Baltimore

Prince followed up his Dance Rally 4 Peace concert at Paisley Park with a much larger concert at Baltimore a week later. The first hour of this concert was live streamed, making for a nice bootleg, and the Confusion/Akashic release rounds out the concert with an audience recording. The concert is much longer than the Paisley park show and features Prince’s new song at the time, “Baltimore”, which was recorded only 10 days previously. This concert is a great example of Princes altruism and the concert itself looks like a great bootleg. Anyone familiar with the design work of The Rev would recognize the cover as his style, and that is usually a good indication of the quality of the show within.

10th may 2015, Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore

It is not Prince that is first heard, rather Hannah introduces the concert with a brief speech welcoming the crowd. As someone who only listens exclusively to bootlegs, I had to smile as she asked the audience to not use recording devices and to turn their phones off. The band don’t start immediately, there is first the small matter of the DAT intro. The intro of “1999” in there is no surprise, but what captures my attention, and I hope others that listen, is the “Million Dollar Show” chorus. It is far from classic Prince but it does provide a hyped up intro to the concert and the lyrics do lay out what Prince is trying to achieve.

“Lets Go Crazy” comes with a crushing weight that almost sinks it. It’s true that you can have too much of a good thing and in this case the ponderous guitar lines fail to elevate the song to anything. The band shadowbox with it, and while it looks threatening enough the truth is it is just a pale imitation of it’s former self. Maybe it would help if the band turned it up to eleven.

Sonically “Take Me With U” is miles above “Let’s Go Crazy” and some levity is added to the gig after the sober opening. There is some backbone added to the song as Prince’s guitar snorts and snarls underneath the lighter keyboard riff. “Raspberry Beret” offers no surprises as it comes hard on its heels, it has the same pop tone and now I have heard this pairing enough that I have overcome my snobbishness with this predictable pair. Crowd pleasing and fun, it is what it is, there will be other occasions later in this show for bootleg purists to celebrate.

The first of those moments come with Prince’s song of the moment “Baltimore”. It presents and interesting dichotomy, Prince presenting a protest song in the Trojan horse of a pop song. It creates a tension within me that I never resolve, I love the pop song and I equally love the lyrics. But when I put the two together it leaves me uneasy, both are diluted by being paired with the other and the song loses its power. It this performance Prince leans on the message, taking time to address the crowd with his plea for peace. It swings back to the message of the lyrics and this marks it out from the album version. A rarely played song, this is the main attraction of the bootleg for collectors.

There is whoops of delight from the crowd for “U Got The Look”, but that energy and excitement doesn’t carry across the recording. Prince and the band tick all the boxes, the song is tight but lacks the element of danger that makes live performances so electrifying. I hate to say it, but I am almost glad as it quickly passes for I know whats coming next.

What comes next is a suite of songs that harks back to Prince’s setlists of the early 2000’s. The plaintive guitar cries out the introduction of “The Question Of U” before Prince settles on “The One”. It is a masterful performance that could have been lifted straight from the ONA tour, Prince’s vocals and guitar painting a mournful wash of sound to carry the heart-rending lyrics. Prince builds the intensity with his guitar, drawing more and more emotion from his instrument in an titanic solo that screams and weeps in equal measure. Muddy Water’s “Electric Man” lyrics make an appearance, drawing calls from the crowd of “plug me in!” that bring the recording alive. Princes guitar meanders at this point, before Prince points it in a new direction and plays out the song with waves of heartbreak coming from his axe. Along with “Baltimore”, this stands as the best moment on the bootleg.

Prince has the audacity to follow this with a sprightly “Controversy” that replaces emotion with fun. The horns add plenty of sass, and the song skips easily along until it becomes bogged down in Prince’s chants. I forgive this though as Marcus amply compensates with a horn solo that flies far above all else that is heard in the song.

Equally horny is “1999”. It is almost Vegas like, the original synth stabs buried under the incessant horns. It’s too polished for my tastes, the charm of the album version lost with the larger band and added pieces.

“Little Red Corvette” is from the same era and also gets a modern update. In this case it works much better as Prince takes it from its mournful opening to a breezy chorus before again lowering the tone with his guitar cry. It’s not as thrilling as the first time I heard this arrangement, but it still stands up to repeated listens.

Prince heads for the heart again with “Nothing Compares 2 U”. It gets a thumbs up from me, the keyboards sounding “Strawberry Fields” like as they sway in the wind behind Prince’s vocals. The song stands on firmer ground as the full band joins, yet is still Prince’s vocals that stand out front. The music is delicate, until Donna unleashes a forceful solo that emphasizes the lyrics. It’s an interesting development and keeps me interested in a song that I have become overly familiar with over the years.

The sampler sets begins with a version of “When Doves Cry” that runs a couple of minutes. It’s longer enough for the crowd to be drawn into singing it, and although not as captivating as it was in the 80s’, it is still a important part of the setlist.

The set accelerates as “Nasty Girl” teases before “Sign O’ The Times” takes centre stage. This seems like a song tailor made for a show such as this, yet Prince doesn’t take too long to dwell on the message of the song, instead letting the crowd chant before he runs through a couple of verses.

A lot of songs come in pairs through this concert. “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” came as one two punch from the 1999 album, and now Prince repeats the trick with “Sign O’Times” and “Hot Thing” coming together from the Sign O’ The Times album. “Hot Thing” is particularly rewarding, Prince adds plenty to the mix and a scratchy, itchy, keyboard break gives it just enough grit to gain traction with even the most jaded listener.

The bootleg changes at this point as we switch from the soundboard recording to an audience recording. Its not too much of a jump, the audience recording has Prince’s vocals sounding slightly far, but the music is well recorded with obviously more bass present. “I Would Die 4 U” is the first song heard like this, and it is a bright start with the keyboard riff and drum shimmer sounding close to the recorded version.

“I wanna play some more but I run out hits” has Prince playing with the crowd before Doug E. Fresh joins him for a run through of “Kiss”. I don’t have an opinion on Doug E. Fresh, although I would rather have heard a version of “Kiss” without him. He raps his way over the guitar and keyboard hook, without the Princes normal vocals it becomes something different, and less enjoyable. That changes as Prince comes to the mic mid-song, unfortunately by this time I have already run out of patience and am thinking of the next song.

Prince plays instrumental snippets of a few of his songs (“Darling Nikki”, “Pop Life”, “If I Was Your Girlfriend”) before he settles on the enduring “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”. This song has a remarkable shelf life and is one of the few songs that have traveled with Prince for the bulk of his career.  From its first appearances in the early 80s’ through to his final Piano and Microphone shows of 2016, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” has appeared on a number of tours and shows. This version here doesn’t add anything new to that catalogue of great recordings but it is comforting to see a familiar friend in the setlist.

Comfort is the name of the game for the next couple of songs as Prince cuts to his work in the piano set with firstly “Diamonds And Pearls” and then “The Beautiful Ones”. “Diamonds and Pearls” is little more than a ramp up to “The Beautiful Ones” which still stands as one of his greatest ballads. It is evidently much loved by the audience, they are audibly singing with Prince, adding to the intimate feel of the song rather than detracting from it.

The following “Do Me, Baby” out does it as far as raw emotion and participation. It catches me just right, and I feel heart strings being pulled as Prince plays and sings. On the foundation of the audiences vocals Prince pulls the song higher and higher, eventually climaxing in a couple of screams before the piano trickles away the final emotions.

There is plenty of time to digest “Forever In My Life”. It has a deliciously long instrumental opening that ushers in the singing of “When Will We B Paid?”. It should be a ‘moment’, but it doesn’t live up to expectation. The audience do chant, but the main vocals aren’t as forceful as I would have liked, the emotion of the song replaced with a cheap call and response. The song doesn’t have enough time to appear through the mist and Prince rushes to an unsatisfying sing-a-long.

There is a cameo appearance of “Alphabet St.” before Judith Hill provides a rendition of her song “As Trains Go By”. It sounds timeless, yet undemanding, with the horns and band providing the main impetus. It swings easy enough, but my feeling is it isn’t really going for, instead revolving in circles around the horn lines.

It is Estelle that sings the first verse of “Purple Rain’ and although she sings beautifully, the songs sounds mechanical and distant. That changes as Prince comes onboard, the song lifting immensely on the back of his vocals. I’m a little jaded when it comes to “Purple rain”, yet I do appreciate what it brings to the concert and a student of classic rock I always appreciate the guitar break that punctuates the song. In this case it is cut short to make way for a Prince speech, but the sentiment he expresses is spot on and the song serves his message well. The final “ooohhh ooohh ooohhh” are worth the wait and the release of emotion and tension is palpable.

 

The bass line of “Cool” is excellent, although sadly a little lacking on the recording. There is plenty going on through the song, especially as they begin to sing “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough”, but the bootleg doesn’t do it justice, it is very two dimensional sounding and it is down to my imagination to round out the sound and bring the bass further forward. This is a good performance in search of a good recording to match it.

