The Palace 1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again
-Hamish

Troubadour, California 2011- Show 2

I feel cheated. It seemed like a good idea last week to write about both the shows at the Troubadour, but there was one fatal flaw in my plan – the bootleg of the second concert is incomplete, and by a substantial amount. To be honest the recording that exists of the show is merely a taster as it takes in a scant twenty minutes of what was a two and a half hour performance. I was disappointed when I realized my error, but I have decided to plough on regardless. The tape we do have is short, and only an audience recording, yet I feel it is still worth giving some time and consideration to, if nothing more to give me closure after listening to the first concert. The first concert set a high standard, and this later show promises to be even better. The setlist from this later show appears heavier, and with a much more aftershow feeling about it. Both aspects appeal to me, and I am sure this recording gives a good indication of what the concert was about.

12th May, 2011 (am) Toubadour, Hollywood, California

The party is well and truly underway as the recording comes in near the end of “Musicology.” The tape only catches “Musicology” in its final throes, nevertheless we can hear and feel the swing in the music, and the audience’s reaction is more than enough to suggest that this has been quite a show already. “Musicology” appears about half way in the setlist, so the audience have had plenty of time to marinade in the music, and their own juices, something readily apparent in the noise at the end of “Musicology”

The four minutes of “Musicolgy” is mostly crowd noise after the song finished, and it is “Crimson And Clover” that ushers us properly into the concert. It has a natural elegance, and an easy, delicate beauty that is beguiling, even when Prince isn’t to the forefront of the performance. Andy Allo is star that the song orbits around and she has an understated radiance that spreads a warm glow across the recording, the performance, and life itself as she charms all with her honey dipped vocals. The audience recording seems to fit the moment, with an out of focus softness that brushes all edges off the music. The rest of the band may be playing the music, but Prince is the song itself as he enters, and he appears as a thunder bolt for his crushing moment as the music rears it’s head briefly into “Wild Thing.” He personifies the song as he plays with a startlingly controlled fury, an exhilarating rock moment as the guitar embodies the true meaning of wild thing, will remaining tethered to the ideals of “Crimson And Clover.” This song makes up the bulk of the recording, and is reason enough to give it a listen.

The mix of “She’s Always In My Hair” is busy, and the drive and energy of the original is dissipated by the extra sounds that muffle the recording. There is a brief respite as Prince’s axe cuts through the baroque sound, it cleaves the song in two but isn’t quite as cleansing as I hope – the final minutes see’s it swamped by the bass and keyboards that the recording seems to crave. The final minute of the song features Prince’s guitar thrumming through the gears, but we never reach overdrive, the song finishing before Prince can fire us into the home straight.

The final two minutes of the recording capture the first half of “Play That Funky Music.” Surprisingly I find myself deeply attracted to it, perhaps because I am denied the complete show and this absence leaves me with a hunger for more.  It is an loud and unruly performance with the crowd contributing their own energy and buoyancy to the song and the show. There isn’t much to it, but it is eminently enjoyable, and that’s something I don’t say very often about “Play That Funky Music”

And that’s all there is. A twenty two minute recording of what was a much longer show, and one that sounds as if it was going off. I would have loved to hear more, but alas this is all we get. Being short, it is easy to recommend this one, it takes no time to listen to, and even if people don’t like audience recordings it is only twenty minutes so there is no real time lost to give it a try. 2011 is an odd year for me personally, and an odd year in Prince’s live performances. Shows like this give a little light, and I only wish there were more like this one for us to enjoy. No doubt a great concert to be at, the recording too is a nice listen.

Finally, I would like to note the passing of Synnove Soe this week. Synnove was a good friend, and a strong supporter of this blog. You can see her comments on many of the posts here, and she would often message me directly on Sunday night to offer her verdict on the concert I had listened to, and my writing. She was, as my father would say, a straight shooter, and I always knew where I stood with her – she had opinions, and she wasn’t afraid to share them!  I shall miss her terribly, she was a strong figure and a great mentor. She was also a kind and gentle friend. Rest In Peace Synnove.

 

 

Oscar Aftershow, Avalon 2009

This week I am listening to another release that recently came to light, an aftershow played after the Oscars in 2009. I am unsure about this release, looking at the band and the setlist it all seems bland. The band is a thin version of the NPG, with only Prince on guitar and Morris Hayes holding the keyboards, the Dunham backline combination and Liv and Shelby on vocals. The band lacks firepower, at least on paper, and the setlist reads like a cross between a hits package and the usual aftershow suspects. However, it is new to my ears, so I appreciate that aspect of it. And of course I love bootlegs, so I am itching to give this one a listen.

