Camden Palace 1988

The Palace in Hollywood wasn’t the only “Palace”  aftershow that Prince played in 1988. Earlier in the year he played a late night show at the Camden Palace in London, just one month before the famous small club gig that we all know and love. This concert is well known, in a large part due to the proshot footage that was later aired on “Prince: Musial Portrait” and “Omnibus: Prince Rogers Nelson,” both which provide a rare proshot glimpse into aftershows of the era. The concert itself is notable for three things. Firstly this proshot footage that hints that the full show remains on video tape somewhere in the vault. A tasty morsel of what could be an appetizing prospect should this whole show ever see the light of day. Then there is the guest appearance of Mica Paris, who Prince spots in the crowd and hands the microphone to for a guest spot. It is a glorious spontaneous moment that perfectly encapsulates the pure love of music and feeling that anything might happen at the show. Lastly, the show gains further luster from the guest appearance of Ronnie Wood, and immediately after  Mavis Staples. Although neither guest is heard on the bootleg (which sadly cuts out before they come to the stage), it still adds to the mythology of the show, and Sabotage have tried their best to give us a taste of what is missing by appending 20 seconds of Ronnie Woods appearance onto the end of the bootleg. It is a pointless exercise, but does serve to remind us of what we are missing from the recording. What we are left with though is a a fierce performance that touches on historic as Prince lavishes a hot and sweaty, yet utterly cool, performance on one of the most famous venues in London.

26th July (am), 1988. The Camden palace, London

It a special gift to Cat that introduces us to the bootleg as Prince gives a unique performance of “Happy Birthday” in her honor. It is a playful rendition as he flirts with different characters in his voice, and gives a gentle ad-lip with only heightens the lighthearted feel to the song. It is far from essential listening, but it does has its own simplistic charm.

“Forever In My Life,” is sonically far more serious, although the recording is less than ideal with its tape hiss just loud enough to catch my attention. The music that the band is cooking up is full of different flavors as Prince takes it from a campfire sing- a-long start to a song steeped in gospel and history, filtering it through a lens that colors it both with blues and funk while settling in neither camp. The guitar runs that appear midsong become the most fascinating feature as they carry the rhythm and the emotion of the song long after Prince has given up singing. Coupled with the popping bass sound, the song becomes the type of jam that contains far more rhythmic ideas than melodic ones, something for the feet rather than the ears.

The recording does no favours for the following “Strange Relationship.’ All the pieces are in place for a grand rendition, Prince’s guitar coupled with Eric Leeds horn sound as if they are prepared to inflict some serious damage upon the dance floor, but the recording remains willfully thin, all the more frustrating given that what we can hear is full of shadows and echos, a highly contrasting collage of sounds for the listener to luxuriate in. Prince’s guitar does whine and cut through the recording, but it never wails and howls as it would on a more full blooded recording, making this a neutered version of what we know would be a testosterone fueled performance.

“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is undoubtedly the high point of the show for a number of reasons. The introduction gives no hint of what is to come, the tape hiss stealing some of the intricacy from the performance, leaving only the bold strokes for us to hear. However, it settles down after this with the music elevated above mere trivialities. The vocals don’t fare so well, but as we approach the chorus the sound lifts as the sun bursts through the clouds of the recording. It is Dr Fink who first breaks this initial spell with his glistening and chiming solo. It does play to the divinity sound the rest of the band are weaving, with Eric Leeds following in a similar suit there is the feel that the band are indeed taking it higher. Prince’s guitar solo is different from the small club gig, in this case it is far more nuanced in the opening minutes, and Prince draws a slow build from his instrument, not so much playing rushing to hurricane force finish, but rather playing with the eddies and wind gusts before he finally blows us away with the gale force crescendo that follows. There is much more to come though, and as he spots Mica Paris in the audience he casually hands her the microphone for an impromptu performance that musically is just as rewarding as all that has come before. She grounds the song with strong roots, while Prince creates something otherworldly onstage Mica brings a humanity to the song that we can all relate to. This performance alone has me salivating at the prospect of a full proshot ever appearing.

I find the appearance of “Colonial Bogey March” and “Under The Cherry Moon” to be nothing more but a diversion, although “Under The Cherry Moon” offers a fresh take on a familiar song with the keyboard squelching and heaving in a psychedelic way that would sit happily at home in any late 1960’s commune.

“Six” brings further interest, as Eric Leeds brings his horns and Jazz sensibilities to what would otherwise be a pop rock concert. The opening horn refrain signals what will follow, and the song throws down a challenge from here on in as Eric wiggles and squiggles across the beat for the next few minutes in a manner that suggests the wider palette that Prince was drawing from at the time. Its a far from the furious guitar rock we heard earlier in the show, and even when Prince’s guitar is heard it remains subservient to the mood of the piece, remaining busy without ever coming into full focus.

 

This audience recording finishes with some funk in the form of “Dead On It” and “Housequake.” “Dead On It” is notable only for inclusion, musically it doesn’t muscle up  to the other songs performed in the evening. “Housquake” is more rewarding, there is some punch to Prince’s performance, and the beat alone is  reason enough to always dedicate time to this song. Unfortunately this is where we leave the concert as the recording finishes midsong, leaving us to only guess what the following “Miss You” (with Ronnie Wood) “I’ll Take There,” “Chain OF Fools” (both with Mavis Staples) and “Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic” offer in the way of musical treasures. Part of the “Miss You” performance with Ronnie Wood can be seen on the circulating footage, with Prince giving a fine impersonation of Mick Jagger, and the Sabotage release of this show has tacked the 20 second snippet onto the end of the recording, a waste in that it doesn’t offer much listening value, although I have to admit the video footage out there looks fantastic.

