Yokohama, Final 1996 Japan concert

We have just had a lovely day at the Yokohama Triennale and I am currently overloaded by the art on display. Asides from Prince bootlegs my other great loves are traveling and art, so as you can imagine today has been a great day for me. I have enjoyed my time in Japan the last two weeks, even time with the in-laws hasn’t been as bad as I thought! We still have a couple more weeks here, we have been so busy I think I will need another holiday when I get home. In keeping with my Japanese theme, today I will be taking a listen to a concert recorded in Yokohama in 1996. It takes in the final concert of the Ultimate Live tour, and it’s a shock to me when I realise that it is more than twenty years ago now. It feels like only yesterday, and that pleases me as it must mean that the 18-year-old in me still lives on. There have been several releases of this concert over the years, but I have chosen the Zion release as it has particularly beautiful art work, and is in-depth in its coverage of the concert itself. Not only does the recording feature the concert, but also the entire 35 minutes of preshow music (in this case the Exodus album) that is played over the PA. It’s almost too much, I doubt I will ever listen to the preshow music again – not when I have the CD readily available, but it is a nice touch and makes for an immersive experience.

  20th January 1996, Yokohama Arena, Yokohama

Skipping over the preshow music, it is a video medley that begins the concert. An easy enough listen, it is merely a taster of Prince’s back catalog of music and not really representative of the show that will follow, nor of the live bootleg experience. At ten minutes long, it would be a nice mix for the car, but I am here for the live performance and as such I find I sit through it rather impatiently.

The introduction of “Prince…is dead, long live the New Power Generation” followed by a roar of music and scream that almost has me on feet here at home. An audience recording, it still captures the power and fervor of the moment, that rush as Prince and the band create the wall of sound that is “Endorphin Machine”. It is in itself an endorphin rush, and I feel washed away in its sound as soon  as I hear it.

The rush is short lived, but Prince gives us something even better with the power of “Shhh” masked behind his slow vocal. The guitar break is the iron fist in the velvet glove, and even though the song is criminally short it serves warning that the show will contain a multitude of styles all delivered straight from the heart.

Some of the power of “Days Of Wild” is dissipated in this setting. I can’t tell if its the Japanese audience, the size of the arena, or the mix, but what ever it is the song lacks the suffocating intensity I usually associate with it. The bass guitar solo is most welcome and for me it easily overshadows everything else heard in the song. The bass returns to finish the song, this time with a brief “777-9311,” something that briefly has me gasping for breath.  As much as I love the “Days Of Wild,” there are much better renditions out there, and I find this one a little ho-hum.

The introduction of “Now” has Mayte comparing it to “Irresistible Bitch,” “Housequake,” and “Sexy M.F.”, but as the song ignites I find it lacks the finesse of these and is about as subtle as a sledge hammer. The chorus is exciting and bold, but not the slinky dance number of the songs it was compared to. It is still fun, and I enjoy the performance even if just a little too punchy. I only wish we could see Mayte’s final dance during  “Babies Makin Babies” as the crowd chants her name, after all a Prince concert is as much a visual experience as an aural one.

The show opened with Prince declaring “Prince is dead,” and yet here we have a Prince song, the first verse of “Anotherloverholenyohead” jammed over the top of “Race.’ I like it. I like the groove of the song, I like the lyrics, but especially I like the sound of the keyboards. They are electrifying in both sound and style, and I am transfixed by the performance I am hearing. Other songs promised more, this is one surprise package that keeps me listening to bootlegs.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is a start stop affair that ably demonstrates how tight the band are, but as for overall enjoyment of the song it does detract a little. However, I have heard “the Most Beautiful Girl In The World” enough times in my life,and I am more than content to sit back and admire this configuration of the NPG.

One of most well known tracks from the Gold Experience follows, in the form of “Pussy Control.” It’s not as strong as it is on record, it’s a slightly different mix and the music is busy which does distract from Prince’s rapping. I expect it to come as a punch to the face, instead it is more like a slap in the face – it’s a challenge, but not quite the out and out threat that it should be.

I am much more attuned with “Letitgo.” With its low key groove it seduces me, and I fall in love with the interaction between Prince’s vocals and the music. Its all too easy, and I slip easy under it’s charms. Surrounded by some big songs, it holds its own with natural grace and beauty.