Hopes are high as the bass jam begins, although I am soon disappointed by the thin recording that leaves Prince’s bass sounding like a rubber band. It is short lived, “Mountains” coming quickly after with the recording still sounding two dimensional. “Mountains” is another song that has plenty of layers to unpick, although there is very little to be be unpicked here as this is a beige version of a song that should be technicolor.

All my thoughts in regards to the quality of the recording are put to one side as Prince and the band tear through and incendiary “The Dance Electric”. The band are cold killers throughout as they play without mercy, the fire of Prince’s guitar empathizing the point as he plays a murderous solo. There is no escape as they nail the groove to the floor, giving Prince the freedom to play with furious anger. This is a great way to finish the show, there is no place to go from here and it is only fitting that it is the final song of the night.

Although it couldn’t be considered a classic bootleg, I still found this concert enjoyable enough. The highlight for me was the performance of “Baltimore”, a light pop song that carries a heavier message. Understandably, the first half of the show was much more enjoyable, purely down to be a soundboard recording, but the second half of the recording was serviceable and didn’t detract too much from the enjoyment. It is a fairly typical 3rdeyegirl set, but they do what they do well and the bootleg is lively. Combined with the message that Prince is getting across, this bootleg nicely captures Prince’s position in 2015 both musically and politically.

Dance Rally 4 Peace

Since Prince has passed away many people have come forward with examples of his secret philanthropy. He was active for a long time behind the scenes giving to various causes and helping those in need. Not all his philanthropy was secret though, and there are examples where he quite publicly put his name and efforts behind a cause.His Baltimore concert for Freddie Gray is a fine example of Prince giving to the community. He was always socially conscious and in the case of Freddie Gray Prince put all his efforts into creating a dialogue and understanding. We have the Baltimore charity show, the song “Baltimore” and closer to home Prince had his ‘dance rally 4 peace’ – where attendees were asked to wear something gray. I plan on writing about the Baltimore concert soon, but first I want to start with this ‘dance rally 4 peace’. Although it was available as a stream on the Prince3EG soundcloud, I still consider it a bootleg. A few bootleg labels have put it out, and if they consider it fair game then so do I. The set that Prince plays is only short, even more so on the edited version that was put online. It is still a great listen, and the shorter concert makes Princes message more to the point. This is no sprawling concert, it is short and sweet with the main emphasis on the message.

3rd May 2015 (a.m.) Paisley Park

The title “Chaos And Disorder” gives some sense to the feeling in the streets, but the performance itself is anything but, it is orderly and highly polished. With the swish of the guitars sweeping back and forth behind him, Prince is stillness at the centre that draws all the attention. The guitars bay to be let loose, but the band keep it all on a tight leash, making for a performance that has its own tension within the song. That tension is released as Prince finally gives in to his rock impulses and plays an ascending solo that hints at anger without ever becoming pure rage.

It is a Hendrixesque “Dreamer” that brings further poignancy to the rally. The lyrics lay out Princes message early on before the whine of his guitar brings anguish and pain to the music. Prince starts with a few deft touches, then adds flesh to the music as he builds upon his foundation. The music folds back under him later, and the second part of the song becomes a mood piece with keyboards replacing the angry howl of the guitar with their soft weeping. It not as cohesive as one might expect and the song does lose its impact as it becomes inconstant. As much as I like the music, it was a better moment and suited the concert theme when it came as an angry punch in the opening minutes.

The sharpness returns to the show with a blazing version of “Guitar”. It is light, yet the guitar attack brings a sense of urgency to the concert. Donna matches Prince for guitar heroics, her guitar coming as a stronger voice as the song progresses. It becomes a twin guitar attack in the final minute, the best moment of the song as they cross swords and trade riffs.

Donna is equally to the fore with “Plectrumelectrum”. It has the all the ingredients for a song I might like, but I have never been able to warm to it. This version is an exception as it has a sternness about it that I haven’t heard before. While the main riff spins and revolves without going anywhere, it is the guitar breaks that see the song move across the rock landscape with enough heaviness to keep most guitar aficionados satisfied.

For me, the highlight of this short set comes with “The Whole Of The Moon”. It may not be the version you remember from The Waterboys, but it is just as exhilarating as Prince bends the song to his style and strengths. Song writer Mike Scott has explicitly said that the song was not written about Prince, but the rumor persists with the lyrics sketching out a figure who could well be Prince. Lyrics such as “I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands, I had flashes, but you saw the plan, I wandered out in the world for years, while you just stayed in your room,I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon”, speak of a Prince type figure, someone who operates in another time in place, dedicated to his own private world. Prince takes these lyrics and adds to the myth by neatly reversing the subject, the I of the song becoming the you and vice versa. Thus the opening couplet becomes “You pictured a rainbow, I held it in your hands, you had flashes, but I saw the plan”. It makes him the subject of the song in an instant, and although it may be viewed as egotistical, it certainly personalizes the song. What brings the song into Princes stable though isn’t the lyrics, it’s the wonderful popping and snapping bass that he furnishes the song with. Prince can be heard playing bass on plenty of bootlegs, but trust me, this is one of the best. It is the driving force of the song as it shakes beneath the music, an earthquake shake that forces you out of your comfort zone as it pops and cracks, the bass rising out of the bottom of the song as cracks across the soundscape. The song title may belong to The Waterboys, but the bass and shake is pure Prince, reminiscent of “Days Of Wild” at it’s funkiest.

The bootleg ends at this point as Prince thanks the crowd and the DJ takes over. Although short, this bootleg is just as good as any two or three hour show that Prince has played. It is a rock show, but the final bass playing by Prince provides more than enough funk for those that like it like that. This is one bootleg that I can see myself coming back to again and again, often shows are too long for me to enjoy in a single sitting, whereas this bootleg could neatly cover a car ride. The show is perfectly paced, its professionally recorded, the music is sensational, whats not to like about it? The only negative would be when we consider that it is edited down, missing about 10 minutes worth. “Crimson and Clover” is missing and “The Whole Of The Moon” is edited, but what we are left with is extremely satisfying. This might just be the perfect show to convert your non Prince fans with.

See you next time
Hamish

Montreux 2013 Revisited

“I’m back, and I’m harder than a heart attack”

It’s been six weeks since I last updated the blog, but I’m pleased to say I’m back and happy to be doing what I love most; listening to bootlegs and writing about them. Sorry for the extended break, I was exhausted and gave myself a couple of weeks to catch up, which became a couple weeks more as my oncoming wedding loomed into view. The wedding is still a couple of weeks away, but I’m on top of it all now and looking forward to listening to Prince.

I have covered the 2013 Montreux shows previously, but in light of the now circulating video I feel there is a need to revisit them. The video of the shows highlights different aspects of the performance, and for me feels completely different from the audio recordings of the concerts. I enjoyed both immensely, the video of the first two shows greatly elevating them in my opinion. I’m not going to go too in depth about the shows, I feel I have already covered them adequately, I will instead touch on the key songs and moments in the shows that I feel are worth looking at closer.

Montreaux Jazz Festival 2013

1.Count Basie Vs Jimi Hendrix

These shows highlight two different sides of Prince; Prince the band leader and Prince the guitar God. The first two performances sees Prince fronting a large band, a band he leads and guides through the show with ease, while the third night sees Prince strap on the guitar and deliver a night of fierce guitar performances that sees him alone in the eye of the storm. That one man could do both is amazing, and that he does both to such a high level is simply incredible.

The first two nights are full band performances, the stage crowded and cluttered with singers, dancers, a full horn section and the core band. Days Of Wild at both shows is the song that shows the band and Prince at their full potential as they bulldoze through the song. It has the feel of a circus maximus, everything and anything goes and the stage is awash in a confusion of bodies and sounds. On first viewing it is a busy scene, with the band and Prince creating a sound jungle, the music dense and tangled. Subsequent viewings show Prince to be a man in total control. There may be twenty people on stage, but all of them have their eye on Prince as he controls them with a glance or simple hand gesture. It speaks not just of Prince’s control and understanding of the band and the total sound, but of also the band themselves and their level of professionalism as they hang on Princes every move. Every eye on stage is following Prince as he commands not just the core band but also the extended horn section in a masterclass of band leading.

The third night has Prince stepping back from the large band and taking the spotlight on himself as he unleashes the full force of the guitar upon the audience. Again he is the centre of things, although this time attention is firmly focused on him and his guitar wail. Forget the leaden opening of Let’s Go Crazy, it’s the following Endorphinmachin that contains the real highlights, as Prince sets the stage ablaze in screaming guitar. With its lively energy it is a celebration of music and guitar heroics. Prince takes multiple solos, each one taking Jimi Hendrix as a starting pointing before stretching across all genres and decades in search of the right sound. There is plenty of good old fashioned seventies rock in the mix, and Prince is playing tribute to the past while searching out new sounds with his axe. This guy was leading a horn section the night before, now he’s laying waste to the arena with his guitar playing alone. Untouchable, we shall not see his like again.