This is almost one of the greats. A 1988 era aftershow, a bevy of guest appearances, and some of Prince’s finest music all makes for a memorable performance. On the downside, the recording is just on the rough side of good, and incomplete. In itself this would be no bad thing, but having seen parts of the video, we know that this show has so much more, and the thought that it exists on video out there makes for a frustrating listen, always there is the voice in the back of my head saying “this could be so much better” Until we do get a better recording of the show, we will just have to make do with what we’ve got. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely a show that every needs to hear at least once.

Thanks for joining me again
-Hamish

The Palace 1988

When it comes to bootlegs of aftershows in 1988, the Trojan Horse stands above all others. It is the most beloved and well known of the aftershows, but there are several others from the same year that deserve attention. The Warfield aftershow from November is highly regarded, as is Große Freiheit ’36 (especially by me). There is also the aftershow from the Camden Palace in London (sadly incomplete) and then the bootleg I will be listening to today, the early morning performance from The Palace, Hollywood. Superficially all these concerts appear to be similar, but I find that when I listen to them each has it’s own character and feel, and so it is with The Palace. It appears to be a standard aftershow set of the time, but it is played with a heavy dose of swing that is missing in the other shows. There is an element of fun, and the intensity that smothers the other concerts is instead replaced with a bright and breezy performance. The audience recording isn’t too bad, considering the era in which it was recorded, and even if the sound is thin in places, the performance can always be heard without distortion. It can probably be best compared to the Warfield show, recorded just four days later, the setlists are almost identical, and although two different recordings of that later show are in circulation, I prefer the sound of this concert.

 7th November 1988 (a.m.), The Palace, Hollywood.

It is the keyboards that roll out the red carpet and lead us into the show. The slow build into “Positivity” gives the song the solemnly that the lyric content demands, and as the rest of the band join there is the feel that something special is in the air. Without becoming too intense, the song lets the individual players feel their way into the music, along with the audience, and the song envelops the recording in it’s timeless mist.

A brightness enters the recording as Prince plays a sharp version of “Eye Know.” It is at this point that the recording briefly flickers, but the band and Prince remain upfront and loud, and there is an extra energy as the song and concert blooms into something a whole lot more colorful and celebratory. Despite the wobble in the recording, it is apparent that Prince is giving another star performance, and he burns with supernova power even this early into the show. The song isn’t as as complex as it is heard on record, but the band add a baroque sound that melds well on top of Princes bare funk that can be heard churning away beneath the song.

“Wade In The Water” gives the recording an extra depth, as Prince pulls us back to his roots, while delivering some feathery guitar that sounds as if it has been handed down from God himself. Prince stays on this route, “God Is Alive” bringing spirituality and funk together in a mix that is Prince at his very best, bringing these two desperate strands together to create something unique that bestrides both sides of this religious gulf. There is the feeling of God in the air, while the bottom of end of the music suggests all sorts of other sins, this unresolved tension creating a music that never gets tiresome or stale.

The piano introduction to “The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker” shines in the darkness in this recording, and the rest of the song is equally well served by the quality if the tape.  The nuance of the song is captured well, and as it segues into “Four” the piano and horns can both be heard, without either taking precedence over the other, making for another colourful and three dimensional moment caught on tape.

Boni Boyer does not disappoint as she comes forward for “Down Home Blues.” I prefer her performance here over what is heard at the Small Club gig (incidentally, the first live performance they did of the song) , she is more subtle here and rather than belting it out she instead gives it to us piece by piece, making for easy digesting before Prince makes his first major guitar move of the show with some surgical playing that neatly dissects the song. Boni Boyer returns for a final “Rock Me, Baby,” but it is Prince who burns the house down with one last fiery burst from his guitar.

It takes some time for the band to build into “Cold Sweat,” but even these opening minutes are funk fueled and one can almost hear the sweat dripping through the tape and the recording. Boni Boyer and Eric Leeds dominate the overall sound, and although the song is grounded it its forceful rhythm, it is these two can be heard adding the most to the overall feel of it. For all that though, it is a Sheila E. solo that brings the song to a close with a simple and effective break, only to be out done by the moment where Prince briefly sings the “Bad” bassline. Well worth checking out!

Some interlacing guitar work introduces “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” draping a soft lace of rhythm guitar across the sparse opening. At first Prince is swallowed up by the song, but he does emerge from this aching sound with a emphatic plea from the heart as the song builds to it’s emotional core.  It is the first pillars of the guitar solo that are the gateway into the heart of the song, and as the guitar cries in the darkness the song slips away, only to be replaced by raw emotion and the purity of music itself. It’s hard to know where to place this solo on the Pantheon of Prince guitar solos, but as it claws it’s way across the raw bloodied heart at the centre of the music, it speaks not to the ear, but to the very soul, making for one of Prince’s most powerful performances.