23rd February (am) 2009,  Avalon, Hollywood California

It sounds like a party right from the go, there is the hum and hubbub of a party before the opening strains of Purple Rain cuts right through. It’s a Trojan horse of a beginning as Frederic Yonnet as his harmonica are heard and we cut into a very interesting take of Ol’ School Company. It gets the full aftershow treatment, and there is plenty of time for Frederic to play over the extended intro. Normally I wouldn’t give much time to this song, this one has me sitting up and taking notice as Prince claims the song and the stage. There are times when I find the harmonica piercing, Prince makes these feelings disappear with a ‘take no prisoners’ vocal performance. The challenge is thrown down from the start, and I am beginning to think I was too quick to judge a book by its cover (by the way, the cover is very cool). Shelby joins the fray as the song climaxes and we have a couple of lines from other songs tossed in for good measure.

Frankenstein has Prince warming up his guitar licks, before things kick off properly with a sharp cover of The Cars – Lets Go. I do like Prince’s cover of this song, it harkens back to his sound in the early Eighties, especially with the synth and clean guitar sound. I am surprised by how clean and fresh it sounds, and I am impressed that Prince chose to cover it for a few years.

We stay on this nostalgic trip as Prince looks back with another cover, this time Crimson And Clover. I find it reminds me of my Father, he used to play the original on the record player when I was a child, but it never sounded as guitar heavy as what Prince delivers up. Don’t be fooled by the soft sounding intro, when Prince hits the chorus and cranks the guitar it turns into another beast altogether. He does of course do his Wild Thing cover at the chorus and he does a fine job of channelling both the Animals and Hendrix. The guitar solo for the last couple of minutes is however all his, and it is undeniably the sound of Prince doing what he does best.

prince 2009b

As good as 7 is, the recording doesn’t do it justice, and I get the feeling that something is missing. Princes vocals are good, it’s the rest of the band that seems to be lacking, and I can’t quite pinpoint if it’s the band, the mix, or the recording. That said, I do enjoy hearing it, as it is a song I would rarely listen to otherwise.

The segue into Come Together is predictable, and the recording is less than perfect for the first minute. On the positive side we do have more harmonica, and the band get a chance to get loose and jam. It plods for a while, but things look up as Prince calls for his guitar to be turned up on stage and we hear some nice rhythm work from him. Asides from that I find it overly long, although I can see it has its place as the crowd sing and enjoy the party. We are rewarded with some guitar work from Prince that threatens to burst out but stays neatly in its box.

I was beginning to drift, Shhh has me well and truly back in the moment. It does miss the powerhouse drumming of Michael B, but Prince’s vocals remove any other negative thoughts from my mind. In fact Prince owns every aspect of this song, when it’s not his vocals commanding my attention it is his exquisite guitar playing. He does call for the drums, but they are nowhere near as powerful as his guitar playing. The band is good, but it’s not one of his great bands, and that becomes very apparent through this song where Prince is on another level to everyone else on the stage.

His guitar sound holds centre stage as we build into the next song. First a guitar groove into Mother’s Finest ‘Baby Love’. Mother’s Finest is a fantastic band that don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve, and it’s great that Prince pays respect to them with a cover of this song. It’s fierce, but criminally short as he slows things down into Brown Skin.

Mothers Finest

Mothers Finest

 

Brown Skin is, as always, Shelby’s moment to shine. She seizes the opportunity and does a fine job, even though Frederic almost upstages her with a harmonica solo, and I never thought I would be writing about a harmonica solo, but there you go.

And oddly enough it’s the harmonica that leads the band into Stratus before inevitably Prince takes control with his guitar. The song swirls and shakes without ever hitting great heights. Princes guitar playing is nice, although that’s not a very strong word, and Frederic’s harmonica is interesting, if not somewhat grating by the end of the song. Of interest to me is the keyboard break, and a drum solo that plays out more on the side of interesting than powerful, and all the better for it.

Things stay interesting for us with a cover of Miss You. I do always like Princes vocals on this song, and having Frederic on harmonica adds another layer to the song. It’s not as funky as perhaps I like, but nevertheless I find it irresistible. Asides from Princes vocals it’s his funky guitar playing that I am drawn too, and the last minute is a treat as he plays.

