Act II Vienna

Last month someone kindly suggested that I should take a listen to some shows from Austria, with the promise that Prince always played something special when he played there. The obvious place to start would be a couple of aftershows, or a main show from later in Prince’s career. Instead I have elected to run with an Act II show from 1993, mainly because I have a DVD of the show but have never quite got around to watching it due to the very 90’s looking cover. I probably have a better audio copy of the concert somewhere, but I know that during this period the look was just as important as the music (although I could probably say that about every stage of Prince’s career), and I am pretty excited to watch a full concert again.

25th August 1993, Vienna, Austria

The first minutes of the video are entirely typical for an audience recording of the era, filmed from the far left we begin with the camera out of focused and shaking. This is matched by the audio which is equally shaky and thin sounding. The visual aspect rapidly improves though, with the zoom utilized we have a nice close view of the action unfolding on stage, which is timely as the pseudo Prince onstage strips off his clothes at the end of “My Name Is Prince” to reveal Mayte’s shapely body. However, the audio never improves, and I resign myself to the fact that it is what it is and I had better get used to it. “My Name Is Prince” is a frantic way to start with plenty of motion all over the stage, although to be honest I only have eyes for Mayte.

Prince makes his appearance for “Sexy M.F.”, the greasy funk of it highlight by the person who can be seen crossing the stage with a mop.  The audience may have be agape any the bombastic opening, but they come forward for “Sexy M.F.” and can be heard all through the song with their singing and clapping. Asides from Prince and Mayte, it is Levi who gets plenty of spotlight, and I can’t deny it is definitely his guitar sound the oils the funky cogs.

 

The soft sound of “The Beautiful Ones” is unwittingly matched by the soft focus of the camera as we temporarily have a blurry image at the song’s beginning. The look of Prince is casual/cool, and this is equaled with his low key delivery of this normally heavy hitter, he maintains his facade of cool and never digs as deep into the song as I hope. This isn’t helped by the sound quality which stays shallow, and I am sure I would have a much better opinion of the song if I heard a better recording of the concert.

The concert is front loaded with hits, it is “Let’s Go Crazy” that vanishes any thoughts of “The Beautiful Ones” from the stage. With an elongated keyboard opening from Tommy Barbarella I am immediately impressed by the extra depth to it, and Prince delivers with his punchy guitar line that gives the song a steely force that I haven’t previously heard at this show. With guitar a blaze, and lights and streamers adding to the moment in a spray of colour, I expect the song to go for longer than it does, but we only get a few minutes. Prince gives us plenty in that time, but it only makes me hungry for more.

“Kiss” is too busy for my tastes, and the stage is awash with horn players and musicians which takes away from the stripped back funk sound that first drew me to the song. Visually Prince is looking great as he works his way back and forth across the stage, but I can’t find an entry point for me to really get into the song, and it leaves me feeling ambivalent about the whole performance.

The performance of “Irresistible Bitch” isn’t a patch on the original, and with the previous “Kiss,” this becomes a flat spot in what has been otherwise a funky show.

Redemption comes with a blistering “Always in My Hair” The organ stabs come as soft punches, before the Prince hits us with jabbing guitar that leaves a burning impression. Coupled with some of his trademark showmanship, one feels that at this point the show has reignited and the next portion of the concert might be the essence of the performance.

From the high voltage “She’s Always In My Hair,” Prince easily transitions to the pure pop of “Raspberry Beret” It’s always too sweet, and Prince knows this as he ends it quickly before one has time to tire of it’s upbeat joy. “The Cross” is a polar opposite, the music is joyous and the lyrics celebrating Princes spiritual beliefs, but it is a heavy and sincere rendition giving us a sense of how important this song is to Prince. All things considered, it is wonderfully filmed and Prince looks brilliant in the spot light while his Cloud guitar provides a stunning contrast in it’s deep blue color. This is easily the part of the concert that demands watching most, and I drown myself in the music through it’s entirety.

Prince stays with the heavy hitters, “Sign O The Times” just as compelling and every bit as intense as “The Cross.” They are a good match, despite the bleakness of “Sign O The Times,” it is countered by the note of hope that Prince hits in “The Cross.” Both sound weighty and deal with themes that you wouldn’t normally hear at a pop concert, and that excites me about the music even more. The music is the main focus of “Sign O The Times,” and even with Mayte being a visual supernova it is still the music that stays to the fore.

“Purple Rain” is light weight in comparison, but that may well be due the previously mentioned audio limitations. There is a lightness to Prince’s performance though, hand in pocket early on does give an indication that he is holding back from a full blooded performance. The guitar break more than makes up for it though, and I am most pleased to see him on top of the piano, head thrown back and guitar howling. If you’re looking for an iconic image of Prince, this would be it.

I have strong feelings about the medley of “Thunder,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Nothing Compares 2 U.” I don’t like it. The first two songs are merely throw away hooks that introduce the slightly longer “Nothing Compares 2 U.” All are instrumental, and even with Mayte providing some sense of spectacle with her dancing, my interest begins to wane. This interlude continues with “And God Created Woman,” and “Diamonds And Pearls,” but there is no doubt that without Prince on stage this feels like a different concert entirely.

