First Ave 1982 Revisited

Recently Mace2theO commented that this bootleg from 1982 was the equivalent to his first girlfriend. We all have a similar first girlfriend experience – she may have had braces and carried some puppy fat, but she will always be special by the fact she was the first and painted in nostalgic hues forever more because of this. It was our first proper relationship, and doomed to a crushing teenage ending, but always conjures up warm memories that do not fade as time passes.

I’m sorry Mace2theO, but  in this case your first girlfriend got around a bit. Not only was she your first girlfriend, she was my first girlfriend too. Mace2theO acquired this concert on cassette (and all the nostalgic currency that that carries), while for me I found this bootleg on CD hidden away at the back of the record store. It was far from perfect in sound quality but I can assure you that when I took a listen it shook me to my core, and the fact that 35 years on I am blogging about Prince bootlegs demonstrates how much of an influence it had over the rest of my life. Like that first girlfriend, it was a formative experience. I didn’t quite know what I was doing and I have had better relationships since, but retains a special place in my heart.

A couple of weeks ago the soundboard recording of this show became widely available. It’s not always comfortable when we meet ex-girlfriends later in life, a messy divorce behind them, a couple of kids under their arm, and the first signs of a drinking problem hiding behind their forced smile, but in this case my first girlfriend has grown up into somebody I want to spend a lot of time with. The roughness of the audience recording is gone, replaced with a shiny soundboard, all slender legs, short skirts and long luxurious hair. Oh yes, my first girlfriend is now the hottest chick on the block. She is has grown up in every way, while retaining all the charms that I first fell in love with all those years ago. I may have talked about this first girlfriend before, but now she is in full bloom and stirring up those old feelings in me. It’s not very often that I spend time with ex-girlfriends, but in this case I am going to roll back the clock and wine and dine this girl one more time.

So with my first bootleg love rekindled, lets douse ourselves in cheap cologne, grease up the hair, and head straight to the heart of 1982.

(all photos by Mike Reiter)

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

There is a heat between the thighs from the opening minute, a few quick words by Prince and then a rage of guitar pulled down by Dez. With a punk rock assault Prince and the band hang it all out in these first minutes with both power and panache. In a frenzy of guitar scuzz “Bambi” storms into the room. It’s a wild eyed performance that bounces of the walls in a maelstrom of fuzzed up guitar and shrieked lyrics, capturing the listeners attention from the start. It is much cleaner than the previous audience recording, and the soundboard brings the musicianship to the the fore while retaining the fierce sound of the more familiar recording. That first girlfriend has cleaned up her defiant punk-rock hair style, but still has a fiery intent in her eyes that hints at an underlying violence that could bubble over at any second.

“All The Critics Love U In New York” is the most Princely sui genius song of the evening, and clearly maps out the territory that he will roam in the next few years. It wears its uniqueness proudly, face melting guitar work grafted to the undeniable beat that appeals to both my gut and my feet. I am never quite sure if I should be dancing or punching the air, the music insisting that I move my body in any way possible as Prince gives us perhaps the greatest performance of this song ever recorded. The keyboard solo gains on this pristine recording, Fink’s solo standing out among the more forceful blazing guitar and holding his own calm centre at the eye of the storm. For a minute we are in another world, before the hurricane of guitar solos return and swallow up the all the sound.

There is a glimpse of the first girlfriend I used to know in the opening of “When You Were Mine,” both the title and the sound taking me back to youthful summers that were equally long and lost. It is easy to project these feelings back on a song that has been with us so long, but even at this show it has a nostalgic feel – although it was only recorded just two years previous. This is the most comfortable song of the concert, and captures the exact feelings that I first had when I heard it all those years ago.

There is a world of difference between the audience recording and this soundboard recording when it comes to “Sexy Dancer.” A far more nuanced performance emerges on this recording, and whereas before it was strident and bold, here it becomes much more of a sassy walk rather than a march into battle. Both the bass and the keyboard via for attention, each adding to a show that I am already eminently familiar with. While the bass remains holding the song together, Dr Fink spins off into an intergalactic sound with his keyboards, making me draw a sharp breath in the thrill of it all. It is Dez who gets to put an end to these flights of fancy, his solo serving as an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

Things slow, sex and lust temporarily forgotten as Prince dips into a song of love and yearning with “Still Waiting.” Prince is on lead vocals, but it is Sue Ann Carwell who is the star attraction with her contribution. At almost ten minutes long there is plenty of time for the candles of love to flicker and flame, and musically one can hear the lights being turned down as the song slows to a velvety and warm breakdown. In this circumstance it is grating to hear Prince saying “I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” but as Brown Marks bass rises up from this crushed velvet sea all is forgiven, and I am again transported away on the winds of Sue Ann Carwell’s voice.

