The Metro, Boston 1986

I was intending on writing about the second half of the 2008 bootleg that I took a listen to last week, but I have been overtaken by events in the fast moving world of Prince bootlegs. The last couple of weeks has seen the Eye records release of two great packages, the 1986 show at Boston, and “Rainmaker” that covers a some well known concerts of the Purple Rain era. Of the two I am more interesting in the 1986 concert as the other concerts have been circulating for some time in a variety of guises. I have audience recordings of the Boston concert, but I was excited to hear it in soundboard quality. As Prince himself once said “All that glitters, ain’t gold,” and this is true with this soundboard recording. Yes, it is a soundboard recording, but that doesn’t mean that it is perfect. There is quality issues (especially on the first disc) and to my ears the tape speed isn’t quite right. The first disc in particular sounds slow, it’s most noticeable with the opening notes that immediately sound off. Again, the second disc is better, but still not quite perfect. I may sound pedantic on this point, but when you listen to as many bootlegs as I do, then you tend to notice little things like this, and it is worth noting. As always, there are positives – it is a soundboard recording we haven’t heard before, and even as it is, it is still a fine document of one of my favorite tours, the hit n run tour of 1986. That is something worth celebrating and I am quite prepared to put aside my bootleg snobbery for a couple of hours and wallow in this glorious show.

3rd April, 1986. The Metro, Boston

There is no surprises with the setlist early on. Prince doesn’t deviate from any of the other shows of the era, and anyone who has been listening to these bootlegs over the years will know exactly what to expect. The flighty and twitching “Around The World In A Day”  moves under the feet with ever changing soundscapes as an ethereal flute opening gives way to some Byrds-esque guitar before the sound unfolds with Prince’s chorus bringing the song to a firmer ground. Its a kinetic opener, even with the slight sound issues I previously mentioned.

The sound becomes bolder with “Christopher Tracy’s Parade.” There is more of the band to be heard, and even with muddled sound the recording captures the energy of the performance. What captures my ear the most is the horn section, here fully integrated into the band and providing early impetus. The song never fully develops though (due to the recording) and the remaining impression of it is the organ solo that is provided, one presumes, by Prince.

The sound strips back for “New Position,” the rhythm section outstanding with their funk and bump. Bobby Z and Brown Mark are often overlooked visually, but they more than make up for it their musical contributions, and this song is an early indication of how much their input makes a Prince concert what it is. Prince himself makes his mark, the one lyric that sounds very clear is when he asks Jerome to sing “P.U.S.S.Y.” It can be heard on album, but here is is very bold and obvious, it is the loudest moment on the song.

There is time for “I Wonder U,” although it doesn’t match anything heard in the first handful of songs. The crowd are bought back into the concert with “Raspberry Beret.” It’s not quite the riotous celebration heard on other bootlegs though. The crowd are present, but not to the same extent as other concerts. The payoff is that Prince sings most of the lines himself, something I greatly appreciate and enjoy.

I wish I could say the “Alexa De Paris” stands alone as a ornate monument surrounded by these slighter pop songs. However, the recording is again muddled with its mix, and although the individual parts sound great, when they all come together they don’t gel. There is some fierce-some guitar to be heard, but it is very low in the mix. If it was alone out front it would be scorching, but as it is it is no more than a smolder in the background, threatening to burst into flame but never reaching the point of combustion.

The is an outstanding start to “Controversy,” with scratch guitar to die for and the keyboards playing with a robo-funk coldness. The rest of the song sounds thin, and it has a weak ending with Princes overplayed “Where’s my cigarettes” shtick. All is forgiven with “Mutiny.” From the opening seconds it is has my nerves jangling, the music connecting my ears to my feet as my brain screams “dance!” The song itself would be enough, but when the sizzling saxophone of Eric Leeds is thrown into the mix, well then, it’s at that point that it becomes the epitome of Prince and the funk he was peddling at the time. Eric Leeds practically bursts into flames as he plays, and Prince does nothing to extinguish this fire as he has the band chant “St Paul, punk of the month” as Wendy and Lisa give clues to the hardcore with their “Dream Factory” chorus. The song is a tour de force for the extended Revolution; the rest of the concert and bootleg are irrelevant, this song alone is all you need as it covers all that was good and great about Prince and this band.

The following four songs maintain this thrill of excitement. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window,” “Lady Cab Driver,” “Automatic,” and “D.M.S.R” come in quick fire succession, increasing the tempo of the show and laying the ground work for what will unfold next.