2. I’m with the Band

Prince maybe leader of the band, but he also is part of the band. He may dominate the spotlight, but there are moments when he steps back into the shadows and plays well within the Band. This is never more apparent than the performance of She’s Always In My Hair from the third night. Yes, he’s in front, and delivering plenty of sparks early on, but this is offset by the guitar solo that Donna provides (while leaning in the crowd). A moment that could have been easily taken by Prince, he instead adds to the performance with another colour added to the palette by Donna. During this song Prince is seemingly all things to all people, starting as a rocker, before subverting the sound and become a soulman for the latter part of the song.

This again sees another band member take their moment,  as Prince plays the breakdown he is seized by the music,and the moment, and pauses to let Ida play. It’s worth it too, as she provides some funky bass that fizzles and pops with energy, taking on a life of it’s own. These are only two moments, but they highlight how important it was for Prince to be part of a band. And it was an opportunity for 3rdeyegirl to have an identity of their own. Of the Prince songs they played, She’s Always In My Hair was  the one they took and made their own. With an emotive performance this moment is a great record of them as a band, and serves as a fine way to remember the times they played together.

3. The man is music itself

The final moment that struck me most is the encore of the third night. Beginning with When Doves Cry, Prince plays a sampler set with the band backing him, the horns and extended band joining him on stage. This brings all the previous strands I have written about into a single performance in which Prince’s true character is revealed. He maybe a star, a performer, a band leader, but at the heart of it all he is just a man who loves playing music. Everything else is irrelevant, and that is never more apparent than this final encore. Darkening the stage for When Doves Cry, Prince makes the music the most important aspect and deflects attention from himself. This is heightened further as the encore progresses, first members of the audience come on stage to dance, then the extended band, until Prince can be barely seen at all. He sits at his keyboard, cocooned by the band and equipment. Head lowered over the keyboard, the performance is secondary to the music, he is in the moment and nothing else matters but the groove and the music.

 

As A Love Bizarre plays he is a man who looks content and happy, one feels that if the crowd and arena suddenly disappeared he would still be perfectly happy playing this groove to himself. Love brings the band closer to him, and surrounded by the horn section Prince is at the centre of a small, intimate gang. Prince is buried by the crowd as Larry takes on a bass solo that is so funky Ida looks as if she might burst into tears.

Equally funky is the horn solo provided by Sylvester Onyejiaka, as Prince holds the microphone for him he plays up a firestorm of a solo that comes dangerously close to making the room spontaneously combust.  Housequake has Prince again riding the band, the horn section out front while Prince pulls the strings from behind. There is a moment for Hannah to shine, before Prince calls for Ida to commit. The is the final hit out for the band and the show ends in the best way possible with a solo from Donna and Ida before Prince brings the show to a close.

These three shows are really what Prince is all about; funk, rock, the band, leadership and music. Above all music. He has played larger arenas, bigger concerts with more spectacle, but this show boils it down to his essence. Prince was music. Music was the reason he existed, he lived music, he breathed music, he sweated music. These concerts have something for everyone as Prince gives all of himself in these performances, these were the moments that impacted on me, but I am sure there is many other moments in the concerts that others related to.  A superb bootleg, it was worth the wait.

 

 

Dakota Jazz Club – Surprise 2

It’s taken me a long time to reach this final show in the Dakota series, much longer than I originally planned. I got side tracked a couple of times by the piano and microphone shows, but today I finally get to the final show. Another one billed as surprise, it again features 3rdeyegirl. It’s very similar to the first show of the evening, and I don’t expect too many surprises at all. Although similar I will give it a listen, I haven’t listened to any Prince this week and it sure beats watching “The Bachelor” with my partner!

18th January 2013 (show 2)  Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis

It’s raining, I haven’t had a great day at work, but all that is forgotten and I feel much better as the recording starts with Oasis Champagne Supernova played over the PA, now there’s a band I would never associate with Prince. The scene is set as Prince adjusts his guitar, asking for it to be turned up several times before the band kick into Endorphin Machine. I feel energized just hearing it, although it’s not the greatest version out there it still gets the pulse racing with that crunching guitar. Prince’s vocals are not forward enough to my ears, luckily it’s all about the guitar for this one and he certainly gives us plenty of that- especially the latter part of the song where he really unleashes.

Prince 3EG

Exactly the same as the first show we next get Screwdriver in the mix. It debuted at the earlier show, here it get’s a second outing.  Of the two I prefer this one, the band is tighter and I can hear the bass much better. Just like Endorphin Machine, it’s as the song progresses that we get much more guitar fireworks. As I mentioned in the early show, it has a lot of life to it, and rumbles along at a great rate and bounces out of the speakers at me. The crowd interaction near the end is also a lot of fun, even with Prince’s ramblings. The song leaves me on a high, and I am surprised to find myself enjoying a relatively new song so much.

I am very pleased to hear Beautiful Strange get another outing after the early show. I thought it was the best part of the early show, and I am delighted to find that this time it’s even better. Prince’s vocals are fantastic, I was going to mention that I can hear people talking during the recording, but Prince silences them when he tells those talking to be quiet and the music and singing intensifies. Fantastic stuff, I never want the song to end. Unfortunately I can still hear audience chat during the song, and that detracts greatly from the moment. Asides from that, it’s a total knock out.

The audience talk and chat is still quite prominent as Purple Rain begins. It starts with a bare piano before the guitar quietly begins to play. I would normally be raving about this type of thing, but sadly I am constantly distracted by the audience conversation. The long intro is beautiful, if I could just block out that inane chatter I would be a happy man. It’s almost five minutes before Prince sings, and it’s at this point I finally enjoy it more as he drowns out the chatter, for a short time at least. The guitar break has a high tone to it, and lacks some of the depth and power that I expect, the one good thing is it is nice and loud.

With plenty of howling guitar as an intro, it’s entirely fitting that the next song is Guitar itself. The recording for these louder rock songs is much better, and although I may not like the songs as much, they definitely sound better. I thought Guitar might have been squeezed much more, Prince plays plenty of guitar and I was expecting it to go much longer than what we get. I can’t complain at all, the guitar is the hero and just like the first couple of songs, it’s just the tonic I need this evening.

Things stay on track with I Like It There, and the band sound nicely in their groove by now. In this case they do play the heck out of, and there is plenty of enjoyment for the audience to have as well. Prince’s guitar has a great howl to it, like wind on a stormy night. I like it as the band break it down and there is plenty of space for some rhythm guitar and singing along with the crowd. Inoffensive, and easy to listen to, it has a great live vibe to it.

As the opening riff of She’s Always In My Hair begins I have an involuntary surge of excitement. That guitar line is like a drug to me, and I can feel a physical reaction as it begins. Prince sounds good, and drops to a lower register a couple of lines in the song which sounds cool. As always it’s the second part of the song where it really begins to fly and the soaring guitars have me giddy like a teenager. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t one of the great performances, it’s just a song that I get a lot of enjoyment out of today. The bass especially hits me and I wish I could turn it up to eleven. There is an unexpected appearance of Liv Warfield, and she contributes something a bit different with her addition, and I am pleased to hear her. Equally the call and response works surprisingly well, and I upon reconsideration I think will be a recording I will come back to- especially as it stretches out to the 13 minute mark.

Prince- EG screw

Prince closed the early show with Dreamer, this time it shows up in the middle of the set. As much as I want to like it, it is a come down after She’s Always In My Hair. I feel it much more as it takes an upswing mid song, and Liv comes on board again. It lightens it, and I have a bounce in my step as I listen along. There’s a shot of funk in it, and the show sounds quite lively at this point. It does end with a scorching guitar from Prince and it this point I am well and truly sold on it.

The audience chat is again heard as the gentle Liathach is heard. This is one song that I have grown to love, and it’s an absolute pleasure to listen to it here. Slow building to the guitar crunch, I am slowly drawn in before that guitar hits me. Most of the song I sit swaying from side to side, I don’t care what anyone thinks, I am completely lost in the song.

The spell is broken as Bambi roars into life next. Prince introduces it with “We’d like to do another ballad right here” -always good for a laugh is our Prince.  How good is the bass, it’s very good! If there was ever a song for this band, this would be it. It’s loud when it needs to be, sharp when it needs to be, and all in all it’s a good time. There comes that moment when Prince just leans back and plays and it’s so natural and pure sounding, well that is the moment I live for. And then to top it all off, there’s a drum solo that I actually like.

Check The Record is short, and doesn’t stand out from anything else in the evening. Its fairly generic sounding, and I find it to be a space filler until the next song begins.

Cause And Effect is a fun filled crowd pleasing song. When I reflect on it I don’t find much, but sitting back and taking it in, it’s a good old time. Prince’s vocals are easy to listen to, and there is plenty of guitar action for those who like that sort of thing, and it’s never over the top.  It could never be considered a classic, although it has it’s own charm. There is a looseness and feeling that the show is coming to an end as Prince and the band mellow into a groove that drifts along.

