The Ritz 1981

After listening to recordings from more modern times recently, I have today decided today to dig back all the way to 1981. I like these early shows- no Purple Rain, no dancers, no sampler sets- just the music. The word that always comes to mind is ‘raw’ and although it’s almost a cliché, it is entirely true. Prince is raw, both musically and visually, and I can connect to the younger him on stage. I will be watching a show from 1981, and there isn’t too many shows circulating on video from this time, it’s certainly not like nowadays when there seems to be a camera at every show. I love this show, but it’s been sometime since I last saw it, so I look forward to reacquainting myself with it.

Ritz 81

22 March, 1981, The Ritz, New York

The first thing I hear is the bass snap of Do It All Night and the simmering synth riff. Prince appears bathed in dry ice, and I already love this show. It’s got such a classic feel to it, it’s hard not to be swept along on a high. Prince’s vocals are nice and pure, and the bass in particular sounds great. The whole recording is very clean, it really is a treat to listen to. The band certainly looks like they are ready to rock, however the song doesn’t require it and they are nicely restrained. There is a cool moment in the show when Prince calls Andre and Dez to walk and the three of them pull a nice little move off together. Prince is a little quiet, that is by no means a criticism as his vocals are so crisp.

Ritz 81a

The rock part of the gig starts next as Dez throws himself energetically into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. There are a few squeals from the crowd as Prince sings his lines, but it’s at the chorus that the song really takes off. Both Andre and Dez put a lot of energy into it, and I feel it elevates the song considerably. There is also a nice moment as Prince and Dez strike their classic guitar gods pose. I can just about sing Princes guitar break note for note as I have heard it so many times, and it gets my heart pumping now just as much as it did 30 years ago. It has been a good while since I last heard this song, and I had forgotten how much enjoyment I get out of it. Prince’s second guitar break is more interesting, he is backed by the keyboards, and they ably match him. The song isn’t as long as I have sometimes heard, and it leaves me wanting more as Prince brings it to a close.

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“We’re going to do something for the rude people” has me wondering what he is going to play next, and I am pleasantly surprised as Prince croons his way through Gotta Broken Heart Again. Not only is his singing gentle on the ear, but there is also some delicate piano and guitar play which has me paying close attention. The song doesn’t contain anything in the way of surprise, and that is a surprise in itself and Prince keeps it simple. He does indulge in some vocal play at the end of the song before it comes to a close with that piano again. This song is great, and I’m doing it a disservice by not writing more about it.

I wrote about Broken when I covered his 81 show at Sams Minneapolis, and here it once again appears. Its rockabilly style feels a little out of place, but in retrospect it’s nothing like the stylistic jumps later in his career. I like Princes vocals, his singing at this time is a nice falsetto, it’s just the music in this song is so slight it leaves me feeling hollow.

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Bobby Z gets to play a nice long intro to When You Were Mine, before Prince comes in with his guitar. The song isn’t as strong as I like, there is certainly much stronger versions floating around. It’s played well though, and I can’t fault it in any way. Prince looks incredibly young, and it’s hard to believe he’s lived the experiences he is singing about. The break down is normally longer than what we hear on this recording, and after a quick line Prince jumps back into the song. It’s all very fine, but I get the feeling that something needs turning up to 11 to make the song jump.

Ritz 81d

Gotta Stop Messing About sounds good, so I am surprised to see how static the audience is. Andre’s bass is the star for me through this song, he has a nice pop going in my left ear. Dez and Andre both contribute backing vocals to Prince and it does add a more manly sound to the song, although the synth squiggle undoes some of that. Prince does bounce and bob, and yet the song never really ignites and comes to an end leaving me wishing it was something more.

I hear a funky guitar play and the rhythmic pattern of Sexy Dancer played on the cymbals and my spirits lift. The main elements of the song are Princes guitar and his vocals, and that’s no bad thing at all. There is a keyboard solo, but I find myself still listening to Princes guitar as it plays. The song becomes a dance after about half way, plenty of bass, guitars and a nice easy chant rolling over and over. There is a brief guitar break from Prince that becomes more and more and we get a good couple of minutes of him playing rhythm guitar centre stage. I was about to dismiss the rest of the band, but Dr Fink plays a really cool solo, complete with bobbing head and jerking motions. I love ya Doc!

Ritz 81h

I don’t recall the last time I listened to Sister. Some days I love it, and some days I dismiss it as a throw away piece. I like seeing the performance here, but truthfully I could probably live without it. It’s hard to be critical of something that’s so brief, so it’s with pleasure we move to the next song.