It is “The Dance Electric” that comes next, and from the title alone you know this is going to be something special. Needless to say, it matches Mutiny for funkiness, and upstages it in raw, unfiltered intensity. It has a deep funk in its groove, and Prince injects impassioned guitar into the vein, giving the song an uncontrollable rush and head-spinning high. This is one of the great performances of this song on bootleg, an instant addiction the first time you hear it.

There is the inevitable come down in the form of “Under The Cherry Moon.” Its other worldliness is heightened as it is coming directly after “The Dance Electric,” and as a contrast it is isn’t just a come down, it’s a crash. I rate it highly, but I would have preferred to have it somewhere else rather than directly after “The Dance Electric.”

I don’t know whats going on with “Anotherloverholenyohead,” but Prince’s vocals are almost inaudible for the first verse. However, Wendy and Lisa are enthusiastically loud and the keyboard can be heard dominating the sound. This is another song where the sound quality is less than stellar, unfortunately a recurring issue. There are positives though, Lisa is enthralling with her piano break, everything else disappears as she plays, the world turning on her breathtaking feel for the keys.

“Soft And Wet” comes from another world, sonically and historically. It still proudly wears the disco coat of the era it was born in, and is shameless in the way it sparkles and glitters in this show. Dr. Fink’s solo is particularly nostalgic, and for a few minutes I forget this is 1986 as Prince and the band recreate the brown and orange world of the late 70s.

Prince stays in the era with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” which performs the same trick on steroids. Everything “Soft And Wet” was, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is, times five. It is stronger, funkier, and forceful throughout, not just suggesting you get up and dance but roughly shaking you to your feet and dragging you to the dance floor. The real action happens in the second half of the song, as the groove moves from the dance floor to a dark corner of the room for some nastiness. Even with the gleam of the horns, there is a dirtiness that can’t be shaken – definitely a recommendation.

“Head” leads us further down this path, the music becoming darker and murkier as Prince spreads a layer of sleaze across the performance. The song lives up to its name, but there is no climax, just more nastiness and Dr Fink adds his own smutty solo before the the scratch guitar hints at all sorts of unmentionable things. It would be the most sexual part of the show, if not for Prince talking about Morris Day and chopping down the Oak tree. This takes me out of the moment, and I do up my pants and move on to the next song.

There is an extended opening to “Pop Life” which gives us all a chance to regather our composure, before Prince delivers a sunny version of one of his greatest pop songs.It floats easy as a cloud, a feeling further enhanced with Eric Leeds’s flute solo that flutters and flits across the sky. It is far removed from the previous song, but it moves the concert forward and brings us back into the sun.

With Eric Leeds’s saxophone, and some slippery guitar to grease the wheels, “Girls And Boys” ticks two of the key boxes for what makes a great song. This is song is entirely representative of the era, it perfectly encapsulates the era and the music Prince was creating. Prince’s voice has a touch of arrogance, born of the confidence in the scope of work he has created,  while Eric Leeds’s saxophone ties the groove to the ground before taking flight late in the song. Elsewhere Dr.Fink, and the twin guitars of Wendy and Miko, give it all the funk you will ever need. It never reaches the same funky heights as some of the earlier songs, but it does neatly package up what the era was all about.

These two songs are the opening numbers of disc two, and they sound much better than the songs off the first disc. This standard is maintained for “Life Can Be So Nice.” It is a clean performance of the song, without being outstanding, but it does gain a few extra marks in my book with the improved sound quality. It doesn’t leap off the page as some of the other songs do, yet with all the instruments and vocals clearly heard it is a pleasant listen.

There is a buzz in the left speaker for the beginning of “Purple Rain,” that does initially detract from the moment. The rest of the opening is faultless however, especially the guitar of Prince that tiptoes briefly through the field of piano, creating a path for the listener to find their way into the song. It is this entrance and then the final exit that are the highlight of the song. The final guitar break sees Prince light up the darkness with its intensity, not just leading the listener through the final minutes but pushing them with an electrifying and emotive shriek.

I have never been completely sold on Prince’s performance of “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On,” and this concert isn’t going to change my mind. Its snappy and sharp, but undemanding and as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t add to the show and is unnecessary.

“A Love Bizarre” throws up the most interesting moment in the show. A minute into the song there is a glitch, one assumes with the drum machine or pads, and Bobby Z catches the moment with an effortless switch to a heavier, and more organic, live drum. The change comes in a split second, but one can clearly hear the change in the drum sound. The rest of the song lives up to other live performances from the year.  It may start with a veneer of pop over a funk groove, but it is the second half of the song where this veneer is stripped back to reveal what the song truly is, a hard-hitting beast of a song that gives Prince and the band plenty of time to ride the groove where ever they please. There is very little surprises to be heard, but as always the song delivers with its strident and bold riffs, highlighting the rhythm section of Brown Mark and Bobby, and newly acquired horn section.