The recording slaps me in the face and snaps me out of this reverie with a furious “Head.” On the previous recording it was nasty and slutty, on this recording it is far more sexy and erotic. While the audience recording sounded like a blowjob in the Walmart carpark, this one speaks in the language of fellatio and sex on the hood of a Porsche at a Beverly Hills party. The outcome is still the same, but it doesn’t threaten to be as dangerous, and despite some superlative bass work I am comfortable that when it is all over I won’t be visiting the clinic in the morning.

If there is a moment that demonstrates how much better this new recording is, it is the final minute of the “Head” when we can hear Prince preparing the band for “Sexuality.” We have heard his yell into the microphone before, but this time we can hear him say it a couple of times earlier to the audience. It’s not a big thing, but it does show just how good the sound is. “Sexuality” is relatively short, most of the song is given over to the audience sing-a-long that dominates. It does lose some of it’s impact on this soundboard recording, the audience recording obviously doing a far better job of capturing this moment with the audience. This is crying out for someone to combine the two recordings in a matrix mix that would better give us that electrifying live sound that makes this recording so vital.

Prince’s brief speech introducing The Time has been often discussed, and for good reason. His easy banter with Morris is refreshing, and its hilarious to hear him and Morris go back and forth, trading lines and barbs that belie the darker waters that swirl just under the surface. “Dance To The Beat” maintains this veneer of lightheartedness, and provides a pop twist to a show that has been thus far guitar heavy and drenched in intensity. There is a lift in the atmosphere and the recording shines bright for these minutes.

Prince continues to fire broadsides at the band between songs, this time with the comment “I didn’t like that, play something you know how to play.” The response from The Time is a taunt version of “The Stick” that would satisfy the most demanding of audiences. As much as I like The Time and this song, it does feel as if they have gate-crashed the date, and there is an awkward third wheel experience to hearing them on the bootleg. The real draw card though isn’t the music itself though, rather their dynamic tension with Prince, a tension that fuels his music and will provide some of his most dramatic work in the following years.

“Partyup” fuses these two elements together in a climatic finish that delivers all it promises. The opening talk between Prince and Morris sets the scene, the back and forth continues between them continues as Morris takes his place at the drum kit for this final stomp. Prince and his guitar lead from the front, but most fans will be focused on Morris and his drumming. He lives up to expectations, and the foreplay of the opening talk is forgotten as the the song becomes further arousing. Morris’s drum solo almost brings us to orgasm, but Prince pulls him back just in time with some great bass work from Brown Mark. The final climax comes with an inflamed guitar solo from Prince,but as with the audience recording there is coitus interruptus as the tape fades out, the rest of solo never realized and leaving us to only wonder what might  have been.

I have loved this concert for as long I can remember. I have grown older, but it has remained forever young, even with the imperfections of the long circulating audience recording. With this soundboard recording we have a chance to revisit our youth, and a chance to reconnect with that elusive first girlfriend. I have mixed feelings as I know that the first girlfriend is forever gone and never again will I listen to the audience recording. This new recording has created new memories and sparked a new love. It is time to move on and file the audience recording in my box of faded photos, yellowed love letters and yesterdays glories. I am firmly looking forward as with this soundboard recording I feel reinvigorated, my love burning with a new intensity. I have made up my mind, this is the recording that I want to spend the rest of my life with.

-Hamish

Bonus material:

Mace2theO messaged me this quickfire review when I told him I was covering this bootleg. It’s not written with public consumption in mind, but he has agreed that I could share it with you. I am in full agreement with everything he has written here, and he is far more succinct than me!

Re 82 – reasons the show is important to me, rediscovered with the SBDs

The First Ave show came the night after the main show at the Met Centre so going back to a small club, it has the feel of an aftershow. It is the first Revolution in all its glory, with Dez as a proper Keith Richards lead as the Black Rolling Stones, all pre-Purple Rain. Starting with a raw punk version of Bambi, it then goes into a monster version of All the Critics. While “Let ’em out of his cage” is great, my favourite is before Doc’s solo when Prince and Dez start soloing and Prince yell’s “Wait a minute, Dez” before ripping off a monster solo.

Sometimes audiences make the boot and I had been living with crowd singing at the end of Sexuality for so many years, it took me a minute to adjust to the soundboard. Same with All The Critics – without that kickdrum in your face, the SBD didn’t feel the power of the earlier version…although it sounds much better.

Most important – this is really the closest we will ever get the inspiration for the Purple Rain battle. Before all the controlling issues that came along in 83-84, you can feel the real affection between Morris and Prince (“We used to be friends”) – as trivia, it has the only time in bootleg history where someone gives Prince shit “You wanna borrow my comb?” Also history, as only time live Prince with Morris on drums.

