Lovesexy Dome – Tokyo 1989

We are into our final days of our Tokyo sojourn, I have loved every minute I have been here but I ready to sleep in my own bed again. Before we fly back to New Zealand we have time to visit one more bootleg from Prince’s tours of Japan. This one comes from the Lovesexy tour and captures a performance at Tokyo dome. Everyone knows there are some great soundboards circulating from this tour, this recording comes from the other end of the spectrum and is an extremely poor audience recording. Its muffled, thin, the audience is overly loud and Prince is overly quiet. I have chosen this one because it is the longest concert of the Japan leg, and although the recording is terrible, the show is great. I in no way recommend this one, it borders on unlistenable, but I am a die hard and am quite prepared to listen to it so you don’t have too (and after a month of Japanese TV, this is a welcome relief).

February 5th, 1989 Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

You know what you’re in from the start as the recording captures several people chatting and clapping. At first I treat it as a pleasant scene setter, that is until I realize later that there is music playing, and the crowd is drowning it out. They clap the beat, and in the distance and can hear the all too familiar opening to the Lovesexy concerts, almost ghost-like it is so faint.

I know the Lovesexy shows very well, so even though the music is distant I can easily make out the opening “Housequake.” It sounds typical of the rest of the tour, what I can hear of it. A lot of nuances are missing on the recording, but one can easily recognize Prince’s vocals and the distinctive beat. The final half of the song is frantic, and I find I listen closely to try and catch what crumbs I can.

“Slow Love” sounds better, bigger and fuller and Prince’s vocals swell and fill the recording. This holds through the following “Adore,” and I briefly consider the recording might be as bad as I thought, especially the spoken part that segues into “Delirious”

“Delirious” again displays the recording limitations we have encountered so far. The crowd is far too much in the recording, and “Delirious” is buried under a layer of grime. The same can be said of “Jack U Off,” only the horns can be heard through the fray. I can hardly hear the lyrics of “Sister,” and for the first time I think the quality of the recording might be a blessing. On a positive note, the final flurry of guitar can be clearly heard, and inspires me to listen further.

The first strains of “Do Me, Baby” has me light headed, and as the bass pops I am in seventh heaven. It slows the medley, and I begin to connect with the concert as Prince puts the crowd through their paces. A heavenly song, it rises above any other negativity that can be heard. The final spoken part from Prince has me feeling fifteen again, and visions of ex-girlfriends swim before my eyes as he seduces with merely words.

The opening riff of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is a call to arms for truefunk soldiers, and Prince rewards with a grand rendition “Head.” “Head” has always been down and dirty, and here even more so as the recording matches it from griminess. The main riff rings out loud and clear, but again that is the only positive of the recording. Even Dr Finks solo, although brilliant kinetic, is lost in the general crowd noise. I do, however, enjoy the call and response, and Prince’s continual call of “this is now a discotheque.”

I want to like “Girls and Boys,” I really do, but on this recording it is neither here nor there and leaves very little impression upon me. On the other hand, “A Love Bizarre” is fast, frantic, and utterly compelling. Prince airs it right out, and this is one of the longest songs on the recording.  The call and response briefly has me wishing I could be there, and I find this is one of the more passionate Lovesexy shows in circulation. Generally I find them almost too well staged and tight, this concert retains a looseness and a feeling that I can relate to and that makes it all the more appealing to me. The calls and response continue for sometime, although they are never boring and the momentum of the song, and the concert, is retained. Oh, and Miko is brilliant!

Prince singing happy birthday to Mr Udo (the promoter) is an interesting moment, but for me the real treasure comes next with a rough and ready “When You Were Mine” jumping out of the blocks. As always it touches the inner rocker in me, and I am just excited to hear it as the overly vocal crowd obviously are. At two minutes Prince seems to have a guitar fault, but the song and the band barrel on without him.

The arena is warmed with the first strains of “Little Red Corvette.” The rest of the song delivers on this promise of warm nostalgia, and the crowd are more than happily to sing along as required, as well as providing the necessary screams to herald in the guitar solo.

The show again accelerates from this point, with “Controversy” providing the first thrust that will carry the following numbers. It is short, and it is “U Got The Look” that continues this onward momentum. “U Got The Look,” sounds dreadful on this recording, the crowd far too loud,and the mix badly out of balance. Things don’t improve for “Superfunkycalifragisexy,” and I begin to regret that I am such a completest.

“Bob George” sounds cool, although in the Lovesexy concert it is a visual experience as much as an audio experience. It is easy to imagine what is unfolding on stage, and I find myself smiling at Prince’s dark humor.

Balanced is restored with “Anna Stesia” bringing closure to the first half of the show. It stirs up far more feelings of nostalgia than “Little Red Corvette” earlier in the setlist, I am right back in high school as I close my eyes and listen to Prince play. There is some echo, but Prince’s vocals ride over any such storms and in some ways it reminds me of the old chewed up cassette tape of Lovesexy that I used to listen to over and over.