Although its short on the album, “Starfish And Coffee” in this context is given the royal treatment and Prince plays a regal five minutes with it. The twist comes in the tail and the song slips down a musical rabbit hole, its sound becoming suddenly darker as complexities steps out of the shadows. It is in complete contrast to the first minutes, and ends with a Michael B solo – completely unexpected for a song such as “Starfish And Coffee”

Compared to other renditions of the era, “The Cross” is almost delicate in its delivery. Prince’s guitar a gentle lace rather than the blanket of sound it sometimes is, and there is layers of complexities early in the song. A lot of this is unpicked however once the song reaches its apex and Prince tears up all that came before with plenty of rage and howl on his guitar. As a guitar aficionado I am in blue heaven, and as always my only complaint is that it is all too short.

I think I have heard “The Jam,” almost as much as I have heard “Purple Rain” over the years. It’s hard to get too excited by it here, it is the standard run through we have all heard before. Michael B is mighty in his contribution, although the rest of the song I could take or leave.

Prince proclaims his love for Joan Osbourne’s “One Of Us” before serving up his own take of her song. It is a great match for him, both in theme and style, and the final guitar saturated minutes is where it becomes purely Prince as he drenches the song in his trademark sound.

To my ears, “Do Me, Baby” has never got old, and the rendition on this bootleg is pretty standard, yet entirely mesmerizing as Prince works himself and the song up into a lather. It is not as an intense experience as I have heard on other bootlegs, but it still remains an unmissable part of the show.

The seduction and sexiness of “Do Me, Baby” becomes pure sex with the appearance of “Sexy M.F.”  Normally I am captivated by the grease of the guitar, but in this case it is Tommy Barbarella who has my full attention with an upstart of a solo that is a livewire in its delivery. The rest performance is smooth, the only jolt coming from this solo.

I am more than happy with “I Am Your Girlfriend” The recording is top notch, and I can hear every nuance of the song as the band walk us through it. It is a classic, and deservedly so, as Prince twists up a gender bending mix of personalities and musical styles into a drama underpinned opus. Beautifully recorded at this show, I could easily feast on this for days.

One of the great things about listening to concerts form this Japanese tour is the appearance of “Vicki Waiting” in the setlists. Rarely played, when we do hear it on bootlegs it always sounds fresh and exciting. That feeling is heightened here by the twin keyboard attack of Morris Hayes and Tommy Barbarella,  they both bring some heavy musicality to what otherwise would be a simple pop song.

I am tempted to skip over the “Purple Medley” as it is just as unnecessary in concert as it is on record. Hearing it only makes me yearn to go back and listen to the original songs, all of them having being done a disservice by this medley. It is dire, and a colossal waste of time. Redeeming features? None.

Prince immediately wins me back with a sweet version of “7”. There is nothing to demanding, it never once challenges, but it does sound easy on my ears and is a thousand times better than the preceding “Purple Medley.” The song comes and goes in its own easy way, and I am deceived by the track listing that has it at seven minutes, when in reality it is half that before it gives over to the break between encores.

Things kick off in grand style with a smoking rendition of “Billy Jack Bitch.” I might be biased at this point, as this is one of my go to songs on those days I need music as a prop. Princes vocals are a little weak against the wall of music, and it is the Fishbone sample that comes across loudest on the recording, something that will rattle around in my brain for the next few days now. I have a lot of fun listening to it, although before I know it, its over and we move quickly on.

The show stays in this uptempo groove with a quick fire rendition of “319.” There isn’t much to it, and just as I find myself singing along it ends.

It is entirely predictable that “Gold” is the last number of the night, yet it is just as uplifting and sweepingly epic as you could want for a show closer, or even a tour closer. I may not be able to see what is happening, but I can hear it in the music, and in the audiences response, and my heart quickens with every sweep of guitar and every homily spun by Prince. It may be cheesy but it does the trick, and I am converted to the message Prince is preaching. The final whine of the guitar adds one last golden sheen to all that has come before and although it does become rough in places it stays on message with its uplifting sound and soulful howl.

I recommend all concerts from the 1995/1996 time period. The music bristles with a revitalized energy and enthusiasm and it is hard not to be captivated by the sound of it as Prince begins his new journey, shedding his 1980s skin and persona as he strikes out in new directions. The final concert of the tour marks this as something special, and Prince delivers in concert, and on the recording, with a sparkling set delivered at maximum rock n roll velocity. There are a couple of weak moments in the concert, but the bootleg is good enough that I am more than happy to overlook the moments that drag. A worthy release of one of my favourite eras, this one can sit easily along side any other show of the era.