It is a firestorm of guitar that opens “America.” The guitar has been prominent throughout the concert, and here Prince takes it to new levels with an electrifying performance. The guitar establishes a beachhead for the rest of the band to storm through, Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss immediately providing a twin horn attack that tears the song in half. The breakdown halts this attack, the momentum temporarily lost as Prince indulgently leads the crowd with some chants.The rhythm guitars bring some forward movement to the song, but it fails to live up to the opening salvo heard in the first five minutes.

Screams and shrieks greet “Kiss.” It does sound strangely flat on the recording, all the fizz and pop is missing. An appearance of the wooden leg doesn’t help, but the guitar break brings a welcome surge of energy, and the song sounds more lively after its appearance. The final coda restores my enthusiasm for the song, an element of fun is introduced and this brings a lightness to the song that serves it well.

The concert ends with a intricate rendition of “Love or $.” It is a monochrome and highly manicured performance, highlighted by the soundboard recording. The horns are again high in the mix, giving a hint of sparkle to the intertwining sounds that can be heard. The song never bursts out of the tight cocoon that the band weaves around it, often threatening to break out in a flutter of color it instead stays tight in the pocket until the very end.

Ignore any negative comments I may have made about the sound quality and take this show for what it is – a soundboard recording of Prince and The Revolution at their very best. This is only the first show after the Parade warm-up at First Ave, but the band is already firing on all cylinders as memories of Purple Rain rapidly vanish in the rear view mirror. I wouldn’t go so far as to give this a five star rating, but it is a concert and bootleg that you need to hear. Indulge yourself and hunt it out.

Thanks again, next week I will tackle the other recent Eye release before I finally return to the 2008 show I previous started.

-Hamish

 

Parade Tour in Sweden

Was there ever a bad show on the Parade tour? Maybe, but this one certainly isn’t it. Today I return to one of my favorite tours- The Parade tour, and take a listen to a recording from the Swedish concert. This is a fairly well known recording, it is available in video and audio, and one that I know many people enjoy – myself included. My two go to shows from this tour are the warm up show at First Ave, and the Cobo birthday show, but this one is a close third place behind those two. So, let’s sit back and enjoy what we have here.

22 August, 1986, Johanneshov, Sweden

The classic “Please welcome Prince and The Revolution” begins the show, while the band plays the beginning of Around The World In a Day in darkness. There is plenty to enjoy in the music at the beginning, lots of different instruments to pick out and enjoy, and these senses are heightened by the fact the band are playing behind a curtain. I do like this song a lot, and don’t really know what to expect from a live version, and the first thing that really grabs me is the wonderful sound of Princes voice. It has a well rounded and warm sound to it, and contrasts nicely to some of the instrumentation in the back ground. The rest of the band joins and the song starts proper, but after a minute of some great bass work and fanfares from the band we move into Christopher Tracey’s Parade.

Prince Parade

There is some guitar work in the left at the start of the Christopher Tracey’s Parade that seems a little out of place, but overall the sound and the texture of the song is just wonderful. I especially like the keyboards playing after the first verse. Lisa is playing some great stuff as well as providing backing vocals to Prince. The second half of the song the band moves up a gear and Prince takes his first break at the organ. He doesn’t play anything mind-blowing, but the organ adds more warmth and fullness before we move without pause to the next song.

New Position sounds very full and colorful here in comparison to what we hear on album. The horns play some nice wiggly lines, and the rest of the band fill out the song much more. In particular I can hear the guitar much more on this number. The song ends naturally enough with a flourish from the horns before the tempo changes.

I Wonder U is quite a change from what we have just heard, and the atmosphere of the recording changes with it. Here it’s again the keyboards I enjoy most, although the singing from Wendy is fine enough, it’s not a showstopper. Atlanta Bliss on the trumpet though, now that is a nice touch. He plays a break that sounds shaky but is actually very good. Already it’s my favorite moment of the first ten minutes of the show.

Prince asks if we are ready to rock and roll before the horns introduce Raspberry Beret with a flourish. Prince uses the song to encourage the audience to clap their hands and to sing. He himself sings most of it, which has me a little surprised as I expected he would leave it mostly to the crowd. The song sounds good enough, but I find that with verses cut out it does lack the charm of the story telling original. Again Prince teases us with just a brief moment on the organ, before the song transitions into the next part of the show.

