Melbourne 2003 Aftershow

Last weeks blog about the Melbourne show of 2003 left me unsatisfied. As much as I enjoyed it, it was an incomplete recording that left me wanting more. As luck would have it, I have in my hand the aftershow from the same evening. This is a complete recording, but it is short – clocking in at just under an hour. I don’t mind that too much at all as the contents within are interesting – an unusual arrangement of Musicology (still five months away from being released), a slowed down “The Work Pt 1.” and a left field cover version in the form of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” It’s a tidy setlist that keeps the listener engaged throughout as Prince leads us down various musical alleys and backstreets. It is in contrast to the greatest hits package served up at the main show, making in an even more intriguing listen for me.

23rd October 2003 (am) Melbourne, Australia

Prince emerges regally through the crowd noise, although the audience recording cannot match the moment and is not quite good enough to make out his introduction. It matters little as the music takes its rightful place at the centre of the recording for the live debut of “Musicology.”  In the smaller and more intimate venue it sounds soulful and full, the drums especially sounding huge in the opening stanza. The horns are still busy, and Prince delivers his vocals with panache, but it is less Vegas sounding than on the Musicology tour, and for my ears it resonates with its soulful roots showing. Maceo and Greg Boyer are well into their work early here, and they are infuse plenty of kinetic energy into the song, Maceo with his furious saxophone solo, and Greg with his mighty trombone solo that for my moneys tops him. It’s early days and Prince is still playing with the arrangement for this song, in this case it is broken into two with  “Brick House” making a cameo appearance between the two sections. As much as I love “Brick House,” in this case I aren’t too fussed. Prince is bold with his vocals, and it is unfortunate that there is a slight distortion in the recording at his loudest moments. It is left to the horns to save they day, and they segue back into Musicology with aplomb and remain the main focus of my listening experience for the rest of the song.

It is Rad that sings “Ooh,” but she is far from the centre of attention as it is the rest of the band that grab the song and shake it up into a cocktail of horn and keyboard funk. Another shot of trombone action from Greg Boyer leaves me drunk in its wake, the music a powerful mix of 100 proof funk that is overpowering and intoxicating. There is little I can do but lose myself in the moment as Prince demonstrates exactly what aftershows are all about – purity of the musical experience.

“Peach” is lost to me in the general noisiness of the recording, the vocals washed away in the waves of crowd noise and general thinness of the recording. However, the recording does a good job of capturing the horns (here, and throughout) and especially Prince’s guitar. It is a shame then that he doesn’t engage with his instrument as much as you might expect, and asides from a couple of storming runs there is little guitar to be heard.

Rising on the back of the horn motif comes “The Work Pt.1” My soul sings as the horns play, but for me the meat and potatoes of the song is the rhythm guitar that arrives later in the song. Even as the sound becomes busy and spreads out in several directions I can still hear the guitar, a style I have always gravitated towards and held dear. The rest the song goes by in a blur and there is much to admire in the way the band all play so uniquely but blend their styles and sounds together seamlessly. This may not be the best recorded version, but there is still plenty there for those that listen close.

It is Chance Howard’s time to claim some spotlight as he comes forward for his take on “No Diggity.” Its a relaxed cover version, the rhythm section however is flawless in their work, and although this isn’t the most energetic version in circulation it is still interesting enough in it’s own way, especially when Maceo adds his talents to the mix. Truly a legend, he elevates every song as soon as his saxophone is heard on the recording.

Prince leads hand clapping into “When The Saints Go Marching In,” and this version isn’t just about the horn section as you might expect. There is some excellent keyboard to be heard, but at only a few minutes there is not really enough time for anyone to show off their abilities. However, the crowd like it and it is a neat way to bring us to the last song of the evening.

That last song is an instrumental jam, and a fast and furious one at that. The key elements are all in place, chants, whoops, the various band members playing sharply throughout. It isn’t an elongated jam as we often hear at aftershows, in fact its one of the shortest jams I think I have heard at barely a couple of minutes. That doesn’t count against it in this case, as the crowd sound as though they have been whipped into a frenzy, and its is easy to understand why as the music vortex’s and increases intensity. It isn’t what is expected, but it is a good way to finish the show, putting an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

An interesting little bootleg this one, it doesn’t sound quite like other aftershows in circulation, yet it has its own irresistible style and feel. There a few nuggets sprinkled through out the set that keep the listener engaged, and it does come as a nice palate cleanser on top of the mainshow I covered last week. The recording is far from perfect, but the contents of the bootleg more than make up for it, making for an engaging listen from start to finish.

 

Melbourne 2003

Prince didn’t jump straight from the ONA era into Musicology. There was a year gap, featuring a world tour that took in only Australia and Hawaii. I find these shows interesting as they are the stepping stone between the two, and we can see the crowd pleasing hits played with a trace of the ONA concerts heard in the smooth and easy style in which this band play. The concerts in Australia should have been a great chance for me to see Prince play live, Australia is only a four hour flight away, unfortunately I was out exploring the wider world and was living in London at that time. My opportunity to see Prince play would come later.