Last time Prince was on stage he was blazing with his guitar, his return see’s him conquering another instrument as he delivers the intimate piano set. As is his way so often, this begins with the gentle “Venus De Milo.” With very little moving on stage, the melody is the motion that carries the performance and sketches out where Prince might go with this set.

If not for an annoying buzz on the recording, “Condition Of The Heart” would be be one of the quietest moments on the bootleg. Its only a verse, but the audience is reverentially  quiet as Prince delivers it. “Little Red Corvette” comes from the same place, and gets equal respect from the audience. It’s easy to forget how big this concert is as Prince draws the crowd in with his intimate delivery.

There is a major tape drop out for “Strollin.” The picture rapidly deteriorates into grainy static, before stopping all together a minute into the song. When the picture resumes it is in time for us to enjoy the final portion of “Scandalous.” Prince whoops and squeals to the crowd, but without the foreplay of the first half of the song it is a unsatisfying climax.

The NPG do a fine job of taking us back to 1986 with their take on “Girls And Boys.” Eric Leeds may not be in the line up, but Prince has the band stuffed with horn players, all who are eager to make their mark on this song. It isn’t particularly clean sounding, but it is energetic and engaging and that more than makes up for any audio inconsistencies.

On audio boots, the Arabic intro is enjoyable enough, on video boots it becomes much more as we witness Mayte dancing with a sword perched on her head. I’m not convinced it belongs in a Prince concert, but there is no doubt that this is just the kind of thing we expect at a Prince concert. Expecting the unexpected was always part of the anticipation of a new tour or album, and Prince certainly delivered that in the early and mid 90’s.

Predictably, it is a smooth “7” that follows. The person filming is evidently in love with Mayte, and the camera follows her relentlessly for the first part of the song, Prince only seen when she is nearby. Prince gives a highly staged performance, it is almost too slick, every note and moved planned,all rehearsed with very little sign of spontaneity in the song. I enjoy it, but it just makes me wish he would break out and give something extra at this stage of the show.

The encores open with another predictable song for the moment – “1999.” With the large ensemble on stage it becomes lost in the crowd, the song is there somewhere, but I can’t see it for all the bodies and different sounds emanating from the stage. It is only near the end as Prince and Levi play up with their slick guitar sound do I finally engage with the song, and just in time too for the quick transition into “Baby I’m A Star.” This is a far better song for this group, this time all the bodies and instruments make sense as they have a strong hook to play against and plenty of time to display their skills. It becomes and evolving jam at this point, and as “America” pounds out I am completely in awe of the moment, even the slightly tacky US flag made of fireworks has me excited. The horns are a fantastic addition to the song, and one can only imagine how overwhelming this musical assault must have felt in the flesh.

The funk continues to flow through “D.M.S.R,” this time the trombone becoming a key player and adding some depth to a recording that is otherwise high in treble. Morris Hayes cuts into his work, fleshing out the sound further with his muscular keyboard. Prince’s diversion into the lyrics of “Gett Off” doesn’t enthuse me, but the NPG is simply untouchable throughout, and I fall easily into their orbit. Another drop in the tape breaks me out of this moment, and when it resumes I find Prince in the middle of “Johnny,” a song so laid back it is almost comatose and a million miles away from the previous rambling medley.

Prince ups the pace as he closes the concert with a quickfire “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.” It comes at breakneck speed, and there is barely enough time to register what song it is before Prince ends with his traditional “thank you, good night.” The crowd reaction isn’t as vocal as I expect, and I think a lot of them find it hard to believe that it is actually all over.

This would not be my first choice to watch or listen to from this time period. We have better videos circulating from the Act I tour, and soundboard quality audio circulating from the Act II tour (especially the Germany festival show just one week later). However, this show does have its place in the bootleg canon. It is yet another record of the NPG as they were really hitting their stride and driving Prince’s music in a new direction. There are parts of this show where I felt the NPG were almost upstaging Prince, and with Mayte serving as a visual foil there were times when Prince disappeared into the performance going on around him. With a setlist nicely balanced between old and new tracks, the concert is a marker of the two eras Prince was straddling, the slave era is almost upon us and this is a final goodbye to his back catalogue for the next few years. It is difficult to recommend this bootleg, but I know how addictive this game is and I am sure most fans would want to see it anyway.

Thanks for reading,
Back next week for more of the same
-Hamish

Glam Slam 27th June 1994

The years 1994 and 1995 are already well covered in this blog, some might go so far as to say they are over represented. With many of the setlists being similar, one may question why these concerts get so much coverage. It is true that the same music is heard again and again, but Prince and the band are discovering new sounds and textures, and with each song played as an extended version there is plenty of scope for surprising jams to be heard. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the performance on June 26th 1994. While researching the concert I read the Databank’s assessment that the show on the 27th was even better, and one of the best bootlegs of the era circulating. Which brings me to where I am today, headphones on, 4DF’s ‘Acknowledge Me’ in the player and I am all set to take a closer listen to what the Databank calls “one of the best of 1994”

27th June, 1994. Glam Slam Los Angeles

“The Star Spangled Banner” is the first song of the night, with its strong and forceful guitar tone Prince is making a clear signal of intent, the guitar will dominant early on. “The Ride” backs this up as it goes from it steady opening into a blazing solo that captures the listeners imagination even 20 years after the fact. Sometimes I find “The Ride” to be a plod, here it is anything but as the band turn it into a stonking celebration of Prince and his guitar abilities. As an opening number it slaps the faces of the audience, immediately snapping them into life.