I have fallen in love with my first girlfriend all over again – not looking forward to telling the wife

Return to First Ave 2007

In 2007 Prince played three shows in a day at his hometown of Minneapolis. I have already taken a listen to the matinee show at Macys and the main show at the Target Center, so to round out the trifecta today I will have a look at the aftershow at First Ave. It’s notable in that it was the first-time Prince had played there in 20 years, and anticipation was at an all-time high with queues snaking around the block with fans desperate to see their hometown hero. The show doesn’t disappoint. There are some uneven moments, but it is beautifully recorded (the bootleg sounds great) and the opening 3121 is so enormous in its heavy funk that any other weaker moments are immediately forgiven. I have listened to this show a couple of times this week, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

8th July 2007(am) First Avenue, Minneapolis

3121 has a steamroller of a groove that rolls heavily over everything from the first moments.  It’s hard and heavy and reminds me of Days Of Wild on a good day. With an insistent bass and horns early on, it puts me in mind of the performance of Days Of Wild from Belgium in 2002, dark, heavy and feeling like it might roll on for days. 3121 builds with cheers from the crowd before some chopping guitar heralds the arrival of Prince. His vocals emerge from the fog of the music, ghost-like yet full and with a darkness of their own.  It’s as hard as nails, with Prince’s guitar adding plenty of venom later in the song, it too emerging from the morass of music with a piercing whine. The song rolls on for ten minutes, I could happily put it back on repeat and listen to it all day long, the show is worth listening to just for this song lone. It encapsulates all that is great about the aftershow experience and puts me right in the moment.

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We go from dark to light, with a bright and sharp Girls And Boys following immediately after. With plenty of honks from the horns and keyboards it keeps the show moving at a clip, each stab adding to the momentum. Prince himself is sounding great, and I must again point out that this is great sounding recording. It may be an audience recording but it is full and rich sounding, with the crowd audible but not the least bit intrusive.

I Feel 4 U is sprightly, with Shelby adding her infectious energy to the show. She is reasonable restrained, and nicely focused. The song itself is short, and as Shelby begins to call “Put your hands up” things quickly move onto Controversy.

In recently times Controversy has been played with and thrown into crowd pleasing medleys, and I am happy to say that the rendition here is faithful to the original. It may not be the bare funk of the album, the band is bigger and fuller, but the song is the same arrangement, at least until the final minutes as Prince calls for the audience to jump up and down. It’s not my favourite part of the song, but there are plenty more positives I enjoy listening to, especially the frenetic horn solo that adds a sense of urgency to the song. The closing guitar break from Prince is equally fine, it takes a while to get to it but it is well worth the wait.

Things slow for Beggin Woman Blues.  The groove is the steady sound of Satisfied, as Prince sings Beggin Woman Blues. The lyrics are hilarious, and the crowd are quiet as they listen carefully to catch the jokes. The real surprise is Princes vocals, they sound fantastic, especially the first few minutes. There is plenty to enjoy on the keyboard front too, with both Morris Hayes and Renato Neto taking solos before things really cut loose with a wild sax solo from Mike Phillips. Prince brings us back as he returns the song back to its roots with his vocal delivery of Satisfied. Morris Hayes does a great job of filling the sound out behind him, and it highlights Princes vocals further, his high squeals contrasting with Morris Hayes deep organ swirls.

prince-2007-orange

I can’t say I am overly impressed by Down By The Riverside. It’s a breather, and a chance for me to grab another drink (this is thirsty work).

Gotta Broken Heart Again is a standout moment. It has a stillness to it, with Princes vocals being the back bone of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocals, they are outstanding and listening is a reminder to how much of a pure singer Prince was. He even matches the horns for shrill and intensity as the song reaches its climax, an impressive feat.

Shelby takes on Love Is A Losing Game, a tough job as it is a song that in my mind is indelibly associated with Amy Winehouse. I’m not sold on the performance, although Prince provides several guitar breaks that do elevate it, but not quite enough. The guitar does sound sweet and has a zesty sound to it, on another song it would be a whole lot more.

I enjoy Shelby’s performance of Love Changes a whole lot more. She is soft when she needs to be soft, strong when she needs to be strong, and I think it is a great match for her vocals and personality. Prince adds his input with some more guitar work, and this hits all my sweet spots, they complement each other well and this is further highlighted as Prince sings alongside Shelby. It may not be a lot of peoples’ cup of tea, but for me this is as good as anything else heard on this recording. Princes guitar in the final minutes underlines the performance and seals the deal.

We have all heard Thank You (Falettinme  Be Mice Elf Again) plenty of times, and this rendition contains no surprises. Larry Graham adds his deeper tones to the song, and it does have an energy that is sometimes missing in these performances. Things heat up near the end as Prince stops the band and we get some real rumble out of Larry and his bass.

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This rumble settles into Hair, and with the keyboard playing a retro sound we are cast back to the Seventies. Larry starts out on vocal duties, but he gives way to Shelby who doesn’t do a bad effort of the song herself. It does become a medley with some funky guitar running things into Sing A Simple Song before things quickly change again, this time with Everyday People. Everyday People ends the medley on a high, it is feel good through and through and one can almost hear Larry Graham smiling as he plays and sings.