Thanks again
Hamish

Osaka, 1996

This week’s show I will be diving back into the Gold era, and a show from Prince’s Japan tour of 1996. This is an absolutely fascinating period, not just musically, but the whole drama and change surrounding him. I may not have fully understood it all at the time, but now in retrospect I see there is a lot going on, and some great shows to revisit. Having shed his ‘Prince’ persona, his music and look strikes out in a bold new direction, and it’s hard for me to remember what I thought at the time, but I now know that it was something extremely brave and creative. Money and his battle with Warner Bros. may have been the motivating factor, but it ended up being so much more interesting and creative. In 1995 he steadfastly refused to play any of his back catalogue, here in 1996 the first cracks are being to show and quite a few ‘Prince’ songs are on the set-list, as well as the opening music which nods to his past. By 1997 the doors to his past are reopened, with him again embracing his back-catalogue. It’s somewhat of a shame, and it would have been very interesting to see what would have happened if he stuck to the path that he struck out on 1995, one can only wonder. Today’s show is from Osaka in early 1996, his only tour of the year being a Japanese tour in January. The quality isn’t great, but anything that documents this era is well worth a listen.

Osaka 1996a

11 January, 1996 Osaka, Japan

My anticipation is at an all time high as the show begins, and it more than delivers as the first words we hear from him are “Osaka, Prince is dead, long live the New Power Generation”. It thrills me just to hear it, and I know I am crossing over dangerously into FAM territory. There is the immediate nod to the past that I alluded to earlier as the synth intro of 1999 is heard, but Prince reclaims the here and now with opening riff of Endorphin Machine. What a start, a blaze of guitar, lights and screams- from both Prince and the audience. It’s a lively way to open the show, and I can only think that had I had been there it all would have been overwhelming. The sound of the recording isn’t great, and sometimes isn’t even good. Yet, for all its faults, its still captures the sound of the moment rather well. I may not hear the band all that well, and Princes vocals aren’t all that clear, but I can still hear the energy and enthusiasm of the performance, and in my book that counts for a lot. And besides, if the sound isn’t good I can always just watch Mayte and her dancing, always a pleasant distraction. Prince drops a verse and chorus from the song, and shortens it considerable, he never lets up on the driving guitar sound and momentum of the song. I am surprised by how much noise he can generate from a single guitar, the NPG are doing a great job of rounding out his sound and giving him a fat sound to play against.

Osaka 1996

With Prince still working his guitar we are straight into the next song, which is the excellent Shhh. The band is on the money for this one, as is Prince. His vocals sound just like they do on record, and if this was a soundboard recording I am sure we would hear much better just how good he sounding. It’s disappointing he cuts this song short too, after a verse he does play a great solo, and then suddenly cuts it short as the grind of Days Of Wild begins.

I always think of this as an after show song, which is a folly as it always sounds great, even in the bigger concerts. The recording isn’t good enough to truly capture the ominous rumble of the song, but it’s easy enough for me to imagine how it would have sounded. The highlight is always when Prince says “oh by the way, I play bass guitar”. This show is no exception and we get a couple of bass breaks, the first one, and then another one later in the song as the crowd chant. Prince looks the business as he plays, and I would love to see a show where he played bass only through the whole show. He makes it look so effortless, as well as a lot of fun. The camera jumps around a bit at this point, and I kind of like it. It’s that old fashioned sort of boot, where you know it’s not going to be great to look at, and yet you need to watch it. Some more chanting, and then the briefest of pauses before Now.

Osaka 1996b

What I like most about Now is the keyboard sound. Prince’s rap doesn’t do much for me, it’s all about that organ sound for me, and I know that yet again it’s Morris Hayes giving it to me. The song is hollow sounding when he isn’t playing, it’s the chorus that has the full sound that I like. Prince implores the crowd to ‘jump up, jump up, now!”, and I don’t know if they do or not, but I know that I certainly want to. The song quietens to a groove and while Mayte plays with the audience Prince straps on his purple axe and gives us some funky keyboard sounds. For me the song becomes much more interesting for me at this stage, as there is plenty of keyboard jamming for me to listen to. A few lines of Babies Making Babies is sung by Prince at this stage, which is pretty standard for this song. He then even goes so far as to plug in his guitar, so in the space of two songs we have seen him play every instrument onstage, bar the drums.