It is a frantic “Supercalifragisexy” that banishes any such sentimentality from the show, and Prince gives a furious and mesmerizing performance. With guitar in hand he ladles on great dollops of funk, all at a breakneck speed that never lets up through the ten minutes the song twists and turns in various shades of funk. It is Eric Leeds who is the foil to Prince’s kinetic sound, he matches him blow for blow through the song, both matching Prince and pushing him further. It is only in Prince’s final hurricane of a solo that he bests Eric, and after such a blitzkrieg it is hard to envisage what might come next.

What comes next is  “I Wish U Heaven (part 3).” With a heavy beat, the drums overwhelm the previous all conquering guitar, a heavy march compared to the guitar’s earlier wild night flight. The song smolders with the appearance of the horns, and as Prince hits his lines the song heats up, but it never quite bursts into flame as it promises. The rhythm though is undeniable, and it never once lets up in its drive and momentum as it powers towards the end of the show. The music glowers and growls, there is no bite, only the threat of imminent danger and darkness. It is a decisive finish to the concert, and the band unfurl their strident brand of funk in these final minutes, making a lasting impression that lingers on long after the concert has finished.

It has been quite sometime since I listened to this entire show, and I have to wonder why it doesn’t get more play at my place. An excellent show with Prince and the band at the height of their powers, there is a lot to love about this bootleg.  There is very little rock or pop to be heard here, it is all about the funk, and Prince gives us plenty of his own unique style of funk as each song is brushed by his sound and sonic flavor. This bootleg is easy to overlook next to the highly esteemed Small Club, but it holds it’s own in comparison, and should not be discounted. As a record of Prince’s funk style at the time this recording is outstanding, and is not to be missed.

Thanks again
-Hamish

New Years Eve 1987 with Miles Davis

As far as Prince bootlegs go, 1987 is a stellar year.  Starting with the Sign O The Times warm up show at First Ave, through the tour itself, the excellent after shows of Le New Morning, Park café and Fineline café, there is a good variety of shows available and some of them are of outstanding quality. The year of 1987 is capped off with one more legendry boot, the New Year’s Paisley Park show, where the iconic Miles Davis joins Prince and the band onstage. Prince had experimented with jazz the previous two years, and one feels that having Miles on stage with him meant a lot to him and his art.  Miles doesn’t feature through the whole show, and the show itself isn’t as jazz infused as some of the other shows that year, but it’s still great to see his interaction with Prince and the band onstage. The show is an interesting mix, there is some standard renditions as we had heard throughout the tour, but things get more interesting near the end as the band indulge in a long jam that incorporates all sorts of songs.  The recording is missing the first few songs which is unfortunate, but what we do get more than makes up for it.

31 December, 1987, Paisley Park.

 

1987 New Year Prince 8

I have been a little hard on Shelia E and her drum solos in previous posts, but this show jumps in just as she is beginning one of her solos, and to be fair it is very good. Maybe it’s because I can see her playing, and the passion and efforts she puts into it.  We hear the very end of Jack U Off as the recording cuts in, and I assume it’s played very much as the Fineline Café gig I previously wrote about. The drum break starts off slow, it almost has a sound check quality to it as she works her away around the kit. But then it does pick up pace as it goes along, and I especially love the sound the snare has on it. Just as the drum solo reaches its peak the sound of Hot Thing cuts in, but I think this is just an error, and it it quickly stops as Shelia continues. There is a very passionate moment as she crashes away on the cymbals, forgoing sticks just to smash away with her hands. I love seeing that sort of thing, and it is the peak as the band rejoin for another quick refrain of Jack U Off lead by Eric Leeds. The song comes to a conclusion rather fittingly with the band gathered around the drum riser as Shelia drums the end.

1987 New Year Prince

Immediately after we do get Hot Thing. If you have seen the Sign O The Times movie then this one contains no surprises for you, as it is very faithful to what we have heard throughout the Sign O The Times tour. Prince engages in plenty of dancing, and even rips off Cats dress as seen in the Sign O The Times movie. The band is sounding tight, there is not a loose moment in the whole song. I can’t get excited about it, its much as I have heard before,  but the onstage fun with Cat and Prince is worthwhile and does brighten it up.

1987 New Year Prince 1

The bass line of If I Was Your Girlfriend sounds fantastic as it begins. This song is a masterpiece, and like all the best Prince performances he draws it out, milking every second. The intro with the drum beat, hypnotic bass and organ goes for a good few minutes, and I could listen to it all night long. Prince sings it looking very casual with one hand in the pocket, but his delivery is sublime. There is a nice sound to it, a little echo which lends it the lonely sound. Prince is full of character as he speaks the lines midsong about going to the movies etc, but he returns to his excellent singing voice without skipping a beat. Again, as per Sign Of The Time movie, he picks out Cat midsong and lures her away. With the main focus removed I find my self enjoying Eric and Dr Finks playing, until it pulls back to the bare beat and the song finishes.

1987 New Year Prince 2

The organ refrain that begins Let’s Go Crazy is one that I always associate with this tour. As one keyboard holds a long sustained note, the other plays a sound that rocks back and forth. Its something I have heard between other songs about this time, and its something I like. Prince then picks up his guitar and we get a traditional sounding Lets Go Crazy. The first half of it fails to connect with me, but Prince ditches the usual song about half way and begins a long guitar break. This also starts leaving me cold, but the second part of the break is certainly a lot better and he plays some wild sounding licks. I don’t enjoy the “go go go” chants with the crowd, its a little tired and the audience doesn’t seem to respond very well to them either. Perhaps Prince realises this, because he shakes his head, and says “No no” before the band pick up again and Prince gives us the classic ending to Lets Go Crazy, head thrown back and guitar howling.