Prince Parade 3

Prince does some cool sounding vocals at the start of Delirious, and then the band joins in and we go racing off. The vocals at the start are well worth the few seconds they get, I can imagine him doing more with it like this, especially when he stretches his voice out. The rest of the song is a fun dance along number, with plenty of time devoted to Prince and his back up dancers.

The funkometer goes up to ten next as the classic opening riff of Controversy begins. Always my favorite part of the Parade gigs, this is where the show starts for me. The song starts with plenty of funky guitar but the keyboard and horns also come in heavy and it’s a great funk sound. It could have derailed when Prince goes into his cigarette smoking routine, but things are saved when the next song starts.

Prince owns Love Bizarre in these live performances. The sound is funk yet still there is plenty of pop in there. The band and Prince deliver it all with such intensity, not just the music but also the performance. Wendy and Lisa sound great on the backing vocals, and the guitar playing is just as good too. There is a keyboard groove that keeps me moving, and I think groove is the perfect word to describe this song. The guitar and keyboard are relentless, and the horns add just a splash of color. Eric does get a solo moment, and he sounds as good as ever. Prince does encourage the crowd with “who’s house, Wendy’s house” and I want to sing along here at home. At one point the band drop out leaving just bass and drums, and I don’t need to reiterate, it’s so funky. ‘Stop on the one’ has Prince in band leader mode, but he doesn’t play up on it too much, content to just sit back and let the band play. The song ends with Prince on the drum riser, and I wonder how he can top that.

Prince Parade 1

Again the tempo drops, and Prince delivers a slow burning classic rendition of Do Me Baby. As always his vocal delivery is top shelf, but on this recording it’s the backing vocals that I notice most. They are right behind him on the chorus and it’s perfectly complimentary. Prince Wendy and Lisa really do sound wonderful together, I can’t deny. This is one of the better versions I have heard, Princes vocals are very clean sounding on the recording, and I can hear every note and inflection in his voice. The horns playing give the song and extra push near the end, and add to the seductive nature of the song. When I started writing about this show I didn’t expect Do Me Baby to be one of the highlights, but it is. The end of the song is breathtaking, and I don’t say that lightly, as Prince pulls the band back and sings as the crowd clap along. His lyrics sound excellent, and he throws in some appropriate screams and yells. He finishes up with the crowd singing with him. If the show ended right here I would be happy.

I still haven’t worked out why How Much Is That Doggie is in the set list, but I easily forgive them when the brief instrumental of Lady Cab Driver is played. Its only seconds long but its enough to remind me how much I love that song. The band move easily onto Automatic, which is no bad thing as it also is a favorite of mine from the 1999 album. Its not as dark as it sounds on album, on this recording its much more of a dance song, especially with all the horns thrown in, and Prince plays up this aspect for all its worth, with plenty of dancing throughout.

We stay with 1999 with a short but cool version of DMSR tacked on to the end. Again, it’s a medley version, with plenty of horns, so we don’t get to enjoy the fullness of it, but I know that as soon as I finish writing this I will be pulling out the 1999 album.

The simple keyboard riff of When Doves Cry is enough to get the crowd screaming. It’s played true to the album here, if anything it’s got an even more stripped down sound, the beat that Prince sings over is very sparse sounding. Part of the beauty of this song is the sound of Prince voice out alone in front of the music, and it is definitely true in this case. Its very melancholy sounding, and even when the bass enters that feeling remains with me. But the best part is definitely Wendy’s solo. The guitar tone is brilliant, and it’s got the sound of a lone instrument. The beat is still barren with just the occasional bass sound as she plays, and it’s a great rock moment. The full band enters soon after this point and the horns are finally heard, and sound oddly out of place on this recording, even thought I have enjoyed them plenty on other occasions. The coda has the horns playing while Prince plays at the organ, and I warm to them at this stage, it could well be another song but the sound is fantastic.

Prince Parade 4

This show gets better and better, I can’t believe how much I have gushed over it already, but still it keeps delivering. Next we have Prince alone at the piano, and instead of starting straight in on a song we have a couple of minutes of him improvising. Even if he is just warming up it sounds great, and I could happily listen to it for much longer. He does start to play Under The Cherry Moon, and I am even happier. Just the sound of his vocals and the piano are perfect and it seals the deal for me- this show is one of the greats. Prince and the piano are backed very well by some other keyboard work, but its never intrusive and Prince still has plenty of time to play his piano parts.