A light is shined into the darkness in the form of “Cross The Line,” the mood of the show already lifting as it welcomes in the second half of the concert. The white noise that introduces “Eye Know” is hard to distinguish from the general noise heard on the recording, and I inwardly smile at myself as I hear Prince say “The reason my voice is so clear…”  “Eye Know” has the crowd well and truly involved and its pleasing to hear that I’m not the only one who clearly loves this song. One of the things I have found about attending Prince concerts is that you always find other like minded people who seem to cheer and appreciate the same small things as you do. Prince fans really do feel like family sometimes.

The theme of the album is maintained through  “LoveSexy,” in this case giving me an urge to pull out the original album and give it a listen. There is plenty going on in this live rendition, we may not be able to hear it all, but I know it’s there.

“Glam Slam” features more audience singing, both at the venue and all over the recording. Its not as long as the previous two songs, but I still enjoy hearing it, and I especially enjoy hearing Prince fully engaged with the album he was promoting at that time.

It’s very hard to listen to “The Cross” without comparing it to the Dortmund show. That show created such a powerful visual image and sound that any recording would struggle against it, and especially so this one. In this case I like the rawness of Prince’s guitar sound, and for a while I fool myself into thinking the echo is making Prince sound better. But who am I kidding, I would rather watch the Dortmund performance of this song anytime.

There is a lightness to “I Wish U Heaven,” not just on this recording but on all performances, that doesn’t quiet work on bootlegs. As compensation we get extra audience vocals, but they aren’t as delicate, or as beautiful, as Prince’s. It is only the last half of the song where the guitar awakes that I become interested, its too little too late, but it is a nice touch.

I love the bass of “Kiss” in these Lovesexy shows, and here is no different and it both anchors the song and propels it forward at the same time. Prince is barely audible, so its just as well the bass and guitar are so divine, and I am more than happy with what little I can hear.

“Dance On” is merely the introduction for Sheila E and her rap and drum solo, something I whole heatedly disapprove of. Not because of Sheila herself or her performance, but because I think “Dance On” should get much more time than it is allocated. That disappointment aside, it is always fun to hear Sheila as she hammers away and the next few minutes I have a happy grin as she indulges me in her trademark drum style.

Finally, one of my favorite parts of the Lovesexy concerts – the piano solo. “Venus De Milo” has my weepy eyed from the opening moments, the following few minutes containing all you could want from Prince’s sweeping piano playing. “Starfish And Coffee” isn’t quite on the same plain, but it still retains the sweetness of the moment.

There is only a brief moment of “Raspberry Beret” before Prince settles into a tender “Condition Of The Heart.” I am disappointed that it is only fleeting, but there is a treat in the form of a rare appearance of “International Lover’ that more than makes up for it. Only thirty seconds, but it raises my pulse through the roof, and for half a second a hear a teenage girl squeal of delight escape from my forty-year-old manly lips.

The piano version of “Strange Relationship” is now familiar to most people. As always, there is plenty of funk and feeling in Princes finger tips, although the audience clapping takes me out of the moment.  However, the following “Free” again has me in fanboy heaven, and delivers up the second seismic shock of this piano set. A rarity buried in the setlist, this is one of the reasons I elected to listen to this recording, and the sound has improved by this stage that I can actually say its an enjoyable moment.

An instrumental “With You” carries us through to the finale of the piano set – “When 2 R in Love.” I may not approve of his spelling, but I definitely approve of the song, even if it is barely a chorus and a slow fade.

I know what to expect with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and Prince gives it to me with the standard 1988/89 run through. The “go, go, go” chants leave me cold, as does the rest of the song, and although it is a sacred cow I find I dislike it.

Prince makes short work of the Purple Rain album – “When Doves Cry” is truncated, and lacking some of the bite of other concerts (more specifically, the dog bark). The audience seem to like it though, true to the form they sing loudly throughout and they are stronger than anything else on the recording.

It is a thin “Purple Rain” that makes an appearance at this show. Prince’s vocals remain distant, and its hard to know if this is a great performance or not. The guitar solo is equally lost on the recording, which surprises me as I expected the recording would pick it up much better. Of all the parts of “Purple Rain,” it is the audiences “oohhh oohh ohhh” that sound closest to what is on record, and the song belongs to them as much as Prince on this occasion.

There is no “Alphabet St.” at this concert, and it is instead “1999” that closes out the show. It is a worthy rendition with Prince at full voice as he extols the crowd to party. Its a fitting end to the show, although my ears are pleased its over. Its only in these last minutes that I let myself acknowledge just how bad this recording was.

I do not recommend this recording in the slightest. I do however wholeheartedly recommend this particular concert. It is coming near the end of the tour, and the band are razor sharp and deliver a great performance. Add in the couple of rarities and arresting moments and it makes for a curious listen. I would be far more effusive if the recording was even slightly better, but it is what it is. Not one to revisit, but it gives us an idea of the quality of some of Pricnes perforamnces at the time.