There are several releases of the concert I am listening to today, I am listening to the Overfunk’d release as to my ears it sounds slight better than the other versions. An audience recording, it is pretty good – with no distortion, the mix is about right and I can clearly hear and enjoy the music throughout. The only thing that counts against it is that it is an incomplete recording, we are missing the opening bracket of ten songs, but it is a long show, and what we to have is plenty enough to cover two discs.

22nd October 2003, Melbourne Australia

The recording begins with “The Beautiful Ones,” and it immediately puts me in mind of the ONA tour from the previous year. With Maceo Parker on saxophone, the introduction lingers and Maceo does what he does best and fills the room with a steamy atmosphere. With the band draping their sultry veil across the soundscape it could have easily been lifted from any 2002 show, and I am more than happy with that as I am infused with the ghost of concert’s past. It’s not all about the past however, this is not Purple Rain Prince, and as he sings he very much Prince of the time. His voice doesn’t ache and bend as it had previously, and as much as I love his performance here, I must admit it is workman like in the most professional way, no bells or whistles here, just a straight delivery that serves his maturing sound well.

I have similar feelings about “Nothing Compares 2 U.”  Prince is good, without ever flooring me, and it is Maceo Parker who’s brief moment stirs up the passion with me, and within the song. The recording shines though, and even though I haven’t shown any real enthusiasm for the first couple of songs, I am greatly enjoying the bootleg.

It is “Insatiable” that first has me swallowing hard and listening close. Now this is what I came for, a delicious delivery that has the crowd swooning at the show, and me having all sorts of feelings here at home. The more Prince croons, the louder the crowd swoons, and I am giddy with fanboy love as Prince walks us through a vocal maze, following the trail of bread crumbs that Renato Neto lays. Its a lethal combination, the song sneaking up on me and drawing all the oxygen from the room.

Although “Sign O The Times” moves in the opposite direction, it demands listening to just as much as the previous “Insatiable” and drives out a funk groove that is irresistible. I am disappointed that the crowd get to sing along, while here at home I have to stay quiet as my wife sleeps in the other room. It matters little, I lip sync along with them in a a happy delirium, and I am happy to report that “Sign O The Times” gets a whole nine minutes to funk and roll across the the recording. The real action begins after Prince finishes his lyrics, rad. (Rose Ann Dimalanta)  gives a brief and electric keyboard solo that leaves me wanting more, and it gets better as John Blackwell plays us through a turnaround that leads the music into a swirl and even more keyboard work that excites me in ways that I never knew a keyboard could.

The combination of “The Question Of U” and “The One” reached its peak during the tour of 2002, for my money those performances will be never be bettered, and although this version is sonically very similar, it lacks that magical quality that was heard the previous year. It is slightly more labored, and deadened in sound, there is a lightness of touch that is missing, and although the song is guitar heavy, it is this finesse and delicacy that makes it what it is. The chunky guitar by Prince midsong does briefly have me breaking into a sweat, but that sweat turns cold as the band go though the motions later in the song.

“Let’s Work” has things jumping again, and it sounds nice and sharp on the recording. The horns in particular leap out at me in their energy and brightness. Prince doesn’t work the song too long, it is only a couple of minutes, but it does signal the next upbeat part of the performance.

In the same vein, “U Got The Look” is a short, sharp shock of energy and pace that accelerates the concert further. The guitar sounds strangely quiet as Prince solos , and for me this is one of the key reasons to listen to the song and its muted sound leaves me silently frustrated.

The show is gathering pace rapidly at this point of the bootleg, as Prince tears through a series of covers and upbeat numbers. We firstly get an embryonic version of “Life Of The Party,” which is too busy for its own good until it settles for the chorus. It is the following “Hot Pants” where the groove gets hot and heavy, one can almost feel its hot breath on their neck as the groove becomes dark and dangerous, hinting at an unseen sexuality. Prince breaks the mood with  “Life Of The Party” rap, and before I can fully immerse myself in the bass end of the song it transitions to Chance Howard and his lively rendition of “Soulman.”   It’s hard not to like it, and I find a smile spreading across my face as it plays though. Its sounds so summery and easy, for a minute I consider tackling it next time I go to karaoke.

It is a keyboard push that drives “Kiss,” its pulse beating just under Prince’s lyrics throughout. I like the sound of the keyboard, but I could take or leave the rest of the song. I appreciate the new arrangement, but “Kiss” is one song that I have heard far too often.

Prince’s cackle introduces “Take Me With U” and one can appreciate why as the band and the crowd respond with energy and love. Like the previous “Kiss,” this is one song I have heard too many times, yet I fully understand why it has been a constant in the setlist over the years. An uplifting song from Prince’s most successful album, it never fails to elicit a response from the crowd and re-energises the concert.