I Want To Be Your Lover is a slab of pure pop, and it’s hard for me to reconcile between the look of Dirty Mind era Prince, and the pop sound of the song. In later years he would joke with the lyric “Ain’t got no money (now that’s a lie)” but I have to say looking at him here, he definitely looks like he’s got no money. As good as his vocals sound, for this song it’s the rhythm guitar of Dez that I focus on. Not just the chorus, but also the verses his guitar sound is fantastic. I don’t think I had noticed it earlier, but now it’s all I can hear. As befitting a pop song it finishes after three minutes and we move onto something much darker, and funkier.

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There is no better sound than that of Prince and the band grooving on the intro of Head. That opening synth stab and the delicious sound of the guitars before Prince intones his opening lines, all of it is great for me. I would love this even if it was a bad performance, but then again how often does that happen? This one is great, and right at the start there is a fantastic shot of a very young Lisa Coleman singing her lines, the show is worth seeing just for that alone. Another highlight is seeing Dr Fink doing what he does best, and I swear one day I am going to learn how to dance like that. Prince looks somewhat like Mick Jagger as he leads the crowd into singing “head”, and there is plenty of strutting and prancing. The band hit their straps at this point, and all of them look like they are feeling the groove as the play. Andre in particular puts on a great show. For many years the highlight of this song has been the second half as Prince engages in his guitar noise and showmanship. Seeing it as well as hearing it is a bonus, and even though I have heard it a lot I still find myself watching transfixed as Prince plays. The last few minutes are epic as Prince plays lead, rhythm and masturbates with his guitar. I can’t help but think of the word ‘raw’ again. And ‘awesome’

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Things take another change as Still Waiting is the next song played. Dr Fink again is a star with his piano playing carrying the song early on. Prince is once again at his crooning best, I may not catch all the words but I catch his meaning. The song has a gentle elegance to it during the chorus and the lights come up slightly as the music rises. Prince steps out from behind the microphone stand and engages with the audience with his looks and vocal performance, and I find myself warming to him much more here. Prince shows more of his star power as later in the song he sings under a single spotlight and we hear some of his great falsetto. Prince directs the band to finish the song and with a final vocal flourish it ends.

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The show does go for longer, but sadly the video footage ends here, and so must my blog entry.

It’s very hard for me to write objectively about any show from this time period. I am a life long fan of Prince, and I listen to all sorts of shows, but some years are better to me than others. Give me anything from 1981, 1986 or 1995 and I am about as happy as I can be. This isn’t the best from this time, but seeing it does give it some extra merit. There are only a few shows documented on video from this time, so I do treat this one with reverence. A good show, and a nice video, it’s got plenty going for it, it’s just a shame it wasn’t the whole show or a more impassioned performance. A worthy addition to the collection and worth watching a couple of times a year.

Have a great week,
See you next week for another great recording ‘off the record’
-Hamish

Ritz 81k

 

Sams, Minneapolis 1981

Looking through my collection, I see that 1981 was a pretty good year. Prince was evolving fast, and there is a nice spread of recordings from this year to document this. There are DVDs capturing both Dirty Mind and Controversy shows and plenty of audio of recordings of both tours. I have gone for a recording taken earlier in the year of 1981 for today’s blog post. It would have been very easy to pull the excellent Houston gig from the Controversy tour later in the year, or a DVD of one of the Dirty Mind shows, but I have instead taken a listen to a show from early March. It is a recording taken in Princes hometown, and although the quality isn’t as good as some of the other shows I have mentioned, the fact that it is in Minneapolis is interesting for me, and I am hoping that we get something special due to this fact.

9 March, 1981, Sams, Minneapolis

Prince immediately acknowledges that this is a homecoming gig- when the recording begins the first things we hear him say are “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”. The recording is thick and I do initially have trouble making out what he is saying. However, it’s by no means unlistenable, and once the music starts it’s not too bad, the music is nice and deep and strong, but disappointingly the vocals remain incomprehensible. But for an audience recording of this age I can’t say its surprise to me. The first song played is Do It All Night. It has a nice aggressive start, with several thrusts before it begins proper. The guitar and drums are what I can hear best, but during the chorus the noise pulls back just enough for me to hear the keyboards. There is a drum break and Prince gets the crowd to sing along “do it all night”. They sound full of energy, and it’s an enjoyable moment. Bobby Z closes the song with plenty of cymbals and we move easily into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad.

Dirty Mind Prince3

Prince’s vocals become clearer on this part of the recording, and I think the recording picks up his lower register much better than his falsetto. This is bared out when he gets to the chorus and again the vocals distort. The interaction between the bass and guitar is worth listening to, you can hear them intertwining and it’s something I hadn’t noticed before. The first half of Princes guitar break is exactly the same as I have heard plenty of times, it sounds good, but I don’t pay it too much attention. But immediately after he says “Why you wanna treat me so bad, bitch!” the guitar really heats up, and this grabs me straight away. It’s aggressive and loud, and it is the stomping sort of solo that I like to hear. Bobby Z adds weight to this with plenty of crashes late in the break, before it all stops for Prince to give us another 30 seconds of guitar howl to end the song. A slow start, but excellent finish- this one surprised me.