Thanks again
next time I will safely ensconced back home in New Zealand
-Hamish

 

ONA – Budokan

My Japanese odyssey continues, we are still in Tokyo where today I visited the Budokan. For me it is a venue that I was always associate with the Cheap Trick album Cheap Trick at Budokan, an album that was played ad nauseum when I was a child. Prince has played at the venue during two tours, he did four nights there during his 1996 tour of Japan, and another two nights in 2002 during the One Night Alone tour. Perhaps in this case we should call it the two nights alone tour. I am going to take a look at one the shows played during the ONA tour, as much as I like the 1996 concerts the shows from 2002 are more attuned to my current tastes. Not everyone is a fan of the One Night Alone tour, I find the tour is divisive between fans – it is either one you really love, or one you really hate. I have yet to find many people on the middle ground. I am going to stake my claim early, it is a tour I am a big fan of, so expect the following write up to be completely biased for the positive.

18th November 2002, Nippon Bodukan, Tokyo

The audience know what to expect from the start as is the norm for the ONA shows Prince begins with a distorted voice and heavily distorted drum solo. I like it, although it has no flow to it and is little more than a minute of sound that builds anticipation to the opening “The Rainbow Children.” The unease that “The Rainbow Children” creates can be heard in the music, but as always it is kept in balance by the band and their light sound that counteracts some of Princes unsettling vocal effects. By the time Prince sings “Tokyo!” I am fully on board and ready for this song to roll on and on. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (and I’m aware of plenty of people who downright hate it) but I can’t deny, Prince’s guitar work is pretty sweet on the ear, and I would hope most people would listen past the lyrical delivery and instead gravitate to this mesmerizing guitar performance. I like that the song continues to strike new ground, and it keeps me fixated without ever repeating itself.

If anyone in the audience was worried about what might come next, Prince reassures them with the more accessible, and eminently more pop, “Pop Life.” Prince’s voice may not be as crisp as we have come to expect, but the rest of the song shines like polished silver, the recording sparkling as Prince turns the music this way and that under the lights. Renato and his jazz touch late in the song speaks to me, and I am filled with regret that I never saw this band live.

Prince brings discomfort to the pop audience with his introduction to “Xenophobia,” and the following song challenges expectations. At the time it came across as something new and shocking, fifteen years on I know what to expect and I am more than happy with the way the music unfolds over the next ten minutes. With Maceo playing there is very little to dislike, and as the horns run back and forth Princes message gets lost in the raw sound of the music itself. It is the last half of the song that is the most challenging, and it feels good to hear this again, something far removed from his 80’s pop sheen, here is something with grit and body, something that looks both backward and forwards at the same time, a song that contains something new every time I hear it.

Prince can’t quite keep to his promise to challenge and test the audience. It is “Purple Rain” that follows quickly after and soon enough any questions raised by “Xenophobia” are quickly painted over in the shade of purple. The audience recording is remarkably clean, there is very little background noise aside for cheers at the appropriate moments. Should I thank the recorder, or the restrained crowd, I don’t know,  but I do know it sounds very good indeed and I am more than happy with the performance of “Purple Rain” that matches it. It never ignites into the blazing wildfire it sometimes becomes, but it delivers everything that one would expect at a Prince concert, be it your first concert or your 100th.

“The Work Pt 1” surprisingly fails to fire. I had such hopes. I was expecting funk by the bucket load, instead I get a series of solos that never quite build into a much wished for payoff. I like the music just fine, but it is a platonic relationship and never becomes an intense love affair. Prince is too fickle and the music comes and goes as it pleases without giving me the time I need. I do like the “To-k-yo, woo-hoo” chant, something I may have been guilty of singing under my breath for the last three weeks as I wander the streets of Tokyo. The inevitable dancers on stage is the last straw for me, the heart of the song belongs to the audience in the building, and not us listening here at home.

For me, “Mellow” is all about the sound and vibe. I have very little idea what Prince is singing about, but I do love the feel of the song. This performance is cool, and “Mellow” lives up to its name, aside from the occasion burst of horn. It is unlike anything heard thus far on the recording, and for me it again highlights the scope of music Prince created. It wouldn’t be the first song I’d put on, but it is one that I always like when I hear it.

The concert energy again surges with engaging rendition of “1+1+1 is 3.” Of course it can’t lose with Maceo adding his years of experience with an instantly funky solo. Prince may claim that he is funky, but in this case it is Maceo who brings the funk to the party. There is a funky guitar underneath that is pure Prince, but for my money it is the horns that make this worth hearing. Nothing is added by appending “Housequake” and “Love Rollercoaster” to the second half of the song, and they could have easily been left off in my opinion.