The best is saved for last as Prince and the band play a version of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man that floors me. The smoky, bluesy, dark version here is a show stopper. Prince’s vocals are heavy sounding, but in my opinion it’s the guitar tone that captures the emotion and mood of the song. Sure, the vocals are good, but my word, it’s that guitar that steals the show, especially as the vocals drop out and it begins to howl. The next few minutes are raw emotional guitar, and even if the recording isn’t great I still love every moment of it. The call and response is great, as is the spoken word by Prince to the crowd. It’s a real rock and roll moment that connects with me, even if it is too short. The song suddenly stops at this point, just as I was hungry for much more.

Prince Dakota 2013

With that the show is finished and I am left to reflect on not just this show, but this series of shows. I want to say this show was the pick of them, but honestly I am someone who is always of the time, and what ever I am listening to or doing is “the best”. This show certainly had some high points, and when I break it down, this was the one where I enjoyed more songs, so on a pure number games, yes, it is the best. This series of six shows promised a lot, and yet by the end of it I felt like they had never quite reached the heights I had hoped. What I did like was that they showcased different aspects of Princes musical persona and at different times I was heavily into each recording. However they were inconsistent, and ultimately unsatisfying. That said, I will always give credit to something different and challenging and from that point of view these shows gave me a variety of experiences that were fun to listen to. I think in future I will come back to these again, but to nibble at rather than consume whole.

Thanks for reading,
No idea what is coming next week, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

-Hamish

Dakota Jazz Club – Surprise 1

I must admit, I had been going through the motions when it came to writing this blog recently, but after seeing Prince live last week I feel completely reinvigorated, and a lot more passionate about what I am listening too. Prince, if there was ever a good reason for touring this it, it keeps people passionate about your music, and reminds us that music is a connection between performer and audience. Nothing can beat a live show, and the reason we collect bootlegs is often as a reminder of a great show or performance we have seen. I have been too long just listening to these shows, so last week was a timely reminder of why I am such a fan.

These week I continue with my rumble through the series of Dakota recordings. They have been interesting, yet uneven, so far. This week I will be listening to the early show of the final night, a night that was billed as surprise. It is of course 3rdEyeGirl, not so much of a surprise now although at the time it did cause a stir. I have listened to a lot of Prince and the piano recently, so a good rock out is just what I need.

18th January 2013 (show 1)  Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis

Things get off to a great start with Endorphinmachine, and although the recording sounds tame I am still enthralled by the performance. Plenty of rock sound, it’s full of an infectious energy that has been missing from the previous shows. Prince throws the lyrics out at a fantastic rate, and I can already tell that this is going to be one energetic show. As the guitars howl and intertwine I am already in rockers heaven.

Prince 3EG 1

The recording next features the debut performance of Screwdriver, and I always like to hear debuts like this. It’s in keeping with the opening song, that is it’s full of energy and Prince sounds in fine form. I wish I could see his face, he sounds like he is having fun, and this shows through with his guitar playing which has a life of it’s own. Its a very lively performance, and this comes across well in the recording.

I try to be all mature and cool, but every time I hear When You Were Mine, I immediately revert to being a wide eyed teenager. There is some sort of magic in the song, because Prince always sounds younger too as he sings it. The pop of the drums, the sound of the guitar, it all sounds so youthful and optimistic. Always glad to hear this in the setlist, it keeps with the positive vibe of the show so far.

Staying true to form next we have Guitar which is the perfect fit for this setlist, and indeed this band. I do like the energy, and the solos, even if the main riff isn’t really my cup of tea. A great plus on this is hearing Donna play. Having been in the band for barely a month at this stage, its great to hear her play with a brash confidence. I also like that Prince has the confidence in her to play like this, he steps back and lets her go, and that’s to his credit. Like I often say, Prince is great  at being in a band.

This setlist almost writes itself, and I am not the least bit surprised as I Like It There starts with a nice crunch in my ears. I have been concentrating on the guitar the last few songs, so its great that I am reminded here that its a band playing, and the drums have a good crash to them, even if I have to turn it right up to get their full effect. Prince’s voice is just as strong as his guitar playing, and they compliment each other well as the song progresses.

What can I say about She’s Always In My Hair that I haven’t said a hundred times before. Oh that bass, even before the guitar starts, I am feeling it and when that riff sounds I am in heaven. I have been impressed in the last few years about how well 3rdEyeGirl play this song, they do own it and it plays to their strengths. Donna plays a solo which sounds like she looks, all tough and angular and I feel myself change as I listen to it. The breakdown is always the part I anticipate the most and it never disappoints as Prince sings “Don’t stop the groove” The emotional guitar playing of the last minute carries me out on a high, I had forgotten just how good this sounds live.

Prince- EG screw

Another debut follows with a cover of Liathach, an aching instrumental that hints at something I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s so full of memory and nostalgia and yet I can’t pin it down. The song slowly raises my spirits and the guitar breaks come from a completely different place to the piano, and yet together they work off each other so well and give the sense of flying. I would love to hear this one so much more, I guess I will have to give this some more love in future.

Whoa, I get a shock as Bambi bursts from the speakers, and suddenly the stakes have been raised. The band play as a tight unit, the song sounding tight and muscular. The song gets the full treatment, the guitars working themselves into a frenzy that whips me along with them. There is nice natural moment as the song eases and Prince has the crowd sing “All your lovers” with him. It grounds the song after the howling attack earlier and gives it that human touch. It lasts a good few minutes, before the return of the guitars and an absolutely furious finish that belies the age of the song.

Any song that starts with a “one, two” count in is OK by me. Check The Record might not be familiar to many people,and that’s understandable as this is the only live performance of the unreleased song. After a good start it quickly loses momentum and I begin to lose interest at the bass solo, and that’s not something I normally do. The song is similar in tone to a lot of other songs of this period, but it doesn’t have a distinctive shape and sound to it, and I guess that is why it remains unreleased. Still, I am happy to hear it in this forum, I always welcome new or rare music.

This is a night for debuts, and the next song to get an airing is Cause And Effect. A staple of the Live Out Loud tour, for this performance it still has a freshness to it that I enjoy. The song isn’t strong in anyway, but it is perfectly enjoyable in it’s own way. I find myself smiling as I listen, asides from that it glides by and I find in a few minutes I have forgotten most of it. There is a nice moment as Prince has the crowd singing for a few minutes before closing the song with an instrumental. I feel I am there as the crowd sing, and it’s a reminder that the audience is an active participant at most Prince shows.

Prince 3EG

The opening of Beautiful Strange is one of those moments where I can feel goose bumps as song as the low key groove begins. The late night smokey sound resonates with me, times I have spend in late night darkened rooms listening and feeling things that this song so beautifully encapsulates. I feel this song as much as I hear it, and Princes vocals and music roll together and swirl around stirring up a mixture of emotions. It’s a show stopper in my book, and easily eclipses everything else we have heard this evening.

I am totally surprised when I next hear How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore. Sure, I had seen it on the setlist, but I thought it must have been some sort of mistake. It works well, and lightens the tone after the previous Beautiful Strange. Prince is a tongue and cheek mood, teasing the crowd a couple of times as the song swings in and out. In such a small venue it must have been a great moment, and the recording captures the joy and cheers of the crowd as they lap it up.

Purple Rain has a raw sound to it that I just adore. The guitar buzzes and squeaks as it plays the intro, and the piano has a loud sharpness to it that makes you feel like you are right there. Princes vocals are solid as a rock, totally dependable and there is no surprises at all as he sings. It’s the rest of the band that I delight in listening to, and what I enjoy most is that they give Purple Rain a smaller sound, its not epic and grandiose sounding, rather it sounds like what it is, a small band playing it in a small venue. Just fantastic, Prince lets the song breathe and there is a long instrumental section that ebbs and flows, sometimes the soft guitar carrying it, sometimes the piano. Prince gentle encourages the audience to sing as the song continues on this gentle path, and this may be the best rendition I have heard of Purple Rain in a long time.

The spell is broken as the next song begins. I don’t recognize Elephant And Flowers immediately, it’s more loose sounding then I remember. I would normally love to hear something like this on a bootleg, but straight after that divine sounding Purple Rain I find it jarring and I have to concentrate hard to stop myself from skipping back to the previous song. On the plus side, Prince is his usual humorous self as the song finishes, asking the crowd to “tell all your friends about us, so we can get another job”

Prince 3EG 2

We close with another full rock song as the band get their teeth stuck into Dreamer. Donna gets one last chance to rock out, and after a quiet start she is eventually head. Again I aren’t a big fan of this particular performance, the band sound like they have peaked earlier in the show, and this doesn’t match some of the earlier highs they hit. Despite that it’s still a rousing finish and does leave me feeling very happy.

This show is much more focused and tighter than the previous shows in this Dakota series. What I found particularly interesting is this band played some of great versions of Princes earlier material, but couldn’t get the new songs to sing in the same way. I must say, I thought the performance of Beautiful Strange and Purple Rain was outstanding, and this show was well worth  hearing for those two alone. They didn’t sell me the whole show, but 75% of it I found to be very good, and that’s good enough for it to be a worthy inclusion in my collection.