1987 New Year Prince 3

Another Purple Rain era song follows with When Doves Cry. This one I find very satisfying, there is plenty of horn early on, before the stripped back verses. The keyboard is a little quiet for my tastes, but this is compensated by another great vocal delivery by Prince. I wouldn’t have guessed that the horns could add much to this, but they do slot in nicely to the song. There is a lot of dancing by Prince and the others later in the song, its an abridged version played here, we get a verse and a chorus, followed by a minute or so of dancing before it finishes up. Short and sweet as they say, but still very worthwhile.

1987 New Year Prince 4

Purple Rain itself gets a very full on treatment at this show, there is plenty of Dr Fink playing before Prince walks on stage with the cloud guitar, playing the melody of Auld Lang Syne. Its a great moment, and the sound of it played on Princes guitar sits very well on the keyboards of Purple rain. Prince says “one more” then plays it again on the guitar as the crowd wave their arms. Another call of “one more” and he gives it to us a third time, and every time is very good, and really worth hearing. Even as he plays it a forth time I am not tired of it, he improvises a little, and its the type of Prince playing that I like to see more off.The call of “Bring it down” and we strip back to the keyboards and drums softly playing. At this stage a technician hands Prince a rope to release balloons over the crowd, but there is a malfunction and it doesn’t come off. For years I only had an audio recording of this, and I didn’t know what was going on, especially when Prince says “Matthew, come get your rope”. But after seeing it, I understand much better. Prince then attempts to sing Auld Lang Syne but its nowhere near as good as his guitar playing of it, mostly because its apparent that he doesn’t know the words beyond the first couple of lines, fading to “la la la” after this. The crowd doesn’t save him, and when Prince sings again “Should old acquaintances be forgot” he ruefully smiles and say “(I) know that part”. There is then a few moments as the music progresses Prince goes to one side to release the balloons and there is a beautiful solo played by Miko. I always associate Miko with a slippery dirty funky sound, but this guitar break was a revelation to me, its just great. Its not a fast rock solo, just a sharp sounding crisp break. Prince takes command soon after this and we finally get the verses and choruses of Purple Rain, complete with Princes crunching guitar. The rest of his guitar solo is standard for Purple Rain, but it is very enjoyable indeed, even for someone like myself who has heard Purple Rain hundreds of times.

1999 seems strangely out of place. Its sounds clean, but there isn’t any fire in it. Prince keeps it very short, there is the opening verse, a chorus and then have the ‘party” chanting outro. The horns riff keeps it sharp, but apart from that there isn’t much for me.

1987 New Year Prince 5

We return to the rocking back and forth sound of the keyboards as the stage goes dark. This is played out for a minute, and as I said before I really like it as it sets the tone for what comes next. The beat of U Got The Look and the rhythm guitar sound as Prince takes a minute to ham it up with the crowd. He has his guitar but as he sings he doesn’t initially play it, so we just have as less strong rhythm guitar which negates some of the rockiness that I sometimes tire of in this song. After a couple of verse chorus he does begin to play in a loud crunching way as he climbs atop the piano. Its a very showman moment as the dancers go through their routines as Prince plays rock god over them all. And so the song ends in this manner, with Prince waving over the band, and a “thank you, good night”

1987 New Year Prince 6

There is a break about now, as the band leave the stage. Its a good few minutes they are gone, and knowing what is coming I can understand why.  What comes next is extraordinary, and I am not sure that writing about it can ever do it justice. They return to the stage for a 30 minute rendition of Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, with Miles Davis, and incorporating everything except the kitchen sink. Anyway I shall do my best to give a brief outline. The song begins as we heard on the Sign O The Times tour, and after the first part there is some fun dancing with Prince, before he takes to the drum stool as Shelia E delivers her rap. Her delivery is fast and accurate and I love watching the band dancing as she sings. Prince too is sounding good, and its fantastic to see him on the drums for an extended period. Soon after Cat dances everyone to the ground Prince steps down from the drums and its time for the keys to have a solo. The whole performance has a lot of joy to it, Prince sings to the crowd about his brand new dance, and Eric Leeds plays a little of Six before it quietens as Miles Davis enters and begins to play. How to describe this moment? To see Miles stalking across the stage and playing next to Miko is fantastic and I am a total fanboy throughout the whole time he is playing. Its not what he is playing, its just the sound of his horn and seeing him play with that band. Prince scats against his playing for a little, but I preferred just to hear Miles play alone for some more. As Miles continues Prince throws some cues to the band and they play around him. Miles steps back into the shadows as the snare comes down hard and Prince cues the band into the next section. He directs the band through several different dances and refrains before he speaks to the crowd  “someone tell me I ain’t got the funkiest band in show business, we will take on all comers” Finally we hear Boni and she blows her way through Chain Of Fools, and sounding powerful all the way.  The band is absolutely seamless and I have to agree with Princes sentiments about his band.  Boni gives way to any excellent solo by Eric Leeds before Prince indulges in some grooves on the organ. The band really hit their stride at this point, Eric is killing it on sax while the band keep the groove going. Prince stops the band to tell the crowd “we the best” before he cues them in again and they hit a faster groove. Prince does very little playing at this stage, he is in total control as band leader and runs the band through their paces and dancing around the stage. There is several stops and starts, and the band move effortlessly through several different grooves. My mouth is open the whole time, its mind blowing to watch, this band is unstoppable. Prince has me laughing when he tells the audience they are going to be jamming 20 more minutes “..on the same song!” He then proceeds to be true to his word as the band continue on and on. Prince has me laughing again when he say “you’ll expect an awful lot for $200.” Perhaps my favourite part of the jam is what comes next, Prince takes a couple of minutes playing at the piano. Just the sharp sound of the piano over the heavy groove, its the contrast that makes it all sound so good. The last five minutes Prince throws in everything you could imagine, there is lyrics and horn lines from all sorts thrown into the mix, and it all works until we return the Beautiful night riff that started all of this. With a final call of “Confusion” Prince brings the show and this brilliant jam to an end.

