21 Nights book launch – the aftershow

Several weeks ago I started writing about the 21 nights book launch and subsequent bootleg covering the event. It’s taken me longer than I though to return to this bootleg, but the second half of the recording covers the almost three hour aftershow and is well worth the wait. This is another Eye records release, it’s only by chance that they have had so much coverage on this blog recently, and although it is an audience recording it still holds my attention as Prince plays with a lighthearted touch across the sprawling set.

11th October 2008 (am) Hotel Gansevoort, New York

The pairing of “Crimson And Clover” and “Wild Thing” has grown on me over the last ten years. The fact that Prince dirties up the sound at this performance and gives the song some grit is all the more appealing, as is the hurdy gurdy guitar break that serves as an improvised opening. Prince leads us through delicate verses and well crafted choruses, but the real action occurs between these moments as he spits fire with several flights of fancy on the guitar that inflames the audience and the casual listener at home alike. The audience are loud in their appreciation, the only negative of this audience recording.

Prince’s cover of “Let’s Go” was in vogue at this stage of his career, and the performance of it here is true to form. It is punctuated by shouts and burst of guitar heroics, but for the most part it stays neatly boxed, and all Prince’s guitar work is nothing more than pretty packaging with no real gift to be revealed.

The a capella introduction of “7” suffers on this recording, the fully engaged crowd drowns out anything happening onstage with their singing. The song itself comes and goes quickly, there is no catch or hook to lure the listener in. Prince doesn’t give it time to work its magic, and it eventually decays into “Come Together”

The “7,” “Come Together” combination doesn’t initially excite me, although I must admit I do find myself singing the chorus with Shelby J before I know it. The recording perks up, and so do I, with Prince’s stabbing guitar solo, but interest wanes for the singalong. As always, great at the concert, not so great here at home.

The wheeze of keyboard heralds the arrival of “1999.” This band may not be The Revolution, but they do hold their own with a version that could have been lifted from anytime in the 1980s. The distinctive voice of Shelby keeps us in the present,even as the crowd indulge in the chant of “Party” over Prince’s scratch guitar. It is these final minutes that stand out for me, and with Princes high pitched singing and funk guitar 2008 disappears from view in a fog of electro funk.

Prince continues with his musical time machine, “Controversy” just as firmly rooted in the past as “1999.” I am surprised to hear Prince himself comment on this with his quote “they say where you from? I tell ’em the 80s” He lives up to this comment with a synth heavy, funk driven rendition of this classic slice of Prince 80s output. Shelby can be heard (imploring folks to clap their hands and stomp their feet), but the song firmly remains in Princes hands with his vocals and guitar the key sonic signature of the song. Even the bass break doesn’t derail this feeling, and it is almost with sadness that the song comes to an end after five minutes, bringing the curtain down on this diversion into nostalgia.

The comment “You ain’t ready for this” sums up my ambivalence towards “Sexy Dancer/Le Freak,” – I’m definitely not ready for it.  “Sexy Dancer” gets a thumbs up from me, “Le Freak,” however, leaves me less than cold. It lacks a distinctness, the music sounding watered down from the preceding songs.

It was P-funk who belittled The Doobie Brothers with their “It was cool, but can you imagine Doobie-in’ your funk?” line. As is his way, Prince goes against the grain, instead celebrating the Doobies with an infectious, and surprisingly likable, cover of “Long Train Runnin’.” There is an added energy to the performance, Frédéric Yonnet providing some harmonica that is a celebration it itself and lifts the song beyond the diesel locomotive sound of the original. Princes train isn’t as driven as the Doobies, but it does carry more sounds and textures lying deep in the grooves, making for a well rounded listen that delivers on several levels.

All these other songs are merely children in the presence of “Shhh,” a song that is steeped in maturity and strength. The lyrics are light and can’t compare to the power of the music that is the bedrock of this song. The guitar blows at storm force across the recording, while the drums crash like waves on a breakwater as the song reaches its hurricane peak. Even on this audience recording it has a radiating power that can’t be ignored, and it blows the doors off any doubts I might have about this bootleg.

There is audience noise marring the beginning of “Musicology,” as well a touch of feedback. It is airy against the concrete of “Shhh,” and this is further emphasized by the appearance of “Prince And The Band.” As much as I like “Prince And The Band,” it is a guilty pleasure and not comparable to “Shhh,” or even “1999” that came earlier. With such a spread of material, some of Prince’s later songs suffer in comparison, and “Prince And The Band” is certainly one of those.

Things become harder and heavier as “3121” marches into view. Like most of the other songs, the audience detract from the moment, but one can’t blame them for enjoying one of Prince’s strongest songs in the latter part of his career. The guitar break he laces it with adds just enough venom to make it a dangerous moment. I temporary forget the audience noise and focus on the dark clouds that swirl around Prince’s guitar solo.

There is a slightly deranged sound to “Girls And Boys.” To my ears it is unbalanced, and the fact that Prince lets the crowd do all the singing definitely counts against it. He does pick up the baton for the second verse, but the sound remains out of kilter, the song not quite meshing into the killer performance that Prince’s guitar break hints at.