Thanks for taking the time to read, it always looks like a lot of words, but the couple of hours I spend listening to each show seems to fly by very quickly and leaves me looking forward to the next week.

take care
-Hamish

Koko Rocks

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

February 2nd, 2015 Koko London

Prince Koko 4

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

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

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

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

Prince live at Koko, London.

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

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

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

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

Prince Koko 3

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

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

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

Prince Koko 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince  Koko 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montreux 2013, 3rd Night

Today I am listening to the third and final show of the Montreux 2013 series. This one differs from the two I have previous written about, as the first part of the show is rock based, with Prince playing with his band 3rdeyegirl. The horns and NPG do join later in the show, but the evening is dominated by Prince and his guitar. I am not convinced that this is the best of the three nights, although general consensus is other wise. But I am very happy that on this recording Prince is playing an instrument again, rather than limiting himself to singing only as per the previous nights. Ok Prince, put away the horns and pick up your guitar, we about to go in!

15 July 2013, Montreux

The show seems to start much faster than previous nights. Sure, there is the sound as thunder as expected, but its not drawn out, and Prince quickly cuts through it with “Say hello to Hannah on the drums.” I am not sure if it’s the recording itself or my set up here, but already its sounding much heavier than previous nights. The thunder has a very deep crashing sound to it.

Prince introduces the band very briefly “Say what’s up to Ida on the bass, Donna on guitar, my name is Prince” before hitting us with the slowed down riff of Lets Go Crazy. It’s a simple, yet effective opening. Lets Go Crazy is played slow, and heavy. My opinion on it is somewhat divided. Sometimes I enjoy this arrangement, and sometimes I feel it sounds leaden and dull. On this recording it is good but not great. I wasn’t feeling it at the start, but there is a more energy near the end, and the audience’s response does add a little flavor. Ida plays a distorted solo, which doesn’t quite flow, but I still enjoy it. Prince ends the song with his well known solo, and things are just about to really get cooking.

Whatever ambivalent feelings I might have had about Lets Go Crazy are all but forgotten as the opening riff of Endorphin Machine is played. I don’t know what it is about this song, but its one that I love to hear live. The band race through it pretty fast, faster than I have heard before. Prince sings quickly to keep up, and does a good job of it. With a quick “watch me” he starts a couple of knock out solos. Much as we heard back in the slave days, it really gets my pulse rating. Prince interjects the solos with “Do you like rock n roll? Me too, one difference though, I like rock n roll funky” before lurching into another guitar break. I don’t always like Princes modern guitar playing, but here it is sounding pretty sweet. A little bit fast, a little bit high, its ear candy.

There is no let up as they run headlong into Screwdriver. A more recent song, it seems to make much more sense hearing it in a live setting. Again it’s faster than on record, but it’s all very tight. This is the song I associate most with 3rd eyegirl, and they totally own this on the recording. Donnas solo isn’t flashy but still very good, before Prince takes a short solo and stretches it more. It’s all very short, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

We go back in Prince history next as the familiar riff of She’s Always In My Hair begins. I have written before that this is a key Prince song for me, so I am pleased to see it on the setlist. It doesn’t start off too well, the first part of the song sounds labored and heavy. It’s frustrating, because I have heard this band play it much better, but the first couple of minutes on this recording are fairly lifeless. However, Prince and the band really pick it up, and just after the music quickens and Prince yells “let’s go” everyone seems to find their groove and the song just sings. Prince plays an excellent solo, one of the better ones I have heard on this song recently, and the breakdown engages not only the band but the crowd also. The band extends this portion of this song right out, and Prince gets the crowd clapping on the off beat and engaging in some call and response. Donna stops playing and we get a moment to enjoy just Idas bass. It’s an excellent groove and soon we are back to singing with the crowd, and Prince serves up some great shrieks. The song closes at about the 9 minute mark and I have the eat my words from the first portion of the song.

The Love We Make is a forgotten gem from the Emancipation set. I couldn’t imagine it played by Prince and the band in this configuration, but it’s a brilliant match and Donna in particular sounds very good and confident on it. Prince plays the keyboard on this one, but Donna stands out with her guitar playing. Sure, the song is written with these breaks in it, but it gives her a well deserved chance to show some more of her playing, and it’s more nuanced than I have heard before, full credit to her. The song draws to a close with some classy vocal stylings from Prince. This song is surrounded by some outstanding stuff, but it more than measures up, and offers some nice variation from the overworked heavier rock songs.

I Could never Take The Place Of Your Man also gets the slowed downed guitar heavy treatment. There is some menace in the guitar playing early on and it does have an edge to it. Prince singings mournfully, but the guitars and more threatening than mournful. As you might expect the guitar breaks are excellent, but not practically memorable. I do enjoy the song, but I think it they could have done more with it, especially if they had of gone down the same path as She Always in My Hair with it.

The tempo is upped with Guitar. A fairly simple song, it sounds like the sort of thing Prince could knock out in his sleep. But it’s a lot of fun live, and again it gives Donna and Prince a chance to show off their skills on the fret board. I prefer Princes guitar playing when its part of the story, or expression emotion. In Guitar it only sounds like people playing for the sake of playing. But they whole thing is down in a joyous way, and it’s pretty hard to criticize it for that.

The girls display their classic rock roots with Plectrumelectrum. Its does sound derivative of the rock music I grew up listening to on the radio, and this wouldn’t be the first song I would choose if I wanted to hear that sound. But I can’t fault the playing, and the gig doesn’t loose any momentum from its inclusion. I do enjoy it, but to be honest, it is my least favorite part of this recording.

Fixurlifeup taps the same vein, but Princes voice adds a whole other dimension to it. The last couple of songs seemed to miss passion or feeling, but that changes here. Prince sings energetically and the band feed off this. I could write more about it, but it does only last a couple of minutes. Still, it does get us back on track.

I would have guessed that Bambi would be played sometime tonight, and it does finally make its appearance here. The bass is prominent, and moves the song along well. I was wondering how Princes guitar playing would be on this one, it has been uneven on this recording so far, but I needn’t have worried, his breaks on this song are at his usual high standards. There is a nice little breakdown mid-song and some very crisp guitar playing. I hadn’t heard it like this before, and it added a new dimension to the song.

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I didn’t expect to hear Sometimes It Snows In April, I didn’t read the setlist before I listened to this gig, but it is a well placed change in pace. It’s a different sound than I am used to it, the drum is quite loud, and it has a more conventional sound. But Princes voice rarely lets him down, and it more than carries the song. I am able to tune out the drum and just concentrate on his vocals, but I did find it distracting. Donna plays a solo on it, and it catches me off guard, not by its appearance, but by the quality of it. Again it adds another dimension, and the whole song is an unexpected surprise. It’s not what I would predict and I love it even more for that.

I had heard The Max a few times recently so I wasn’t as surprised to hear it here, but again it was a very welcome addition to the recording. It’s missing something, it doesn’t have the jump that it did back in the day, but it gets much better when Prince is on the keyboard. I am listening to it trying to work out what’s missing, I think maybe the rhythm section is missing the bounce and pop. But that is in no way a criticism of the song itself, I am very pleased to have it here, and its one I would like hear more of. I especially like Prince on the keyboard, I could have done with hearing more of that.

Cause And Effect has a rocking guitar introduction, but I find the rest of the song somewhat disappointing. A lot of the new songs sound great, that is until they are played next to some of his back catalogue classics. I actually like Cause and Effect, and the recording of this night is fresh and energetic, but by the end I find myself tired of it. This one has nothing to do with Prince, just my own tired jaded view. Still, it sounds good, and fits well with the night overall.

There is a brief break after this and some declarations of love from the crowd as the band do some tuning. Then another great surprise on the recording When We Are Dancing Close And Slow. Its moments like this that make being a Prince fan so great, he could play anything at anytime, and usually does! It has popped up a few times on the Live Out Loud tour, but that doesn’t diminish its appearance on this recording for me. It’s played delicate and sweet, and although I don’t have the words to adequately describe it, I will say that it is the highlight of the gig for me. I must make special mention of the heavenly guitar break in it, it’s so lovely I feel myself melting as I listen to it.

To be honest, I gave an inward groan when I heard the beginning of Play That Funky Music (White Boy). Prince has any number of his own funk classics he could play, and it’s beyond me why he would choose to so frequently cover this song. There is a couple of enjoyable guitar breaks on this performance, so I do soften my stance on it a little, but I still can’t quite excuse it. I really want to skip this one, but I persevere, just in case something special happens. It doesn’t.

Prince Montreux 2013

Dreamer perks my ears back up. It’s noisy, but gets me interested again. There is plenty of Princes singing, so despite the guitars putting up a hell of a racket they never completely dominate. The solos, although good, are not spectacular- at least not to my ears. If anything, it sounds like the song is over played, and there is not quite enough room for anyone to really shine. It’s almost too heavy for itself.

The next song is another highlight for me. The light and ethereal introduction of Breakdown hits all the emotional hotspots for me. Prince’s voice sounds suitably weary to me, and it’s well matched with the lyrical content. And when I hear this I can’t help of thinking of The Great Gatsby. I often think of Princes life in terms of this book, and I would love to see him cast in the role of Jay Gatsby in a film adaptation. But I digress, the song is emotional and Prince certainly sounds sincere as he sings it. There are very few songs of recent times that I feel I connect with, but this is certainly one of them. It’s an excellent recording of a fine song.