Osaka 1996c

I am loath to use the word ‘funky’ too much, but as they lurch into Get Up (I Feel Like Being A)  Sex Machine, that is indeed the first word that comes to mind, and rightly so. The keyboards and guitar play right up hard against each other, before easing back and Prince singing. There is a lot going on, and all the instruments via for my attention. Be it Princes guitar, his singing, or the keyboards and bass line, I want to hear it all and soak it all up. Of course I just want to unplug my headphones and dance around the room, but that wouldn’t be much of a blog post now, would it? The song winds to a close with a minute of Prince playing alone on the guitar, before the band jump back in for a furious finish.

Osaka 1996d

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World almost sounds out of place after the last few songs. That Prince can go straight from something so funky to such pure pop has never failed to amaze me, and listening now it’s hard to believe that a minute ago this guy was channelling the spirit of James Brown. The vocals are outstanding, and the only thing better is the tightness of the band, this song really demonstrates how good they are, as they stop several times and then pick up right where they left off. Prince isn’t to be outdone though, and later in the song he delivers some lovely falsetto that only he can.

In the privacy of my own home I love Pussy Control (that is a sentence I never thought I’d write), in public I am a little more reluctant to enthuse about it. This live performance isn’t great. Prince’s rap isn’t clear, and he doesn’t really shine until singing the chorus. There is some nice work for us to listen to on the keyboard, but overall the song is lacking and leaves me wishing it could have been more. I thought this would be better live, and I am not sure why it doesn’t work for me, but I suspect Princes rap has a lot to do with it.

I like Letitgo, it sounds different from other songs at this show, and it always leaves me with a strange feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on, a sort of unease when I hear it. The performance here is good, and I especially appreciate Tommy Barbarellas solo. The song has a nice pop chorus to it, but I sense something darker underneath it, and I think that is what I latch onto and gives me the uncomfortable feeling. Prince takes time to involve the crowd with some singing, before it abruptly stops and the gentle piano intro of Starfish and Coffee begins.

It’s great to hear this played in full, with the full band treatment. Often we get short lines of it in the piano medley, and it’s only on this Japanese tour of ’96 and the ONA tour do we get the full version. It’s a curious choice to get the full band treatment, and this is the first ‘Prince’ song of the night played, so I wonder what the thinking behind it is. I prefer the first part of the song more, the second half is free and loose, and I don’t enjoy the keyboard solo so much, but I am sure that it must be to some peoples taste.

With the opening chords of The Cross sounding we are immediately throw right back to the 1980’s. Princes’ playing is crisp, it sounds sharp and contrasts the keyboard sound that is also prominent. I was expecting his guitar to ramp up as the song progresses, so I am thrown when it’s the keyboard that firstly drives towards the climax. Order is restored when Prince does begin to work his fret board, and it’s a joy to listen to, as well as see as he strikes a series of rock star poses. It’s not as deep and spiritual sounding, I find that it’s just as enjoyable however, especially when I lean back and soak it all up.

Osaka 1996e

The Jam, I feel I am writing about this song almost every week, it is such a part of his repertoire. I don’t tire of it tonight, as not only to we get a great solo from Morris Hayes, we also get a very tidy solo from Tommy Barbarella, a man I often overlook. It’s great to hear the keyboard guys playing, and the song loses something as Prince calls Mayte to dance and the music takes second place. This arrangement of The Jam offers nothing that we haven’t hear before,  however it serves as a good bookmark in the show, and a chance for us to catch our breath and admire the skills of the individual band members.

A plodding beat, and I immediately recognize One Of Us. I find the beat pedestrian, and the song is saved by the uplifting sound of Princes guitar, without which there would be very little joy to be found. I prefer this cover to the original, and if I had never had of heard Joan Osborne I would swear it’s a Prince original. I do like Prince’s guitar sound in the song, but his vocals aren’t picked up by the recording very well, so I find it hard to give it too much praise. Prince does play guitar hero as the song nears the end, and this is where it picks up for me, I can hear his guitar much better than his vocals.