“Honky Tonk Woman” comes in waves, the initial crunch of the guitar riff, Shelby’s soulful voice, and then the incisive guitar solo by Prince. As a Stones man I fully approve, even if this slice of retro rock doesn’t reach the heights of some of the other performances of the evening.

There is a lack of bite to “Stratus” and although I usually love the meandering way that Prince takes us down various rabbit holes, this time it just doesn’t spin my wheels. It continues to grow and evolve, but there is not enough change for my liking and for the most part I feel we are stuck in the same place. There is other bootlegs where this song is outstanding, unfortunately this concert doesn’t live up to those high standards.

The moment is saved as Prince rasps his way through a light-headed-sing-along-at-home rendition of The Rolling Stones “Miss You.” The recording isn’t quite good enough to catch the nuances as Prince invokes the spirit of Mick Jagger, but it does capture the busy harmonica work by Frédéric Yonnet. Prince shines a different light on the song with his guitar work, it is a delight on the ear, but hidden behind the not-so-soft veil of the audience recording.

Prince stays on this classic rock trip as he sashays into “Red House.” Without ever becoming challenging, it manages to tread the fine line between a smooth listen and something that slips into the background.It is one of the least demanding parts of the show, yet at the same time the one part that rewards a closer listen.

“Purple Rain” is a smoldering, slow burn that never ignites into life. The delicate introduction sets the standard for the song, and it stays with this low slung sound for the duration, even Prince’s final guitar break fails to fly as is it’s wont. Thin and sickly, this “Purple Rain” can’t match the performance captured on the first disc of the earlier concert.

The bootleg derails with a brief set by Dave Chapelle. Although it makes the show complete, it does break the flow of the music, and to be honest I would have been forgiving of Eye records if they had have left it off. Normally a completest, in this case it is unnecessary and adds nothing.

The music resumes with Shelby J and “Brown Skin.” It has a sense of purpose and brings a fullness back to the concert after the anorexic “Purple Rain.” Forceful and proud, Shelby gives the song the respect it deserves in one of the stronger songs in the set.

An audience members comment of “Do you think he’ll play Raspberry Beret?” suggests that this audience isn’t as cool as Prince and the band. No doubt this commentator was disappointed as the next twenty minutes Prince takes on a series of well-considered and mature cover versions. “Summer Madness,” “In The Morning,” “Can’t Hide Love,” and “Free” all have an easy way to them and a vibe that hints at Sunday mornings relaxing in the Sun. The music flows easily, transporting me far down stream from the Prince hits we heard earlier on. On a raft of gentle keyboards and soulful vocals, Prince drifts a long way from the “Raspberry Beret” wanted by the audience, and offers something far more refreshing and cool.

Equally relaxed is “Cream,” in this case the music is well behind Prince and his vocals. This isn’t served well by the recording, for the most part it sounds distant and is a lot harder to listen to than the previous few songs.

It is “U Got The Look” that gets the crowd screaming, again messing with the recording. Prince’s guitar is forceful, yet weakened by the quality of the recording. It is an enjoyable enough performance, but with the recording as it is, it is another moment that could have been more.

I am pleased when the funk arrives back in the form of “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” although I could do with a lot more bottom in the recording. The bass is hot, but it deserves a better recording, and one can only imagine how it would sound with a heavy sound. The segue into “Partyman” is unnecessary as far as I’m concerned, but I understand that this is the way Prince chooses to present it. As much as I love Prince’s original material, it was “What Have You Done For Me” that really caught my attention.

The show continues to accelerate in this way as the band quickly swarm over “It’s Alright” It is similar to the previous songs in both sound and intent, a seamless part of the setlist where all the jigsaw pieces come together. After a weak start to the concert, this half hour is where the treasures lie, and it is worth the wait.

An equally brisk “Alphabet St.” has the crowd on board with hand claps, to the detriment of the bootleg. Prince is crisp and sharp with his guitar, and it keeps the tempo of the show up as we approach the end of the concert.

Prince rounds out the show with a string of songs he gave away to others. “The Bird” opens this feeding frenzy, before giving way to “Jungle Love.” I prefer “Jungle Love” for its fierceness and the blowtorch guitar solo that Prince ends the song with. It is worthwhile for that moment alone, the guitar shining out in the audience noise.

There is a long introduction to “The Glamorous Life,” but the song is little more than this. The song vanishes soon after the introduction, it is fleetingly pleasurable but ultimately unsatisfying.

However, there is satisfaction to be found in the last song of the concert – “A Love Bizarre.” Prince loads it at the front end with a guitar line that has a fierceness and fire unheard elsewhere on the recording. For the first time the music rises above the quality of the recording, giving the show a punch and direction that is lacking elsewhere. It is a shame that the rest of the show doesn’t sound as purposeful, but I am more than happy to have this to cling onto. It is an ending that is unrepresentative of the concert, giving the show perhaps more gloss than it deserves.

After listening to the earlier show in this set I was looking forward to hear this later aftershow. It did not live up to expectations. The biggest problem was the quality of the recording. While nowhere near as bad as some I have heard, the audience was still far too prominent and detracted from several key moments throughout. As always I found some positives to enjoy, but the show did leave a bad aftertaste in my mouth. I would happily listen to the first concert in the set again; this one I’d take a pass on.