I almost choked on my own tongue when I heard the buzzed out guitar intro of Doves Cry, until I caught myself and realized it’s another sampler set. The opening keyboard riffs plays over and over as Prince calls for lights off (as is his way) and for people to start dancing. He plays with it a little as he sings, dropping out here and there for the crowd to sing. They oblige, and all in all it sounds alright, apart from finishing up after the first chorus to drop into the next song.

Nasty Girl is played as an instrumental. It’s barely half a minute, but it’s just a taste of what’s to come.

Alphabet Street fares little better, and doesn’t even get 20 seconds, before we move onto something much better.

The bass and drum of Sign Of The Times carries us along for a good while, before Prince starts the verses. Now the full NPG band is back on board and it gives the crowd plenty of time to sing. When Prince does sing he lacks the intensity that the songs subject matter demands, but it’s still a pleasure to hear it live. It has sax solo midsong, which really adds to it, and is a welcome addition. I enjoy the variation and it’s followed up with a brief and unusual guitar break. Again, it gets me interested in an older song that I have played to death. Prince sings most the verses and chorus, and then there is another sax break. WOW, I was pleased to hear this one, and even more so with the saxophone on it. This will be definitely one I will come back to.

Off the same album, Hot Thing also gets an outing at this gig. It’s another interesting version, with a sampling moment when Prince sings a couple of lines of Ton Locs wild thing before a Trombone solo. Seriously, I couldn’t make this up, it sounds fantastic, and soon returns back to the main keyboard refrain. Prince also throws in a lyric change, substituting “Hot Thing’ for ‘Montreux” in the last verse. Sure, he’s playing to the crowd, but it’s a nice touch.

Love Bizarre is a head bobber right from the gate. The bass is nice and rubbery, and Prince plays with the melody a little as he sings his verses. He sings much louder and stronger than normally, and really pushes the lines out. There is plenty of time for some nice long horn breaks, the first sax break is my favorite of them all, but all of them add flavor and color. There’s not much singing after the first verse, it’s all the extended horn section, and after waiting all gig for their moment, they really take advantage.

The next song is Love, add it to the list of songs that I didn’t expect to hear at this gig. It’s not so much a song, more a long groove and a chance for the bass to get some shine. I like it, but it may not be to everyone’s taste. Again the horns play a couple of tasty solos over the second half of it. The song is all about the bass, and Larry Graham in particular can be heard all over this. There is no denying that when it comes to the bass, he is the MAN.

The sampler shuffles and skips for half a minute before Prince finally unleashes Housequake. It’s not as bad as I have heard on other sampler sets, having the band backing it makes it much stronger and more funky as the original. That aside, it does mix it up a lot. There are a couple of lead breaks, and Prince doesn’t do much singing after the first couple of minutes. He calls Donna to play a solo, and she plays an interesting solo that contrasts nicely against the funky beat. Even Prince acknowledges that she feels sharp tonight. Then its Ida turn and she too engages in a nice solo on her bass. It’s not fantastic, but it’s good to see her take her time and show us what she can do. It all ends in typical Prince fashion with an “on the one” call.

A few people had commented to me before I heard this, that this was the best of the three nights at Montreux. Listening to the show, I can’t agree. The novelty value of 3rdeyegirl raised a lot of expectations, and it was the first chance Europe had to see the band in this configuration. But asides from that, I don’t think it stacks up musically with the previously nights. Yes, there was some real highpoints here, and things I love, but also several flat parts, and things I can’t overlook. Overall the highs outweigh the lows, and I certainly enjoyed the latter part of the show. A nice recording, it’s a fine addition to the collection, but I wouldn’t believe all the hype about this one.

Thanks for dropping by
Take care -Hamish

Montreux 2013, 1st night

Looking at Montreux 2013 the set list is everything I could want. There are plenty of oddities and rarities, and songs that I just flat out love. There is three nights to the Montreux shows, I will cover all of them, one at a time. There is almost too much to digest! First up, let’s take a listen to the first night.

13 July 2013, Montreux

The show opens with the sound of storms and thunder played over the P.A. Typically, as thunder seems to be a recurring theme throughout Princes career. The recording is great, and the sound of the crowd chanting and cheering sounds crisp without over bearing the recording. This is a soundboard recording I should add, and right from the start it sounds great.

Strays Of The World begins the show, and it gives a good chance for us to listen to the backup singers. I am enjoying it already, the band sound nice and full, it is the full NPG with horns, and there is some very nice organ playing which gives it a round sound, before some sharp crisp guitar playing. Nothing too fancy, no flurry of notes, nice and gentle. I am surprised how much I enjoy it, normally I am not one for syrupy songs like this, but it draws me in nicely. I especially enjoy the horn flourish that ends the song.

The tempo and show really starts with the next song as they play Days Of Wild. Prince’s voice is strong, and has an excellent slight echo on it. This will be forever a head bobbing song for me, and I just can’t help myself as the song goes on. Prince mixes things up a little when he says “Oh by the way, Donna plays guitar” and she plays a very un-Donna type solo. The song sounds a little smoother than I like, it’s missing the fire in it, but it sounds great all the same. This gets better as it progresses and Prince sounds in fine form. There is some excellent horn playing near the end, and this is the part of the song I enjoy the most at this gig. The song ends at about the six minute mark, and I only wish it could have gone on for 10 or 12. All in all, excellent.

Prince Montreux 2013

Big City was unfamiliar to me. I do enjoy it, it’s got a modern smooth feel to me, but it’s not very memorable to my ears. I do enjoy the extended horn section, it adds a new dimension to the Prince sound. I wouldn’t want him to go this path too often, but here I do enjoy it. The only thing I remember about the song when it finishes is how great all those horns sounded.

The horns lead us nicely into Super Conductor. It’s much more upbeat, and although my head isn’t nodding, my feet are tapping. Prince has a chance to engage with the audience and leads a quick call and response before the horns start to work on 1999.

The horns are very present on 1999, but the keyboards hold their own against them. The horns do add a nice flourish here and there though. Prince singing on this is very good, the best I have heard him sing on 1999 for a long time. He really sounds engaged with it, rather than running over it on autopilot. There is a great thumping beat as we enter the “Parrtttyyy” section, and the crowd gets on board nicely. I am really happy to hear that the funky guitar has not been forgotten and it does get a brief break near the end of the song before the horn section takes us out.

Mutiny is nicely mixed up with Ice Cream castles. It confuses my ears and brain a little, but if I was hearing it fresh it would be fine. Princes singing is strong and passionate, but to me the band sound a little too sterile, just a fraction too note perfect. It sounds like a criticism, but I actually really dig this one. There are some cool lyric changes, again I wouldn’t normally condone such a thing, but it’s just too enjoyable. The horns close it out again, to quite a cheer from the crowd and me too. I am a fan of this one.

There is a brief pause as Prince speaks, and what follows next is a highlight for me, Old Friends 4 Sale. True, it’s the modern version with the lyrics changed, but that doesn’t for a minute diminish the music. The horns threaten to take over, but they hold back just enough. Prince’s voice is the best thing in this song, such a melody. This has been a long time favorite of mine, and I am just so happy to hear it live. It’s only two and a half minutes, but it’s an early highlight.

People Pleaser is one of those songs that I would like to hear more of. It’s very well suited for this gig, and once again the horns drive it along. It would of been good to hear a longer jammed out version, but the song quickly segues into Ain’t Gonna  Miss U When U’re Gone. Even this is very abridged, and comes and goes very quickly. It sounds fun, but much too short.

I never expected to hear F.U.N.K.! If I hadn’t read the set list first I would have fallen off my chair when this started. Its sounds good, not as angry as it could have been. But again, the quality of this recording is so good that everything sounds great. Cassandra plays a very cool keyboard solo, unlike anything else I could compare it to. Very quirky and cool.

Again, Dark is another song that I would have never guessed. I listened to versions of this from the nineties the other week, and it sounds just as good here, if not better. Prince sings it very clean and the horns add some nice color to it. To be honest, this is a highlight to me, it is very fresh sounding. I could listen to its easy groove all day, and Princes voice is heavenly. It’s smooth when it needs to be, and passionate when it needs to be. There is some nice saxophone on here, and the backing singers are right on point. There is great funny moment that made me laugh, when Prince lets out a squeal, and then says “I almost got myself pregnant then!” This is a top performance all round.

Something In the Water is a favorite to most people, myself included. There arrangement here is sparse, just Prince and a piano, and I think that’s how I like it the most. We have had a more heavier full on version recently with3rd eye girl, but for me the song played with just Prince vocals and the piano is what it is all about. Cassandra adds some extra flourishes to it on the piano, and it’s another highlight in a show full of highlights. It’s got a great ‘late night’ sound to it, and its something I will be listening to much more in the future.