Alphabet St may start off as expected, but soon enough it is spinning off into all sorts of weird and wonderful places. Greg Boyer is present for a trombone solo, before Larry Grahams bass settle things back into a groove. Shelia E playing percussion is easily the highlight, she is the right person at the right time and her input is timely and welcome.  It’s unfortunate that things come to a sudden end (due to curfew restrictions), but it is a fine way to end the recording, as Prince thanks the crowd as he explains why they are stopping, demonstrating that he is a law-abiding citizen through and through.

I had heard good things about this bootleg, but to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from it. On the surface it seemed to be the same old songs brought out again for the aftershow. I was caught off guard by the funk of 3121, and the appearance of Larry Graham wasn’t what I had come to expect, the show had a lot of energy when Larry arrived on the scene and provided his input. Of the the three shows from this day I would easily rate this as the best of the three. A short, sharp show played with intensity and energy, and I can’t really ask for better than that.

Thanks again
Take care
Hamish

 

First Avenue 1982

It blows my mind that this gig was recorded just five weeks after the Passaic gig that I listened to the other week. It’s got a completely different feel to it, show cases new material, resurrects some old material, but as always features some outstanding musicianship. Such is life in the world of Prince, things change pretty fast. This gig was recorded at First Avenue, between Controversy and 1999 tours, and yet it doesn’t really sound like either one of those tours. Most of the material played here does not appear on either tour, and the band has a chance to play out and really jam on some songs. As I seem to say every week, this is one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to write about it.

-Please note, none of these photos are connected to the gig. They are just a few nice ones to give you something to look at between all the words.

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

I have listened to this gig so many times that I can recite the opening lines from the top of my head. After a brief prelude Prince opens the gig by telling the crowd that “This is not a concert, this is a dance, if you can dance to stuff, you’re a better man to me. The only reason we’re here is that there is no place else to go”. Bambi starts and it’s heavy right from the go. I know Bambi is always a heavy guitar driven song, but here it is even more so. The guitars’ don’t let up at all, even during the verses, and Princes vocals struggle to get out above the din. You can hear him fine, but the guitar noise and band are very rowdy and wild. There is a great heavy guitar chugging underneath and some wild guitars over the top. It definitely has a garage band feel to it, but a very talented garage band! Dez’s playing is excellent, as is Princes solos over the top. I have heard plenty of great versions of Bambi, but this one tops them all. It’s a fantastic way to start the gig, and already I feel breathless by the end of the first song. Prince does some guitar noodling after the bulk of the song, before the band enters for a final onslaught to finish.

prince 2

A steady beat, then the now familiar keyboard run of All The Critics love You In New York begins. Prince intones “This is a new song, probably won’t be out for another year or six” The steady beat goes on for a very long time before Prince begins to sing, and in that time there is some grinding guitar flashes. The sound is, obviously, much more heavier than on record, and it has a darker feel to it. The guitar is much dirtier sounding, and much louder. Prince is not as restrained as he sounds on record, especially as he sings “look out all you hippies, you aren’t as sharp as me” But mostly the song isn’t about the vocals, it’s very much a guitar song, with plenty of guitar played over the beat. It sounds great, and I can only wish that I could have been there. The guitars pull back for a moments, and Prince asks Dr Fink if he wants to solo. He duly obliges while Dez calls for a drink. The keyboard solo is fast, yet delicate. Sounds very good and clean. Prince then asks Dez, “Did you get your drink?” Dez responds yes and Prince asks does he want to play, then with a yell “Let him outta of his cage!” Dez plays a fantastic solo. Completely different from what Prince would come up with, it has a heavy rock sound about it. Its short, but very rock orientated. The guitars stay low for a bit, and the song sounds much more like what it does on album. The song only lasts another minute or two after this before it ends with a synth howl.

Keeping in tone with the evening so far, the next song is a guitar heavy When You Were Mine. There is more lead guitar on this then we normally hear, and it’s an interesting arrangement. The rhythm guitar sound that normally drives it is absent, and instead some long mournful notes on the lead guitar replace it. It’s still as upbeat as ever, but it does have a more rock sound to it. Dr Finks solo is more familiar territory, and after this the more familiar rhythm guitar we are used to returns. There is a break, with just Prince on his guitar and the crowd clapping, and he stretches it out for a couple of minutes like this. I like it here, when he sings a few lines, then knocks out the rhythm for a bit while the crowd clap along. The band all jump in back in for the final verse before it all races to the finish.

Prince

After thanking the crowd “Give yourself a hand, that was some mean clapping” Prince and the band get funky with Sexy Dancer. It’s a welcome break from the guitar noise of the first few songs. I love guitar, but I also enjoy the variation that Prince gives us. Sexy dancer is full sounding, propelled along by the bass and drum, but there is plenty of playing over the top. Again Dr Fink plays a great solo, and it’s really stretched out, he plays for a couple of minutes on it. It’s very enjoyable, and as I so often do, I find myself in admiration of the skills of the good Doctor. Dez follows up with a restrained but loud solo. It’s in complete contrast to the solo that Dr Fink plays, and yet complements the song well. The song ends with a Dez solo, and there is a pause in the action.