Thanks again
Hamish

NOTE: The Eye package has Prince’s guest appearance with Q-tip as an extra bonus track. It doesn’t sound like much on the CD and is a waste. But the guest appearance is one of my favorite videos. The reaction of the crowd when Prince appears on stage is priceless, and Prince himself has never looked so cool. You can check out the video below, it’s well worth a look.

 

Amy Winehouse appearance 2007

Last week I took in an aftershow that opened with the vocal talents of Bono singing The Cross as the opening song. That set me to thinking about similar shows where guest vocalists make an appearance. I have already covered the 1988 aftershow with Taylor Dayne, and this week I will take a listen to a 2007 aftershow that begins with Amy Winehouse. In the last few months I have caught the very highly recommended documentary of her life, and I can see what an outstanding talent she was. At the time I followed her through the tabloids, but there was much more to her, and she was purely about music, as well as a wonderful performer. With nothing but respect for her I can’t wait to relisten to this show and reflect on the talent that was Amy Winehouse.

22 September 2007 The Indigo O2, London

I was anticipating hearing Amy sing right from the start, instead the show opens with a lovely sounding instrumental, with a piano and keyboards to the fore. It’s a suitable opening as the band feel their way in and get the levels right. Near the end you can hear Prince testing the mics “one, two, one, two” – it is very much an instrumental sound check.

Love is a losing game

Some soft guitar near the finish leads us ever so gently into Love Is A Losing Game. The piano and guitar interplay is spellbinding and as Amy begins to sing she gets an appreciative cheer from the crowd. For all her troubled life, here she is an absolutely angelic, her voice is simply beautiful, and as Prince begins to play lead guitar it lifts it to another level. I have seen grainy youtube footage of this performance, just listening to it is even better, I can concentrate and wallow in Amy’s every word.  Prince does his best to match her feeling with his guitar playing, and as wonderful as it is I still can’t get past Amy’s voice, it’s unique and something wonderful. Normally I listen to whole shows rather than individual songs, in this case I would make an exception and would happily pluck this song for any playlist. As the song finishes Prince says “I got tears” and I know exactly what he means.

7 has a raw sound and the guitar is heavier which I really dig. Prince plays while the crowd sings for him, and it’s a sound I find most enjoyable. Prince does his vocal duties as the song goes on, and he too is in fine voice this evening, and he needs to be after Amy’s performance.  Already this is proving to be an excellent show, and I see there is plenty more good things to come.

That raw sound persists into the next song which is a pumped up version of Come Together. Come Together popped up on a regular basis over the 21 nights, this one is much better than any of the others I have heard from the main shows. Prince plays some fiery guitar mid-song which has me gasping for air, it’s head spinning stuff and we are only three songs into the show. The song is well and truly ‘Princeified’ as they stretch it out to nearly ten minutes with plenty of cool interplay between the instruments.

Prince 2007a

Next Prince gives us a much loved cover of Honky Tonk Woman. The guitar riff sounds full in the venue, and the band sound great on the groove. Shelby takes lead vocals, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but truth be told she sounds great. She belts it out with great gusto, while Prince and the band rock on behind her, and they sound well in the groove, the highlight for me being when Morris Hayes bangs out a solo on the keys. I am sure by now you are well aware how much I love the sound of him on the keys, he always delivers.

I am not sure about Rock Steady. It seems to have the Whole Lotta Love bassline, and although it gives it an ominous sound, I don’t think the bassline works very well when the singing starts. The rest of the band though sound hot, and all of them a right on the money. The keyboard swells, the guitar chimes and there are just enough horns to liven it. Beverly Knight is on vocal duties and as good as she sounds, for me it’s the horns that steal the show.

Prince guitar riff opens Whole Lotta Love next, and there is an initial rush of excitement in me although I have heard it many times before. I do quite like this rendition, it’s an instrumental and as you might expect there is plenty of Prince howling away on the guitar. I like my funk just as much as anyone, but I am in awe as Prince rocks out on the guitar, it’s a face melting solo that has me flying.

Shhh gets off to a heavy start, there is still guitar pyrotechnics from Prince as it begins. It drops back as Prince sings, and I find I am lost in the music. Although I have heard this countless times, it’s still one of those songs that hits me every single time. Prince is quiet/loud, rough/smooth, emotional and passionate, all those things which I love about his live performances the most. The vocals are oh so good, but then that guitar playing comes in and I wonder how it can possibly ever get any better.

Prince 2007

All this guitar and rock malarkey is put to one side as we hit a strong groove in All The Critics Love U In London. The band go to town on this one, and there is plenty to dance to before any sort of vocals begins. Keyboards, horns, guitar, all of them lock in and play on the groove for what seems the longest time. And even then it’s not long enough for me, I could nod along to this all night long. Once again I find the horns practically alluring, they do add so much to his sound when they have to. The horns maintain their dominance right through the song, the whole 17 minutes, and never once to I tire of them.