Likewise, “The Jam” has a extra sense of energy and thrill to it. The recording is good at this stage, and the audience noise that is heard adds to the sense of the moment rather than detract from it. It all adds up to a version that I find I enjoy immensely, often I find I am waiting for “The Jam” to finish so we can get on to the other music, in this case I enjoy it just as much as anything else on the bootleg.

The first few songs have been good, but it is the following “Shhh” that makes this bootleg what it is. It is a sublime performance of a one of Prince most intense songs, the following minutes transport me to another world altogether. Princes vocals are spellbinding, and the guitar break is both haunting and incessantly angry at the same time. These eight minutes are the best of the recording and enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

I don’t think I have ever heard a bad version of “Days Of Wild”, and the performance here doesn’t break that winning streak. It is in its full head bobbing, heavy funk glory. However, it is the guitar break of Prince that has me grinning from ear to ear – it is sharp and forceful, cutting through the wild jungle of “Days Of Wild” like a flashing machete. The appendage of “Hair” is unnecessary in this performance, Prince has plenty of his own funk without having to dip his pen in someone else’s ink well. This is further highlighted when the bassline of “777-9311” suddenly appears, Princes own funk obliterating any memory of “Hair”

“Now” runs at a lengthy 13 minutes, turning into a long easy groove and jam. The second half is much more enjoyable, the band has a smooth way to them and the song flows easily from the speakers. Its is an easy groove that could go for hours, and even though not a lot seems to be happening it is still worth the listen. Especially catching is the chant of “Clap you hands somebody, somebody clap your hands”, which will be rattling around in my head for the rest of the day.

The next song is a live rarity. “Ripopgodazippa” was only played twice live, this performance is the second and last time. It doesn’t do anything more than is heard on the studio version, but it doesn’t have to as its seductive groove makes it another outstanding moment at this concert. Smoky and sexy, the late night groove fits perfectly in the setlist, and I can only wish that Prince had of played it more often. Again, it heightens the desirability of this bootleg and is another must listen.

Equally of the era is “Acknowledge Me”, from the opening notes it takes us directly back to 1994. The is a lively performance that stands up well to the other songs that have already appeared at the show, it doesn’t outshine anything else, but neither does it fade into the background. It’s a highly enjoyable moment that sets the baseline standard for the concert.

The following two songs are from the “Come” album and work as a nice pairing together. “Papa” is noisier than expected, it loses some of its message, but the music is undeniably good and carries the day. “Race” is a steady performance of a steady song.  It never catches fire at the concert, or on the recording, and although these run of songs are very good, this part of the show plateaus.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” restores the crowd’s enthusiasm and Prince’s performance gets a welcome cheer. The song is faultless and injects pop into a show that is otherwise a succession of funk jams. Its appearance is bright and the recording becomes energized again.

I would love to see the band get wild for “Get Wild”. It does sound like they are going all out,and even listening at home I can visualize what is happening on stage. The long jam keeps me interested, the bass and guitar parts hold me enraptured between the chanting and singing. My favorite moment though belongs to Tommy Barbarella who plays a fast and furious solo that bucks like a wild horse under his command. Every member makes an impression, and this is one of my favorite versions of “Get Wild” in circulation. This bootleg is rapidly approaching a 10/10.

That sentiment carries over to “Santana Medley” that comes next. I thought everything else so far had been great, but Prince finds a way to take the concert through the stratosphere with an epic rendition of the “Santana Medley” This is the moment where the recording almost spontaneously bursts into flames as Prince plays a soulful, yet furious guitar break. It continues to evolve and a couple of times Prince slips back into the shadows before reemerging with another solo that could strip paint from the walls. I listen intently as it spirals and turns, the world rotating around Prince for the minutes that he plays.

“Billy Jack Bitch” is a direct statement and one of the least veiled songs Prince has ever written. Prince takes on the media head on in a none too subtle attack on those that write about him. The live performance is not as venomous as the studio recording and some of Prince’s anger is dissipated by the music, in particular the swirling keyboards that provide a depth and backdrop to Prince’s sharp lyrics. It lives up to some of the other funkier moments in the concert and the final horn stabs drive the point home with a timeless funk sound.

The last song of the show is “Johnny”. Princes rap is much more relaxed, perhaps due to the recording, or perhaps reflecting his mood at this concert. The lyrics may be dated and nowhere as funny as they were at the time, yet the song still stands on its own two feet – especially as Prince’s guitar emerges from the groove with a snake charming solo that has me hanging on every note. The keyboard solo later in the song is every bit its equal and its easy to disappear into the groove and music at this point.  It is entirely fitting that the show ends with the crowd chanting “NPG” – this is very much a band performance and this final song sees them at their very finest.