My favorite song from the Parade album is Anotherloverholenyohead, and to hear now with this band on this tour, well it doesn’t get much better. Lisa and Prince sound great, I was expecting to be writing about Eric Leeds, but it’s the girl’s voices that get my attention first. Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss do get their moment later in the song, and as you might expect they live up to their billing. Everybody seems to chime in for their part on this song, and Prince introduces Lisa as we get a long break of her piano playing. There is some great chords, and some fast delicate playing as well, and I can’t speak of it highly enough. In a show packed full of highlights this is yet another one.

Prince Parade 5

17 Days is another song that we need to hear more of. The bass line on this recording is nice and strong, and the full band makes for a much fuller sound than we hear on record. Like everything it’s a compromise, we lose some of the morose feeling of the original, but there are so much more great things to listen on here. The horns take over as Prince engages with audience, and throws bundles of flowers to the fans. The groove gets deeper and darker as the song goes along, and Prince gives us some organ play which fills out the sound a lot.

Prince Parade 6

“I hate rock n roll, who wants some head?” and the nasty part of the show begins. Head has a nice intro, moving from bare rhythm guitar to dirty horn stabs. Head is dirty by name and dirty by nature. I can hear the guitar lines on this one very well, and they lay a nice layer over which the horns and keyboard stabs play. Any show that has Head in it usually has me writing that it was a highlight. I am reluctant to say that, with a show packed with highlights, but it is the moment when I most wanted to put down my laptop and enjoy the music. Dr Finks solo sounds great, it’s a little different sounding than I am used to but still has me listening intently. The song breaks down to a nice long jam, and Prince calls for Bobby Z who lays down a nice snare beat. I was waiting for Prince to take his time and dance for much longer but instead he returns to the organ for another break before he starts dancing again. Head gets the full treatment, its drawn right out, lots of audience interplay and Prince playing band leader. He breaks into his electric man routine as he lies on the floor, which would be great if I hadn’t of seen it so much already. But as he calls for Booby to hit him with the snare I’m back on board. The band is on fire and of the whole show this is the performance I enjoy most from them. There is a little bit of everything. Prince even picks up a guitar to deliver some suitable dirty guitar to the proceedings, then walks off the stage as he finishes his guitar break and the band play us out in darkness.

Prince Parade 7

The tone is lightened again as the band strike up Pop Life. Live it sounds just as joyous as it does on record, and it starts off with Prince singing “Life it ain’t too funky, life it ain’t too funky” The rest of the song follows as heard on record, the main difference is that Princes vocals sound much stronger, and the keyboard riff is more to the fore. It does have a great live sound, Prince vocals are a little ragged, but it still has that pop. It also nice to hear Eric Leeds playing the flute solo live, a nice little touch that I didn’t expect. There aren’t any surprises musically or performance wise in the song, it does exactly what you would expect from the title. Prince does try for an audience sing along before the end, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the song ends at this point.

Girls and Boys sounds funky, but lacks the deep funky sound I associate it with. But I am in no criticizing it, I enjoy this performance a lot. As with the last song, it seems to gain an extra emphasis from the raggedness in Princes voice. He’s never rough sounding, but it does sound a little more throaty than earlier in the show. The best part for me is near the end when Prince lays down his spoken part. It sounds so strong and funky and for me it’s a great way to end the song.

The band keep up the pace with a quick segue into Life Can Be So Nice. There is plenty sound on this, but its kind of hard to pick out all the instrumentation, the mix is such that at a couple of points there is too much sound to digest. I love it for this, it’s an ambitious live song, and once again I find myself in awe of The Revolution. The second half of the song is where the groove really goes, and as is so often it has that sound that The Revolution might just play on like this for days. However the song does fade to a halt with The Revolution singing the main refrain over and over.

1999 sounds so good, it feels that this band could sleep walk through it and it would still sound great. There is just a touch of horns in it, rather than the full on horn treatment it receives in later years, and it still has that synthesized 1999 sound. With all the band members and dancers from the Parade era revolution I wonder how far they will push the party time coda, but it’s played straight and doesn’t out stay its welcome.

Prince Parade 8

There is a break for perhaps a minute after this. A chance for us to collect our breath before Mountains begins. Mountains sounds great right from the start, there is nice deep organ sound that can be heard underneath at the start of the song before Prince starts singing. The song doesn’t deviate too far from the original, but it’s great to hear it live. Especially Wendy’s guitar seems to sound more funky and raw live, an over all more organic sound. If I had any complaint about this song, it would be that it seemed to go by in a flash, but every moment was a joy.