We get more funk next as the pounding of the bass drum leads us into Sexy Dancer – Le Freak. I am a fan of both songs, so this plays to my tastes. Shelby is back out front, she does a well enough job but in this case I would have preferred to hear Prince. It’s a party song, so there is some element of Shelby extolling the crowd to get up and party.  I get a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction as she steps back and we once again get a funky trombone solo.  It’s this solo that carries us through to the end before the bass of Chelsea Rogers starts.

I am fan of Chelsea Rogers, it’s an easy listen, the bass has a good pop to it. Shelby sings it, and injects plenty of energy. The trombone can be heard in the background, adding a nice fat sound to it. Prince accompanies Shelby later, and this sounds very cool to my ears, my only wish is that I could hear him better. This song sounds like it was it would have been a lot of fun to be there, you can hear the crowd dancing and moving along to the song. It’s not quite so much fun here at home, but it is a good listen.

Misty Blue has a great horn intro that sounds very inviting. Shelby is singing again, and this is the Shelby I like, laid back and singing rather than hyping the crowd. She does a good job on the song, but for me it’s not Prince, and I find I am waiting patiently for it to end so we can get to the main attraction. On another show, or another recording I would find this to be great, but right now this isn’t what I want to hear.

It was Mr. Chris of The Soul Brother Show that introduced me to Mother’s Finest and it’s only recently that I realized that is where this next song comes from. Baby Love has its moments here, although it’s not a patch on the original. The band sound great when the rock on, and Shelby sings loud and passionately, so I can’t quite figure why it’s not as good as it appears on paper. For all that though it is very good, and does raise the level up again after the previous couple of songs. I think having Prince soloing on the guitar certainly helps in this respect.

2007 tpur book

A couple of excerpts follow, firstly a few seconds of Love Changes, then some funky guitar riffing on Kiss. Then we are back in business proper as Prince tears into Alphabet St. It’s one of those times where I can’t help but love it. Firstly, Prince stops and lets Josh play that bassline, and it sounds fantastic. Then the band rejoin and things begin to pop and swing. Maceo joins the fray and puts his trademark sound all over it, upping the funk levels considerably. In fact to my ears Maceo pretty much owns the song, even when Prince is grooving on the guitar it’s still Maceos sound that I am listening to in the background.

The horns remain the centre of attention well into the next song which is Get On The Boat. It becomes a party jam with the horns providing the lead riff that everyone else plays off. Prince does break it down for chanting and singing and it’s obvious that he is getting into party mode at this stage. Renato adds some delicate funky notes while Prince sings with the crowd. The chanting does wear out after a minute, and the band return with a sound that takes a different twist, it seems to have more of a flourish to it.

I am less than impressed as I hear them begin to play Love Rollercoaster next, however it is kept mercifully short and they quickly segue into another song I dislike, Play That Funky Music. I am pleasantly surprised though, there is very little singing and it quickly becomes an exercise in Prince’s guitar playing. He plays lead and without ever getting overly heavy he plays some very fast and sharp runs. If it was always like this, I would much prefer it.

Prince next takes his time to address the audience, telling them to look after Amy Winehouse, before telling them it was time to mellow out before taking public transport home. He then proceeds to hit us with a rocking version of Anotherloverholenyohead. The singing is great, as is the band, but once again it’s the guitar break that seals the deal for me. Prince was very fond of playing this rocked out version at the time, and I must say it is something I take a great deal of joy from. I also like the Rock Lobster coda he throws in, something I grew up listening to a lot.

We stay with this rock sound, although Prince slows it down for a smoking rendition of Villanova Junction. As the sounds of Morris Hayes simmers underneath, Prince lays on the guitar sound. Like so many other songs, I could listen to this one all night long and I would never tire of it, so I somewhat disappointed as it draws to a close after a few minutes, if it had have been twice as long I would be a very happy man.

Guitar strapped on, we steam into Peach next. It offers nothing new at all, but is infused with an infectious energy. I should be sick of it by now, yet tonight I find I enjoy it just as much as anything else, and it’s easy to imagine Prince playing this with a big sloppy grin on his face.

2007 Prince

Stratus seems to usually arrive earlier in these shows, tonight we get it towards the end. Tonight it’s Renato’s playing that I enjoy the most, he solos for the first half of the song, and he seems to capture the mood of the piece just right. The second half is a contrast with Princes guitar doing all the talking. He has the same spirit as Renato, but injects it with a lot more passion and fire. The two complement each other very well, and for me it shows the strength of the band.

The steady sound of The Question Of U sounds, and after the somber guitar opening Mike Phillips plays some soulful saxophone that sets the tone for what comes next. Prince quitens the crowd, having them snap their fingers, and I can hear the emotion fill the gaps. The One follows, and as always I sit open mouthed and listen to it. It’s a fantastic song, and it deserves much more attention than it gets. Prince singing is the only thing that matters through the song, and he does some great screams that convey the emotion of the song. Maceo plays after Prince has sung, he is good, but for me the best part of the song has already been. Likewise, Renato’s playing is fine, without ever coming near what the earlier part of the song was like. Things get back on track as Princes guitar plays the The Question Of U refrain to bring the song to a close.