Gotta Broken Heart Again subdues the mood, and its feels very calm and smooth after the previous song. The piano is lost in the recording somewhat, and it’s all Prince and the bass that I can hear. I do catch snatchs of the piano, but I have to listen carefully. The song itself does sound good, and Princes vocals are better on this than the previous two songs. The song gets better as it goes, and there is some nice guitar and cymbal interplay. Again it heightens my appreciation of Bobby Z and how much he was part of Princes setup in the early days. There is a long gentle finish with Prince singing with only piano, and it does have a better sound to it than the first part of the song.

Next we get Broken, a track that has never been released by Prince. It was played several times on the Dirty Mind tour, but here is its first live appearance. Over hand claps Prince sings the opening few lines, before a rockabilly piano enters and the energy jumps up. It sounds slight, and awkwardly out of place. But I do like it, especially the backing vocals of the band and their call and response with Prince. As with all his songs in this style its short, there’s just enough time for a piano break before the song quickly ends.

Dirty Mind Prince 1

I am back in more familiar territory next with the sound of the drum intro into When You Were Mine. The guitar comes on board, but due to the recording it doesn’t have the crisp clean sound I am used to, and the same could be said for Princes vocals, I know what he is singing, but I have to listen very carefully to make them out. As always, the keyboards sound joyful and full. The solo is a little quiet for my liking, but it’s still good. Prince doesn’t dwell too long on the break down as he does on some shows, and the song moves along at a good pace. It doesn’t have the passionate howls near the end as we get on the Controversy tour, it’s a nice rendition, but better was still to come later in the year.

Some nice rhythm guitar followed by a Prince scream begins us into Sexy Dancer. The tone and attitude is just right on this one, and the music itself does sound like a sexy dancer. The music is strong, but there is a nice funk guitar slithering underneath that gives it a sexy feel. There is a lot of crowd noise, and I guess Prince is doing some sort of sexy dance. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see it, as there is plenty for me to listen to. There is plenty of time for a keyboard break, and some more funky rhythm guitar. The rhythm guitar is a little low when it gets its break, but I can still hear it OK. The piano keyboard that follows is the best part of the song for me, it plays for a while, both doing it on thing, as well as interacting with the rest of the band. The song ends right after this with a bubble of electronic noise.

Sister takes us in another direction entirely, its upbeat, noise and brash. Again Princes vocals are loud but I can’t make out his words, and its probably just as well in this case! The rest of the band play with energy, and the song is over in less than two minutes. It was almost a diversion rather than a song.

Dirty Mind Prince2

The pop sounds of I Wanna Be Your Lover follows next. I have always preferred the live versions of this compared to the album version, they seem to have more intensity and grit to them. This is no exception, the crowd love this one, and the band do play it well. The bass and Prince are picked up best by the recording, so the keyboard sound is secondary to the bass. I’m sure that’s not the case, but on this recording that’s what I can hear best. It’s not a bad thing I do enjoy grooving along to the bass, and Princes vocals almost have me singing along. The coda is relatively short and it’s a nice lead in to what I know is coming next.

A blast on the keyboard signals the beginning of Head. I have never heard a version of Head that I didn’t love, and this one is no exception. Right from the start there is plenty of screams and yells for the crowd and I am right with them. Even on audience recordings Head still pops out of the speakers at me nice and strong. The keyboard stabs are captured well by the recording and of course the bass and Prince vocals. The audience sing enthusiastically throughout, and at one stage are chanting “head, head, head, head, head” There is an interesting little drum roll into a quirky keyboard break that I hadn’t heard before. It’s after Dr Finks main solo, and I can’t explain it well, but I do like it. The song quiets down to just bass and cymbals, and the crowd can be heard chanting ” you gonna have to fight your own damn war, we don’t want to fight no more” A very cool moment, before some keyboard stabs and Princes guitar begins. After some guitar noodling the keyboard comes faster than I had heard before and again it’s an interesting variation on a song I have heard plenty of times. It ends not as I expect with the strong sound of Princes guitar, but instead just sort of fades to an end. Surprising, but very enjoyable.

Still Waiting lacks the intensity of the last two songs, and the audience can’t be heard as much either. It seems lackluster after listening to 10 minutes of Head. But it’s not a bad song, so I am beginning to question its placement in the set list. The sound is better on this, I find it easy to listen to and Princes vocals sound sweet, although I still can’t understand what he is singing. The song takes a big up swing half way through, the recording changes, as Prince screams and the drums crash over the top. There is then another quiet passage of just Prince and the band singing, which is pretty much as good as it gets in this song. It’s a cool moment, but then the rest of the song doesn’t do much for me as the recording deteriorates.