The main set is rounded out by a full rendition of “The Everlasting Now.” It encapsulates the full talents and scope of the band as it moves quickly across musical territory, throwing up all sorts of sounds and styles. The funk grows and evolves through the song, the ground never quite solid beneath my feet as the band move swiftly through this soundscape. It is a fitting end to the main show, and a great reminder of how good this band is.

The piano set encore opens with an understated “Adore.” As much as I love bootlegs, I have never enjoyed hearing “Adore” on bootlegs, mostly because the screams and shouts of the audience ruin the moment for me as Prince plays the one song that truly connects to my heart. Here is no different, each line greeted with rapturous shouts and squeals of excitement, and as much as I share their enthusiasm it does take me out of the moment. The song does get its full five minutes, which for me is an exercise in frustration as the crowd stay prominent.

Prince keeps with humor as he segues into “Sleep On The Couch.” He takes his time over the delivery, each line hanging in the air so it can be fully digested by those listening. I laugh a little early on, but soon enough I am cocooned in Prince’s vocal delivery and lose myself in a soft delirium. A song that didn’t promise much, I am surprised by emotions it brings to the surface.

Emotion is the name of the game as Prince has the crowd clap as he plays an soulful version of “Forever In My Life.” Head bobbing, hand clapping, it has its own unique rhythm that is offset by Princes lyrics and vocal delivery that speaks of love and honesty. Its only brief, but it is the perfect fit with the two previous songs.

“One Kiss At A Time” gets a different arrangement, and is a fine match for “Forever In My Life” I am surprised that Prince sticks with some of the risque lyrics, but he is doesn’t engage with any curse words, so I guess in his head that makes it all alright. It is a surprising end to the piano set, a set that I have found most enjoyable, my feelings about “Adore” not withstanding.

As much as I enjoyed the piano set, I am more than happy when the funk returns with “All the Critics Love U In Melbourne.” I like the insistent funk drive of it, and the color that the keyboards and saxophone add. Maceo is at his very best at this point, the music and concert orbiting around him as he plays. The keyboard rhythm later in the song is a match for him, and it is a devastating few minutes of funk that has me applauding at home in appreciation.  “Phew, can’t nobody mess with this band” is my only thought as the song ends.

The keyboards are equally to the fore as a frenetic “Alphabet St.” follows. It is derailed by Princes interruption to talk himself up to the crowd, but as a performer at the top of his game, he has every right to brag and enjoy the spotlight. The song never regains momentum though, and I feel the constant stoppages would be better left out.

There is an easy jam that leads into “Days Of Wild”, a jam that tidily takes a low key funk groove and allows Prince to chant with the crowd. The serious business comes with “Days Of Wild” as it stomps across the landscape, bringing a tension to the previously lighthearted concert. Its not as quite as dangerous as other performances I have heard, Prince is enjoying himself too much, but the music has a touch of malice the keeps it just on the right side of the ledger.

The final song of the night is of course “Purple Rain.”  as befitting a greatest hits show, the moment is milked for all its worth, with the usual introduction sweeping across the arena before Prince begins to punctuate it with some lead guitar. Its a worthy rendition of a much loved classic, but there is nothing new here for anyone who has followed prince’s career. The final guitar break has me interested only for nostalgic sake, Prince isn’t breaking new ground, but he is playing his signature song to an appreciative audience at the climax of the concert.

This is a bootleg that you don’t hear much about, yet I would happily recommend it to anyone wanting to hear a quality audience recording of what is a standard hits show. The band are coming off some fantastic 2002 shows, and although different in style, they are just as good here in 2003 as they were the previous year. it may not be a complete show, but it never drags either, making for a bright and easy listen. For those that were there this is an excellent document of that experience.

I see there is an aftershow from the same night that has caught my eye, I shall give that a listen next week.

Thanks for reading
Hamish

Brisbane 2012

The Welcome 2 Australia concerts are normally a run though of the hits, yet these there is several special moments in the tour that make the circulating bootlegs interesting. The guest appearance of Public Enemy is one such moment, as are a couple of excellent aftersows currently circulating.  I have already written about the aftershow played on the same night as this concert, and I have it on good authority that the main show was just as good as the aftershow. A quick run through of the setlist confirms this, I see Empty Room and Extralovable there, two songs that I need to hear. The recording is an audience recording, but Eye records have put together a complete package with the soundcheck, main show, and aftershow all presented together, something that I greatly appreciate. The completest in me is more than happy with the quality of recording when it comes all together like this.

18th January 2012, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane

The concert has a somewhat unusual beginning with Andy McKee playing an acoustic rendition of “Purple Rain”. It doesn’t feel like the beginning of the Prince concert, the crowd is quite chatty through his performance – although I do find their singing along with guitar endearing. It is an odd way to open and when Prince takes the stage there is further surprises with his first number being “Jam Of The Year”. Its one thing to read it on the liner notes, quiet another to hear it, and I must admit I get a lot of pleasure from this version. The band plays it with a lighter touch than what was heard on The Jam Of The Year concerts, and there is a buoyant sound provided by the keyboard and horns. The dreariness of the late ’90s is all but forgotten with this luminescent performance.