It’s a very funky bass run that signals the beginning of What Have You Done For Me Lately. It’s shaping up to be particularly funky as Prince talks to the crowd and stretches the intro out with some more guitar. It’s got a lively sound as the girls begin to sing, and it gets better as the horns join the fray. Its easily grooves into Partyman, and it’s at this stage I feel we are into the medley that will carry us to the finish.

The crowd mostly sing Partyman while the horns provide the main riff. It’s up beat and fun, although it doesn’t have any shape to it, and for me it swirls around a lot without ever going anywhere. Maceo is the best part of the whole thing, his playing is exciting and energetic, and listening to this makes me want to dig more into his catalogue.

It’s Alright is the final song of the evening, although to be honest by this point I am tired of this party medley to finish, I much preferred the heavier emotional songs earlier in the night. It is an upbeat way to finish the show though, and I can hear plenty of whops and cheers as the song and the show come to a finish.

This show has proved to be a mixed bag. The first few songs were top notch, I can’t fault them in anyway and if the whole show had been at this standard we would have something special on our hands. The show is overly long, and there is a little too much Shelby J and filler.  However, the highs were superb, and I would happily listen to them any day. Definitely a show where I will cherry pick the best songs for playlists.  The highlight for me was the appearance of Amy Winehouse, and listening to her sing with Prince only served to remind me of what a huge loss she was. When I remember her I shall remember her like this, in her element singing her wonderful songs.

Thanks for reading

Hamish

Amy. Winehouse

 

London 21 nights – September 12th

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

12 September 2007, O2 Arena, London

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

Prince 2007

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

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

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

Prince 2007a

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince 2007b

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care
Hamish

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first night of 21 nights

Today’s entry is gong to be a little different from anything else I have written. I have written about some great recordings previously, and some significant gigs in the world of Prince, but this one is special to me for another reason. Today I will be writing about the first night of the 21 nights at the O2 London. Not only is it the first night of that series of concerts, it is also the first time that I ever saw Prince playing live. For me it is impossible to detach the recording from being at the event itself. I normally try to be fairly objective in my writing, but today any semblance of objectivity will go out the window. A lot of my memories and feelings are tied into this recording, I can’t listen to it without all these coming to the surface. So with that in mind, let’s take a listen- the CD is in the player, my cup of tea beside me, but in my mind I am coming up the escalator at North Greenwich station, and the excitement in the air is electric.

8 August 2007 O2 London

Opening the show is a video of the UK Hall of fame introduction. Prince is definitely marketing himself as an Icon/legacy act at this stage, and the video serves as a useful reminder to the fans there that he has had an outstanding career. I find it a little ho-hum, but it very much sets the scene for what comes next, and definitely gets the excitement levels rising in the crowd.

Prince 21 nights 2007

I am not convinced that Purple Rain is a great song to open a show with. Although, once again, I have to concede I do understand exactly why it is here at the beginning of the show. Prince is making a statement, opening his 21 night stand with the song that is most closely associated with him, and from the most stellar part of his career. On a personal note- this is not one of my favorite Prince songs, it has been played at 100’s of concerts over the years, and has long since lost its sparkle for me. But, this was my first time to see Prince after being a fan for 25 years, and as he rose out of the dry ice, singing his signature song, I have to say it was pretty emotional. There may well have been a tear in my eye (I am sure it was just from the dry ice). On listening to the recording now I find that away from the hype and excitement, it is actually a good rendition of the song. Instead of the hanging guitar chords at the beginning, we get a nice little piano intro. It’s not drawn out at all, and Prince starts singing without too much intro. The drum beat isn’t as strong as it used to be, and the music sounds very much in the back ground, this is all about Princes vocal delivery, and its nice and strong right from the start. To his credit, he does play a full version, every verse is there as it should be. I am always pleased when it gets the full treatment, and the crowd is in fine voice for every chorus. The guitar solo has a fine sound to it, it’s not muscular as it sometimes sounds on the symbol guitar. There is nothing extra or unheard in the guitar break, but it is very decent sounding. It is a little strange to hear the crowd singing “oww, owww, owww” and knowing that this is still the first song, and we have a long way to go yet. I found it enjoyable, but perhaps a much better measure would be what a more casual fan thought of it- immediately after the song finished my friend, who had rather reluctantly come along to the gig, turned to me with a massive grin on his face and said “That was brilliant- I got my moneys worth right there with that song”.

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Girls and Boys ups the tempo, and for me the gig begins now. Although the recording isn’t soundboard, it still is good, and Girls and Boys sounds great. Prince has a great funky sounding vocal delivery and the keyboards and horns propels it along in a non-stop fashion. This is the funky Prince I enjoy most, and it is an early highlight. The best part of it is when Maceo takes over and delivers a killer solo. It just takes off, and has a life of its own. There is also a trombone solo, which although not as good as Maceos solo is still a different addition that I really enjoy. Prince does break down the song at one stage for some audience singing of Dance, Music, Sex, Romance- it does break the momentum, but things ramp again with some more great horns and singing straight after. This song has lost nothing of its funk after all these years. It finishes with Prince yelling “Somebody scream!” It’s an excellent start to show after the slow start.