Dirty Mind Prince

Partyup has a much tighter feel to it, and isn’t as bass heavy as other songs on the recording. The keyboards are more to the fore, and although I can’t hear the guitar as well the vocals do sound better. The song is played as we know it from the record, so there aren’t any surprises to be heard. There is plenty of noise, and keyboard from Dr Fink, and the drums are nicely in the mix too. It’s played for what it is, an audience pleaser, and you do hear the audience chanting near the end, and all the while Dr Fink keeps the keyboard noise going. It’s does sound just like on the album, but it runs out to eight minutes here, as the end is played out and the crowd begin chanting, although you can barely hear them due to the glorious racket the band is making.

There is a brief pause and then the band returns with Uptown. I have always thought that Uptown is thematically very similar to Partyup, so I was surprised to hear them side by side on this recording. Uptown is much better than Partyup here, and I enjoy it much more. It’s got a clean sound, and is very danceable. There is some excellent guitar work, and a great solo. Unfortunately it’s a very quiet on the recording, but it does sound fantastic. The band stops and there is plenty more guitar that I can barely hear. A shame, but that is the way with audience recordings. There is a drum beat that begins some more guitar playing, but it all sounds like it’s far away.

The ever reliable Bobby Z plays us into Crazy You. A song I very rarely listen to, here I find it a real high point. The keyboard and bass bob along just nicely, and even though again I struggle to hear Prince I do like the melody. There is some gentle guitar playing which I do hear better, and it lures me in well. The second half the song moves along faster and louder, but still retains it nice groove. There isn’t much in the way of singing, but I do like all of it. The guitar plays over the groove for a good two or three minutes and it’s excellent.

Gotta Stop doesn’t sound as fast as it does on record, and it is much better for it. The raw guitar tone and the steady drums rolls work well. The keyboards aren’t as strong as they were earlier. I like Princes vocals, but the lyrics do start getting repetitive, but I could listen to the groove all day. I am surprised when it suddenly ends, but I see that it was played for quite a while, so it really drew me into the music.

The pounding beat of Dirty Mind next, and that great driving keyboard riff. The recording lacks the intensity and energy of other shows, Princes vocals are too lost in the mix, and I can’t hear any guitar. Even the parts where I know he is yelling in the microphone still sound very quiet. To compensate though, Bobby Z and his drums sound great, and I especially like the hard electric noise he gets from them. The song lacks something without the guitar sound, and it’s one of the weaker recordings I have of this song. I can hear the guitar later in the song, but it’s mostly Bobby Z that I can hear with his drums.

Prince tells us “we are running out of songs” before he plays Everybody Dance. As with Broken, this song never made it onto an album, and was only played at a few shows on this tour. There isn’t too much to the song, just a keyboard lead groove, and Prince sing “everybody, everybody dance” He does mix it up a little with lines such as “everybody, everybody say yeah” but there is nothing more in the way of lyrics. Even the groove doesn’t vary much and I can see why we didn’t hear much more of this song. But it is good to hear unreleased songs from this era, and I do enjoy it for its novelty value. It does outstay its welcome by a good couple of minutes, and there is no tears from me as it ends.

Prince 3

The grinding guitar of Bambi takes us to the last song of the evening. The power of the song is neutered by the recording, but it’s still good to hear it. With the recording being weak, it’s mostly Princes vocals that I listen to, he is finishing the gig strongly, and his voice is standing up well against the drums and guitar. The first half of the song sounds a little mundane, but things pick up later when Prince begins to play his solo. It’s very unfortunate that the recording ends here, and we don’t get to hear the end of the song.

There was plenty to like about this recording, and plenty to dislike. I did enjoy the fact that there was a couple of rarities in the set list, and the hometown crowd added a warm atmosphere to the show. However at times the limitations of the recording did mar my enjoyment of the show. I have listened to plenty of audience recordings, and this one is by no means a terrible one, but there is some songs where I didn’t quite get all the sounds that I might have otherwise wanted to hear. A good show, with a less than average recording, it was still worth a listen. Something I would listen to once every few years rather than something I would give a high rotation to.

Take care
Hamish

Parade Tour in Sweden

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

22 August, 1986, Johanneshov, Sweden

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

Prince Parade

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

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

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

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

Prince Parade 3

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

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

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

Prince Parade 1

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

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

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

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

Prince Parade 4

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

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

Prince Parade 5

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

Prince Parade 6

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

Prince Parade 7

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

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

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

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

Prince Parade 8

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

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

Prince Parade 9

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

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

Thanks again
Hamish

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

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

Capitol Theatre, Passaic

I am very excited about today’s recording. I am going to be listening to Prince playing Passaic in 1982. What is really getting me excited though is I am watching this on a proshot DVD. Prince shows from this era are always very intense and enjoyable to listen to, but being able to see it as well as hear it adds so much more to the experience. I love the music, but I want to see the performance, see the dancing, see the funk face, see the band, see the moves, see the interaction on stage, see the audience reaction. Today I get all of that-let’s go!