The arrangement of Kiss on this recording is also very cool. The main riff is played on the keyboard, and the guitar only has a very low key presence through the song. The horns start the solo, and they sound sharp, before Wendy plays her solo, and the guitar comes to the fore for the rest of the song. As much as I love Wendy, I would have to say it was the first half of the song I preferred more, the sound of the keyboard playing the main riff was very cool to my ears. That said, the last 30 seconds with just the bare sound of Wendy’s and Mikos guitar has me reconsidering my words. They both have different sounds, but at the end of this one they sound great together. Its 30 seconds that I could listen to for hours.

Prince Parade 9

A single spot light on Wendy playing guitar takes us into Purple Rain. The introduction is very short, Wendy plays the opening chords only once before Prince starts singing immediately. I have heard plenty of drawn out introductions, so this on is actually a nice change. Prince doesn’t push his vocals too hard, and the keyboards sound way too loud compared to everything else – at least in the first verse, but again it’s not a bad thing. Another thing I notice about the mix, the girl’s voices are very loud and clear. It’s a good thing, I can easily hear how well they work together. There are no surprises in the guitar solo, but I had a good few minutes playing air guitar along with it, so it’s just as enjoyable as any other I have heard. He does play it for all he can, so we do get a nice long rendition. There seems to be very little crowd singing along with it, but this maybe a reflection on the recording, rather than the audience at the concert. There is a good 5-6 minutes of guitar to close out the show, and it’s nice to see him with his guitar again in a show that seems to have a touch of everything.

I love Parade shows. This one doesn’t offer up too much when you see the set list, the set list is average, but the show is anything but. The performances are what make this one so good, both musically and visually. Its well worth listening to if you want a reminder of just how great The Revolution were, they were all outstanding. This one is a great document of the Parade tour, and is essential for any collection.

Thanks again
Hamish

Another Lonely Christmas Live

I don’t often listen to Purple Rain gigs. I know that’s unusual for a fan of Prince, after all it is the Purple Rain tour, movie and album that made him. But I find the concerts lack the intensity of the early days, the variety of the later days and I always have that nagging feeling that I have heard it all before. Of course a big part of this may be that in 1980’s I played everything Purple Rain over and over at the time, and I have overdosed enough to last me 30 years! For all that, Purple Rain gigs are enjoyable, fun and still sound good today. There are points of the show that I find aren’t as strong as they could be, but that’s a small quibble. So today I am listening to the Christmas show of 26 December 1984

26 December 1984, St Paul

As you might guess from my first paragraph above, I was cynical about this show before I listened to it, however as soon as Prince says “My name is Prince, and I have come to play with you” any such thoughts had vanished. I was immediately transported back to the teenage me, and all those feelings of excitement and anticipation welled up inside of me. This is how to open a show! Prince delivers the opening lines of “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” solemnly, and the crowd can’t help but react. It should sound corny, hell- it does sound corny, and yet I feel myself getting caught up in it all. I have heard the beat of Lets Go Crazy, and guitar too many times, but here it still sounds energy filled and passionate. With a whoop the band all kick it, and the recording really comes alive. The recording itself is very nice, an excellent soundboard recording, with not too much crowd noise, just enough to give you a feel of being there. The song is not drawn out too much, Prince doesn’t go overboard with the guitar, it follows the same arrangement I have heard throughout the tour, and ends with a flurry of noise and drum rolls.
Prince Purple Era

A long drum roll and keyboard fill leads us into Delirious. This is one song I have never got. It’s pleasant, but feels a little light to my ears. Its better live, I will give it that, and I really enjoy Princes keyboard break in the middle of it, then more groove and I assume dancing. It’s a shame it doesn’t sound this good on the original record. (For the record, 1999 is my favorite album, so not slight intended on it from my end)

Another 1999 songs follows (most of you could recite a Purple Rain set list by heart, I’m sure) with the title track itself, 1999. The guitar seems to be lot louder on this recording, and guess what, I like it. There is the funky guitar rhythm, but also a heavy guitar occasional grinding, for the start at least. The crowd is often heard, and these songs are obviously a crowd pleasing opening for the show. The breakdown is great, with the crowd singing ‘Party’ over some great funky guitar. If I could sample this section, I would play it all day.

Although I am a big fan of the modern arrangement of Little Red Corvette, the version played here is, for me, the definitive version. The long drawn out keyboard introduction, the beautiful keyboard swells drawing me in, the beat ticking away in the background, and just a touch of piano, I can’t help but love it. It’s almost a shame when it ends and the song starts proper. Prince vocals come in just right, just a touch of vulnerability, but not pitying. His delivery is spot on. The guitar also has just enough rawness, without changing the dynamic of the song. The guitar breaks starts with Prince saying “You need a love baby, you need Princes love” before the guitar solo unfolds. It’s all very tidy, and I would happily add this to any Purple Rain playlist.