The melancholy dip and swoop of Prince’s guitar brings the concert into a more traditional  realm, and the performance here could have come from any show in the last twenty years. That’s no bad thing, the guitar wail calling most Prince fans to duty with it’s mournful call. There is a heavy influence from the band, and the flashes of jazz later in the song reminds you just what configuration of the NPG this is. The final few minutes belong all to John Blackwell, and that makes this rendition well worth a listen as he kicks and stutters around the kit.

I am pleased to find that “Strange Relationship” is just as funky as it has every been, the band locking together in a solid squelching riff. If anything, it is aged even better, and like a fine wine I find it strong and more flavorsome than its 1980’s incarnation. Prince in particular seems to get a real kick out of playing this song, and he pulls the audience with him with his unbridled enthusiasm. It stands far above anything else heard on the recording with its energy and pure Princeliness.

“Pass The Peas” I am happy to take a pass on. I like Maceo, but Prince and the band don’t add anything to the song we haven’t heard before. It does give the horn section a chance to strut, but it pales compared to the previous “Strange Relationship.” Although, to be fair, almost anything would pale compared to that.

A torrent of guitar notes fly from Prince’s hands, and serves as a great introduction to “The Ride.” What is great about this show is that every song gets a full rendition and plenty of time to marinate in its own juices. Every song runs five to ten minutes, and after years of feeling short changed by Prince medleys with these concerts I finally feel Prince is letting us fully appreciate his music. His comment “Can I take my time” gets full approval from me. The song contains the unrestrained howl of his guitar as he finally lets it off the leash and it runs rampant for the next few minutes. It is a biting performance that snaps and chews in equal measure.

As a Prince fan I fail miserably, not recognizing “Sign O’ The Times” immediately as Prince elicits to shroud the intro with his chugging guitar. The song never really settles on a style from here on in, sometimes the horns come to the fore, giving it a brighter sound, while the record scratching pulls it in another direction entirely. And then pulling in in a third direction is Prince’s guitar. I would happily take any style, but to my ears all three don’t quite gel. There is some lighter guitar later in the song, which with the horns would be a much better fit for this band.

Ahh, the old “Take Me With U,” “Raspberry Beret” combination. Regular readers will be familiar with my feelings about this. I like sweet pop sugariness as much as anyone, but not so much now I am older and, ahem, more mature. I happily digest “Take Me With U,” but by the time Prince segues into “Raspberry Beret” I have had my fill and am ready for something more substantial.

“The Everlasting Now” wouldn’t be my first choice for something more substantial, but I do find it more rewarding than the previous couple of songs.  The first few minutes are a nice little appetizer as Prince gives us a taste of what’s to come with parcels of funk and chants. The main course comes with some Santanaesque guitar before the rest of the band add their sauce of horn riffs and piano twinkle. It’s a flavorsome combination, and one that I happily indulge myself in. It is Maceo that rounds out this feast of sounds, with his dessert of saxophone sprinkling chocolate sprinkles over all that has come previous. I am sold on it, and as it all comes to an end I feel well nourished and satisfied.

A short break lets me digest what we have heard so far, before the encores open with Prince at the piano. “Condition Of The Heart” is simply divine, I am beyond words as I sit and listen to it, letting Princes music and lyrics washing over me. It does become a medley, “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” getting a line, before Prince indulges us with a slightly longer “Diamonds And Pearls.” It is “Adore” that gets the most time and attention however, with John Blackwell ever so gently adding a heartbeat to the song. The crowd sit in an enraptured silence throughout, making this recording pristine and clean for the next few minutes.

Prince piles on all his tender ballads at this part of the show, and “The Beautiful Ones” brings a further string of heart tugging moments. It is almost too easy listening, some of emotional strength of the song sapped by its easy sheen and polish. I am engaged though, even if its not the heart stopper it used to be.

Its very hard to clear my feelings about “Nothing Compares 2 U.” A song I heard countless times in the 80’s from Sinead O’Connor, and then hundreds of times since from Prince, it is a song I am overly familiar with. Sometimes it breaks through and gets me in a soft moment, and sometimes it passes by making barely an impression. The rendition on this recording is good, but it fails to break my jaded exterior and I find I listen to it in an almost emotionless state.

On the other hand, “The Ladder” shoots straight for my heart and does make the emotional impact I crave.  The drums are a little too much, but Prince’s vocals and delicate piano carry the moment. It is one of the shortest songs on the recording, barely a minute and a half, but it feels real to me and sincere.

This pleasant stroll through Prince’s piano songs is rounded out by “Starfish And Coffee” It may not be on a par with the other ballads and emotional heavyweights in the setlist, but it does keep things light.

The final song featuring the piano is “Sometimes It Snows In April,” a song that has taken on an extra significance since Prince’s passing. This rendition is a fitting tribute, his vocals alone out front in the recording, smooth and velvety and carrying a hint of emotion that makes it all the more powerful. A moment to sit back, listen, and reflect.