Prince tells the crowd he wants to play a slow song if they want to go get a drink. He calls for Sue Ann, and then plays Still Waiting. The recording still has a garage band sound to it, which doesn’t really suit this song. However Princes vocals sound very good, especially harmonizing with Sue Ann on the chorus. It’s in the quieter more delicate moments of the gig that the limitations of recordings like this are exposed. The song itself is very good, as we have come to expect from Prince, but I would want to hear a better recording of it. There is some very nice vocal work from Prince here, and some great interplay between him and the backing singers, especially in the breakdown. There is one weird vocal ad-lib from Prince, when he tells the crowd ‘I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” I didn’t notice it for years, but I can’t help but to hear it this time. Sue Ann gets a moment to sing solo, and she is remarkable good. She’s not the most distinctive singer I have ever heard, but she is nice and strong. Prince responds with some of his shrieking and screaming before the song comes to an end.

Prince 4

There is a pause, and then the band plays a heavy and slightly quicker version of Head. It’s not as dirty or nasty as I have heard elsewhere, but the guitars are nice and strong, and I do enjoy the grittiness of this recording. Prince lets the crowd sing a lot of it, choosing to sing every other line himself. The recording doesn’t pick up the crowd singing very well, but if I had have been there you would definitely of heard me! After the first verse there isn’t much singing, mostly a lot of keyboard, solos and groove. It’s not a bad thing at all, and I like it very much in this way. Prince picks up the mic for some more singing, but again he only sings every other line, letting the crowd fill in the spaces. Dr Finks solo is excellent as always before the music pulls back for a breakdown. There is some very enthusiastic singing of head from the crowd, as always, and then some nice funk guitar from the band. It then descends into the usual guitar solo and keyboard sounds that we have heard so many times before.

A couple of beats and Prince calls “Read my lips, Sexuality”. Things really take off here, the beat jumps up, and after several screams from the man himself the bass and scratch guitar jump in. It’s played fast, and the drums and bass provided a great energy. This song is a favorite of mine, and it’s a shame there is not more live recordings of it out there. As with the other songs, the sound is very full, and all the instruments are battling to be heard. The six band members sure do make a big noise! The bulk of the song is over before I know it, it was fast and furious throughout. The band all pull out, except Bobby Z, and Prince sings Sexuality as the crowd claps along. The crowd then takes up the singing of sexuality, while Prince takes a break. This section goes for as long as the main song itself, and it sounds as if the crowd is having a great time. Prince finishes by singing “Never let it be said, white folk ain’t got no soul”.

Prince 1

Prince tells the crowd that they are going to take a break, and then the Time plays a couple of songs. The recording covers the bands changing over, and it takes some minutes, with plenty of banter while it happens. Especially funny to me is when Prince tell the crowd “We share the same management, and they say they gotta play too”

The first song they play is Dance to The Beat. It’s up tempo, and fun, but it comes and goes before I can properly register it. It does sound like it would have been good to be there, but on the recording it doesn’t do much for me.

Much better is The Stick. The bass and the keyboards have a deep groove and the over all sound is something I really enjoy. This is The Time that I like the most. Jimmy Jam and Jesse both solo, before Morris calls for a mirror. The classic Time that we all know and love is in full effect.

The song ends, and Prince asks Morris if he can still play the drums. Once again there is plenty of banter, as Morris moves to the drums and Prince is running things again. They then play an enthusiastic version of party up. The band sound nice and loose, as does Princes singing. Again, it’s a sense of fun that I get when I listen to this recording. Prince calls for a break down and the band find a nice groove while the crowd begins to clap along. Prince tells the crowd “Give the drummer some” and then Morris plays a drum break. It’s not overly cohesive, but it does fit with the fun of the gig. Brownmark brings things back with some nice bass playing, and then Lisa puts some nice rhythmic keyboard work over top. There is then some really fantastic sounding guitar solo played over the top but to my great disappointment the recording fades out here and ends.

Prince 3

This was one of the first recordings I ever brought, and I have listened to it many times over the years. In more recent years better releases of the same gig have appeared, and this has greatly added to my enjoyment of it. As I said earlier, I love the garage band sound of this, and the loose feel of the band. All The Critics Love You In New York is a standout for me, as is Sexuality. I was one very happy man at the end of listening to this.

Take care
Hamish

Parade warm-up at First Avenue

Writing each week about these recordings, I find myself using the same words again and again “favorite” “best version” “love this”. I try to avoid it, but the point of being a fan is that I am passionate about it, and there are many ‘favorites’ and ‘best versions’ Today I will be using these words a lot. I apologize in advance, but when I started listening to this one I just found that song after song I was thinking, “Man, this is the best ever”. I myself very rarely namedrop this as a favorite recording, but I think in future I should. The parade warm up show from First Avenue is widely circulating in both DVD and CD. I have seen people talk passionately of it, but it doesn’t seem to get the same coverage as say Small Club, or For Those Of You On Valium. It deserves to rank up there with the best, and I only hope that my words today can do the show justice.