Wendy Purple Era

“Uptown, my home town” Prince tells the crowd between songs. He plays the audience very well, informing them “Be nice to me, because I belong to you” It doesn’t take much to win them over.

The next part of the show has always been my least favorite part of any Purple Rain show, the long instrumental break, with Yankee Doodle Dandy. Maybe it’s a case of “You had to be there” -unfortunately I am not. I can’t see what ever is happening on stage (Although I have seen on other shows), but sonically it’s nothing to write home about. In its defence though, I do like the bird noises. Mercifully, this section isn’t too long on this recording.

The piano set begins with Free. Free is one of those guilty pleasures for me, I know many people think it should of been left off the 1999 album in favor of Moonbeam levels, and I agree the lyrics are simplistic, but it does have a charm about it that I like, especially when played in the piano set like this. There is a crowd pleasing moment when Prince sings “Be glad for what you got, I’m glad to be home”. In only a couple of words he has the audience in the palm of his hand.

Prince Purple Era 4

Take Me With U follows, and although only short it still causes an impact with the crowd. It’s well suited to the piano, and just hearing the few lines whets my appetite to hear much more. Prince only sings a few lines, and then pauses to engage the audience.

Staple of the piano set, How Come You Don’t Call Me, is next. As always it’s the centre piece of the piano. Prince takes a pause mid song to “Stand over here until you make up your mind” before returning to the piano for some very nice falsetto. As per usual there is plenty more Prince Interaction with the crowd and he runs through all the usual phrases we have heard before. Somewhat surprisingly I still enjoy it, and maybe I am just as corny as Prince. There is some fantastic vocal gymnastics by Prince near the end of the song, and these are well worth hearing.

The introduction of Dirty Mind is a definite highpoint for me. I have always been a huge fan of this song. It’s got a great inner energy that gets me every time. Prince’s spoken intro starts like this:

“Maybe she don’t like men with motorcycles,
Maybe she don’t like men with Dirty Minds,
If you got a tambourine shake it,
If you ain’t got a tambourine clap your hands
If you ain’t got hands stomp your feet,
If you ain’t got feet shake your ass.”

The riff sounds fresh, played on the piano by Prince, and I can’t help but feel disappointed when it ends after a minute. Such is the piano set with Prince.

I Wanna Be Your Lover comes next, again it sounds great with just his voice and the piano, and yet again I bitterly disappointed when it ends just a couple of minutes in, but not before Prince demonstrates some great vocals.

The band return, and Do Me Baby is played. I have heard some arrangements with long introductions, however here we just get a few seconds of introduction before Prince starts singing. It’s nice to finally get a fuller version of a song, and even though the previous songs had more energy they were just too short. Do Me Baby gets things back on track again and the concert picks up.

Prince then delivers his spoken word introduction to Temptation. With the song yet to appear on an album, the crowd play along to Princes words, but none of them know yet that they will be hearing more of it in the future.
The spoken introduction leads into Lets Pretend We’re Married. It starts with Prince singing over the top of some very quiet music, before it explodes at the first chorus. Wendy’s guitar sounds great, and I was hoping this song would really get played out in full, but again after a minute we take another change.

International Lover was a real highpoint of the 1999 gigs I have heard. Here it is just a shadow of its former self. Prince sings a few lines, before he goes into his monologue with God. Sure he could have played full versions of these songs, but then of course the show would run for 4 hours. I feel cheated but I understand why it is this way.

Fathers song is one of those sings that I wish had of gotten a real release. It’s played only briefly here, but it’s none the less very enjoyable. Another one of those songs I could happily listen to over and over.

God is obviously one of those songs that means a lot to Prince, and he plays it with all reverence on this recording. The first half is practically beautiful with Prince playing alone at the piano, and I can’t fault it. He does however lose me later in the song when he enters into his “who screamed?” section. I like as much Prince weirdness as the next guy, but I just can’t bring myself to enjoy this long spoken interlude. It goes for quite a while, and its not easy listening.

The Wendy and Lisa introduction to Computer Blue brings me back. The song is rowdy, and harks back to Princes younger days, there is plenty of guitar playing, and noise. The start of the first guitar break suggests we may get more for our money, but he stays faithful to the original. The song segues into the second half and here it gets a nice rhythmic feel to it. Prince plays more, and encourages the crowd to “Wave your hands in the air”. There are a couple of stops and starts, but it’s all excellent and feels very tight.