Third song in and things really pull back with a smoky version of Satisfied. It’s quite a change after the stomping Girl and Boys, but as Prince says- he’s got two sides and they’re both friends. There are plenty of roars from the crowd as Prince performs this one in typical seduction mode. It sounds like the ladies in the crowd are hanging on every word as there is screams and yells after almost every suggestive line. Maceo gets a nice lead break, and he shows of another side of his playing- completely different from the previous song. He is definitely a master, and I love listening to this one too. Maceo finishes up and we return to the seductive sounds of Prince. It sounds like he could deliver this easily all night, but he winds it up after just another minute.

Normally I would readily dismiss Cream, but this one is a more up-tempo, and the drums and horns are more to the fore. It strengthens the song a lot, and I find I enjoy it much more than I have in years. Prince reminds the audience midsong that he wrote this one looking in the mirror, and the crowd gives an approving cheer. The guitar break is worth mentioning, the sound is not as weak and thin as the album version, and although it’s very short, it is an improvement in my opinion. I also find the horns add a lot to it, they aren’t playing anything extra, but they do fatten out the sound.

We segue easily into a rock number next as U Got The Look gets an outing. With only Prince playing guitar it’s a less rocky than usual, but he makes it for it with some extra oomph in his vocals and the drummer does give it plenty too. His lead break is good, but does sit low in the mix. We can perhaps blame limitations in the recording for this, but his guitar sound does sound a little lost amongst the other instruments. It’s a shame, as it I have often felt that this song hinges on the sound of his guitar breaks in it, and here it comes across as much lighter.

I don’t think I have ever heard a version of Shhh that I didn’t like. This one is no exception. Again I am somewhat limited by the quality of the recording, but Prince sounds just as good as ever. This song dates from my favorite era of Prince, and I only wish that more songs from this period were played live now. Of course he delivers the verses with plenty of passion, but its the guitar playing where the emotion really comes through on this song. His guitar says what his voice can’t, and sitting here today listening to it I find it brings all sort of emotions out of me. A fine performance of one of his greatest songs, this one is only let down by it being an audience recording. The song ends with a half a minute of furious guitar work, and I am already reaching for the repeat button.

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Musicology sounds like a song that was purpose written for shows like this. A throw back nostalgic song in both sound and lyrical content, it’s very much tailored for audiences like this, as well as serving as an introduction to the band. It’s a party song, and you can hear the audience responding to it, it very much lightens the mood. Again, Maceo is very much a highlight in this for me, his playing is exceptional. The other band members all play well too, no slight against any of them, but Maceo is the one I enjoy most. There is some chanting of ‘Funky London’ and the audience does seem to get behind this a lot. It does perhaps go on a little long for my liking, but I always prefer that rather than having songs cut short.

Prince takes the time to talk to the crowd between songs at this point. It’s a nice couple of minutes, he asks about his stage, how’s the band, and then mentions his excitement of playing in London again.

The up-tempo beat of I Feel For You has me back on board. Prince doesn’t have to try too hard with this one, it has a nice inner energy to it, and pushes all the nostalgia buttons to me. This isn’t the greatest version I have heard, Shelby (love her) is just a little too strong on it, and although she doesn’t drown out Prince I definitely hear her voice more than his. If anything, it feels there is a little too much on this one. It doesn’t have the cleanness that I like about it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not as great as it could have been.

Staying in the era, Prince calls for Controversy next. It’s got that great pounding beat, and what I like most about it, is the beat doesn’t overwhelm everything, as per other recent versions I have heard. The bass is nice and prominent, and it’s a great throw back to his early years. The horns are another nice touch and give it some color. The only problem I have with it is when Prince calls for people to jump up before the main groove. It seems to derail the song somewhat. But more than making up for that is another appearance of Maceo. His sax is sharp sounding against the neat, and it works very well. Later in the song the rest of the horn section join for a horn break, but it doesn’t seem to work quite as well. But I do like that they played around with it. And there is a nice break when just the trombone plays that I enjoy.

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Things slow down as Prince leaves the stage and Renato Neto and Mike Phillips play an instrumental What A Wonderful World. I have been effusive in my praise of the horns so far on this recording, but here is a bridge too far for me. With Prince not on the song at all I find my attention quickly waning. Although it all sounds pretty, I find this one bland and am bored with it before we even get half way.

Somewhere Here On Earth, although sounding good, barely gets my pulse going again. I am not going to dismiss it though, Princes vocal deliver on it is excellent. I would like to hear more ballads in this vein as he ages. It’s got an easy listening sound to it, with a nice gentle horn playing in background. Prince has a nice croon in his delivery and I could well imagine him singing like this in a piano bar well into old age. And that is the reason I don’t like it. The quality is excellent, there is no denying that, but it’s too safe, too middle of the road for my tastes. It’s a nice deviation in the gig, but in the end I find it to be a side dish, rather than the main course.

Lolita has questionable lyrics, but an upbeat pop sound. I have seen a variety of opinions on this song, it’s very much a song you either love or hate. I enjoyed it on record, but here it doesn’t match that. Prince’s vocals are easily heard, but not easily understood. I can’t make out the words, and this time I’m not sure I can blame the recording. The O2 does have some sound issues, and I am putting it down to this. The song is OK, but it does finish before I can form a strong opinion one way or another.