This is a great release, in a year that is well covered by bootlegs, this one stands out. The quality of the recording is outstanding for an audience recording, but it is the show itself that garners the most praise. These songs are familiar to all Prince fans, and have been heard plenty of times over the years, yet here they are infused with an extra sparkle and energy. I can’t account for why that might be, all I know is that the show sounds fantastic and this is exactly the sort of bootlegs that ignites my passion. 10/10

 

Glam Slam West 1994

I have already covered a few shows from 1994, yet I still find myself drawn to the year again and again. With Prince playing with a looseness and freshness, the concerts of this era always sound lively when listening, even if the setlists are often very similar. The concert I am listening to today comes from a recommendation from someone who was there. It was apparently quite a night and even though the setlist doesn’t reveal anything too surprising, the performance is outstanding: there is a guest appearance by Stevie Wonder and Mavis Staples that makes the recording compulsory listening. Both add soul and link Prince back to the past, cementing his place on Mt Olympics with the other music gods. With plenty of twists and turns in the music, there is plenty to appreciate with a closer listen, but like everyone, it’s these guest appearances that are the real reason I want to hear this.

26th June 1994, Glam Slam, Los Angeles

I am immediately surprised by the opening “The Jam”. A song that I often find pedestrian and overly long, in this case it is upbeat and captures my attention from the start. This is helped in large part by Morris Haynes who is first to play and gives us a solo in his typical style. The song moves quickly, no one person plays too long, and with a Michael Bland drum solo appearing midsong I find the recording has an early momentum to it. The final Sonny T bass solo isn’t anything I haven’t heard before, but it does bring the song to a stomping finish.

I have heard “I Believe In You” across a variety of concerts and the version played at this concert is one of the more memorable versions I have heard. The opening minutes don’t offer much, it is once Prince turns his guitar up that the song becomes something much more muscular and forceful. He plays with finesse rather than a fury, something that demonstrates his ability far more than a flurry of notes would. Without overworking the guitar, Prince’s break elevates the song and adds a backbone to a song that was previously meandering.

As “Interactive” begins I am transported back to 1994 and the Interactive video game in an instant. Such is the power of music to bring back memories. The version at this show doesn’t begin strongly, it is the second part of the song where all the thrills and excitement await. Prince’s guitar leads the way, with a minute of incisive and sharp playing that leaves me dizzy. It may be only a minute, but it is a thrilling ride showing Prince at his best.

“Days Of Wild” is a 13 minute jam the encapsulates all that was good and great about Prince and the NPG in 1994. The band jam easily across the song, the insistent funk staying to the fore as they throw a variety of sounds over the top of it. The heavy squelch holds the bottom, something that I usually enjoy most, but in this case there is so much else happening I find I hardly notice it. Prince is in fine form, joking with the band as he runs them through their paces. The bass playing late in the song is the definite highlight – firstly a light solo that has me swooning here at home, then switching to “777-9311”, at which point I almost faint in child-like excitement. The song is a 10 in my book, and by the time the guitar comes with waves of bluster and bravado I am considering scoring it an 11.

As an album track “Now” is neither here nor there. Live, however, it is another great moment, and like the preceding “Days Of Wild”, it gets a 13 minute jam. As an all-in performance the song becomes a glorious live celebration, the crowd can be heard chanting a whooping in appreciation throughout. I particularly like the breakdown midsong, as the music slows and the long groove of Morris Hayes carries the song for some minutes. The song continues as a laid back groove for quite sometime, even with Prince on the microphone and guitar it still doesn’t ignite back into a song again until well past the ten minute mark. As Prince sings “Superstitious” the music stays low, his lone guitar signalling the end of the song.

Prince’s guitar stays the main focus with “Mary Don’t You Weep”. He plays a sparkling opening before the lyrics begin, and then as the music changes he returns with a further cascade of guitar. The crowd contribute their part as Prince leads then through a chorus, before the keyboards come on board with a solo from Tommy that is easy on the ear. The response from Prince is great, some mellow and melodic guitar work that displays an intricacy and emotional core. It is his guitar that carries the song to its natural conclusion, flowing easily until it dries up.

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is mature in it’s sound, it lacks some sparkle of the single release, yet this mustang mix is far more rewarding and holds up well on repeated listening. It is a complete performance, Prince is playing well within the band and to my ears it is more complete and well rounded. The song is marinated in a funky adult rhythm that hints to the growth of Prince at this time and new directions he is pursuing. The is no doubt though that the real highlight comes in the final minutes as Prince calls for Stevie Wonder to come to the stage, preparing us for what comes next.

There is some mutual love between the two as Stevie Wonder opens up on the microphone about the influence of Prince and all those that came before, thus providing context where Prince’s music fits into the big picture. The following song is anything that you might expect or wish for. There is plenty of Stevie’s singing as they play “Maybe Your baby”, plenty of funky keyboards, and plenty of Prince’s hot guitar playing. He doesn’t mess around with a smoldering solo here, it is all furnace and fire as he puts an exclamation point on all that Stevie provides. This moment of the bootleg promised the world, and boy did it deliver.

The high standard is maintained for the following “I’ll Take You There” with Mavis Staples leading from the front. As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive version with Mavis’s vocals, Princes guitar and the bass of Sonny T playing up a storm together. Mavis stands head and shoulders above all else though, and her contribution can’t be underestimated. I thought the appearance of Stevie was mind blowing, Mavis comes a very close second and almost upstages him.