It is disappointing that the next few minutes can’t match these opening songs for interest. “$” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” are lighthearted, but instantly forgettable. Even listening to the bootleg, there is the feeling that we are being short changed and Prince has so much more that he could had offered up instead.

“Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the over played hits that the more hardcore fan rail against, but in this case it serves its purpose in igniting the crowd and the concert. Prince’s guitar has an ominous tone through the introduction that hints at darkness, but once the song starts the curtain opens on a music that is filled with warmth and pop fizz. Even if the song is played straight, the crowd can still be heard rising to the occasion, and shorn of its final guitar break it becomes an altogether more danceable number.

Dance is the theme of the moment and “Delirious” is in the same vein. It is a lot of fun, the music skips by in a hurry, barely pausing, and it is only the solo by Mr Hayes that makes it something substantial. This keyboard runs from a flowery opening to a percussive finish, leaving little doubt to the abilities of Mr Hayes.

The reprise of “Let’s Go Crazy” see’s Prince return to the guitar, and this time the sheering guitar finish is present and firmly sets the tone for the next few songs.

With the energy levels remaining high, the band storm through “1999”. They show no regard for the history of the song, everyone is the moment and the performance brings it firmly into the present. It is far more organic sounding, and the band inject it with their own life, giving it a contemporary feel that carries the song well across to the crowd.

What can I say about “Shhh” that hasn’t been said before. Prince and the band play every song at the concert well, but “Shhh” is the song that they truly inhibit and the performance that follows is the most soulful part of the show. The first versus crackle and fizz with unresolved tension before the song boils over with a a volcanic solo from Prince. It begins with the dense haze of an ash cloud, before Prince turns it up to a eruption of boiling lava, every note coming as part of an unending fiery river.

The guitar doesn’t let up as Prince plays a hard and heavy “Anotherloverholenyohead”. It certainly is a heavy hitter, and Prince comes out punching from the start with several strong jabs from his guitar. The rest of the song lives up to these opening moments, and although not as soulful as “Shhh”, it is every bit as intense. Of special note is Prince’s solo midsong, although not the best recording we can still hear the intensity of the moment. The “Rock Lobster” coda he ends with is right up my alley, this is exactly the type of music I gravitated to before I discovered Prince and the several minutes he spends shredding through the song has me feeling like a teenager.

As if the last three songs haven’t been guitar heaven enough, Prince chooses to finish with one of his show stoppers – “Empty Room”. This is the moment I have been waiting for and the reason that my friend Marti recommended this concert to me. It lives up to the occasion, and even with some audible crowd noise I am still transported away on the wings of Prince’s soaring guitar. The verses lose some power due to the audience chat, no doubt this song isn’t familiar to the casual fans, but every other part of the song is divine and I am immediately grateful for the recommendation.

The sampler set that follows is a buzz kill, although it begins well with an ever youthful “When Doves Cry”. Even as part of the sampler set it’s hard not to like it, the beat and main hook as irresistible as ever.

The funk gets stronger with a brief “Nasty Girl” serving as a doorstep into “Sign O The Times”. The latter has an insistent bass that nails it firmly to the dance floor and propels the concert forward.  Prince follows this with two more songs from the same album, “Hot Thing” and “Forever In My Life” may come from different ends of the spectrum, but they are both forever tied together by the ground breaking album they first appeared on. Hearing them side by side heightens the contrast between them, leaving the fact that they are from the same album all the more amazing.

“A Love Bizarre” and “Darlin Nikki” are merely tasters before we have something more nourishing in the form of “Pop Life”. It does indeed have that pop, but it isn’t as filling as it promises and Prince ends it at the first chorus.

There comes another flurry of songs with “Housequake”, “Extralovable” and “Pheromone”. The titles promise so much, but it is false hope as Prince skips through them. I am particularly disappointed with “Extralovable”, when I saw it listed I was really hoping for something substantial, but I can’t say I’m too surprised to see it treated like this in the sampler set.

This set ends with “Dance For Me” as Prince calls the band back on stage. Its little more than a pounding beat and a chance for the band to rejoin the fray.

The “I like funky music” chant has the band introduced by Prince, and in this case it is Ida who is the highlight, she may not be loud and forceful, but she is undeniably funky. The rest of the band follow her lead, and although Prince doesn’t sing the song is one of the funkiest of the evening.

“Take Me With U” is light, even by its own standards, and it is merely a piece of fluff on this recording. Raspberry Beret is equally pop, but more rewarding as it runs substantially longer and features Prince singing “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC (now there’s something I never thought I’d write). It is only the chant that features at the beginning, but it does make for an arresting moment.

