hopes up too much as I know it will be cut short soon enough. Prince doesn’t disappoint as he quickly dispenses with it and the sampler moves to the next tease.

The next tease is All The Single Ladies, and although they don’t play the song it does provide a funny moment. One guy is enjoying it way too much, and Prince highlights him with the spotlight as he has its moment. It’s very light-hearted, and the guy makes the most of his moment.

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Prince calls for John to play something, and the band strikes up If I Was Your Girlfriend. Prince tells them “I can’t do that, someone might get pregnant” which, although corny, does bring a smile to my face. The band do however continue on and brings sings it from on top his piano. This is a good cleaning recording and the song shines. Prince’s vocals are clear and all the parts I want to hear in the song are there. I am pleased to report too that he does play the full song, now the sampler part of the show has been dispensed with. It’s rare that I have heard this song sound so good, and it’s a good reflection of the show. I must make mention too of Renato, his piano near the end is a nice little touch.

Prince calls the band to play Insatiable, and its sound is every bit as good as the previous song. It’s popular with the audience, I can hear them singing along clearly. The groove is nice and gentle and I love the sound of the organ quivering underneath. Prince does perform as he sings, but it’s mostly his vocals he is concentrating on, and the payoff is great. He does take time later in the song to acknowledge the band, and they do play very well.

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Prince continues in the same vein as next the opening notes of Scandalous sound. This is a great sounding trio of songs, and I think to hear them all together is a great way to near the end of the show. I can’t decide which of them sounds best, but rest assured this one is just as good as the previous two songs. I can’t speak highly enough of the last 10 minutes we have just heard.

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Prince caps all this off with Adore, which has me beside myself. The crowd is on its feet singing and I know just as many people feel about this song as I do. Prince lets them sing at first, but then picks up the microphone to deliver his lines. He sings in his falsetto, and yet still drops down to his natural voice in places. His vocals are passionate, playful, full of character and just downright great to listen to. I have been listening to this song for almost 20 years now and this show is just as fresh as the day I first heard it. I am surprised by the very simple ending as Prince and the girls sink into the stage, a fantastic ending to the show.

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The encore starts out with Prince and the band playing a smashing version of Mountains. Again it’s a nice surprise to hear an old favourite. The girls carry the vocal load well, and Prince isn’t heard until the chorus. The song is very much a band sound, and there is again a lovely moment as Prince calls Bobby Z right before the bridge. The song becomes a jam as they begin to play Shake Your Body. Prince roams the stage, apparently having a lot of fun, even playfully tossing a chair from stage and encouraging a fan to take it. The crowd seems amused and Prince waves at the crowd as they move onto Everyday People. The mood is very upbeat, and this comes across well on the recording, you can almost hear the smiles. I can’t say I’m too surprised as I Want To Take You Higher follows, its completely in character. The crowd is well and truly on their feet and dancing and Frédéric Yonnet returns for another shrill harmonica break. The band hit their groove for the last couple as minutes as Prince solos before dropping his guitar into the crowd. There is one final hurrah before he sinks into the stage for one last time.

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I could not have guessed how must I was going to enjoy this show. For a relatively recent hits show, I was caught off guard by the sheer fun of it. Although I couldn’t pinpoint one moment that made it great, there was enough very good moments to make the whole show one to enjoy. The last half hour of the show was the highlight for me, and a reminder of just how good Prince is every show.

Until next week
Hamish

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