“Dark” comes as a smooth ride after this, it would be a let down if it wasn’t just so easy and enjoyable to listen to.  Prince again becomes the main focus of the show as the music swirls and stabs around him, not quite concrete enough to latch onto yet the stabs providing a sharpness that gives the song some shape. It may not as monumental as some of the other performances on the recording, but I find it just as satisfying.

The song does become an upbeat instrumental which, although four minutes long, serves as an introduction for “Get Wild”. It does flicker and flame for sometime before Prince calls for Mayte and “Get Wild” kicks off in high gear. It’s not terribly interesting musically, as is his way Prince uses most of the song to engage with the audience, encouraging them to sing the chorus and get wild themselves. It sounds like a lot of fun, but on the bootleg it is a flat spot.

The show ends with a raw “Peach”, introduced by the comment “This is a cover version of a song by someone called Prince”.  Its fast, full and frenzied. Prince’s guitar is wonderfully dirty and leaves very little space for anything else in the song, exactly as it should be. Peach can get repetitive, but this performance is one of the better ones and it is a bright ending to what has been an excellent concert.

This recording delivered everything it promised. As to be expected, the guest appearances were phenomenal and the rest of the show was just as spirited. There are plenty of great bootlegs from the 1994 concerts, this one would be very high on my recommendations list. I am thankful that it was recommended to me and I would happily recommend it to anyone else.

 

Thanks again
Hamish

Paradiso, 25 March 1995

Sometime ago I wrote that if I ever got a time machine I would immediately head back to 1995 and the March 26th show a Paradiso. Mr Herman Hagen very kindly contacted me, and said that if this whole crazy time machine notion ever played out I should say hello to him on the 26th. He would be easy to find- having a black eye from one of Mayte’s boots from the show on the 25th.  So here I am with a recording of the 25th in my hand, already to give it a listen. Obviously I will not to hear the moment when Mayte stage dives and catches Mr Hagen in the eye, but at least I can hear the show and be with Herman in spirit if not in body, after all I am still some way off from completing my time machine.

25th March, 1995, Paradiso Amsterdam

“Go Michael, Go Michael” is a great way to start the show, and Michael B does come to the party with solid pound to introduce the band and the music. The recording isn’t too bad, and you can pick up the party atmosphere of the show right away. Prince has the crowd on has side right from the get go, having them sing along with him throughout Funky. It’s hard not to like it, and I do feel as if I am there as the crowd cheers and chants their way through the song. It’s no surprise that there is something for everyone in this first song, Mr Hayes adds his depth to it, and Prince throws in some funky guitar mid-song before indulging is some fast solos near the end. We are off to a fine start, and the band is feeling hot right from the first note.

Prince 1995 fun

The last few months I have written of my growing appreciation of 18 And Over, and here is no different. Prince dwells on the chorus this time, and obviously is getting a lot of enjoyment from having the crowd sing it back to him. The house is empty so I happily sing along, safe in the knowledge that my partner is going to walk in and quiz me on the questionable lyrics. Tommy plays a light sounding piano solo, unfortunately the recording is quiet at this moment, so I don’t enjoy it as much as I should. The long guitar break from Prince has me closing my eyes in enjoyment, not a loud rock solo, but a more measured and beautiful sounding break that well suits the late night vibe of the song. The song ends on a crowd pleasing high and they happily sing the chorus under Princes guidance.

Now is much deeper sounding, and more chaotic to boot. It’s not as fast as it is on record, and for me it at times lacks a spark. The best moments for me are the chorus and the ever present Morris Hayes. For the longest time I don’t feel it, but eventually Prince and the band do get to me, and there is some hand clapping and a passionate howl from Prince that has me completely sold on it. The song becomes the inevitable jam with a chant of “go Michael, go Michael” leading us into new territory. There is some popping bass to enjoy as the song slows and spins. There is a jam to the end with that is OK to me, although I feel I’m not getting the full experience listening to the audience recording. It’s something that needs to be heard live rather than a recording of.

I Believe In You was a staple in the setlist at the time, and although I do like the squelchy bass I am not really feeling the rest of the song tonight. There is a guitar break by Prince, rather pedestrian by his standards and even as it shimmers and shakes I still don’t get that spark of energy. It’s the second shortest song of the evening however and as it finishes I look forward to returning to the jams.

But first we get hi-tempo Proud Mary, with plenty of guitar runs from Prince. Its kept to the point, and introduction verse and chorus, then a minute of Princes soloing before a return to the chorus as the song finishes with a final burst from Prince. It’s all very sharp and not a note is wasted. It wraps up this burst of shorter songs and now we do indeed return to the longer jam.

Prince 1995 fun b

And when I say longer jams The Ride is one of the first ones I think of.  The rendition here is exactly as you might expect, after a smoky start Prince and his guitar ramp up, and as he finishes his solo the crowd gives a very appreciative cheer. I can hear why too, Prince plays expressively and passionately, while all the time there is the feeling that he is steadily in control. Everything is in its place, and as it should be. A great late night burner, Prince once again delivers with The Ride.