“Days Of Wild” isn’t as sinister and threatening as sometimes heard, but it is still a stone cold classic. There are better versions on this tour (see Antwerp a month earlier where I swear Prince tears the roof of the place), but it is still eminently enjoyable, and as always I find my head bobbing and without even being aware of it I am singing along with Prince. The grind and churn of the song brings several different players to the surface, Dudley D can be heard on the turn tables midsong, and it is the horns that bring a different feel to the song. The song drops intensity half way through though, and as the bass is pumped up for the first time the recording distorts. This mars the occasion as the final few minutes becomes a difficult listen. The rest of the recording has sounded great, making this part sound all the more worse.

This show is fairly typical of the ONA tour, but is very well recorded (asides from the final “Days Of Wild.”) There is a plethora of material available from the ONA tour, I would happily listen to any one of them, but I do enjoy this concert for the  quality of the performance and the recording. The setlist doesn’t throw up anything too much in the way of excitement, but this bootleg does a nice job of capturing the standard ONA show. Very good without being essential.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

Yokohama, Final 1996 Japan concert

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

  20th January 1996, Yokohama Arena, Yokohama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again
Hamish

Glam Slam, Yokohama 1992

I am currently in Tokyo for a month visiting my wife’s friends and family. To celebrate this fact (and to avoid going shopping), the next few weeks I will take a listen to some of Prince’s live recordings from Japan. Today I will start with an unusual concert from Yokohama in 1992. It is an one off show at the Glamslam club, but what makes it unusual is  the setlist that is a standard run through of songs that we would expect at an arena show. This is an audience recording, with a slight distortion just perceivable, yet I like it for the songs, and the general vibe of the show. There is a great feel to the performance that lets me temporarily forget the sound quality.

6th April, 1992. Glam Slam, Yokohama, Japan

I didn’t expect much when I saw “Daddy Pop” listed on the packaging as the first song, and the feeling doesn’t change as the quality of the recording is revealed in the opening seconds. However, it is a bright and breezy performance that wins both me and the audience over. Rosie is monumental, but there is much more to this song than just her. The band is playing with an easy touch that has the song flying along, and with the crowd lending their infectious voices to the song it most definitely has a joyous vibe.

There is no cherry on top, but there is “Cream” and it envelops the club and bootleg, Prince at his very smoothest as the band flow through the performance. There is no sharpness, or jagged edges, just the constant forward movement provided by the buttery guitar line, and Princes sticky-sweet vocals. It is easy on the ear, and I am completely prepared to over look Tony M’s barking that comes loud across the recording. It ends with the syrupy guitar line that has carried most of the song, and I am satisfied with this sweet treat coming so early in the performance.

Rosie puts her cards on the table with “Chain Of Fools,” and comes up trumps with an ace performance. I didn’t fully appreciate Rosie when I was young, but I do now and her vocals early in the song are the exact reason I rate her as highly as I do. Strong, yet warm and inviting, it is hard to resist her sumptuous voice, and I am drawn in from the start. She does step aside as the song becomes a jam, the horns and guitar providing lines that keep the song on track with their train-like rhythm. Taking this song with the previous “Cream,” the concert already rates highly in my opinion, and we are only three songs in.

There are only two minutes of “Let’s Go Crazy,” but it is two minutes too many for me. It is during this song that the limitations of the recording are readily apparent, the guitar distorting at times, and a incessant  buzz.  It is equally jarring to hear “Let’s Go Crazy” in this company, after several smooth funk songs (and one straight after) it feels wedged it and detracts from the show rather than adding anything to it.

The smooth funk I alluded to returns with a greasy sounding “Kiss.” With the guitar line sounding almost like “Sexy M.F.” it has a classic funk sound, and is all the better for it. It may not be one for the purists but there is no denying the funk of it, and with the horns adding just a tinge of brassiness I rate it highly.

I like “Jughead” (I never thought I would write that) because it opens with a verse from “Dead On It.” The rest of the song I could take or leave (mostly leave). Tony M is quite forceful in his delivery, which tends to drown out everyone else. However, Rosie holds her own with the moments she is given, and as always it is the slippery rhythm guitar that I am really attracted to. I have to admit, I do enjoy Prince’s rap – for no reason other than I guess it’s one of those days.

The band is back in the groove for “I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get it Girl). Much like many of the other songs at this performance, it is smooth funk jam. I have heard this song at several other concerts, and this one is different from those in it’s easy long groove. There is very little singing as the band ride the rhythm from start to finish, unswerving in their dedication to the funk. There may be a couple of solos, but never once does the attention waver from the underlying feel and rhythm.

I could say the same about “Call The Law,” if not for Tony M’s heavy delivery. Rosie matches him for power with her vocals, but it is the guitar that steals the show with an burst early on that makes any vocal work irrelevant. Again, the recording is less than stellar, only the guitar stands proud among the swampy sounds of the verses. I do like the funky intentions of the band, sadly let down by the recording, and shaded by a guitar player who stands head and shoulders above all those around him.