Normally dismissive of Cream, tonight it gets a pass from me. It’s shorter, and it seems to have an extra push to it. The band are sounding lighter on this song, and yet give it a stronger sound. It’s at this stage that there is a real fun sound to it, and the mood in the music is much brighter.

Prince's The Purple Party Oscar After Party for LotusFlow3r.com - ShowBack with another Stones cover, Prince and the band lurch into the herky-jerky groove of Honky Tonk Woman. Shelby’s vocals feel like a good fit for this song, as does Princes guitar and the ever present harmonica. The spirit of the Stones is definitely in the music and the band seem to capture the swagger and strut well.

I have always enjoyed When Will We B Paid, and tonight is no different with another fine performance. Prince dials it back for this performance, with only his guitar, Liv’s vocals and the harmonica. It does the song justice, and the lyrics are all the more powerful in this setting.

I don’t recall ever hearing Prince cover The Middle before, and hearing it now has me scrambling for more information. I am of course familiar with the original, I just never expected to hear Prince covering it, and after the last few songs it totally comes out of left field. You got to love Prince and his setlists, you never know what might come next. As for the song itself, well it sounds fresh and bright and I happily sing along as Prince and the band belt it out. There is an opportunity for Prince to solo near the end of the song, and he dishes up a short and sweet guitar break.

Again we get another stylist jump as the band strike up The Bird. The opening synth riff is irrepressible and when the main groove hits I am well and truly sold on it. As you might expect Prince does a mighty Morris day, and the vocals are sparkling throughout. You can hear the band warm to their work here, and over the next three songs Prince reclaims compositions that he gave to others in the 1980’s. The sounds levels are uneven through The Bird, but despite that I can hear an uplifting performance.

Prince 2009

Naturally enough The Bird turns into Jungle Love, a song that sounds like it is filling the dance floor. I had been hard on the band earlier, they seem a lot more on top of this music and the performance is lively. The song sounds classic 80’s with all the synth happening in the right places. It follows the original blue print until midsong when there is a break down, and some audience participation. Prince does take a minute before he plays his guitar break, a break that should be a highlight but instead sounds a little quiet in the mix, or perhaps I need new speakers.

Prince telegraphs The Glamorous Life long before he sings it. He teases with the title for a minute before we get the familiar riff. I like the performance, though if I am honest with myself it’s not a patch on the original. That said, there is a charm to it, and it does only go for a couple of minutes before we spin into the next song.

Play That Funky Music has the crowd whooping, but when the singing begins it’s a let-down. I am not sure who is initially singing, it sounds like some people out of the crowd. Prince saves the day with a guitar solo that has a lot more focus than anything else that is heard on the song.

The next song is rather appropriately Hollywood Swinging. It doesn’t grab me and shake me by the collar, and I don’t know if I’m losing enthusiasm or the band is. The song warms up later in the piece and the harmonica gives it a warmer feeling. Asides from that I can take it or leave it.

There is a false ending the show, it sounds as if it is finishing up, only to return with the classic I Feel For You. The harmonica plays the lead line, and that’s a cool sound. The rest of the band also jump on board, and having it sung by the girls is a nice touch. I am really enjoying it, until the Shelby “put your hands up”. I was loving her until then. She gets away with it though, because at this point the band segues into Controversy.

Controversy is the final song of the evening, and it leaves me with a good taste in my mouth. Princes vocals are playful, yet funky. He does plenty of squawks and yells, and especially good is his “people call me rude” talk in the middle. Normally I am not for the jump up and down calls, this time it doesn’t seem as grating and for a few minutes the cynical, jaded me takes a backseat and I enjoy it for what it is. This is a party, and this is the song to get them moving. As the show finishes I feel it has gone by very fast, and it didn’t feel like two hours at all.

My first impressions of it being bland never came to fruition. Sure, it’s not the strongest of his bands, but what they did, they did well. The recording was uneven, I can’t deny, and there were moments when I wasn’t as fully engaged as I might otherwise be. The good moments were good, and there was enough of them to make a worthwhile listen. This one will never be on a top 10 list, and maybe not even a top 100, but it is a decent recording of a decent show. It’s good enough for the car, but I don’t think I will be playing it for more than a few days.

Thanks again,
See you all again next week
Hamish