Prince then engages the audience with “I got more hits than Madonna got kids” I have heard it plenty since then, but at the time it was still quaint and funny. I am expecting him to then play one of these hits he is alluding to, but instead we get a reprise of the last chorus of Lolita.

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We are back on track when steamy groove of Black Sweat begins. It doesn’t have the dark sound of the album, but it still sounds good to my ears. It could have been much funkier and heavier, but the crowd seems pretty happy with this arrangement, and so am I. The only things that count against it is Prince shouting “I got too many hits” midsong, and the fact that it barely reaches the three minute mark before it ends. After the last few songs dragging us down, it would have been good hear this one worked up more and injecting a bit more funk into the evening.

There is another interlude as Prince name checks possible songs he play next. This elicits a predictable response from the audience before the strum of Kiss brings us to the next song. Prince gives the audience a few chances to sing along with this one, and they respond with a loud call. The best part of the song is very much the guitar solo, his guitar has a nice tone to it, and as I say so many times, it sounds great. Prince does have another couple of crowd pleasing moments- the lyric change “You don’t have to watch desperate housewives, or big brother” and then lets the audience finish out the song singing themselves. It’s very very short, but it is crowd pleasing.

There is some more of Prince name checking possible songs he could do next, before he decides to go old school with If I Was Your Girlfriend. Again, to leave the recording for a moment, this was the point at the gig where ‘I lost my stuff’ so to speak. This song is a top 5 favorite for me, and to hear it live was sensational. And today as I listen back to it, I realize it’s not a great version, but every gig will be someone’s once in a life time chance to see Prince, and sometimes the quality of the song doesn’t matter, the fact it’s played is enough. Back to the recording itself, it’s a light version of the song that is played. It’s very much played as an upbeat party type song. There calls from Prince for the crowd to wave their arms side to side, and Prince addresses the audience informally several times, which takes me out of the song. There is a very nice deep organ groove under it, and that is what makes the song for me on this one. Princes asks the crowd if they are having a good time, and he gets a rousing cheer in response.

The song segues easily into Pink Cashmere. I often overlook Pink Cashmere, but it is actually a very good song. It got a little lost in everything else that was happening in Prince world at the time it came out, which is a shame, as it has the sound of a hit to my ears. The rendition here is smooth enough, and Mike Phillips plays an upbeat Sax solo on it, which does lift it up a lot. As he finishes Prince says “Careful Mike, you might get someone pregnant” His easy humor always makes me smile, and it’s a fitting comment for a nice solo. There is some nice Prince talk near the end of the song, and surprisingly it’s not corny at all. I would have enjoyed it much more, if he hadn’t of then started singing “Oh funky London” again. Mercifully it’s only for a couple of bars before the band jump back in and bring the song to a close.

I hadn’t expected to hear 7 next. It’s played very straight and doesn’t seem to deviate at all from the original recording. At this point I am reminded of why I dislike audience recording, there is a loud hand clap on the recording, and for the duration of the song I find it hard to listen beyond this. The song is played well, but like I said before there’s not too much about it that stands out.

The band then moves directly onto the next song, Come Together. There was a time when I would have loved to hear a cover such as this, but in this case it mostly disappointing. It’s obviously played with the UK audience in mind, but it’s mostly Shelby that I can hear. The first half the song I mostly concentrate on her voice, and the annoying audience hand clap. The second part of the song through picks up immensely and Prince plays the best guitar solo of the night. It’s a shame the whole song wasn’t as good as that solo, but at least the solo does redeem the rest of the song. The song finishes, predictably enough with the audience clapping and singing “Come together”

Every week I write that I don’t like Take Me with U, but that whatever particular version I am listening to at the time is great. Maybe I should just face facts, and admit that I probably do love this song. The drums aren’t the strongest on this, but the keyboards are sounding very bold. They have a nice full sound to them, especially during the chorus. Prince’s voice has a slight echo to it, and that is not due to any of his doing, it’s the sound in the venue that is at fault. The song gets the energy levels back up and this continues as the next song starts quickly after.

Guitar is one of those songs that always sounds ‘up’. It’s hard to imagine Prince playing this without a big smile on his face. The sound isn’t great during the song, his first break does sound a bit muddy and lost, but the second break is much more clear and crisp. I always think of this as being a very short and sweet song, but it does seem to go on for a while here, there is more verses than I remember! But the playing on it is good, and I always enjoy anything that showcases Prince guitar playing. The end of the song is when he goes deep into it, and there are some nice moments during his playing.

Another 360 next as Prince puts down his guitar to sing a beautiful rendition of Planet Earth. Yes it’s beautiful, but it fails to engage me emotionally. I think this song could sound better and he could do more with it. This sounds good to me, but I just can’t connect to it. There is almost too much band in it, and I do wonder if it would be better served with a stripped back arrangement. I should point at that the song does also suffer from being a less than ideal recording. Listening to this I am reminded of my teachers comments at school “Shows potential, could do better”

A longer break ensues, before we get an encore. Shelby J leads the band through a fairly robust version of Gnarls Barkly’s ‘Crazy’. It’s redundant and doesn’t add anything to show, asides from giving Prince a break and showing off Shelby’s vocals. There is no denying she’s got talent, but like many people I do tire of her extolling the crowd to ‘Put your hands up’. I do like the funky break when they start to sing ‘One Nation Under a Groove’ and I would have preferred to hear a full blown cover of that rather than Crazy. It is however of its time and place, and in 2007 that was THE song, so there is no doubt that the audience at time enjoyed it.