Glam Slam Boogie comes up next, and for the first time I think of the word groove. It does have a groove to it, and I easily bob along to it, as well as sing along with the crowd and their “ow we oh”. The guitar takes a back seat for a while and we have a couple of cool sounding keyboard breaks, something a bit different to break it up. It’s so easy sounding, and is a delight to listen to, I find it very uplifting as it plays. It could have been another 10 minute jam, but Prince and the band wrap it up in half that time, a shame as I was quite happy chilling out to this one, Mayte’s tambourine solo being a definite highlight.

Days Of Wild has a different sound to it, it’s not as aggressive sounding, although it is more in tune with what we have heard already, and more laid back in sound. I still like Princes lyrics, even if he’s not spitting them hard. Even the singing of the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” sounds somewhat muted. The bass starts rolling fast as we get a segue into Hair for a verse before the hook of Days Of Wild returns again with new enthusiasm. The crowd is much more into at this stage, and the singing returns with more vim and vigour. A final burst from Prince and the band finishes the song on a high after a slow start.

Prince 1995 fun c

From one wild song to another as Prince next kicks off Get Wild. Its a great performance, and to be honest I forget to write for the first couple of minutes as I listen intently. The vocals are catchy and infectious, and Maytes input is equally fun. The party sounds full in effect now, and I could easily see myself bouncing along to this song. The crowd adds a fast soul clap to the proceedings as Prince introduces us to the “play the motherfuckin bass” chant. I want to chant along to as the band is on fire at this stage and there is plenty of intensity to the song and performance. The band do sound as if they are getting wild, and I love that the performance and music match the lyrics. Each band member takes their turn to get wild, all of them add something to the song- I can hear the wildness coming out of the speakers at me. The soul clap comes down like rain, the crowd staying involved to the end with their singing and chanting, especially as Prince begins to sing “The roof is on fire” It becomes a jam that sounds as if it might go for ever, guitar comes and goes, as does singing and chanting, the occasional chorus and some cool sounding keyboards. Things sharpens near the end of the song with a guitar break from Prince before the groove tightens right up for the end. It’s only fitting that the “ow we oh” chant carries us through to a final roll from Michael B and the finish of the show.

I have listened to a lot of shows from 1995 in the last six months, and I think I may have reached saturation point. This show was funky, and the band was exceptional and tight. For all that though, I never quite warmed to it, even though it ticked many boxes of what I look for. Like I said, I have listened to plenty of shows like this in the last six months, and I think I am ready for something new. Sorry Herman, if I do ever finish that time machine I will buy you a beer at the show on the 26th, but don’t expect to see me on the 25th.

Thanks for reading, I have been very run down and sick for the last couple of weeks, and I think you can see that in the way I write. I’ll be back next week, back at full power and full of the joy of life

Take care
Hamish

Prince 1995 fun d

 

Act 1, Radio City Music Hall 1993

I have been a listening to Prince for more than 30 years now. The main reason I have stuck with him for so long without losing interest is the diverse range of shows and music available, there is always something different to listen to if I get tired of whatever I am currently listening to. The last few weeks I have listened to an after show with Amy Winehouse, a tight Revolution rehearsal, as well as a stripped back piano show. This week’s show is in many ways completely different from those recordings, we are looking at a show from the Act 1 tour of 1993, a tour that is high on spectacle and theatrics. The music couldn’t be considered ‘classic’ Prince, but it is refreshing to see him play most of the album that he was promoting at that time. A lot of the songs in this show have disappeared from his live performances now days, this show is a good chance for me to revisit them again and remind myself just what a fun, yet mad, period this was.

24th March, 1993 Radio City Music Hall, New York.

What drew me to this show was the fact that it’s a DVD of the concert, and that is important as these shows are a treat for the eyes, and often we need to see the action on the stage as Prince and the band play out various subplots through the show. Visually it’s an exciting ride, and the music too gives me a thrill. The opening My Name Is Prince sets the tone for the evening well, plenty of Prince braggadocio, strutting around stage with cane in hand and chain hat on. I may not be the greatest fan of the rest of the cast on stage, but I do like the guitar chopping away under it all. There is always something on stage to hold my attention, so as Tony M spits his lines I find myself looking and listening for other action on stage. The appearance of the ‘Arab Princess’ and a couple of other Arabs seems completely unconnected and over the top, yet it is perfectly of the time and these over the top shows.

Prince 1993 NY4

 

Sexy MF has the music back to centre stage, for the first part of the song anyway. I can’t fault the sound of the band or the performance at all, the song sounds great. I admit, I love looking at Mayte too, but at times it seems the music takes second place to the other shenanigans on stage and the dancers, Mayte and Prince all engage in moves and sequences. Like I said earlier, this show is all about spectacle.

Things settle down with Damn U, and for the first time in the show I find I can listen to Princes voice, and the music is the first priority. It’s a very 90’s looking performance with the dancers and in their colourful suits and moves. The best moments for me come is as Prince is alone at the microphone singing, much to the delight of the crowd who squeal in appreciation.

This show is great in that it highlights so many songs from the Symbol album, and the performance of The Max that comes next is a real treat. The music sounds thick and powerful, and Prince brings his best dance moves to the party. The highlight though has to be when he sits at the piano and belts out a few bars, the crowd cheer and I know that I aren’t the only one that feels it. Prince loses me late in the song however, as he snaps polaroid’s of the band as the music softens. As he sits at the piano again for a seduction scene with Mayte I hope for more playing from him, but in this case the piano is little more than a prop.