30 January 1982, Capitol Theatre, Passaic

The show opens, as they did on this tour, with the sounds of Second Coming while the stage is in darkness. A soulful a capella number, it acts as a nice counterbalance for what is to follow.

Prince Capitol Theatre

The band explodes after this with a very fast drum roll from Bobby Z, and plenty of Prince “Awws”. The first song is Uptown, which I suppose could be taken as Princes agenda at the time. The band have a raw sound, and with Dez on guitar a real rock presence. Asides from Prince, Dez seems to be the focus of a lot of what is happening on stage, and it’s great to see the interaction between him and Prince.

Prince Capitol Theatre (2)

Why You Wanna Treat Me So bad has an introduction that seems to ramp up the energy levels in the building. The crowd can be seen hands in the air right from the go. The song pulls back, and Prince delivers the first verse, looking dead cool in his trench coat. The chorus sees Prince hamming it up with the crowd, pulling faces to the side of the stage. He seems to be putting a lot into this performance, puling faces, and eyes at the crowd one moment, then closing his eyes and singing passionately the next. The guitar break is the highlight of the song, and sees plenty of play back and forth with Prince and Dez. The playing is great, and as he starts playing Prince gives an expression that says he knows how good he, and he’s about to kill it. Prince dominates this song with his playing and its just as good as anything else I have heard on the tour, but Dez and Brownmark aren’t forgotten- they move plenty around the stage, and they make themselves heard on the recording. The song ends with Prince playing guitar and accompanying himself on the keyboard, it’s hard to describe but he does do it- playing his guitar one handed, before band come on board for a final crash and the finale of the song.

Prince Capitol Theatre (4)

The nice electronic sounds of the keyboards introduce the next song, I Wanna Be Your Lover. It’s always a favorite of mine, and here is a very good version, the crowd is clearly enjoying it too. Prince loses his trench coat and guitar for it, and gives a nice performance. The song only lasts a few minutes, but Prince works the stage very well, giving plenty of attention to everyone. I have heard heavier more energetic versions, but this one isn’t bad. I was expecting the latter part to be played out longer, but there is only a minute of groove before Prince picks up his guitar and the band segue into Head.

Head sounds suitably nasty right from the start. The drums seem a little quieter compared to other recordings from the tour, but the sound of the band playing this great. It’s particularly good to hear Lisa’s vocals are nice and clear on here. There are plenty of cheers from the crowd, they are obviously enjoying it as much as I am. Do I need to mention Dr Finks solo? You know I love it! It’s so good to be able to watch him bobbing and twitching as he plays. Right after the solo, there is break down and Prince encourages the crowd to sing a long. It doesn’t take much, they are more than happy to yell “head!” The best is yet to come, and there is another break down and some great bass sound from Brownmark. Then over just the bass and cymbals Prince indulges in some very good guitar work. Not fast at all, but very loud and clear. The song then lives up to its name, and Prince his reputation, when he engages in some very sexual acts with his guitar. It sounds crass, but I love it, and I know that this is why the teenage me became a fan. The guitar sound here is sometime whiny, sometime rhythmic, and yet always interesting. Although it goes for sometime, I just don’t have the words to describe it. But watching this was the highlight of the whole DVD for me. It ends with an orgasm, both visually and sonically.

Prince Capitol Theatre (5)

Dirty Mind is bounces along very nicely. I really like the sound of Dez’s guitar on this one, nice and rhythmic. Watching it, it’s apparently the Bobby Z is putting a lot into his playing, and really seems to be pounding the drums. Prince too is giving it plenty and can clearly be seen sweating. There is a lot of motion, but the music is always first, and it sounds just as good as it does on record. Prince plays a little keyboard himself, which is always great to see. There is an interlude mid song, but its not as long or drawn out as I like, nor does it have the intensity I have heard elsewhere.

Prince Capitol Theatre (6)

The more I write about these shows, the more I fall in love with some songs. Do Me Baby is one of those songs. It’s gone from being a song that I like, to being a song I love. There is a nice introduction to it on this recording, and Dez plays some very nice guitar with Prince looking over his shoulder. The song is a great show case for Prince, and his vocal delivery is fantastic. I love every minute on this recording. His shrieks and yells are what really make it for me, and they sound crystal clear. The spoken parts really get the ladies in the crowd excited, but it doesn’t do anything for me. The song ends with him shirtless and sweaty, and the crowds are lapping it up. It’s not really my sort of thing, but I must admit he’s in pretty good shape!