There is a lot of swing to be heard in “Kansas City.” I have heard Boni Boyer sing this plenty of times, but for my money Rosie Gaines does just as good a job. The recording isn’t quite good enough to contain her, there is a slight distortion on her vocals as she is at her strongest, she is just too powerful for an audience recording.

The highlight of the bootleg for me isn’t all these funk tunes, but the divine “Do Me, Baby.” After listening to Prince seduction ballads for thirty plus years, I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that this is his finest. In my opinion, and it may well be an unpopular opinion, it eclipses even “Adore.” This recording is much more sympathetic to a softer song like this, and Levi’s guitar lines are just as emotive as the vocal performance by Prince. I find myself writing every week that “Do Me, Baby,” is the highlight of whatever show I am writing about, and I’m going to say it again about this concert. It towers over all the funk jams, making them lightweight in its solemn and earnest delivery. It is yet another outstanding rendition of one of Prince’s masterpieces.

I want “Gett Off” to finish the show like a punch to face, and although all the key elements are in place it lacks the killer blow that I desire. Prince’s gutsy guitar line elicits squeals of delight from the crowd, but this is the only moment where the song sounds dangerous and edgy. The rest of the song drifts along, even the drum beat sounds half hearted and weak. It is still likable, but it never threatens to reach the heights of the songs earlier in the evening.

So ends this curio from 1992. I wouldn’t recommend it based on the quality of the recording, but I would definitely recommend it based on the songs and the performance. It is a great funk workout for most of the show, and I think it nicely captures what this band was about, and lays down some of the groundwork for what will follow in the next couple of years.  Avoid if you’re a soundboard snob, otherwise I would say give it a listen.

Thanks for reading, I better go be a tourist for a couple of hours
-Hamish

Yokohama 9 September 1986- End of The Revolution

This week I am listening to one of the most important Prince bootlegs in circulation, the final show of the Parade tour that serves as the final performance of Prince and The Revolution. For historical significance alone it is a stand out, and the moment is well served with a performance and recording to match. People often deride audience recordings, but when done well they are a joy to listen to as in this case. The recording is surprisingly good for an audience recording, and the concert, although at Yokohama Stadium, has a small and warm sound – perfect for a moment like this. The recording has plenty to recommend it, and when we factor in the historical context, well then it becomes absolutely essential.

9th September 1986, Yokohama Japan

The couple of minutes of audience noise beforehand is a nice touch in my book, it adds to that sense of anticipation and expectation. There is some chat, a couple of cheers and if you close your eyes you can just about picture yourself there. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult not to read too much into what is happening, and when the announcer introduces the band I hear some melancholy in his voice, or like I say I am projecting my own sense of history onto the moment. Once again Around The World In A Day is a great introduction for the band, with the horns making themselves heard early on, along with the fantastic Brown Mark bumping and buzzing along the bottom. He has a beautiful fat sound to his playing and I am very happy to say it comes over well on the recording.

Parade 1986 1

I can hear Prince and the band well as Christopher Tracey’s Parade begins, although at first the girls’ voices aren’t heard well, they do however come further forward as the song goes, and it’s one of those “moments” when you can hear them singing with Prince. Prince does call “Tokyo!”, which has me scratching my head- I am prepared to give him a pass though, Yokohama is closer to Tokyo than Narita airport, and is only 40 minutes from Tokyo centre. And it is the end of the tour, so we can forgive technicalities.

New Position sounds unbelievably smooth and easy, and is testament to how tight the band were at this stage, there is a lot of new sounds and instruments in the mix, and somehow they weld it all together and make it work. The horns are the what you hear most, but for me there is just enough rhythm guitar in there to get my blood flowing.

There is a particularly psychedelic and alluring sound to I Wonder U, the flute giving it a floating quality that is offset by Wendy’s guitar. The band knit it together wonderfully, and as I said at the Paris show a few weeks ago it doesn’t matter that Prince isn’t there, this band and this music is strong enough to stand on its own without his powerful stage presence.

The next few songs come in a flurry of sound and excitement. Raspberry Beret is first out of the gate, as always it’s a crowd pleasing singalong, although to be fair on this occasion the crowd is fairly muted. On a more positive note I find Brown Marks bass again firmly in my ears and that is never a bad thing. The energy levels are kept high as it only runs for a couple of minutes before an equally quick run though Delirious, complete with a 1,2,3 count off in Japanese. It comes and goes in a blink of an eye before we get a quick snippet of the “oww wee oww” the segues into Controversy.

Parade 1986 2

Controversy is just fine, my only complaint being the briefness of it, but that is amply compensated when the count of “A,B, A, B ,C” comes and Prince is joined on stage by Shelia E.