1987 New Year Prince 7

What a great way to end the year 1987. This recording is a favourite among prince fans, and I have to go with the general consensus on this one, it’s very much a must have. The band is on top of their game, coming off a fantastic year, and this show is the icing on the cake. The fact that Miles is there gives it just a little more shine, and I feel it means a lot to Prince having him there. This is one that I will come back to again and again. If anyone every doubted Princes genius just check this one out.

Take care

Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sendai 1989

I had several choices of recordings to listen to from the Lovesexy tour. The most famous, and widely available would is the show from Dortmund Germany. I have decided not to listen to that one today, instead I am listening to Sendai, Japan. It’s almost as well known, and is an excellent soundboard recording. I like this one, especially as the set list is a little different from the Dortmund gig. Lovesexy shows were an experience in themselves. Prince presented his new material, in a way that let you know that it was very important to him personally. At the same time his old material was played, but it was tweaked in such a way as that it could contribute to the overall arc he was performing at the show. The shows started with Prince running quickly through his back catalogue. It’s a medley, yet he plays just enough of each song that I never feel cheated. It’s a clever way to get the weight of history off his back so he can really concentrate his, and the audiences, attention on the new material. I am looking forward to this one, so let’s take a listen.

1 February, 1989, Sendai Japan

“Snare drum pound on two and four, all the party people get on the floor – bass!” A simple but effective intro to Housequake. The drums sound great, right from the start I know I am going to love this one. Housequake sounds a little thin on record, but here it’s nice and round, and the drums and horns have me bobbing my head right from the start. The song is genius and as I listen I try to break it down. I have no idea how he could even conceive it and put it together, but listening here, and can see it’s the all built round the drums and horns. The other great thing about the live version is the bass is much stronger- which is always a great thing for me! Housequake is the longest song played in the first half of the show, and it gives the band a good five minutes to really get into it. The song sounds like its going to end with a brief drum roll, but then after a few words from Prince we are back to one final chorus.

Prince Sendai

When the song does end, Prince slips easily into the smooth Slow Love. I loved this on the Sign O The Times tour, but like everything for the next 40 minutes its cut down early, just as I was getting in the mood for love too!

Adore seems like a natural progression, following straight on. Prince’s voice is spot on here, and it showcases just how strong his vocals are. After some brief vocal gymnastics Boni intercedes and there is some interplay between the two of them.

A sudden shout and a blast and things speed up considerable with a break neck Delirious. The song has always been up-tempo, but here seems even quicker, and the 30 seconds it gets seem to go by in a flash.

In a similar vein Jack U Off follows, but it gets a longer outing. Prince seems to have got his set list very well constructed here, the songs are grouped together in a way where they all seem well suited to what comes before and what follows. The three songs in this group are Delirious, Jack U Off, and Sister, and they seem like a natural family together. Jack U Off is quite sprightly and the horns add a nice element in contrast to the guitar heavy version form earlier tours. There is even time for an organ solo in this one, before the guitar takes a short solo.

The song rolls into Sister, and unbelievably it’s even faster. However it only gets a verse and a chorus, but that is enough. Some nice solo guitar work ends it, one can only assume its Prince. The band jump back into the fray and the guitar work goes up another level again. A quick dash to the finish line, and then a lovely and surprising segue into Do Me Baby.

Prince 1989 02

Do Me Baby slows things down nicely, not only is it a slow song, but here it is played longer than most songs in the first half, so we all have a chance to catch our collective breaths. The beauty of this recording is that I can hear Prince so well, and his vocals are magnificent. A couple of excellent squeals and then in his deeper voice some very cool seduction talk. He’s done it thousands of times, but it always sounds so good. The song ends with a couple of lines from Adore.

The energy levels are restored with the intro of I Wanna Be Your Lover. Before I get too excited about hearing it, things turn nasty with Head. It sounds good, but I think its missing the visual element, I need to see it as well as hear it. One of my keystone songs, it’s the dark dirty early recordings of it I prefer, this one is a little too clean and sharp for my liking. However Fink is still here to play his solo and that is always a plus.

‘On the one” brings us to Girls and Boys. I adore this song on Parade era recordings, however here it’s a pale imitation of itself. It only gets a minute, and seems a little too sterile.

However Love Bizarre seems to come out great, the bass and drum seem thicker and the horns a little stronger. Having Shelia E on tour is definitely a bonus, and it’s great to have her vocals on it. The song takes a very funky turn when Miko plays a break and the band and Prince chant “Who’s house, Mikos house!” I only wish that it went for longer.