Prince Capitol Theatre (7)

Prince dons the trench coat again as the throb of Controversy begins. The band play faithfully to what is heard on record, but that’s no bad thing, the song is pretty well perfect to me already. Brownmark gets plenty of shine on this one, and it’s nice to see him get some spotlight and play. Prince is back on the guitar by now, and playing with plenty of vigor. Again his showmanship is outstanding, and the performance is mesmerizing. I have heard this song hundreds of times, but I find myself watching this performance transfixed. The crowd is apparently enjoying it just as much as I am, there is a lot of very energetic dancing to be seen, and people loosing themselves in the music. For a bit I think the song may turn into a long jam, but it finishes up in good time.

Prince Capitol Theatre (8)

Lets Works begins with Prince dancing on the raised section of the stage before sliding down his fireman’s pole to deliver the opening lines. The trench coat is gone now, and the gig seems to change gear somewhat. The song gives Prince plenty of opportunities to dance, and he dutifully obliges. At this stage he was no great dancer, and often he looks like he is doing calisthenics rather than dancing, but he is passionate about it, and the music does seem to genuinely move him. The song is played for fun, and the band seem to enjoy playing this one. The crowd obviously picks up on this vibe, and there is plenty of dancing and singing along from them also. There is a fun moment mid song when Dez sings lets work several times from the central microphone before Prince pushes him aside to take up the singing. The song ends in darkness as Prince says thank you and good night.

Prince Capitol Theatre (9)

Half a minute of chanting “we want Prince” and the lights come back on. Prince delivers a sly “Do you want some more” and the band career into Jack U Off. For me Jack U Off was a quirky little song, that didn’t quite seem to fit on Controversy, but here in the live setting, it is brilliant. Prince doesn’t play guitar, all the furious playing is coming from Dez. . Dez sounded impressive on the recording, but seeing him play – he is even more so. Prince himself seems to love singing this one, he has a big grin on his face throughout the song. The song is very short, as it is on the album, but there is a lot happening in those couple of minutes. I love seeing the interaction between the band, and the end of this is great, Prince gives five to a couple of people in the crowd, before heading over the Dez for some more skin. Then he is back to the mic for his “If anyone asks you, who you belong to?” He has such a big grin by now, and the crowd yells and screams his name. A final crescendo, Prince waves bye and the show comes to an end..

Prince Capitol Theatre (10)

My final thoughts on the recording are very short. I loved it from the first second until to last. Not very objective, I know, but that’s the truth. I have heard plenty Controversy recordings where the energy and intensity could be heard in the music, but in the show that energy and intensity can be seen in all aspects of the show. As far as Controversy shows go, this one is a must have.

Take care
-Hamish

The gig that made me the man I am today

After my last post, my good friend Viv suggested that rather than choosing a random gig from the collection, I should select something that I recommend, or one that is special to me.Great idea Viv, I have just the very thing. Today’s gig more than covers both those options. This recording is special to me in many ways, and is the most played in my collection. It was the first bootleg I ever bought, and is still played regularly in my house.

February 28 1982, New Orleans.

WOW! This is it for me, ground zero .It is is the point where I went from being a fan to a fanatic. This gig blew my mind when I first heard it, and I am not exaggerating when I say it changed my life (my music listening at least). I had been a fan of Prince since I first heard 1999, but I had never bothered to go back through his back catalog. One day when I was 16 I skipped school for the day and went into town to visit my favorite record store (I hope my mother doesn’t read this). It would have been 1989. I was looking through the Prince CD’s, not really expecting anything new, just from habit. And there with all the regular albums I knew so well was another CD, with a strange cover I had never seen before. I had heard of bootlegs, but I had never seen one before. I was a little shocked by the price, it was twice as much as the regular CD’s, but the song-list was full of early songs which I had never heard before. I went home and got all my money together, and the next day after school I rushed into town and bought it. Because I had never heard a bootleg before I was unaware that they vary in quality, but I really got lucky with this one, a excellent soundboard recording of an excellent gig.

We used to have one stereo in the house, it was in the lounge. I wasn’t allowed to play Prince, my parents thought I shouldn’t be listening to this sort of thing, so I had to wait until later that night when everyone was asleep, then put it on quietly and listen in the dark. The sound that came out the speakers that night was so energetic, so real, so raw, I couldn’t help but be transported away by it. I felt a million miles from small town New Zealand.

25 years on and I still love to play this one. I listened to it three times writing this, and will probably listen to it another couple of times before I finish.

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The recording begins with a long drum roll. You cannot imagine the excitement that fills me every time I hear this. Prince hits us with a few good “Awwws” then BANG the guitars and keyboards jump into Uptown. The music is instantly lively and accessible. Looking at the Controversy tour schedule, Prince and the band were playing almost every single night. This gig falls near the end of the tour, but they don’t sound the least bit tired or jaded. The music just leaps out of the speakers at me. The guitars and keyboard propel the song forward, as with most of the songs on this recording the music has a real feeling of moving forward. Prince himself seems caught up in it all and yells out “Whats up New Orleans”. It adds an urgency when he yells out between his singing, I especially like when he sings “are you gay?” then a couple of lines later yells “NO, is yo mamma!” Its so raw compared to the recorded version. I have to give special mention to the drums, they have a great electronic crash to them, it livens every song when Bobby Z comes in with his crash.