3 March 1986, First Avenue, Minneapolis

“We only been rehearsing about a week, so we a little rusty” Prince informs the crowd as the show starts “But here goes”. Immediately the sound of Around the World In a Day can be heard, and Prince starts the gig with an “Aawwwhhh” as he does so many times. Around the World In a Day is one of those songs that have seemed to fallen through the cracks. It’s an interesting song, but never seems to quite fit with anything else he has done before or since. The first half of the song is delicate, but the second half the lights come up and Prince and the band run through some fairly solid dance moves. Its bit of a novelty song for me, so I enjoy the performance here.

A shout, and the band switch to Christopher Tracey’s Parade. A fun song, the audience and I start to relax more. The mood is pretty light throughout, and Prince ad-libs a nice little line in the middle with “Jimmy Jam, I don’t to hear this on your record”! The extended Revolution shows off the new members, especially the horns are much more prominent. The song ends with Prince moving to the keyboards and jamming for half a minute. Oh, if only it was longer.

Prince Parade warmup

There is no rest as they immediately segue into New Position. My thoughts are already how well these three songs all work together. It’s a nice energy to all three of them, and they all demonstrate his nice clean sound at this stage. For a band that has supposedly only been rehearsing for a week, they all sound tight to me. One can only guess that the week involved some very long days.

I Wonder U slows us all down, and takes us somewhere different again. What a great mix of styles he had at the time. They play slight faster than I normally hear on record, and it takes a couple of lines perform Wendy’s voice warms up and gets stronger.

Another nice moment is between songs when Prince says “oh, I like you guys already”. Again he explains they have only been rehearsing a week, and may be rusty. No fear of that, I assure you, it’s all sounding great so far.

Next up is the first of many highlights for me, when Prince pulls out his guitar and delivers up a rarely heard live version of Paisley Park. A favorite of mine on record, live its something better again. I can’t explain what it is about this version that I enjoy, maybe the rawness of his voice, and the guitar. There is a lyric ad-lib as well, which only adds to the loose live feel of it. Prince is playing with a big smile, I am sure this comes across in the audio recording. Price plays a nice guitar break near the end, buts it’s the sound of all the instruments working together that I really enjoy. And in a very nice moment Prince plays the finger cymbals as the song has its long fade out. The fade out goes for quite a while, and Prince gets up close and personal with some of the audience. I really do love gigs like this when he is totally relaxed.

Prince Parade warmup (2)

Alex de Paris is next, but sadly it’s just a mistake, with only Wendy playing. Obviously she has misread the set list. Prince covers with an “oh man, you let someone new in the band and they wanna solo”, which seems like a strange comment considering Wendy had been in the band for almost 3 years by this stage.

A little bit of pop music next as they play Raspberry beret. Usually a crowd sing-along song this version is refreshing in that Prince himself sings most of it rather than leaving the crowd to sing it. Energy levels are high, with some choreographed dancing by Prince, as well as just some joyful jumping around. There is some excellent face pulling by Prince at the crowd, then some humorous banter between Prince and Jerome- mostly about wiener size. (Seriously!) There is a final flourish by the band, the finally Wendy gets her moment with Alex De Paris.

Prince Parade warmup (3)

It’s worth the wait, she takes centre stage and plays a great version. Although her body language doesn’t show it, she speaks through her music and it sounds quite impassioned. Again, another gem that should be heard more often. She stalks back and forth across the stage, and I must admit I watch pretty enrapt as she plays. The Revolution certainly was a great band.

The pounding beginning of Controversy never fails to excite me, especially when that killer guitar enters, this time backed by the horn section. The balance is just right here, with the funk of the original still intact and the horns not overwhelming it. Prince himself doesn’t play guitar on it here, content with dancing and singing, and the energy seems to pore out of him during this performance.

“Get up!”, oh yes, this is my moment as Mutiny begins. I have said it before and I will say it again, this is my favorite part of any Parade show. Prince dances across the stage back by the dancers, and then hits us for a few lines. There are many elements to this that I love- his dancing, Eric Leeds playing, the funky guitar line, the driving beat, and the lyrics. There is a breakdown mid song, I think it sounds good, but somebody has missed a cue- Prince calls “breakdown, then I told you we were rusty.” Eric Leeds sax solo is a absolute joy, especially while Prince and the back up singers have fun with chanting “Paul, punk of the month” Prince teases me even further by singing ‘ this is what its like in the dream factory”. This performance is stellar, so much happening in it, and its all played with passion and fire. Prince clearly enjoys this song a lot at this stage, and it gets played to maximum impact.