Courting Time gives Prince a break, and the horns get a moment to take over. It’s very good, and I can’t fault it, but really I’m just here for Prince, and in that aspect it is sadly lacking.

The set list has another surprise with Xpectation. It’s an opportunity for some of the band to get heard, and there is a fine little keyboard solo, as well as a decent guitar break. Nothing earth shattering, but all fine and enjoyable. The bass break is a bit faster and more my thing, and it gets me nodding again. It gets better when Prince starts the crowd chanting, and the band start cooking. It’s only for a couple of minutes like this, but it nicely leads us into Get On The Boat.

Get On The Boat is not often listened to by me. So listening to it here is a like listening to a new song for me. It’s better than I remember, and things start swinging again. I am happier when I here Prince say “Can we jam a little bit” and there is some fast piano playing. The song then gets played out nice and long, plenty of keys, horns and even a flute. Well, who knew I liked horns so much? Certainly not me until I found myself bobbing along and loving this. With the over all sound of the keys, horns and percussion, it’s almost a Latin feel. You can add it to my list of favorites from this recording.

School Boy Crush was unknown to me. A cover of a song by The Average White band, it is another chance for Prince to play with the expanded NPG and his enlarged horn section. (See what I did there?) The song has a nice groove and there is some cool guitar just looping along underneath all the horns. It is very horn dominated, but I am rapidly growing to love the full horn sound.

Next is another cover – We’re A Winner. Normally I would bemoan all these covers and lack of Princes own material, but the truth is that this is a great addition to the set list. I am just getting very excited about it, and how great it sounds when the band quickly changes and begins I never Loved A Man. A real shame, I very much enjoyed the brief part they played.

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I Never Loved A man is played even shorter, just a verse before it all changes again. I find it frustrating as both these songs promised so much.

Satisfied follows these short medleys and gets a much more full treatment. I heard this song a few times during his 21 nights concerts, but here it sounds even better. His singing is faultless and the backing vocals are very strong and add a fullness to it. Prince doesn’t add too much to the song, but it is a very strong version, and it fits well in the set list.

Prince gets the crowd clapping along for I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing. It’s only short and played as part of the general medley. There is a deviation on Princes “I got too many hits” when he tells the crowd “I’ve got too many hits, I play mine and everyone else’s”. The music sounds great, but there isn’t much singing, again it’s the horns that push it along.

We are back in more familiar Prince territory with the kicking beat of Housequake. Prince sounds like he is having fun, and the song sounds the freshest I have heard for ages. Again I am bitterly disappointed when it ends after the second verse. Oh Prince, it could have been so much more this night!

The next song is The Jam, and finally the band gets to jam like I have been waiting for. It’s a classic jam song, with every band member getting name checked and a chance to do their thing. I am particularly impressed by Donna, who is very restrained and plays a very cool line. The whole jam is pretty smooth, and it’s just what I expect them to play at Montreux.

The Bird isn’t as wild as I would like. This time the smoothness of the band counts against them. The sound is good, but it’s slightly lacking the deep funky groove. The horns are an interesting addition, but I aren’t a fan of them on this one. I cringe when Prince says “we getting funky” – a sure sign that it ain’t that funky.

The song ends, and I realize that the last 7 or 8 songs have all been played as a continuous medley. Not too bad at all, sure it had highs and lows, but overall it was very well done, and it certainly demonstrated all the strengths of the band.

Of course this band is custom made for a song like Musicology. They play it very well, but by this point I am finding that the set list is lacking a little variety. This is a similar song to what we have been listening to for the last half hour. I don’t want to criticize the song, but I am feeling a little jaded when it plays. As the only Shelby J fan in the world, I do enjoy her vocals on this, but for me this song is a bridge too far.

All is forgiven when the band plays Extralovable. This is one of those songs that I just can’t get enough of. The big band treatment isn’t exactly what I would choose to listen to, but I still love that main riff. It’s a head bobber from the start, and this is the song on the recording where I just want to close my eyes and enjoy it to the max. Just a shame I can’t type with my eyes closed. I was a little concerned that Prince may play a shortened version of this, but it does get its full moment. The horns are all over it, sounds good, but I could have done with a little more keyboard in there. But that’s just personal preference, really this sounds great. There is some heavy deep sound near the end of it, and it hits a deep groove with some nice simple clean guitar. It ends with a couple of horn squeals, and it leaves me wanting so much more.

Purple Rain finds Prince singing in a way I have not heard before. He sings the same lyrics, but in a different way from which I have previously heard. Normally I cringe when I have to write about Purple Rain, it’s featured on so many recordings, and there is only so much you can say about it, but this version gives us something different again. His vocal stylings are very interesting and he does give a touching monologue about Claude Nobs. This is the first version of Purple Rain that I have heard in years that I didn’t want to skip. You might think I would miss the guitar solo, but I barely noticed it wasn’t there. It was an emotional and fitting way to end and excellent show.

This recording was full of surprises. The set list was great, but I was surprised that the songs I enjoyed most wasn’t the ones I expected at all. There were several highlights, from the type of band that I don’t normally enjoy. And the sincere and sweet Purple Rain at the end was a real surprise and treat. This looked good on paper, in reality it was even better than I imagined.

Next I will take a listen to the second night at Montreux
Be good to each other
-Hamish

3rdeyegirl Rock Birmingham

Last week we went way back to 1981, this week something a little more recent- a 3rdeyegirl gig. I know what you are thinking, oh no another rock guitar based gig. It’s not on purpose, I promise! Next week I will make it up to you with a funk gig. To be honest I randomly choose this one as it was on top of my pile of recently listened gigs. Next week something to make you move, this week…

 May 15  2014, 3rdeyegirl, Birmingham

First of all I would like to thank and give praise to all tapers of gigs. Without your efforts and generosity we would never have access to gigs like this. In this case I would like to thank Spangleman who taped this one. Thanks.

Again, another audience recording. But things have really changed in recent years, with more sophisticated equipment and more thought put into the set up there are some really good audience recordings floating around. Although still not perfect by any means, they are still a vast improvement on what used to be.

This recording is pretty good, the band and Prince are clear though out, and there is not talking through the gig, which sometimes surfaces on recordings like this. There is one recording in particular, and I can’t quite remember what one it is, where through one song members of the audience can be heard talking about skiing. I can’t remember the song, but the chat is very distracting. Thankfully there is nothing like that in this recording.

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The gig opens with Funknroll. It’s an interesting choice to open with, not being well known at the time. Although the song itself is good enough, it doesn’t quite have that show opening feel to it. It doesn’t have that energy or surprise of a good opener. 3rdeyegirl are known for being a very rock orientated unit, but it this case they barely rock at all. Nothing wrong with the playing, but the song doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

From there they kick into Take Me With U. The crowd seems more receptive, something well known to the general public and casual fans. But still it seems here to miss the pop and snap of the album version. Everything feels a little damp and slow. Prince throws in a couple of his catch phrases “I wish someone would sing” and “Put the house lights up”, but he’s just going through the motions at this point. So far its ‘Prince by numbers’ Being a guitar based rock outfit I would have loved to hear them give this song the long guitar heavy Purple rain video version, with Princes extended guitar solo, but they play well within themselves, and play it safe. It could have been so much more.

As is his way for the last 10 years he segues straight into Raspberry beret. Absolutely no surprise there! It’s predictable, but it raises a cheer from the crowd. The version here is played very straight, and it’s a little boring. But maybe I am just biased; to be honest I have never heard a live version of this that I like.

U Got The Look fails to take off too, its surprisingly unrocky apart from a couple of chunky guitar bursts. Maybe it’s the recording, or maybe the band. But the guitar sound isn’t really there like I expected it to be. I like what Prince has down with a lot of his songs recently, in his reinterpreting them live, but I feel the concept could have been pushed further. With this band he could have turned this song into something else. Or maybe I am too predictable with my Rock band = Rock songs.

The following song is Musicology, and although I am a fan of the song, in this case I found it a little uneven; it is up and down throughout. Maybe its missing the full band, but I feel it’s never really gets into the groove. Over all, the first half a dozen songs seem a insipid, it’s definitely a slow start to the gig. There is some nice light guitar playing by Prince near the end of the song, reminiscent of the soft solo he plays on the Hohner at the start of Purple Rain Syrcause 1985. I like this guitar sound and playing, I would buy an albums worth if I could.

Kiss is very different. The familiar jangle guitar is absent, its heavy on bass and synth. Its the singing that really carries it. Its an odd little version, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. This one will take multiple listens. Prince throws in his line “Desperate housewives” but that’s starting to get a little tired now. Prince – you need to watch some more recent TV. The song ends as a good sing-a-long for the crowd, so I guess it serves its purpose.

I wonder how many of the crowd recognizes Empty Room. The crowd is very quiet as it begins, and I am not sure if they are being respectful, or they just don’t know it. The drumming pulls me in, and when Prince sings it sounds like he is beginning to engage. Finally it feels like he is putting more of himself into this gig. This song has really grown on me recently and I enjoyed this version. Prince vocals sound stronger and near the end he unleashes a couple of decent shrieks, and guitar work. The gig has finally started!