An unsophisticated  “Cream” follows and although the crowd love it, it is hardly essential. The keyboard wheeze of Morris Hayes is great, but it is submerged beneath the bright and breezy band, dissipating any backbone he may bring to the song.

Morris Hayes underpins all that is great about “Cool” and “Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough”, it is his keyboard swells that lifts the song and carries it forward. It is equally a chance for the singers to have their moment, and Shelby, Liv and Elise are just as essential to the song as Prince. After the sampler set this comes as a reward, a six minute rendition that reignites the party.

Prince returns to the keyboard, this time for a piano set,and this part of the gig shines as for the next few minutes he plays delicate renditions of some of his finest ballads. The opening minute of “Purple Rain” is every fanboy’s dream, but “Diamonds And Pearls” is even better as Prince begins to sing. Both these songs are heavily abridged, and it is only as he tackles “The Beautiful Ones” that the crowd are treated to something special. The piano is more colourful, the singing slower and less intense, yet the song is just as riveting as it is on record.

“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” struts across the stage, all swagger and spit as Prince brings a bold attitude to the performance. A song that we have heard countless times, this rendition holds my attention through the entire song and is a healthy update of a classic. It is one of the key songs of the concert, which is surprising for a 30 year old B-side.

The piano continues with a flourish and sparkle as the opening of “Purple Rain” is heard. It is played as the epic power ballad it is, the crowd singing their piece from the opening moments while the keyboards drape ever morphing chords over it, letting the song build slowly into its true form. This is my “Purple Rain”, nothing is rushed and Prince pulls every strand of emotion from the song as he talks to the crowd, plays an emotive guitar break, and generally turns it into an unforgettable event. All this emotional energy is finally released with his guitar solo which is heart breaking and life affirming at the same time. I don’t know about the crowd at the arena, but I feel drained by the end of it.

There is a chance to recover with an easy listening “Everyday People” ushering in the encore. There’s nothing too demanding to be heard and it slides by easily, which is just as well as the following “The Dance Electric” lives up to it’s name and is electrifying. It takes a minute to warm up, but once the band starts cooking it becomes one of the hottest songs of the concert. I would have liked to hear more of Prince’s vocals, but the groove and the guitar that flickers and flames beneath it is more than enough to satisfy, making this the standout performance of the night, and of this bootleg.

“Kiss” is a song without a centre. All the components are in place, but it remains unfocused and passes by in a hazy blur. It is the final song of the evening but it doesn’t put an exclamation mark on the performance and is a wholly unsatisfying end to what has been a very good show.

I am very quick to dismiss concerts from 2004-2012 as nothing more than greatest hits shows, yet time and time again I find that they offer something for even the most hardened fan. They aren’t as good as the aftershows of this period, but they do offer something for everyone. This concert didn’t immediately grab me when I first saw it, but I was drawn in by the quality of the performance, and there was just enough in the setlist to appeal to my jaded ears. Not a show I would immediately gravitate to, but I appreciate the recommendation and found it worth the time to take a close listen to.

-Hamish

Postscript:
I believe this was screened at Paisley Park in December 2016. If the estate ever consider releasing it officially I would certainly be ready to part with my money for a nice proshot of this show. No doubt there are plenty more in the vault of similar quality in the vault, my mouth waters at the prospect that one day some of these will be seen by the general public.

 

The Palace, Melbourne 1992

I have had a fair number of down-under fans contacting me of late, so it’s only right that this week I listen to a show recorded in Melbourne, Australia 1992. This is a nice little aftershow from the Diamonds and Pearls tour, and serves as a period piece of that era. With plenty of horns, and the rapping of Tony M it is instantly recognizable as being from the early 90’s, a period that hasn’t always aged well. The recording itself is interesting, it is an audience recording, and there is certainly plenty of crowd noise, but the band itself is recorded very well, everything sounds as it should.The extra audience noise isn’t right next to the microphone, it gives the recording a lively sound, and it’s easy to listen to and picture yourself there.

22nd April 1992, The Palace, Melbourne

There’s only so many ways you can start a show, and Prince’s “Australia…..1,2,3,4” is as good as any. Things are off to a hectic start as all the band jump in with Tony M and we get a breakneck The Flow. I don’t normally gravitate to this song, yet somehow I get swept up by this performance, and as the crowd screams and squeals I find that I am just as into it as they are. The horns round out the sound with a full clean sound that is the opposite of Tony M’s rap which is deep and fast, although I hardly have time to register as the song zooms by.

Call The Law rolls over the crowd, and me here at home. The first minutes roll easily by with a fat groove, before Prince is heard playing lead guitar for the first time in the evening. He is sounding great right from the start, but keeps it short as Tony M raps some more. Upon his return with the guitar things heat up considerably, and the final minutes are filled with an intense guitar sound that has the crowd screaming. Prince makes it wail, and this is shaping up to be a great show, there is plenty of funk and guitar being brought to the fore already.