Prince yells “Are you all ready!” and we are into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. Again we have the crash drum from Bobby Z and grinding guitar. The riff repeats a few times, and its very uplifting. The guitars and keyboard pull back for the verses and give Prince room to sing. It seems so quiet after the first five minutes we have heard. Prince speaks rather than sings the line “Ain’t that enough” and you can hear that its a real person singing the song, it adds just enough touch of emotion to it. It was songs like this that made me choose Prince over other music that was available in the 1980’s. Prince sings like he means every single word. This is another song I would like to hear make a come back on his set-lists. I think it would still work really well today. The guitar solos begin at the three minute mark, and at four minutes there is a very nice piece where one phrase is repeated over and over then the second guitar joins in. My ears love this sort of thing. There is a brief bridge, bit of a drum roll then Prince screams “that’s right, I’m crazy”, “Why you wanna treat me so bad -bitch!” and lurches into another guitar solo, this time a litter lower, and less frenetic. The song ends with Prince singing a capella “If I really did it to you good, if I really did it to you good, why you wanna treat me so bad” before all the band jump in for a a squealing guitars and drum finish.

The next song starts of simply with a basic beat and Prince imploring the crowd with “Hey” “New Orleans” “Hey”, then the classic new wave guitar and keyboard sound takes over and When You Were Mine Begins. I have always been a fan of these lyrics, I think here Prince nailed the perfect pop song. There is a very nice contrast between this song and the previous two. There is a lot more keyboard in this song, and it feels like a nice rest. In-fact there is more keyboard here than in the modern version. which is strange, because nowadays this is played as one of his more guitar driven songs. The guitars and keyboard play in sync a lot during this song, and indeed through the whole gig It gives a nice strong sound, and is one of the distinctive sounds of his songs at this period. and for the the record- I love it! Its very hard for me to write anything about these songs, I keep putting my pen down and just sit listening to the music. The song winds down with Prince quietly singing with just his guitar “All I ever wanted to do”……pause…..”Now I spend my time”…pause….”Following him where ever he goes” then the band joins in while he yelps ” When you were my babe, my babe, my babe”. I feel his pain.

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The next song begins with a long synthesizer twinkle, spacey type sound. Prince dedicates this one to all the ladies – I Wanna Be Your Lover. The keyboard hook comes in, and its just too damn catchy, its going to be rattling around my head for the rest of the day. The backing singers chime in on the chorus with “Lover” and it just sounds so joyful and uplifting. I can’t ever imagine being in a bad mood listening to this song. The crowd sing a few lines from the versus and Prince gives them space to sing the chorus with the backing singers. Lisa plays a very nice synth solo, it has got an electric feel to it as well as an electric sound. The song transitions here, and feels a little darker and slower, it begins to slip into a nice groove with more bass and some funky guitar playing. A sudden synth stab and we enter new territory with Head.

I knew the reputation of the song head before I actually heard it. Hearing it here on this recording was the first time for me, and its one of my ‘moments’ when growing up! The beat on this song is sublime, and the synth is deliciously sharp and electric. This song is F U N K Y! The keyboard is everywhere, over and under the music, and the funky guitar is prominent. The whole song just reeks of dirtiness, griminess, and filth, its so dark and slinky. Just everything locks into the overall sound of it. The guitar,bass, keyboard and drums all sound just as dirty as the lyrical content. Dr Finks work on this song is legendary, and rightly so. Nobody plays the solo quiet like that, and its one the distinctive sounds of this song. Here, as always, he is brilliant and frantic. Prince encourages the crowd to chant “Head” and it sounds like they don’t need much encouragement to join along. There is some amazing funky guitar, I just find myself shaking my head and saying “wow”. Now, that wouldn’t be much of a review would it!

There is absolutely filthy guitar break, its just so dirty. A then another great stabbing solo. In the background the cymbals keep ringing along, it all contributes to the atmosphere of the song. This song is the center piece of the gig. It runs for 12 minutes, and for me it is everything I love about Prince, the funkiness, the guitar playing and the naughtiness. The song cuts back to just bass and cymbals, the some more solo Prince work on the guitar. There is squealing and grinding guitar noise, and I guess at this point he is simulating masturbation with his guitar, The song ends with a long prolonged guitar howl.

With a steady sound of cymbals and synths Annie Christian takes half a minute before Dez and his chugging guitar are heard. Cymbals are very prominent in the whole gig, and no more so than here. I always associate Prince with the sharp snare drum, but this period, especially live, the cymbals are right at the front. The guitar is very raw, and rock sounding, however it doesn’t overwhelm the song, the mix is just the right balance. With a yell of “Turn it up!” there is the obligatory guitar solos. They seem to play back and forth between the two of them before it comes to an end of keyboard and guitar noise.