Prince 1993 NY3

The reporter sequence is just as unnecessary here as it is on the Symbol album, the payoff here though is we get a nice rendition of Morning Papers with Prince playing the piano, before climbing on it for a guitar solo. The solo is a lost opportunity, he doesn’t shred the guitar, electing instead to play a very tame solo, by his own standards at least. The final solo is better to my ears, although that could be because I pinned so much hope on it.

The guitar levels go up considerably next as Prince stays strapped up for Peach. The intro gives a good insight to what will come next, and we get some minutes of grunting/chugging guitar through the song. It’s still young and fresh sounding, and it gets a pass from me here. Prince finally releases the guitar frenzy I have been waiting for, not one of the greats but definitely a lot of fun and the highlight of the show so far.

Prince 1993 NY8

Then from left field we get the reggae infused Blue Light. Prince is the master of changing moods and sounds at a drop of a hat, and this is no exception. This song is not often played at my home, yet it has its place, and listening here I find it very enjoyable indeed. For its lightness it still has enough of a groove for me to lean back and enjoy. It does capture that summer feel that was Prince’s intention.

The Continental is great to watch, and equally good to listen to. The first part of the song comes on strong, and has plenty of Prince swagger and guitar sound. It’s got an intensity that the recording doesn’t capture, but I know that if I had have been there it would be pulsating. I also have just as much praise for the coda, with Prince singing his “how you wanna be done” lines before Mayte takes her part of the song. This is where watching it becomes a bonus, as Prince performs plenty of lewd dance moves as Mayte sings.

Now for something I never thought I would say. Prince segues into Everyone Get On Up and my first thought is that I much prefer Camen Electra’s version. You might think from that comment that it is incredibly bad, it’s not. It just comes across as lacklustre, and Prince is dialling it in. The crowd singing and dancers on stage make it look like a fun time, and I am sure it is, it’s just not that great to listen to.

Prince 1993 NY6

Another annoying reporter segment before we get Prince spinning into Flow. I like the Prince section of the song, my attention sags when Tony M is on the microphone. The whole song gets a great lift with a trumpet solo, which makes up for some of the theatrics being performed on stage. There is an element of silliness to it all that makes me wish they would just stick to the music. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all part of the show and the spectacle.

Johnny is much more the sort of thing I like, slowed down I find Tony M’s rap much better, and Prince’s lyrics always have me chuckling away to myself. It’s a nice break in the show, and the slow groove works for me at this stage of the concert. Normally I much prefer Prince to Tony M, but both of them are good here.

Prince at the piano raises my hopes for what might be coming next. What we get is Prince playing as he sings into Maytes eyes. His lyrics cover a range of songs, and although I recognize all of them instantly I fail to pick the titles. The And God Created Woman/ Three Chains Of Gold is off the wall crazy, and something I could only see Prince doing. He does it supremely well here, playing at the piano as the band and the dancers carry the weight of the visuals. The scope and ambition of the Symbol album is all here with Prince giving us a sound and performance that seems equally brilliant and completely mad. And best of all, it all works in the live setting. There is plenty of theatre to match the music, and all that comes to a head as Prince plays his guitar in front of a row of performers pointing pistols at him. I don’t know if I should be saying bonkers or brilliant.

Prince 1993 NY5

Any other show with a woman dancing with a sword on her head, I would say what the heck were they thinking? Instead, with this being the show it is, it all seems perfectly normal. The dance and the Arabic intro is the perfect lead into 7, and it makes perfect sense. The song gets a great reception, having been a moderate hit only a couple of months before. The performance is lively with Prince playing and singing at the microphone. Musically it’s not too different from the version I know so well, and I do get a kick out of seeing Prince perform it with a smile on his face.

A brief break, then the encores begin with an arrangement of Let’s Go Crazy that is a little too ‘busy’ for my tastes. There is a lot going on, and Prince and the song is lost in the noise of it all. It is a thrill to see him in the light, guitar strapped on, it’s a shame the music isn’t quite so iconic in its sound.

Prince 1993 NY

Kiss is also lacking that clarity of sound that I think would give it a lot more emphasis. It maybe the recording, or the show, but there is a sharpness that is missing from the sound of it. The performance I do find employable, especially when I sit back and watch it rather than think too much about it.

The groove slips easily into Irresistible Bitch, and it seems a good match for this 1993 Prince. It stands up well when compared to songs like Sexy MF, and I like Prince having a foil to sing to in the form of Mayte. Her sassiness is a good counter to his cocky rap, and the music gets a nice round funk sound that is timeless.

The funk doesn’t last too long, Prince goes for a guitar driven song next with one of my favourites – She’s Always In My Hair. In this show where all sorts of things have been happening on stage, it’s a joy to see Prince playing something heartfelt, and seeing him pouring it into his guitar playing is fantastic. It grounds the show after some of its other flights of fancy, and I connect with Prince and the show at this point.

An interesting guitar interlude that goes for several minutes has me speculating what might be coming next, but I failed to guess at Insatiable and Mayte on roller skates. It’s Prince the balladeer at the piano again, and as he sings bathed in blue light I am completely drawn in. None of the distractions matter when the music is as great as this. It’s a double header with Scandalous incorporated easily into the music. Again, it shines in the fact that there aren’t distractions to the music, Prince simplifies the show and the music is all the more stronger for it.