Prince Oz 92 b

I can’t quite get used to Tony M doing the spoken word introduction for Housequake, although that is a minor quibble. Despite some crowd noise, this is upbeat funk infused version, with plenty of rhythm guitar and brassy horns for those of us that enjoy such things. Being an aftershow this gets the full treatment, firstly it is sometime before Prince sings, and then when he does he stretches and pulls the song in a few different funky directions. The horns are uplifting, while the main beat is almost a stomp, it is something that most people would find irresistible to dance to, and you can tell the crowd is feeling it as they chant loudly along with it. It deviates much more later in the song, as first a funky guitar then some great horn work takes us to the stratosphere. The world slips away as the band jam effortlessly for some time.

When You Were Mine seems to come from an entirely difference place, and it’s hard to believe I am actually hearing it after the funkfest of Housequake. The band sounds smaller suddenly, although the horns play they are much quieter and Prince and his guitar is alone out front in the sound. There are some interesting adlibs (that my Mum might not appreciate) before we get the coolest moment of the song – a soulful horn solo that lifts the spirits and carries us to the end, it’s a wonderful moment and a great finish to it.

They follow this up with an extremely laid back jam, which is serves as a backing tracking for some rapping by Tony M. He adjusts his style for this, and his deeper slower raps sound better in this context. It’s an easy groove that floats on by, until the sound of Prince’s guitar cuts through the air. As with the other guitar he has played at the show he has a fantastic wail on it, and there is plenty of sustained notes as the crowd cheers after every burst.

Prince Oz 92

As the crowd claps the beat the band slowly build to the next song, first the beat, then a touch of guitar, topped with some horns before it all comes together and bursts out into Gett Off (housestyle). Its impressive how quickly Prince can get the lines out, as is the moments when the crowd sings the chorus with him as one. I love how tight it is despite the speed they are playing, this is a definite heart starter. The only respite we get is a the solo from Levi, he plays quick but the music pulls back and makes room for him. The recording is full of sound next as the horns return to the fray, and they put their mark on it for a good few minutes. Prince returns but it’s the trumpet that gets the final say as it plays the last few minutes, competing with a keyboard solo for the highlight of the song.

Purple House takes a few minutes to warm up, or perhaps, if I’m being honest with myself, I am impatiently waiting for the guitar soloing to begin. The horns are the most noticeable instrument, they dominate whenever they play, and Prince’s vocals seem very quiet in comparison. The guitar that I am expecting never comes, there is some beautiful guitar played midsong, although it’s short and not nearly enough for my taste. The song however is a fine rendition, and well recorded, and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Things slow even further with the ever so gentle Damn U. It glitters softly in the back ground as Prince croons to the delight of the ladies in the audience. Prince sings so well that it’s easy to forget that this is a live show, except for the sound of the audience. The horns too play their part, and there is certainly some magic woven as Prince seduces the audience, and the microphone, with his vocal performance.

Prince Oz 9 c

We change tack again next as Prince begins the self-aggrandizing My Name Is Prince.  As the “Prince” loops play over there is a very interesting opening with plenty of percussion and other loops in the mix. It’s all worked in extremely well, and even without Prince singing for the first minutes it commands attention. The horn rises build the sense of anticipation before Prince hits the microphone and punches out his opening lines. The song flies, not only do we have Prince and his lines, there is also more Tony M (sounding good) and a great horn solo that leads to some scratching, something I had not expected to hear. As the crowd chants “do that, do that” I am with them every step of the way, the song is a jam and I never want it to stop.

With plenty of encouragement from the audience the band is finally persuaded back for an encore of Sexy MF. Prince introduces it as a love song, although it’s anything but with a greasy guitar sliding us right into the Sexy MF chorus. There is plenty of whoops of delight from the crowd and they sing the chorus with plenty of enthusiasm. Its stronger and funkier than on record, it’s a shame that something is lost in the album version, that bit of extra fire and passion goes a long way. With plenty of horns, Tony M and the crowd, its everyone in for the final hurrah. It’s a great ending to what has been a great show, even I have been surprised how much I enjoyed listening to it.

This show has been a revelation to me. It’s not an era I listen to often, and being an audience recording I had previously shied away from listening to it often. The performance however was fantastic, and I found I even enjoyed Tony M in places. A great show, a nice recording, this one deserves more love than it gets, and I have been just as guilty as anyone for not giving it more praise. All in all, another good bootleg experience.

 

The Hi-Fi Brisbane

I shouldn’t like today’s show, but it is one that I actually listen to quite a lot. On paper it doesn’t have much going for it, it’s an audience recording, the set list is rather ho-hum, and it’s only just over an hour long. But I find myself coming back to it again and again- I guess there is no accounting for some peoples taste. An aftershow from the Australian tour of 2012, it’s more recent than some of the gigs I have dusted off over the last couple of months. So before I begin, please bear in mind that although I enjoy this one, it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes.