Prince Purple Era

The song then evolves, naturally enough, to Darling Nikki. The crowd takes great delight in singing along with it, and I must admit, even I know all the words. The music is very good, plenty of nice guitar action, and Dr Fink having his moments. I once read that he say this was his favorite song to play live, and I can see why. He has plenty of time to really do his thing. The fade out is always interesting, with the background music from the album being playing forward so Prince can deliver his message of hope to us all.

The Beautiful Ones gets it more full introduction here, with Prince saying “the beautiful ones, you always seem to lose”. The lapping keyboards are sublime, both live and on record, and it’s hard not to be seduced by one of Princes greatest songs. His singing is as per album, but the spoken parts sound more mature and passionate, live this rivals the album version. Prince really racks up the intensity near the end, as always it’s the high-point of this song in every performance. His delivery is just as good as I have ever heard it, and even I feel emotionally drained by the end of the song.

Things stay on the purple vibe with Doves Cry coming quickly after. For me the definitive version of this is from his birthday gig early in the year, so anything else will always pale in comparison. That said, this is pretty good. I especially like the long drawn out beginning, with the drum beat and repetitive keyboard riff. Prince sounds a little subdued when he sings, but maybe that suits the lyrics better. I have always loved these lyrics, so it’s always something I am going to listen to carefully. When Wendy comes in for her lead break the guitar begins very loud and bold, but seems to fade a little later. Maybe the recording, or maybe some gremlins in the mixing desk, I don’t know, but it doesn’t detract too much from the song. The song ends, leaving me wanting more, but luckily it’s a false ending, and the song returns with some great sounding bass. But even when it finishes a couple of minutes later I am still greedy for more.

I Would Die 4 U sounds simple to me, and yet it seems to work. I often dismiss it as being too light, yet I can’t deny it’s an utterly enjoyable song. I have always loved the 12 inch single, I only wish we could have had something like that played out here. The song however is played as per the album, and although it sounds great, it does end after a few minutes.

Prince

The band finally gets a chance to breathe and stretch out on Baby I’m A Star. The Purple Rain gigs always feel very structured and uptight, and it’s only on this song that the band really get a chance to show what they are capable of. The song has a great tempo to it, and Prince sounds very enthusiastic when he sings. The horn of Eric Leeds makes a welcome early entry, and it adds a great tone to the song. I would have liked to hear him on I Would Die 4 U as well, but this is Princes show, not mine. The song is played as per the album for the first 5 minutes, but then after a pause Prince says “I’m not done yet” and the band are all in, slightly heavier and funkier. Prince stops and starts them several times, a la James Brown, and the band is just as sharp as you might expect. The horns come to the fore after this, and Eric’s playing is very hot and fast, I can’t speak highly enough of it. The rhythm guitar also seems to get a little louder now, and it sounds nice and chunky. A couple more breaks, then Prince breaks it right down for some “woof, woof” before the band jumps in again, and even the piano can be heard over it all playing. Things are really swinging now, and it really is a long jam.

Another Lonely Christmas 2

What makes this gig a little more special than some others on this tour is the song that comes next, Another Lonely Christmas. It’s an appropriate song given the date, and the arrangement here is spot on. It’s not as full and crowded as I expect, Prince has gone for a more gentle tone, and it sounds great. Considering this is the first, and only time, it has been performed live this is an amazing performance. The band totally nails it, and it sounds perfect. There is a very gentle guitar break, I presume its Prince, and the tone is sharp and clean. It’s very nice indeed. The song is in complete contrast with what preceded it, but it does pave the way for what comes next.

Another Lonely Christmas

Purple Rain gets the full treatment here. As per other Purple Rain shows the introduction is a full five minutes before Prince even sings. He does play some very nice lead guitar in the intro, before the louder cloud guitar can be heard. This was always the emotional highpoint of any Purple Rain show, and here is no exception. The song is played full, which I enjoy, I am a little tired of the abridged versions we hear nowadays. The guitar at the end seems to go on forever, and yet I don’t find myself getting too tired of it, he has a nice balance to his playing and its always enjoyable. There isn’t too much more that can be said about his most famous song,as it’s something we have all heard 100’s of times.

As I said earlier, I am no big fan of Purple Rain shows. However I can’t deny that they have great songs, performed by Prince at time when he was on top of the world. And this is reflected in the recordings, every night Prince went out and put his best show on the stage. I find the set lists and playing quite constrictive, and it’s only near the end that the band gets to play a little looser. Despite that, Purple Rain shows are very good. This recording was thoroughly enjoyable, despite my negativity, and I rate it highly.

Thanks for reading,
Next time we go back to the early Eighties to watch a Controversy show.
-Hamish