This is the first of those magical concert moments that I look for, and as Prince and Shelia vocals playfully dance around each other I am in fanboy heaven. Shelia sounds cool, Wendy and Brown Mark sound even better, and for a long time I just sit back and listen to them respectively. The break down with the vocals is sublime, and the recording is good enough that I can pick out each person’s voice and identify them. Eric Leeds sprinkles his magic dust over the performance with a solo that lives up to the high standards he sets show after show. The funk just gets stronger from here on in, firstly in Wendy’s playing, then in Prince and the bands scat and a capella performance. When the music comes back it’s with all the intensity you might expect and wave after wave of horn blasts and calls of “Ice Cream!” carry me to unexpected heights.

Even though I am funk heaven at this stage, I am more than happy as the sultry sound of Do Me Baby begins. The bass has a great pop to it as the horns add a touch of sass to the intro. All this becomes irrelevant however as Prince sings, and listening to the lyrics and his delivery becomes and experience in itself. As the music rocks back and forth Prince croons and emotes as he has never emoted and crooned before, and I am sold on it. Maybe I feel like this for every live performance of this song, but tonight it smacks me right between the eyes and I am dangerously close to switching off the computer, going into the other room and sweeping my girl off her feet. And at the end of the day there is no higher recommendation of a slow jam song than that, it’s sublime through and through.

Parade 1986 5

Next up is the trifecta of How Much Is That Doggie In The Window, Automatic and D.M.S.R. I would have liked to hear more of them, asides from How Much Is That Doggie, and it’s a giant tease from Prince to have two killer tracks from 1999 to be relegated to a two-minute medley like this. As you know I like to look on the positive side of things, so I give thanks that they are in the setlist at all.

The ship rights itself as When Doves Cry plays, and the opening keyboard riff still gives me chills even after all these years. It has a clinical delivery as it should, and over the cool electronic music Prince sings dispassionately which only heightens the sense of loneliness I feel when I listen to this song. It’s a cold world indeed, and it’s only in the Princes singing of the chorus do we feel the humanity and hurt. I have covered a few different shows from 1986 now, and I always speak highly of Wendy’s solo during this song. Today is no different, and even though the recording neuters her sound a little I still get a thrill from her playing.

Parade 1986

Little Red Corvette has Prince alone at the piano, and is an emotional highlight. I want to write that it tugs at the heart strings, but I know the following few songs are going to top it in the emotional stakes, so I enjoy I enjoy it for what it is, a nice soft rendition of one of his classic songs.

The band joins in for Do U Lie, and it has a swing and sway to it, it’s got a lovely lilt and sounds like it has come from a completely different concert. I don’t have too long to wallow in it as Prince moves on, but it is another cool moment.

The Ladder is one of the songs I have been waiting to hear, and Prince doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The Ladder has the obligatory piano, but also a lot more. One of the things that strikes me most is the backing singers, and the way that the horns lift the song to the heavens. For a stadium show its wonderful how Prince makes it feel like he’s singing in the living room, there’s a lively intimacy in the recording and a classy touch by Prince at the end thanking the audience in Japanese.

Prince is alone again for Condition Of The Heart, and at this point it becomes very difficult for me to write objectively as this song has a special place in my heart. Prince delivers a performance that does the song credit and although short it gives me everything I could ever want.

Parade 1986 4

Under The Cherry Moon is breath-taking, and has some wonderful flourishes on the piano that give it that little bit extra. As much as I like Prince’s vocals, I find I tune out as I instead concentrate on the music. The music has a magical quality that is rarely heard, and as he Prince plays piano I sit mesmerized here at home, this is definitely a show for the ages.

The band and the funk returns with Anotherloverholenyohead. This show has been phenomenal thus far, and Anotherloverholenyohead maintains this high standard. It returns us to the heavier sound of the band, and the darker sound as Prince starts his “Another lover” talk midsong. The piano and the horns via for my attention, and for me it’s the piano that nails it, I don’t write about Lisa enough in this blog, but she is a treasure. She sounds magnificent as she plays her piece, and it is distinctly- and uniquely, her. And even better, she gets a good few minutes to play so there is plenty of time for me to lean back and swim in the music flowing from her fingers.

♥ Or $, now I didn’t expect that. Eric puts his mark on this one, but it’s again a complete band performance and I can’t single anyone out for praise, they all sound great singly and as a group.  From here on in the show becomes much more intense and focused, all medleys are dispensed with and we get some proper, heavy funk. Keeping with this direction the band funk up ♥ Or $ before turning their sights on Head.

I have always liked the slippery guitar sound in Head, in this case it has a sharper sound but nonetheless is still funky as all hell. There is some fun as Prince toys with the crowd, but the whole time it’s that guitar I am listening to, at least until Matt Fink sets things on fire with his synth solo. Electric Man gets an outing, with Prince surprisingly throwing some lyrics from Hot Thing, recorded barely a month previous. As Prince squeals and squirms I wish I could be there to see a performance that sounds electrifying. The guitar sounds ominous as the music rises near the end, and I find myself enjoying this just as much as Princes vocal performance.