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I am very surprised to hear Soft and Wet next, although given the variety and quantity of music Prince has recorded anything could be heard at any time. This one isn’t so choreographed as some of the other songs, and at stages Prince looks like his younger self, just playing his music and moving how he feels to it. Fink plays a nice solo, and it feels straight out of 78 again. It’s a real contrast to the previous 40 minutes of music.

There is further nostalgia when he follows up by playing I Wanna Be Your Lover. It feels so simple after some of the more complex music he had been working on at the time, but doesn’t lessen the enjoyment level in the slightest. It’s always going to be one of his catchiest songs, and an essential part to his legend. The song segues in to its funky second half and Prince tell the crowd “We gonna play everything we know tonight” There is a party atmosphere, and I find myself typing faster and faster as I listen to it. The crowd is clapping and singing and I find it hard to not get caught up in it all myself. Wendy gets a couple of guitar breaks, and the tone of her guitar sounds nice and sharp.

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Of course it moves easily into Head, very seamless. I would say that this sound of Prince is the sound that made me a fan, and probably introduced me into the world of funk. I should mention Brown Mark at this stage, his playing here is what I am listening to most throughout this song. The horns here really strengthen and fill out the sound. The keyboards are very much still the basis of the song, and this is highlighted by the solo that Dr Fink plays. Never boring, he delivers every time I hear this song. Prince says “don’t play no keyboard unless you do that” and I know exactly what he means. Dr Fink puts everything into it, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him bobbing and jerking behind the keyboard. Things take a dark turn after this as it slides into a long dark groove. There is plenty of Prince interplay with the dancers, as he moves through some of his more corny dance moves (Oak tree or wooden leg anyone?) It’s hard to dislike any of it, as the music is so strong and carries it.

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There is some very funny interplay from Prince and the band between songs, difficult to transcribe here, but actually very insightful to the band dynamics.

A keyboard is placed centre stage and Prince plays a nice rendition of Under The Cherry Moon. I am shaking my head at this stage, difficult to believe that just a minute ago we were getting funked up to Head. Prince plays the song, but there seems to be a lot of audience talk throughout on the recording, so I am wondering how well it’s going across with the crowd. However, 30 years later I think it’s great.

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Pop Life, not only one of my favorites on record, but also a live favorite, here it gets a full treatment. A very well titled song, its just oozes pop, with just a touch funk underneath it all to satisfy most fans. Not many songs have a flute solo, but this one does, and some how Eric Leeds still manages to look cool as ever as he plays it. The bass playing on this is excellent, I just wish there was more of it. The song has a long breakdown, with the male dancers singing Pop Life over and over while Prince breaks into some dancing. Doesn’t sound wonderful, but it is enjoyable. Especially when Prince tells the audience “we got plenty of time”

Eric Leeds gets further praise from me, as the next song is Girls and Boys. The band is well and truly in the groove now, and the audience is right behind them. This version is tight, my only quibble is the guitar isn’t in the mix as much as other recordings I have heard. On the plus side, Princes singing is very strong here, and he does encourage the crowd to party throughout. The latter part of the song finds me with a big smile on my face. The band is definitely heating up, and the song starts to take off as it goes along. Again Prince prowls back and forth across the stage, plenty of audience interaction, and ad-libs, everyone has their hands in the air by now, and you know he owns them. Normally I dislike it when Prince tells me how funky he is, but here he is definitely preaching to the converted, this song is funky as hell. Just when I think it can’t get any better Prince whips off his top, engages in some dancing, then moves to the organ and begins to jam. By now my greatest wish is that one day he will go back, pull a clean copy of this video from his vault and release it. The song lasts for a good nine minutes, never repeats itself, showcases all his styles and talents, and I am breathless by the time it finishes.

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There is no let up as we get Life Can Be So Nice right on top of it. I don’t know where Prince gets his energy from, I feel tired just listening to it. Not just the energy of the song itself, but also all the stage antics and performance. If anyone ever doubts he’s the greatest ever, just show them this. The show to this point has been truly sublime. The song ends with the band leaving stage one by one, leaving just Bobby Z and Eric Leeds playing. It lasts like this for a minute, until even those two leave.

The show to this point has been outstanding, but it’s about to get even better. The next song is undoubtedly the most over played of Princes career. When I look at my Prince recordings I have 100’s of versions of Purple Rain. No matter how good the song is, the fact is I have heard it too many times, and I will quite happily skip it on most recordings. The version here is the exception to that. The arrangement played at this gig is unlike any other I have heard, and it is my favorite recording of Princes most famous song.

Purple Rain begins with the simple guitar signature that we are all so familiar with, and the steady beat. But where it really takes off for me is when Eric Leeds starts playing saxophone all over the intro. Some people may feel that it shouldn’t be messed with, but for me it adds a whole new element, and in no way at all detracts from the song. It’s another layer to it, and it’s a very welcome for me. His playing gets more passionate and feeling as it goes, and it adds another emotional layer to the song. I don’t know how many times it was played like this, but I would love to hear more recordings of this arrangement.