I used to like Lets Go Crazy(reloaded) but I feel a bit over it now. Often it is a little pedestrian for my taste. Tonight it sounds good, I think it would have been better if I was actually there (I could say that for every song!) To be there with the guitar and bass rumbling through you would be a much more visceral experience. The strong electric sound of the guitar at three minute thirty caught my attention. Sounded very electric and buzzy.

Prince finishes the song by announcing “sound check is over”, and I couldn’t agree more. From here on in, we are into it!

PrinceBirmingham

After a very brief guitar interlude the band kicks into She’s Always In My Hair. For me this song has always sounded better live. It’s not so crisp and sharp as it sounds on the record, and to my ears it’s more emotional in the live form like this. I can’t help but think of the Digital Underground “Sex Packets” as Prince plays the main riff. To my mind this is the best sample ever used by a hip-hop group, and even now I can’t dissociate the two songs from each other. The band play a nice heavy version of She’s Always In My Hair, Princes solo is a good rock solo, and the band are finally playing a song that really suits their sound and style. Just as Prince sounds like this solo is going to spin right out, he pulls it back into the song and gives it that great Prince sound.

The breakdown of the song is a highlight, the twinkling guitar reminiscent of some of my favorite rock songs over the years. Prince sings his lines “Maybe I’ll marry her, maybe I won’t” with such passion. He still feels this song, and I can’t help but have the same feeling. It just grabs me. I can totally feel it. It’s during this part of the song that the limitations of the audience recording can be heard. Its not as good as earlier songs. The crowd is behind Prince all the way as he finishes with call and response and another guitar solo.

I can’t help but wonder what casual fans make of this song? Do they know it’s a B-side? Do they walk out of the gig hoping it’s a new song that will be on the next album? One hopes they dig back into the catalogue and dig it out. I was once at a Smashing Pumpkins gig, and they did a cover of Girls Aloud “Call the shots” and for days after the gig I was wondering about the song, where it came from. I am sure there were more than a few causal fans wondering the same about She’s Always In My Hair.

At a gig where guitars are to the fore, it’s only natural that the next song is in fact Guitar. I see a theme emerging here! Guitar is played with a lot of energy, and sounds great. There’s not much to it as a song, but it comes across great live. This is what Take Me With you should have been played like, all energy and enthusiasm. Donna’s playing is more free and less heavy, and it actually sounds better for it.

Plectrum Electrum is not so fluid. It sounds like a song of two halves. It’s quite good, its played with no vocals, and the first half is better than the second half. The first half is more song and structure, while the second half becomes whining guitar.

Fixurlifeup sounds better than on record. Its short and sweet. It almost passes before I register it. A nice song, I would have liked to hear more of it.

The upbeat guitar songs end when Prince brings it all down with Something In The Water (Does Not Compute). I will be honest here, I am very biased. This is one of my favorite songs, I have always had a real soft spot for it. It opens just Prince and the piano, and it sounds just great. This is how I like to hear it played. The guitar and slow drums kick in and the song changes gear a little. It has a great melancholy sound that suits the theme of the song so well, and I can’t help but just wallow in it all. The guitar line is so simple and repetitive, it has a great hypnotic quality to it. Prince gives a few good shrieks and howls and plays a nice 3-4 minute solo to finish the song. The guitar has the classic Prince tone to it, and it closes out the song perfectly.

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Another song that sounds better here than the studio recording is Pretzelbodylogic. Although I am not a fan of the song itself, so that’s not really adding much to it. Lots of these recent songs live are a slow heavy riff and a couple of solos. I am not such a fan of this one, there doesn’t seem to be much variety or texture. It’s missing something playful, or something deeper. Either direction would be better than the middle of the road.

Stratus I have heard plenty over the last years, mostly at aftershows. By now there is almost too much guitar at the gig, its lacking variety. 3rdeyegirl are good, but they need more color and variation.

What’s My Name is another song from the past which seems well suited for this band. I really enjoyed it here, I would like to hear it played more often. I think he could ratchet it right up and make it much more intense if he wanted.

There is respite from all the guitar heroics when Prince begins the piano set. The first song he plays is How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore. It still sounds fresh after all these years. The song stands on its own and shines. It still sounds as good as the day I first heard it.

After the opening song in the piano set I had high hopes, but Prince quickly turns it into a disappointing medley. Diamonds and Pearls gets 40 seconds (more than enough in my book) and then The Beautiful Ones managers to stretch out to a minute and a half. It’s very soft with his piano and voice very low, but it’s far too short and left me hungry for more.

Electric intercourse gets longer, which is good thing, but its lacks the emotion and power of the earlier performances over the years. One gets the feeling that Prince is just tinkling the keys and playing what comes to him.

The electric introduction to Controversy grabs my attention -I love the beginning of this version. The band is back on board now. Unfortunately it lacks the electro funk feel of the original for the rest of the song that I love so much. Its seven minutes, but after the first couple of minutes I am over it, and have a longing to hear the original. It outstays its welcome, and is one of the few songs where I wish it was a shorter version.

There is redemption with 1999. It’s not too bad at all, more like the original. The mood lightens up and it’s something fun that the crowd can enjoy. I hadn’t heard it for a while, so it was a nice surprise.

True to form Little Red Corvette is played in the slow mournful version that we have heard a lot of in the last 5 years. When he first unveiled this version I was an instant fan, although I have tired of it in the last couple of years. The novelty had worn off for me, but this performance got me back on board. I really liked this performance and I completely changed my mind. The sing-a-long section sounded great. It was a great way to close the main set.

Next the sampler set. Ugh, do I have to listen to it? As you can tell I am really not a fan of this. Every song is just a tease and makes me frustrated I can’t hear more. It’s like handing a TV remote to someone who skims through the channels. So infuriating!
The sampler starts off not so bad with When Doves Cry. This elicits a loud cheer of recognition from the crowd. Unfortunately we only get two short versus before he skips to the next song. I am thankful we got that much, but I would trade the whole sampler set just to hear a full version of one or two of these songs. This ends just as its getting good.

Sign Of The Times survives for one minute and two versus before it gets the chop. The whole sampler set is an exercise in frustration, I am trying not to rant, but it’s really a waste.

At 10 seconds is it even worth sampling Alphabet St? Grrrrr!

Forever in My Life suffers from sound issues. Apparently there were sound problems through out the gig, but only a few times in the recording is it apparent. During this song we can hear the distortion and I can only guess how it was there throughout the gig. The song itself is good, and he gets through it, but I long to one day hear the long version as played at the Trojan Horse gig. We all need a dream to cling to.

Although it’s only 2 minutes, Hot Thing sounds good. I particularly like the lyric change “Hot thing, barely 25, hot thing looking to come alive.” He has raised his standards! There is a nice moment half way through when he thanks the crowd for putting their phones away, he loves it when he can see their faces. It’s a nice sentiment. There is a fair amount of distortion here, not sure if its the recording the venue sound. I am guessing it’s the venues problem.

There is a very stop/start beginning to Housequake, and it actually suits the song. When he finally settles on the steady beat Prince sings in his classic funk voice, I can almost picture him pulling his funk face. It’s unfortunate that the song is again in a truncated form and it stops much too soon for my liking. I could have danced to this for much longer- two minutes is just not enough.

The next few songs are just tasters and teases, Nasty Girls gets barely 20 seconds, and The Most Beautiful Girl In The World gets one line.

Pop Life fares little better, we hear one full minute, enough time for one verse and one chorus. A disappointment for one of my favorite songs.

I would Die 4 U finishes the set with one minute, before Prince closes it with “Thank you all so much”

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I am much relieved when he plays Purple Rain as a full song with band. Although its very much overplayed (I think I have more than 200 versions of this song) its still good to hear it played in full here. Prince opens it with a longer intro as he speaks to the crowd and thanks them. I have heard many versions where he sings the first verse, a chorus and then skips to the guitar solo. Thankfully he doesn’t do that here, he plays it straight, and surprisingly it feels fresh because of that. It lasts the whole 9 minutes before he fades it down, and after the sampler set it feels much longer. Not that I am complaining at all.

If the gig had of ended here I would have been well satisfied. But there is an encore of Play That Funky Music that I could really do without. I am not sure why Prince is so enamored with this song, but for me it appears in his set lists far too often. For me this is the one track of the evening that I would skip over in an instant.
The gig has plenty of good things going for it, and despite my criticism I enjoyed the bulk of it. For every negative there was a positive, so all in all it balanced out. It was worth it just for Something In The Water, and Shes always In my hair. I feel the sampler set and some of the more mediocre songs let it down, but as most fans know, that is par for the course. It will never be the first recording I reach for when I want to hear something, but on the right day its a fair record of where Prince is at right now.

Next time we are going to look at something more funky. I am not sure what it will be yet, but I did see a tape kicking around the other day with “Chicken Grease” written on it, so that might be the one, if I can find some sort of machine to play it!

Thanks to everyone who has given feedback, and again thanks to all tapers of these shows.

Be a dear and share
-Hamish