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Catch your breath, there is a seconds silence before the drumbeat starts and the keyboard hits the pulsating groove that is Dirty Mind. Again the guitar plays along with the keyboard lines. It pushes it forward through the whole song, and gives it all a fantastic energy. The rhythm guitar on every track here is outstanding. Several times Prince strips the song back to just the beat for a few bars, then back into it. Each time it builds the song up and takes us back to the chorus. The chorus itself is great, with the female voices really backing Prince well. Again its all sung with a lot of energy.

When I was a teenager, Prince singing “I don’t want to hurt you baby, I only want to lay you down” really spoke to me. I still find myself singing this at inappropriate moments 25 years on! There is a quick rhythm guitar break, then that is matched by an equally impressive keyboard freak out. Five minutes and all the guitars drop out. The first five minutes passed by so quickly, it doesn’t feel like a long song at all, and I put that down to the sheer energy of it all. With just the keyboards and beat underneath Prince goes into a long spoken/quasi sung section. Its typical of one of his seduction scenes that frequently appear in his songs. He begins by singing “New Orleans, do you feel alright” a couple of time, before he changes to more smutty theme. He asks if she is wearing any underwear, and then comes back with “neither am I”

I said that Head was the center piece of this gig, but I take that all back. This is definitely the center piece of it all, and the standout highlight for me. Prince continues his seduction, telling us he has” a big ole bed, just me and you, tell you what I wanna do” But the best part of it all for me is when he says ” Excuse me baby, do you believe in love at first sight?’ “Excuse me baby, do you believe in making love on the first night?” , the at a call of “Turn it up!” all the guitars reenter the song, the keyboard returns to the main riff and the song is again driven forward. Unfortunately the song fades here, so I don’t know where they take it too next. But it was sounding pretty hot about the time the fade came.

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Controversy begins with Dez calling “party in here tonight, everyone on your feet.” Its played faster than on the album, but is still very funky. There is some very fast and funky guitar and keyboards battling it out during the song. There is a breakdown with calls for people to raise their hands, and it turns into a call and response sing a long along the lines of “New Orleans, we know how to party” The guitar playing is very sharp here, it really gets me moving. There is a great scream by Prince after his “people call me rude” lines.The song itself lasts for seven minutes, but it seemed to go by in a flash. A great song, and it feels a little lighter after the extended dramas of the previous couple of songs. The song closes with another long synthesizer led crescendo.

A quick “Thank you and Good night” ends the set.

The band return with Lets Work. You know right away this is going to be a long dance work out, and it delivers. Dez affirms this when he calls out “Its officially party time, I want you to get up and party!” There is very little guitar in this one, its all bass and keyboard as you might expect. Its a long groove of a song, with plenty of time to dance to it. Several times Prince chants “Work it, alright, work it, all night” and I get the feeling that this is exactly what the crowd is doing.

Prince introduces the next song with “You know you can’t leave until I Jack U off”, a quick count of 1,2,3,4 and then a frenetic burst of guitar. I am not a fan of this on record, and only like it slightly more live. It does highlight some very fine and fast guitar work, but beyond that there is not much more. Its fast and furious and does sound like fun. The song has a false ending, then Prince asks “If you anyone ask you, who you belong to? Who?” then another burst of sound and it ends.

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Phew, there it is. My most favorite live recording, although I do of course reserve the right to change my mind on any given day. I am not sure how I can best explain why I enjoy this one above all others. Maybe because the music on this one hasn’t been overplayed in a million different ways, like a Purple Rain or Raspberry Beret. Or maybe its because the whole thing is played with energy and a feeling and belief in the music. When I listen to this one I have no doubt that Prince means every word he sings, every note he plays. Or maybe, and perhaps most realistically, I enjoy this one the most because it takes me back to when I was young and this whole journey of Prince fandom begun.

This is one gig that shows of all the aspects of Prince I love so much- his guitar playing, his funkiness, some dirty songs, some throw away songs, all played with maximum power and pleasure. The only thing missing is one of his slower songs, but I think this is not the whole gig we have here- I find it hard to believe that Do Me baby wasn’t played at this time. That said,this recording is a MUST HAVE for any Prince fan

I have a few other favorites that I will be covering in the next few weeks, so I hope you find a thing or two you enjoy. As always I am open to ideas of what I should listen to.

Special thanks to Minako, who sent me a message pointing out all my grammatical errors in my last post. (Don’t go back and check them, I have already made the edits). I always assumed I used the very finest Queens English, but apparently not- thanks Minako, I am sure your English teacher must be very proud!   😛

Next time- something funky!

Take care
Hamish