Parade 1986 8

Pop Life banishes the darkness of Head in the opening moments as, after a twinkling opening, it bursts out of the speakers at me. For all the melody of it, I find its Brown Mark I listen to most, his bass adds an infectious bounce to the proceedings. Again Eric Leeds flute lends a different sound to the concert and with some beautiful backing vocals, the song stands up to repeated listens.

Prince sings “Do you want to dance with me” as Girls And Boys begins, much to the delight of the audience. Eric has traded his flute for the sax and adds the deep honk that I adore so much. Prince seems to get a second burst of energy around this point and I swear you can hear him singing and performing harder. He gives way to Eric and his solo and it’s about now that I sit up and take notice of Wendy and Lisa’s singing- soft yet beautiful.

The first minute of Life Can Be So Nice seems to come fast, and it’s at the chorus that I catch up and begin to get into it. It’s a game as Prince and the band play the crowded versus before pulling back for the chorus. Bobby Z does his thing, and he sounds great against the rhythm guitar. There seems to be a lot going on in my ears, and I have to listen closely to make sure I don’t miss a thing. The final fade out is my favourite part, not because its ending, but the way the band peels out and I can hear each of them.

Parade 1986 6

I am feeling jaded as 1999 plays, the song sounds fine, but is already dated against the colourful parade of music that Prince has played this evening. I do hear the crowd enjoying it, and there is some singing, so the song certainly has its place in the setlist despite my own personal tastes. It goes out with a bang as the horns and the rest of the band tear through the last minute, and the main show ends on a high.

There is an underwater sound as America starts, and I am my expectations are sky-high in anticipation as there is the dual guitar attack of Wendy and Miko getting all funky for the first few minutes. Prince joins the fray with his vocals and there is a fire to the performance that I feel the recording doesn’t quite capture. Eric is great, and Atlanta is even better as his trumpet scorches through the song as he plays. A lead guitar appears and the song is smoking hot by this stage. It’s almost unfair that Prince has Wendy, Miko and Eric on his team funking up the stage, as the solid bass of Brown Mark keeps us firmly on the dance floor. I was hoping for 20 minutes of this, but realistically the seven minutes we do get is amble, as I am sure those in the building had danced themselves into a frenzy in that time.

Kiss is nicely balanced, and I like that it has a stripped back sound with Prince and Wendy’s guitar taking the lead roles, nothing else bolted on or tampered with.  The lyrics sound a shade downbeat, I kind of like it that way, and the crowd come to the party with their boisterous “Kiss!” The ending is nice, with Prince thanking the crowd and a bare guitar playing for the last few moments that wraps it up in a bow before the next encore.

What comes next is, for me, the emotional and musical highlight of the show, a gut wrenching rendition of Sometimes It Snows In April. The opening with Wendy and Lisa playing is simply stunning, the delicate guitar sound and piano dancing a beautiful dance together, this is a special moment worth listening to again and again. As Prince sings things become even more emotional and his voice has a melancholy tone to it, and I think it is real rather than the performance. The three voices come together for the final lines and it’s hard to not think about the times these three had together. Prince ends the song thanking Wendy and Lisa, and thirty years on it sounds like a full stop.

Parade 1986 3

Purple Rain rises and falls as does the lump in my throat as I listen to it. Its plays as it does every time I hear it, a beautiful song that sounds so big and threatens to overwhelm all that has come before it. The guitars are warm, the piano clean, and Princes vocals heavy with emotion. The guitar solo starts with a quiver and a shake, before it becomes the howl we know so well. Having seen the video, I know how hard Prince was playing, and you can feel that on the recordings, he is pouring everything into to the guitar with a long sustained howl that ends with him throwing it to the floor before strapping on another guitar and giving us more of the same, before that too is thrown to the floor. As the crowd sing their part we do have half a minute of Prince playing the organ, and that is a real treat, it’s not high in the mix, but you can clearly hear it and it gives the song a final push before Prince thanks the crowd and leaves the stage, leaving the keyboards to play us out for the final minute.

As I have said throughout, it is impossible to divorce this recording from the context surrounding it, as great as the show and recording is, the historical significance of the moment looms large over it. I have heard people say that they cry listening to this, and I thought I was too far removed to have such feelings, but I must admit the last 15 minutes listening tonight I did have a tear in my eye. Having heard a fair number of fantastic recordings of The Revolution the last few years I found myself 30 years on listening to this thinking “why?”, they were beyond compare and seemed to still have more to give.
There are many words that spring to mind when considering this recording – essential, historical and emotional are at the front of the list. There is no two ways about it, this recording demands you listen to it. A fitting send off for The Revolution, this bootleg delivers on all counts and is an essential keystone of any collection.

Thanks for reading, I urge you to dig this one out and take a listen, celebrate The Revolution 30 years on, they were every bit as good as you remember.
Take care
Hamish

 

Sendai 1989

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

1 February, 1989, Sendai Japan

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

Prince Sendai

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

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

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

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

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

Prince 1989 02

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

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

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

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

Prince 1989 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince 1989

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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