I didn’t know that this band and this incarnation of Prince did Do Me Baby, so as the song starts I am very curious to see how it will sound. The keyboards initially sound as they did all those years ago, perhaps the sound of a swirling organ the only difference. Obviously Prince sounds much more mature, and a lot of the vulnerability is gone. However this is replaced by a strength and sense of showmanship that more than makes up for it. He dances and sings boldly, and although not as dangerously sexy as when he was younger, he still commands your attention.

Osaka 1996f

Sexy M.F. is another surprise, and as the keyboards play their intro a funky beat begins. It’s a shame too that Princes vocals aren’t sounding 100% on this song, and I have to again wonder if it’s his rapping. The keyboards however are wonderful, both Tommy and Morris sound great, and I like when Prince stops singing and we can just listen to the two of them play. There are a few calls from Prince to the audience to sing with him, but the song quickly winds up and we get another song from the back catalogue.

Considering that If I Was Your Girlfriend is such a fan favourite, its surprising that there isn’t too many great live versions out there. I would love to be writing now that at this show it sounded perfect and left a deep impression on me, unfortunately I cannot. It passable, again it’s as much the recording as anything else. The vocals are murky and in my opinion that is the key element in the song, and if that is lacking then the song doesn’t stand up on its own.

Wait a minute, did he just say “this song is from Batman, Vicky Waiting”? Yes indeed, and now I am very glad I chose to give this show a listen. This tour was the only tour where Vicky Waiting was regularly played, and it’s refreshing to hear it live. I don’t know the last time I listened to the Batman album, it would had to have been a good few years ago. Prince doesn’t play with the arrangement too much, there is a nice minute of organ solo as Prince and Mayte engage in some onstage antics, asides from that its played straight down the line. It’s so good to hear something like this that we don’t often get live, and I find that I listen very carefully to it as it is such a rarity. Not a great song, but the show is richer for having it in there.

Prince then deals with the weight of his past with a simple solution – a purple medley. As the sound of the Batdance song begins he tells the crowd “Is it alright if I play some Prince songs?” The start is just as on record, and with all the sounds and lights it’s initially hard to tell if they are just playing the song on the PA, or actually performing live. Live performance is the order of the day, and it’s kind of cool to see Prince quickly run through the songs. It’s similar to the modern day sampler set, with the difference being it’s a full live band playing quickly to keep up.  For those of you not familiar with the Purple Medley, It covers Batdance, When Doves Cry, Kiss, Erotic City, Darling Nikki, 1999, Baby I’m A Star, Diamonds and Pearls and Purple Rain. The single contains more songs, but for this show Princes closes it after a few lines of Purple Rain.

7 has its Arabic prelude, and being a bit different, I quite like it. Its starts sounding like Around The World In A Day before morphing into a more Middle Eastern sound. This is a chance for Mayte to demonstrate her skills dancing with a sword. I have always enjoyed the music, and Mayte and her dance is no bad thing either. 7 is light sounding, especially when I look back at the first half hour of the show, nothing wrong with being light, it does give the show some balance. It does at times sound out of place, and I think it’s in the show as much as for Mayte as anything else. The drum has a great pounding sound as the song breaks for the crowd to sing, and apart from the guitar sound later in the song this is as good as it gets for me.

Osaka 1996g

The encore begins with Billy Jack Bitch. The lyrics aren’t my thing, but I love the music of it. After a long organ intro Prince glides to the front of the stage and after thanking the audience he tells them that he is no longer Prince “that name belongs to record companies” and he believes in music. His speech goes for a minute or so, and it’s the standard lines about music and record companies. Billy Jack Bitch finally starts proper and there’s a good energy release. The keyboards have a good sound, as does the drums and bass. The vocals are lacking in strength and clarity, again it’s not Prince, and it’s the quality of the recording. That doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it though, and it gets better as it goes along.

As the crowd cheers the music segues to I Hate U before suddenly changing to 319. It’s all very short lived, a verse and a chorus before we hear the NPG operator speaking and the song stops all together. I would have liked to have heard either one of these songs in full, and it’s another Prince tease near the end of the show.