Prince 1989 03

When You Were Mine sounds almost the same as the day it was recorded. Prince’s guitar sounds the same, and the only difference is the band when they sing along. Again, this song gains a lot on this soundboard recording. It gets more exciting when Prince encourages the crowd to song “Hey, hey!” and even I feel myself getting more excited. The horns playing at the end is an excellent touch, and it’s a really nice update of something from his back catalog.

The pounding start of Controversy brings a big smile to my face, but sadly after a minute it switches to the mournful keyboard into of Little Red Corvette. But its no bad thing, it’s a well needed change of pace, and I can’t stop thinking what a great set list this is. As he did for many years, the song ends abruptly after the guitar solo, and we go straight into U Got The Look.

I have mixed feelings about U Got the Look, I love the funky rhythm guitar underneath, but hate the loud rock guitar over the top. I am at war with myself over it. Luckily I don’t have too long to over think it, as it ends soon enough.

Superfunkycalifragisexy is a favorite of mine from the Black Album. Here it is very enjoyable to listen to, and sounds just as fresh as it does on record. I was very surprised to see Black Album songs in the set list, but at the same time very grateful. These were creative little songs that deserved to be heard by a wider audience.

The songs ends back where we started with a Controversy,and then things really get interesting.

Bob George is a strange choice for the Lovesexy tour, and yet it makes perfect sense. It’s dark and funky, and the antagonist of the song is at his lowest point. It makes sense in the wider context of the set list, and the rebirth and redemption that follows. I wouldn’t want Prince to write too many songs like Bob George, but I do like it very much and I love the creativity he shows with it. It ends with the Lord’s Prayer here, and a bang, literally.

After a few seconds of silence and dark noise the show resumes with Prince on the piano, playing Anna Stesia. The first time I ever heard the Lovesexy album this was the song that grabbed me. This was the song I was most intrigued by, and the song that seemed to speak to me. Even today as I listen to it, I find I am asking myself questions and listening to it on many levels. Anna Stesia marks the end of the first half of the show, no more medleys and shortened versions, from here on its all Lovesexy, positivity and full length versions. Anna Stesia sounds great, I can’t tell you enough what a great soundboard this is. The song ends with Prince singing “God is love, love is God” and that tells you pretty much where we are heading for the rest of the show.

There is then a few minutes if intermission, and Cross The Line. It sounds a little corny now, but in the context of the whole show it definitely belongs and has its place. There are all sorts of samples and noises, and I think if I had of been there it would have definitely kept me guessing about what was coming next.

Prince 1989

I have to admit I was lying on the couch with my eyes closed, trying to digest all the parts of the intermission, when Prince’s voice burst out of the speakers and scared the life out of me! An “Ewww” and Prince strongly begins Eye Know. This is another one of those songs from Lovesexy that I never get tired of listening to. I like this one, I can hear Prince very well, and the song isn’t as ‘busy’ as it sounds on the record. Prince tells Miko he likes the guitar, it sounds funky, and he is so right. All the different parts of the song work, and I find I am trying to listen to them all individually and pick out what they are playing. It all works together and I finally decide that only a mad genius could have written this song.

The opening beat to Lovesexy grabs my attention, it’s so loud and full. All the Lovesexy songs sound strong live, and I am pleasantly surprised. I remember when I first heard the album I could never imagine how they would work in a live situation, but work they certainly do. The rhythm section in this song is outstanding. Again, it’s another song with plenty of layers, so there is always something new to listen to or pick out.

Glam slam seems like a logical choice to follow with. Its fresh sounding, and my only problem with it is that it finishes after 2 minutes.

The Cross is a natural fit in this portion of the show. It’s sounding better here than it did on The Sign O Times tour, a little less reverent, and a little more uplifting. I don’t know how the music changes to reflect that, maybe it’s the songs surrounding it than give me that feeling. Again, testament to Princes great set list. As you might expect, Princes guitar playing is a highlight, an absolute joy to listen to. The tone of the whole song is uplifted and it’s hard not to smile as I listen to it.

I find the beat of I Wish U Heaven very soothing, and the moment it starts I feel better. Shelia E is all over this one, and she is in fine form. The quality of Prince’s bands has always been the best of the best, and Shelia E is just another example. A star in her own right, she contributes so much to this show, and this song. Miko is another favorite of mine and his guitar playing at the end of this is nice and crisp.

Prince begins the next with “Sendai, come here and give me a Kiss”. If you have read any of my other blogs you will know my feelings about Kiss. This one in particular I am not so fond of. The guitar is buried and there is too much horn. Prince says “I like it” but unfortunately I can’t agree. No fault of his, or the band, they play well, the problem is all mine.

Dance On is another personal favorite from the album, I was hoping for a full version, but instead I get an intro then Shelia E brings out the Transmississippi Rap. It then becomes a Shelia E drum solo. I love Shelia, but I have never been one for drum solos (perhaps bitterness over my own lack of rhythm?), nor have I ever enjoyed the Transmississippi Rap. It’s unfortunate, and combined with Kiss, this portion of the show loses me. Its no big thing, I can’t be a fan of everything, it’s just a shame, I had such high hopes when I saw Dance On on the track listing.

Prince 1989 1

The keyboard swell, so familiar from the 1988/1989 era, begins Lets Go Crazy. Prince delivers an abridged version of the intro before the crunching guitar cuts in. There isn’t anything new or different played here, but Prince does get a good chance to show off his guitar skills, and as usual he delivers. He forgoes further guitar heroics in the latter part of the song to instead encourage the crowd to sing “go go go”. I am sure it was great if you were there, sitting on my comfy bean bag listening to the recording it didn’t really move me. You can’t beat being at a live gig, that’s for sure.