Brisbane 2012b

19 May, 2012 (am) The Hi-Fi Brisbane, Australia

There is an unusual start to this recording and show, as the first thing we hear is a couple of minutes of the PA, while there is a live sound check. While ‘I Know You Got Soul’ plays you can hear various instruments being checked, a few drum beats here and there, and a bass run or two. Often I find that the beauty of listening to these recordings is that I listen carefully and imagine that I myself am at the show. And with the band sound checking with the PA I can well imagine the excitement in the room, as that is the feeling I get here listening at home. And to give you further insight to my world, I often dance around the room listening to these songs, before forcing myself to sit down and listen again and write about it, and believe me and was and truly dancing around the room for the first portion of this show.

Brisbane 2012

The PA stops playing abruptly and the drums of Musicology begin. It’s got a good shuffle to it, and the horn stabs and prominent while the organ adds depth behind it. The bass enters, and then some great rhythm guitar. It’s got a funky wah wah sound before it changes and starts to play some funky sounding lead lines. I have never been a fan of Musicology but if it had hace been played more like this in the main shows then I definitely would have given it much more love. Played here as a jam with plenty of guitar and bass its sounds much fuller and funkier. The bass hits a nice loop and the singers join in with a good harmony of “I know you got soul”. Because this is an audience recording, there is a lot of crowd noise, and sometimes it does drown the band, but I feel it’s a trade off, as it does give it a brilliant live feel. This one is far from the sterile shows I sometimes hear. Prince call “Brisbane, I know you got soul”, and there is great cheer from the crowd before Prince goes on to play a lot more guitar. Its not a roaring guitar solo, just very long, funky, improvised playing. Mr. Hayes gets called for a solo, and there is a moment when you can hear Prince calling to the sound desk “Turn him up, help him, help him”. The organ then becomes noticeable louder and Mr. Hayes plays a very nice break. Shelby J follows soon after singing Mama Feelgood, and I must say it’s very refreshing to hear her singing, rather than encouraging the audience as we hear at the main shows. She does have a great voice, and is a favorite of mine, but I feel she doesn’t play to her strengths at the main shows. Here it’s all about her singing, and I am onboard as a fan. The band do all get a chance to play, there is a brief drum break for John Blackwell, and Cassandra O’Neal also gets a small solo. Both are good in their own ways, but too short to be noteworthy. Again, there is very much the feeling that its a live show as Prince gets on the microphone to speak to the crowd, and at the same time asking for the sound desk to give him “more high-end on stage, more high-end” I love that this is raw and unpolished, and they are working on it as they go. He further goes on to explain to the audience “we get it right, we can stay here all night” There is then a few minutes when the song is stripped back to Ida and John Blackwell, before the crowd start to chant with Prince “ooohhhhh, Brisbane”. The last two minutes of the song is Cassandra and John Blackwell playing, it’s a funky rhythm and has me itching to dance. The song ends, and I see it’s clocked in at almost 18 minutes- a great way to start an aftershow.

Brisbane 2012a

Ida on the bass, and some heavy organ from Mr. Hayes starts us into Days Of Wild. The first call of Prince to the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” has them chanting along from the start. There is some heavy organ which I do like, before Prince starts to sing. As I said earlier, there is a trade off with audience recordings, and here I find I don’t hear Princes vocals as well as I expect. He’s not spitting the lyrics as intensely as he used to, and there is also some distortion in the sound which makes him hard to listen to. And of course I should mention, I have this playing way too loud for my speakers, so it’s not always just about the show! Prince comes out with his “oh by the way I play the bass guitar” but what follows is fairly muted and restrained by his standards. There is then a nice moment when the main refrain from America is played, before we return to the heavy organ groove of Mr. Hayes. I have to give further love to Mr. Hayes, when he then goes on to play a great organ break for a good minute or so. It fantastic, and adds a warm darkness to everything. There is then a great break, with just the band pulling right back while the guitar plays a funky stroke. It’s the funkiest moment of the song, before Prince begins to sing Wild And Loose. He only sings it for a verse, before there is another keyboard solo. This song is just dripping, and it’s impossible not to move to it. Liv also gets a moment to sing on it, and she delivers an impassioned and deep Ain’t Nobody. I am really feeling this one as another keyboard solo comes at us, and the heavy groove goes on and on. Cassandra plays great on the piano, but its only fitting that it’s Mr. Hayes who plays us through to the end of the song with his organ. “These are the days, these are the days”!