Osaka 1996h

As Gold begins I know that this will be the end of the show. It has that climatic feel, and is a great way to finish the show. Prince’s vocals sound better here than they did earlier in the show, and I am pleased that we are finishing on a high. Prince’s guitar sounds a little twangy later on as he sings, and I don’t know if that is the sound he is aiming for or not. If fact the guitar seems out for most of the song, and I decide it’s definitely not the sound he was aiming for. However the solo sounds well enough, and it’s enough for me to overlook the earlier issues. The song ends with him playing shoulder to shoulder with Tommy Barbarella. It’s a strange sight, most of the show Prince has barely interacted with the band, and instead Mayte has been his main foil on stage. He looked very much a solo performer, and at one point as I watched him I had a feeling that he looked incredibly lonely standing alone at the front of stage. He must have been carrying a huge weight at the time, and although he and the band spent countless hours together, there is still a sense that he is alone. Of course this was the same time that he was about to marry Mayte, so perhaps I am reading too much into it, of course it’s only natural that he should be giving her so much attention instead of the rest of the band. The show ends on a high here, with the refrain echoing around for a few final times.

Osaka 1996i

Hard to know exactly what I thought of this show. Sure, I really liked it, but then again I like most shows I listen to.  The show itself is an interesting snap shot of what was happening at the time. Prince was only a month from marrying Mayte, and with the return of Prince songs to the set list the end of the war with Warners is signposted. I liked that this show was a bridge between two eras of Prince. We had all the classic Gold era songs in there, the dense funk of Days Of Wild for example, as well as some interesting selections from his Prince days. I particularly enjoyed hearing Vicky Waiting, as well as Starfish And Coffee. A curious show, but one I would recommend, it you don’t mind an audience recording.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

 

 

2 Funky 1995

I promised that this week I would look at something a little funkier. I pulled the tape that had Chicken Grease written on it, put on closer inspection it was a compilation tape of various concerts, so I have selected something else. I pulled a CD called 2 Funky, I assume with a title like that it would live up to its name. Turns out it was a great choice, a Gold Experience concert from 1995. An audience recording- lets take a listen and see what we have got.

March 5th 1995, Wembley Arena London.

First off, Wembley Arena is notorious for having dreadful sound. It’s just another echo filled box. The performance here doesn’t seem to suffer from this too much; overall sound is quiet good, the only limitations being that it is an audience recording. I am definitely going to treat myself next week and we will take a look at a nice sound board recording.

The gig opens with Princes voice “Prince is dead. Long live the New Power Generation” The crowd cheers in approval and we are into the first song, Endorphin Machine. Like a lot of people I am a fan of this song, and I really hope that one day I can see it live. It has all the elements of a great opener. It has a big riff and a get up and go energy to it. Prince and his guitar make an instant impression with this song. The band sounds into it, although I can barely here Tommy Barbarella through the first song. The song is played as it appears on the album, and the crowd is obviously hyped by it.

Gold3
After Princes screams and guitar howl have faded from the song the NPG move into a song, simply called The Jam. It is exactly as the title says, it’s a nice funky jam. It’s hard to tell from the recording, but it sounds like one of the songs that if you were there it would have a great groove to move to. It is one of those “Introduce the band” type songs, so each member of the band gets a chance to shine and a name check. Mr Hayes provides a very tasty organ solo – in fact all the keyboards on this recording are outstanding from both players. Tommy Barbarella follows up with an equally good piano solo. The piano and organ drive this jam while Prince plays some funky guitar underneath. There is a brief drum break for Mr B to have his moment (no over the top drum solo, just a drum break) then Sonny T is introduced on the bass. There is no second guitarist to support Prince, so any guitar sound is him and him alone. Listening to this I suddenly realized what a really great band these guys were. I feel they are slightly underrated- too many people get caught up in hype about the Revolution. But this NPG configuration was an outstanding group as well, and need more recognition.

Next the very distinctive intro for Shhh. There is absolutely no mistaking it. Already I feel anticipation what for it to slow down and settle into the song. And it doesn’t fail to deliver, Princes vocals are spot on. By now the sound has improved from the opening couple of songs, and Princes vocals are clear and strong. A lot of the distortion on the instruments has improved by now too, and this song is sounding great. A good thing too, considering its one of my favorites. Princes guitar solo has a very nice tone to it, and this song is an early highlight for me.