This is obviously the purple part of the show as the classic riff of Doves Cry follows. Plenty of horns on the intro, to my ears it sounds a little more funky. The shorten variation that gets played doesn’t do the song justice, but I did enjoy all the additions, the bass, the horns, the samples on top.

There is a very short guitar intro to Purple Rain. It feels fleeting compared to some of the long drawn out versions we have had over the years. As I guess, Prince sings on the first verses, and chorus before he launches into his trademark solo. Is there anything else to say about Purple Rain? It’s played at almost every gig, I have 100’s of recordings of it. This one is no better or worse than any other I have heard.

1999, does it sound better with horns or not? The jury is still out, I can’t decide. There is still a nice strong keyboard presence on this recording, so I get the best of both worlds. Prince skips over the bulk of the song and heads straight for the fade out where he can engage the audience. Even then, by the three minute mark it’s all over with a rumble and Prince thanking the crowd, and assuring them that God will take care of them.

There is a feeling that the show maybe over, but after a minute Prince is back, and for a final encore we get Alphabet St. Every show has a highlight for me, in this show it would have to this, along with Anna Stesia. Prince sounds very playful as he sings, and the band weaves in and out around him. Things get more interesting after Cats rap, and although it’s played tight, I get the feeling the band could have happily jammed on this one. In fact it’s interesting to me, that this show is so rehearsed, choreographed and note perfect, and yet this is the same band we hear at after shows, where they really spread their wings and fly. They always sound tight and well reined in here.

Prince 1989 4

The show ends with the sound of water running, and I guess it’s the noise of baptism and purity.

A show from yet another interesting period of Prince’s career, I overall enjoyed it very much. You may think from some of my negative comments above that I didn’t rate this very highly. And looking at it on paper, highly choreographed, rehearsed, and tight, I don’t think I was going to enjoy it too much. But the show is so well played, and Prince believes absolutely in what he is playing, that I can’t help but enjoy it. I will always feel it when someone believes in what they are playing. And I can’t forget, the strength of the songs themselves shines through, and there are some of my favorite songs here. This wouldn’t be the first CD I would grab out, but I always enjoy it when I hear it. Overall rating: Solid.

-Hamish

Warfield Theatre, 1988 Aftershow

I haven’t heard or read many people talking about this recording, but it is a gig and a recording I really like. Aftershows throw up a wide variety of songs, and no two are ever alike. This one has several songs that appear on numerous other recordings, but also a couple of others that aren’t played as often, and these are the ones that really make me excited about this recording. The recording is muted, but clear, but it is short- clocking in at just over an hour. But a very enjoyable hour it was indeed.

11 November 1988  Warfield theatre, San Francisco

Like many other Prince gigs, this starts with a steady beat. Just the drums playing a relatively simple beat. There is just a touch of bass, but I don’t recognize it at first, until there is a loud cheer from the crowd and Prince starts to sing Positivity. The keys enter at the same time, and even though it’s somewhat quiet, it’s an excellent start to the gig. It’s hard for me to give an unbiased opinion about this song. Lovesexy is regarded as the highest creative peak, in terms of albums, that Prince ever reached. And I know that for many people, their favorite song on the album is Anna Stesia. I love Anna Stesia too, but I also have an equal amount of love for Positivity. Its tone and mood captures my imagination, and there is all sort of interesting moments in it that excite me. So for me, to have it open this show is fantastic, and I am all in right from the start. The song gets better and better as it progresses. The keyboard gets louder, and more clunky. After a quiet first verse, Prince sings the second verse much more full throated, and it has a nice full sound to it. It’s more human and not as mechanical as it sounds on the record. There are plenty of cheers (some of them might be from me on the couch) as a long sax solo begins. Ah yes, Eric Leeds, no need to tell you again how much I love his playing. He finishes one solo, there is a brief pause by Prince, and then he calls for another solo from Eric. Not a word of complaint from me, I could listen to this stuff all day. The song then moves into a form more in line from the album, with plenty of Princes singing. He’s not as cool and laid back as you might expect, and the song is so much stronger. The bass too is not so buried in the mix, and it well heard in the last couple of minutes. With a “Hold on to your soul” the song comes to an end. What a brilliant opening to the show.

The muted chord progression of Dorothy Parker begins. I am only listening to the show, but already in my mind I picture it as a dark smoky type of gig. Both these songs have that sound to them. Dorothy Parker sounds good, there is some nice horn and piano playing, and a great moment when Prince ad-libs “Mind if I turn on the radio, Madhouse was on!” This is followed by a piano break, which has a cool jazzy feel to it, as you might imagine. The horns and piano are what this one is about, the horns never dominate, but they do add a lot of color. The song drops down a bit, and over a repetitive couple of chords the sax plays for a while. It’s a very cool couple of minutes, I can’t properly describe it, but to me it sounds like this picture looks……

Piet Mondrian broadway boogiewoogie

Prince sounds pretty relaxed as he thanks the crowd for coming out, and tells them “this beats hanging out at the hotel watching Letterman” He immediately begins Housequake, and this is again a very strong version. He sounds like his heart is really in it on this night, and his vocals are quite impassioned. The band is very cohesive on this one, and there is nothing loose or wild about it. The horn solo is brief and tight, and it played as heard on Sign O Times. It’s no bad thing at all, and this is one of my favorite renditions of this song. Not that there’s anything special about it, just its played with a lot of heart. Later in the song things become a little more exciting, there is a couple of ad-libs from Prince, and the band begin to swing off a shade more. It has a funky false ending, before Prince calls the band back for a finally couple of lines.