Princes asks “Can I play just a little bit” and he himself adds a beautiful little run on the guitar. Although only 30 seconds, I find myself moved by it, there is a lot of feeling hanging on those few notes.
By the time he begins singing at the five minute mark I have already had my moneys worth, and already this is my favorite performance at this gig. Prince sings the verses the same as we have heard so many times, that’s not to say they are bad, but after the first five minutes I am already floored, nothing else can elevate this song more. The Prince solo is just as good as any other I have heard, and it deviates just enough to keep me interested. Actually, it gets better and better and by the end of it I find myself just sitting there nodding, much like Billy in the Purple Rain movie. This is MY Purple Rain.

It’s bit of a let down when they follow up with Whole Lotta Shakin. But to it’s credit, it is short, and energetic. Both the piano and horns get moments to shine, and it does lift the audience after Purple Rain. Hard to imagine anything to follow that, so this seems like not a bad choice!

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Another personal favorite next when the long deep sounds of Eric Leeds sax introduces Anotherloverholenyohead. Prince immediately starts to gee up he crowd, but if they are anything like me, there is really no need. Again it’s hard to believe that this is a new song for the band. They seem to have it down pretty good, and it’s another high point in a gig full of high points. Wendy and Suzanne share a mic for the backing vocals, and Eric and Atlanta deliver up a couple of nice little runs. The song quickly turns to a jam with the band playing on while the singers sing “You need another lover, like you need a hole in yo head” Its songs like this that I enjoy most, the horns playing over the top of a long groove. Prince seems in a playful mood, bouncing around the stage and just moving to the music.

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The songs keep on coming, next we have Mountains. Again it’s lively, with Prince doing plenty of dancing. Early in his career he wasn’t much of a dancer, but by this stage he has got it done, and he is excellent in this song, and indeed in every song. The horns sound nice and sharp in this one, and there is a brief moment for Wendy and Miko to play. Wendy is upfront and prominent for most of the gig, while Miko is fairly anonymous at the back in the shadows. It’s a shame, because his funk playing is excellent. There is a nice long fade out, and I can hear his playing a little better. Prince ends the song with finger cymbals, I can’t help but smile when I see him play them.

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Another favorite of mine from this era follows, with a shout of “A, B, A, B, C, D!!” A Love Bizarre almost has me leaping from my seat. It’s astonishing how much great music he was writing at this stage, not only for himself but for everyone. Love Bizarre is a classic, and the performance here is brilliant, not just the audio, but also the onstage show. Prince again is all over the stage, dancing and singing. The band doesn’t miss a single note, and the club is partying. Eric solo begins with Prince exclaiming “Eric Leeds, look at his suit!” The whole band is bouncing as Eric plays, and it sends my pulse racing. But the best is yet to come, as Prince plays some mean guitar next. He plays a nice minute on Love Bizarre, but then continues playing as they move to the main riff of America.

It’s a shame there isn’t more performances of this song out there. I love the video performance of America recorded in Paris, and the America played at this gig is also outstanding. The Revolution play the hell out of it, and Prince demonstrates that he hasn’t forgotten how to play guitar. This song is so sharp and tight, the band very cohesive and play furiously. Listening to it, I wish he still played it today, but to be honest, I really think its The Revolution that elevates this song. Every member gets a moment, and the pace of it is just relentless. Prince puts down the guitar and dances hard as the band march on. It’s about now that it turns into the jam as you knew it would. With Prince leading the dancing he also demonstrates his band leader skills, and leads the band through several changes. Prince sings bits and pieces of several songs, but never for a moment does the groove let up. Prince further demonstrates his many talents by taking a turn at the drums later in the song. I am doing it an injustice here, this is one of those ones you have to hear, or see. It’s really something.

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There is a brief interlude, where Prince promises that he will come back and build a club house and they can do this everyday. It’s a nice thought, and I am reminded of his song uptown. With a call of “who’s house -Prince house” the band begin the final song of the night, Kiss. It feels light, after some of the songs we have heard previously, but it’s very enjoyable. I especially enjoy the last portion, after the verses have finished and it just moves to funky guitar and a beat. There is some more of Prince dancing with his ‘Wooden Leg’ (That didn’t really catch on, did it?) while the band and audience stick with him. There is a final chorus and the show ends.

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I have many thoughts about this one. It contains many of my favorite songs, and favorite performances, yet it’s not often played by me. After listening to it the last few days, this would be number one on my wish list for a better soundboard recording to suddenly appear from the vault, or a crystal clear video. In my list of top twenty shows, this deserves to be somewhere near the top. A lot of new music here, and excellent performance, and some stellar reworkings of familiar songs, I can’t praise this show enough. The show is 10/10, even if the recording is not.

Thanks for reading, plenty more good shows to listen to in the next few weeks. I have been avoiding the Purple Rain era so far, but that is going to change soon.

Take care
-Hamish