This recording was labeled Funky, and its just about to live up to its name. The band hits their straps and delivers up Days Of Wild. It doesn’t quite have the punch I had expected, but I put this down to the recording itself rather than the band, or the venue. The bass is outstanding, and its just a shame I can’t hear it better here. Its all there, I just can’t hear enough of it! Prince’s flow when he raps isn’t as good as I have heard on othe recordings of this song, there are better versions out there. I still get a thrill when Prince delivers the line “Oh by the way, I play bass guitar” and the bass kicks off. A piece of music magic. The crowd get right behind the sing a long section “Na, na ,na” (Is it Na na na? I am not sure how to type it)

Another thing that struck me about Prince at this stage of his career was he throwing around a lot of MF’s etc. There was a lot more profanity at this point of his career. Obviously he has renounced all that now, but even early in his career he wasn’t cursing as much as he did mid-nineties. I wonder if it was part of his dispute with WB, was he trying to making a point?

The band pauses and gives the crowd a chance to continue chanting a bit more.
Then we are into Now. Again I find myself thinking about the bass on this song. Its killer again. I am really enjoying it. Prince’s vocals are Ok, but when the band chimes it for the chorus they are very quiet, and hard to hear above the noise of the instruments. This sounds like a fun part of the concert, the crowd can be heard whooping and yelling throughout the song. It seems everyone is having a real good time. Prince says “I want somebody to scream” and the crowd is more than willing to oblige. There is a break down, and Prince leads the crowd through a chant of “This about the Freaks”. There is then a small chant of “go Mayte”, I can only assume she is dancing centre stage at this point. The guitar drums and bass are playing quiet, with organ stabs. Prince sings a line of Sly Stones ‘Babies Makin babies’, and the groove continues. Prince calls for just the kick drum and over the solitary beat leads the crowd chanting “clap your hands somebody, somebody clap your hands” It really does sound like the crowd are having a great time. Prince starts singing It takes Two. This really is a classic long funky Prince jam.

Gold1
It then kicks straight into Sex Machine. Its quicker tempo then the previous song, and the bass is really cooking,although to be fair, so is the whole band. I said it before and I will say it again, THIS BAND IS HOT! The bass leads the song, with Prince playing some very clean crisp solos over the top. And he is playing so quick and clean. My ears love this stuff. There are no vocals, just the guitar, and the tone of it for this song is just perfect. The crowd starts to cheer at something, although I couldn’t begin to guess at what might be happening. It is something visual rather than audible. The crowd starts the chant “Oh we Oh” and then there is some call and response with Prince with “Get up” “Get on up” This gig is a party! But this stage I had completely forgotten that it was just a poor audience recording, I am just loving the music. I am completely in that world.

We change direction with the next song, and move back to a pop concert when Prince plays The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. It sounds different to me, because he doesn’t sing it in the usual falsetto. It’s his more natural sounding voice, and it changes the whole song for me. I actually enjoy it more. It’s a really cool version. Of course Prince leaves the chorus for the crowd to sing, he has them in the palm of his hand by this stage. There is one very nice section, when he sings “How can I get through days, when I can’t get through hours” and everything stops except the ticking clock at that section. Nothing happens for about a minute, then the band pick up right where they left off. Sounds great, I have heard it done a several gigs, and the band is always right on point. They do it again later in the song, this time the stop isn’t for quite so long. Prince is just showing off, this band is really something else.

The spoken introduction to Pussy control by Prince has me crying with laughter. His opening lines are “This song is about part of the female anatomy, part of the anatomy that is used to control us” Hilarious. The crowd is then instructed to please sing along with “Ahhhhh, Pussy control” He then follows up by saying “Some might not subscribe to such nastiness, but I don’t give a fuck” Its all in the delivery, but trust me, its funny. He also makes comment about his trouble with Warner Bros, he can play what he chooses at concert, but cannot choose about his albums. The song finally begins, and it’s played pretty much exactly as it sounds on record. Again it sounds like a lot of fun at the gig.

Prince Performs At Wembley In London
Letitgo has a very nice groove to it. Its slower and brings the party down a little. But still very danceable. I am sure if I was there I would have danced the whole night. Letitgo slips past very fast, but it definitely had a good groove.

Now things really easy off as Pink Cashmere makes an appearance. I was somewhat surprised to hear it at this gig, it seemed like a change in direction from what had come before, but then again that is exactly what a Prince gig is about. Although I like this song, there isn’t really too much interesting about it, its pretty inoffensive. There is a nice swing to the organ after the first verse, then its back to standard. Actually the organ is very prominent throughout the gig, and that’s no bad thing. It really adds to the sound and fills it out. Prince addresses the crowd a lot at this gig, and he does so again here. I can’t think of a tour before or since where he has spoken directly to the crowd so much. I like to see him engage the audience directly like this, a more human side of him on display.