Prince is back in form with a fantastic Nothing Compares 2 U. Asides from letting the audience sing a line here and there, it is great to hear him perform on this. Like a lot of songs on this recording, it does have its positives and negatives. He does only sing the first verse, but then he hands it over to Mike Phillips who plays a very decent sax break. Prince returns after the sax break, and sounds much more impassioned. If anything he sounds too passionate, and the song loses some of its emotional clout. The audience is left to sing the last few lines before it fades out.

“Dearly beloved” followed by a long pause and organ into leaves me hanging for what seems an age. After a long tease Prince eventually follows up with “we are gathered here today, to get through this thing called life” and Lets Go crazy follows proper. There isn’t much left of the song, Prince skips all the verses and plays the first guitar break straight off, before encouraging the crowd with “lets go crazy, go go go”. There is another brief guitar break and some more singing along with audience. As I said before there is no verses and no choruses sung, it’s all guitar and sing along. It ends, predictable enough, after a couple of minutes with Princes guitar howling ending. “Thank you and good night” ends the main part of the show.

Pausing for a minute, I would like to explain what happened next at the show. All the house lights came up, there was a minute or two of cheering, a few technicians appeared on stage and the crowd began streaming out of the exits. Not being in any hurry to leave, me and my friend stood for a few minutes discussing what a great time we had, and comparing highlights. After a couple more minutes there was a shout and Prince came running across the floor of the arena and hauled himself back on stage, sending the technicians diving to get out of the way. Immediately there was a rush as people clambered to get as close to the stage as possible, and people came running back into the arena. Prince picked up his guitar and began to play solo (it should be noted, this was the best moment of my life).The lights dim and the show resumes. And on that note, we return back to the recording.

With just his Horner guitar for accompaniment Prince now plays a solo version of Little Red Corvette. In a mark of just how great this song is, it more than stands up in just this simple arrangement. The lyrics and basic melody is all that is required for this one. It seems to gain something more from the simplicity of it. Although he doesn’t play the whole song, these couple of minutes are more than enough, and this song stands out as a highlight of the recording.

Prince then calls for all the lights to be turned up and again with just him and his guitar plays a very simple, yet beautiful version of Raspberry Beret. Having been there, I would have to say it was amazing how he made a 17000 seat arena feel incredibly intimate. It was more like a camp fire sing along than a rock concert. Prince only sings the first verse and a chorus before letting the crowd sing “I think I love her” and replying with “and I love you too.

Keeping in character he then plays Sometimes It Snows In April. This is one of the better versions I have heard, the audience don’t drown it out, and with only Prince it shows off his playing and vocal skills much better. He isn’t totally unaccompanied, there is a keyboard playing softly along with him, but it still does have a lovely solo sound to it. I thought it may have had that over played sound about it as many of his songs from the 1980s do, but it still sounds like its fresh and has legs. It’s a great way to finish this mini solo set.

Next the band rejoins the stage and after a couple of “Oh funky London” from Prince (enough already) we get a nice brassy rendition of Get on the Boat. With all the horns onboard, this one really jumps. This works much better live than it does on record and it’s a shame that its cut short in its prime. It sounds great here, and it really needed to be played in full.

Thankfully another one of my favorite songs follow, with A Love Bizarre. This recording is really finishing on a high, the last few songs are all top notch. Love Bizarre sounds good, with the girl’s vocals fitting in very well behind Prince, it harks back to the Shelia E days (although I don’t want to be accused of wallowing in nostalgia). The horns again shine out, they go all sorts of places I didn’t expect during their break. Unfortunately, and it is hard to be critical about something so small, Prince does begin to chant “oh funky London” again, and it’s at this point I inwardly groan. But it’s only briefly and does lead us into the next song.

I didn’t expect to hear the music of Sexy Dancer again, but here it is in all its glory. On the downside, the lyrics are dispensed with, and instead Shelby sings Le Freak over the top of it. It’s not such a big deal, they are a good fit and the song is enjoyable enough. There is not enough Prince there for my liking, I can only hear Shelby, and then a brief but enthusiastic sax solo. The song has the vibe of a party or disco, and when Prince is heard again it is to get the crowd chanting “oh funky London”. Insert sad face here. And its on this note the show ends proper.

There is plenty of interesting moments in this show. Opening with Purple rain, the mini solo encore, and of course it is the first of his 21 nights and Prince is obviously trying to make a splash in London. Asides from being there, this show was enjoyable for me to go back and listen to. I was amazed how many of the moments and songs I had forgotten already (I had no idea he played Black Sweat, I don’t remember it at all). A pleasant recording, it was a good listen asides from nostalgia value.

Thanks for reading
Hamish