Prince then says “I think I want to play guitar” and we are treated to some beautiful lead guitar. He’s warming up, and playing some nice lead lines. With a hushed “one, two” the familiar sound of Just My Imagination begins. The first couple of minutes of guitar set the bar high, and it’s almost disappointing when the song begins proper. Princes’ singing is warm and inviting, and I find myself falling under his spell as I listen to this. The guitar break is equally alluring, and it draws me in slowly before Prince begins to crank up the pressure. This is one of my favorite renditions of Just My Imagination; the guitar break is passionate, but not too fast or furious. Prince sounds like he is holding back but it sounds great. I especially like what comes next- some very impassioned singing of Noon Rendezvous by Prince. It takes me a few seconds to register what I am hearing, but when I realize what it is I am blown away. I love it when he sings “I don’t care what you got on your feet baby, I just want to meet you, I just want to greet you, I just want to take off all your clothes and eat you”. Oh yes, we miss you a lot ‘Dirty Prince’. There is a loud cheer as the song ends, but I don’t think the audience realize just how great that was!

Prince 1988 1

There is the sound of some lead guitar next, before the more relaxed sound of I’ll Take You There begins. The crowd sound as if they are enjoying it, there is plenty of handclapping, and a couple of whoops as Boni sings. I like the little guitar I can hear, but what I enjoy most is the singing of Boni. Usually I find it hard to get into a song that Prince himself isn’t singing, but today I find myself enjoying this one a lot. There is a few minutes of the singers repeating “I’ll take you there” while some nice guitar is played underneath by Miko. Nothing too heavy or in your face, just some nice funky rhythm. Things pick up after this and Boni and the music both start pushing much harder. The song ends abruptly, but I think it’s my recording rather than the band itself.

‘Take this beat, I don’t mind’ starts us into I wish U Heaven part 3 (Take this beat). Another favorite of mine from this period, it’s played nice and upbeat, with plenty of funk. Prince is sounding like he is enjoying it a lot, and sings “I gave you Levi, you don’t want him” a few times, before there is a great break for the bass. It gets better and faster as it goes, and it shows off some of Levis talents nicely. Now the band really begins to jam. Boni sings and we move into Cold Sweat. It’s played as we have heard before, pretty much the same as The Small Club gig. The band and Boni more than do it justice here, and its part of a much longer medley.

Next “Ladies and Gentlemen, on the drums, Prince!” He plays an enjoyable drum break, nothing too spectacular but it shows off plenty of his skills. The bass joins in after a bit, and there is a brief jam. Again, it all sounds very good, but there is nothing spectacular. A sharp “on the two” ends Princes time on the drum before the very Shelia E percussive sound begins.

Shelia E’s solo here is one of the more enjoyable ones I have heard from her. It’s much more colorful, and percussive sounding rather than just a basic rock solo. She plays some cool sounding fast rhythms, and it’s definitely a head bobber for me. As much as I love Shelia, I don’t always enjoy her solos, but this one plays to all her strengths, and it’s great. For the first time I find myself thinking “I wish that went for longer”. The recording is worth listening to for this alone.

Prince 1988 2

There is a longer pause after this, and then Prince instructs Boni to “Hit an F chord”. A moment of twinkling on the piano as Prince sings the first lines of Lovesexy, and then the beat comes in and we get a proper full-on rendition of Lovesexy. It sounds great live, the guitars can be heard much more, as can the bass. There is a lot happening to listen to, but it still keeps a groove about it. The crowd starts singing “hey hey” with Princes encouragement, and for a few seconds I can close my eyes and imagine myself there. The music swirls around, and Prince sounds like he is having a great time. He sings ‘Hollyrock’ for a bit, and I get the feeling that this song is really going to be stretched out. The bass and drums are right in front (mostly due to the recording I think) and it gives the song a much harder sound. There is a false ending, and then Prince starts pushing the band in different directions. All sorts of sounds and lines are thrown into the song. I hear a snatch of Glamorous life, as well as A Love Bizarre before somewhat bizarrely Prince sings a line from ‘Born in the USA’. This is followed half a minute later by a line from ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. The band really start smoking after this, there is a definite upturn in intensity, and then Boni starts singing Chain Of Fools. Unfortunately the recording isn’t great, and I don’t hear her as well as I might, but she sounds good. At this point the saxophone makes a very welcome return, this time playing fast and furious. The band is chugging along at great speed now, and moves effortlessly into a Beautiful Night. I often underestimate this band, but when I hear shows like this I am in total awe. They are awesome in every sense of the word. With a shout of “Vegas” Prince brings it all to a halt and the recording ends.

Prince 1988

I am very surprised that this recording doesn’t get more love. I have heard very few people mention it, but I thought it was outstanding. True, it’s an audience recording, and that does detract from it a lot. But the performance is hot, the setlist has enough in there to make it interesting, and the band is very tight. If this was a better recording it would be magnificent, but even as an audience recording I still find it totally absorbing.

I am looking forward to next weeks recording, I already have a few ‘must listens’ lined up
-Hamish