Loose is loose, and fast. It’s as you expect it would be at a gig like this. The bass bubbles along just nicely, I just wish it was more prominent, it does get overwhelmed by the other instruments in this song. This song is dominated by the keyboards, both in the verses as well as the chorus.

After this there is a considerable break, I assume the band take a minute to catch their breath and maybe a costume change.
We start of slowly after this with Prince delivering a delicate version of A Case Of You. Its mostly vocal, his guitar is barely distinguishable. It’s a beautiful performance, and I would love to hear this in a pristine recording. There is not too much more to say about this, except its great!

I Love You In Me follows this, in keeping with the quiet mood. The band enters gently, again Princes vocals are very much the centre piece. He sounds great; it’s just a shame about the lyrics. I like the song, but the lyrics always make me cringe. The crowd is slowly clapping along throughout, and when Prince says “I love you, do you love me?” it elicits a loud cheer from the crowd. There is some sweet guitar near the end of the song, and its fits perfectly with the music.

I am not sure about Proud Mary. Obviously it’s a Prince favorite; I have several recordings of him playing it. I like the playing on it, but the sampled horns are too much for me, and I think maybe it would be better without them. The straight piano and organ sound really great, and the band more away from a straight performance and into a jam with it, and it really sounds better then when he plays it straight.

Keeping with the Mary theme, the next song is Mary Don’t You Weep. Phew, a blues jam, Prince really is giving us a little but of everything at this gig! It’s not the greatest version of this I have heard, but I am very glad it made an appearance. This gig is eventful. I want to say the guitar playing is very good, but I find myself thinking that at every gig I listen to! So, suffice to say, the guitar playing is up to his usual standard. And as it is for this whole recording, he gets the crowd to sing along with “Mary don’t you weep” One of the things I have enjoyed most about this gig, and it came as a surprise to me, is how good Tommy Barbarella piano playing is. Again, on this song it shines. Prince plays guitar around the piano, and again it sounds very tight. The song ends with Prince talking more about his war with Warners, says he trying to work it out as he goes.

Get Wild is introduced, but there is a long pause before it starts. Prince speaks to the crowd about the song for sometime. Then he kicks it off with “In England tonight we are going to Get Wild” Half way through the song Mayte speaks/sings a little. Its doesn’t add much, but it’s a nice touch. The audience gets another opportunity to join in, and again it sounds like a party. There is a sax solo played on keyboard by Tommy Barbarella, and it had my jaw hitting the floor. It sounded awesome. I had to check twice to see if it was really him or not. Definitely it is worth checking out. The song is broken down again and the crowd chants “Get wild, play the M-Fing bass. Each band member is given another chance to shine before the song ends.

Billy Jack Bitch is played straight. The bass is a little more swinging, but overall it sounds exactly as it does on record. The audience is again in on it right through. I am wouldn’t be surprised it they all went home with no voice left.

The gig closes with Prince thanking the crowd and Playing Gold. There is no denying that Gold is a great song, but it’s just not for me. It sounds good here, but there is something too polished about it for my taste. There is a very loud explosion to be heard at the end of the first verse, I can only assume that it was some sort of explosion to shower gold confetti over everyone. It sounded loud on the recording, it must have been massive at the gig! At this point Gold is the perfect way to close the gig. I am sure that everyone at the gig was buzzing as the final notes faded away.

I was wondering about this gig as I pulled it out to listen to. The setlist looked very intriguing, but I was slightly put off by it being an audience recording. I needn’t have worried, it more than delivered. It wasn’t until later that I realized that he played none of his 80’s hits at this gig, and yet it was a real pleasure to listen to. And I was only listening at home, to my mind the people at the concert sounded like they were having a great party. This one was buried at the back of my vault, unloved and barely listened to, but now I think I will keep it out for a while and give it a few more listens. Overall a lot of fun.

Thanks for joining me again, next time I am going to treat my ears, and spin something from the soundboard. I am open to any suggestions to what I should listen to, so drop me a comment here or on facebook.

-Hamish

Please share if you care