Brisbane 2012c

The Question Of U starts as purely an instrumental, while Prince plays some restrained lead guitar. I say restrained, as in its not fiery and loud, but it does have a stratospheric sound. He does sing, but it’s not The Question Of U, instead he sings the lyrics of The One over the music. The One is some of my favorite lyrics, and I am pleased that the recording is good enough that I can hear him quite clearly throughout this song. He pauses after each verse for some guitar play, nothing wild, just suitably mournful. After the second verse he does play with a tone more in line with what I expect from A Question Of U. Although he plays a good long break, the song isn’t totally about him and his guitar. After his solo, there is then a long piano break, played by presumably Cassandra. The surprises keep coming as Prince begins to the sing Gingerbread Man. The band is very quiet at this point, and it’s mostly Princes vocals and the crowd we can hear. I am not overly familiar with the song, but I really enjoy it here, and it’s a great fit for the song. Soon after Mr. Hayes plays another break (he sure is busy tonight) before the song comes to a soft end with the audience clapping and singing “ooohh, ohhh. ohhh, oooohh” A beautiful song, and again it’s played to maximum effect with nothing feeling rushed at all.

Brisbane 2012d

The dark bluesy arrangement of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man follows next, and it’s soaked in a melancholy feel, especially the guitar tone and Princes vocals. I am a big fan of this slowed down arrangement, and this one is particularly smoky. Prince’s guitar playing is tight earlier on, but there is a great release when he does open up and play the first break. Like a door cracking open, the opening notes pull us in and I want to hear what comes next. Prince doesn’t unleash it right away, he returns to the verse after a few bars, but it builds the anticipation. At this point you can hear some people in the crowd commenting that this version is better, and although I don’t like hearing them on the recording, I do agree with their sentiments. After the next verse Prince does open up on the guitar fully, and this is a good one, I mean the solo is full of emotion and soul. It’s not a solo for the ages, but on this song on this night it’s just perfect. He does play faster as the song goes, but never furiously so, and as I said before, the fact is it’s a very soulful and mournful solo. The emotion continues as the music breaks down and Prince sings “I could never” over and over. Every word is full of passion, and it gives the song a vibe that is missing on the album. The keyboards play some piano and organ, before Prince sings the refrain a couple more times and closes the song with one last mournful line.

Brisbane 2012e

Prince gets a break from vocal duties next as Shelby takes the lead for a rendition of Brownskin. After the intensity of the previous song, it leaves me a little deflated. Shelby sings well, and I can hear the band is in good form with Prince on guitar, but it’s not at the same high level of the first four songs. There is a guitar break by Prince midsong which is noteworthy, plenty of sustained notes and a very electric tone to his guitar, but it’s only short and we return to Shelby. On a better recording, I would give this one a lot more time, but being only an audience recording it is hard work to listen to, and even with another fine guitar break by Prince near the end I still can’t quite give it a pass.

Brisbane 2012f

Prince calls for the lights to be turned up as he starts the rhythm guitar of Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). I have heard this one plenty over the years, so it fails to fire me up when I hear it here. It’s as we have heard it previously, although the break with Prince playing plenty of rhythm guitar is cool, and for me the most enjoyable part of the song. It’s at this stage of the gig that things speed up a little, and the earlier vibe of a jam is lost. This is very much a show that has two halves. The first few songs were all longer jams, and plenty of intensity, but at this stage a lighter vibe is present, and the songs are getting shorter. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) only goes for a few minutes before it ends and Prince plays the funky guitar intro of Love Rollercoaster. He doesn’t go on to play the rest of the song, we just have half a minute of him alone playing the rhythm before we move on to the next song.

Brisbane 2012g

Next his guitar playing moves to the rhythm of Controversy and the kick drum comes in behind him. There is the keyboard sound, before we have the main groove that we know so well. The crowd gets a chance to sing along as the band play, and the band do a great job of it, they sound very tight. Prince does play with the crowd little, getting them to scream and shout in a brief call and response. There is then another verse and chorus a break down and Prince doing his “people call me rude” speech. Then as the Controversy groove continues Prince asks “how many people know about the quake” and we get a minute of him and Shelby encouraging the crowd to clap their hands and stomp their feet, before the song is brought to a close. Again it’s very short, and light.

Brisbane 2012h

The party is kept going as Prince and the band start to play I Know You Got Soul, nicely taking us back to where all this begun. Prince mostly speaks to the crowd, getting them dancing, before a very short chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”. The funky guitar starts again and we move to Play That Funky Music.

Play That Funky Music I have very strong feelings about. I don’t like it in his main shows, and I definitely don’t like it here. The band plays it very easily, and it feels a little throw away for them. This one is slightly better than others, in that Prince starts a guitar solo early on and maintains it for most of the three minutes. It swirls and grinds away while Prince occasionally sings a line or two to the audience. The song never really starts, nor does it ever turn into a jam, and it ends very quickly with Prince “Thank you Brisbane, and good night”

Brisbane 2012i

So there it is, an odd little show that I listen to a lot. The first part is very strong, and even though I dislike the second part of the show, it is very short and the first few songs more than compensate. As I said earlier, it’s not for everyone’s taste, but if you aren’t adverse to an audience recording and want to hear something a little off the radar, this would be as good a place as any to start.

Plenty of good shows been played here recently,
Hopefully I will get them on the blog as soon as I can.

Thanks again
Hamish