Prince 1993 NY1

The concert is getting stronger as it goes, and Gett Off I another solid performance. Prince and his guitar both sound great, and the crowd responds well as he segues into Gett Off (Housestyle). Prince does well to keep up with the music, and the crowd are part of the fun as they sing along. The band interplay is great, especially the guitar and the percussion. The biggest surprise is I expect it to go like this for some time, instead the music suddenly slows into Goldnigga. I like the sudden change and groove, although it’s very short.

Purple Rain swells and floats into view next, with plenty of audience singing long before the song starts proper. The song is given plenty of time to breath, and is played quite solemnly compared to the over the top show we have seen previously. Prince seems invested in the song, and he not only sounds great but he looks great as he sings and plays onstage. Kneeling on stage to sing, or arched back playing guitar, he is physically playing the song and the performance is just as important as the sound. My only reservation is the guitar does sound a little thin in places, but overall it’s no big thing. The highlight of the song is the coda Prince plays after the rest of the band has stopped, just the single guitar sound before he finishes the song with one final refrain.

Prince 1993 NY7

The is a final encore and a sense of inevitability as it opens with a frenetic sounding Partyman. A lot of the subtleties are lost as it is pounded out and Prince puts his all into the visual performance. I can’t deny, its a lot of fun, and when I stop being so uptight I find that it does live up to it’s name.

Without pause we quickly cut to 1999, its uplifting sythn riff a clarion call to all who want to party and have a good time. The backing singers aren’t very clear, but I can hear Prince and that all important main riff well enough. Its just as frantic as Partyman before it, and before I know it we are chanting “party”. It does weary me by the end, however my flagging spirits are lifted by the sound of Baby I’m A Star.

The horn section sound very good on Baby I’m A Star, it’s a pity that the recording doesn’t capture them very well. Prince is well and truly showboating now, his dance moves carrying him back and forth across the stage. It’s all a lot of fun, and things get even better when he puts on the purpleaxxe to jam at the front of the stage. Of this final 10 minutes of the show this is my favorite moment, and Prince too seems to be having a great time. Prince then plays puppet master to a couple of dancers, which I read all sorts of things into. It’s an anticlimactic ending as Prince disappears from stage and the music comes to an end.

Prince 1993 NY2

This show captures a moment in time where the show itself almost takes precedence over the music. There was certainly times in the show where I felt Prince was putting all his creative energies into the stage show rather than the music. It’s no bad thing, but in my mind Prince is all about music, and this is my primary focus when I see these shows. The show itself is very interesting, he is certainly trying many different things, some work and some don’t, and he isn’t afraid to try something new. Although not my favorite look and sound, I still found it fascinating to watch. This is a great document of a very interesting time in his career.

Thanks for reading
take care- Hamish

 

 

 

Osaka, 1996

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

Osaka 1996a

11 January, 1996 Osaka, Japan

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

Osaka 1996

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

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

Osaka 1996b

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

Osaka 1996c

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

Osaka 1996d

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

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

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

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

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

Osaka 1996e

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

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

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

Osaka 1996f

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

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

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

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

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

Osaka 1996g

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

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

Osaka 1996h

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

Osaka 1996i

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

Thanks again
Hamish

 

 

 

Rock Over Germany

It’s very rare that I listen to an Act II show. Not that there is anything wrong with them, or that I strongly dislike them. But they do fall between his 1980’s golden period, and his interesting and fascinating symbol era. Today’s show from Germany 1993 is a great show, and it’s unfortunate that I overlook it. The set list is a hotchpotch of songs and styles, but it’s all of a high standard, and a couple of songs in the set list have my mouth watering. And best of all, because I listen to this so little, it is always fresh sounding to me.

3 September, 1993 Flugplatz Lüneburg, Germany

A very rock n roll introduction from the announcer on this one. Its clichéd but exciting as he says “And now…..without further ado…please welcome Prince and the New Power Generation!!” Prince goes on to say “there are no kings on this earth, only Princes” and a very funky My Name is Prince is played by the band. The bass, drums and rhythm guitar lock in very tightly and the guitar especially catches my ear- it’s minimal but funky. There is a sample of I Wanna Be Your Lover which seems to be an odd choice, but utterly works. Princes rapping is good here, he doesn’t try too hard as he does on other recordings, and in this case it serves him better. He raps in his deeper voice, but resists temptation to yell as in some of his rap songs. The power of Michael B comes across very well on this recording, and it’s a joy to listen to him pounding the drums.

The silky guitar line of Sexy MF gets the next song off to good start, and Prince intones easily over it. I don’t love the singing, but the music is brilliant. The sound of that guitar, and then the nice horny chorus. Tommy Barbarella plays his part well, and adds an organic sound to the smooth shiny funk. Levis solo is distracted by Prince speaking to the crowd at the start of it, but he plays out long enough that there is plenty for me to enjoy. The second part of the song after this isn’t as enjoyable for me, Princes rap sounds corny to my ears, but there is a horn solo which I get right into and leaves me with an overall positive impression of the song.

Prince ActIId

I didn’t see The Beautiful Ones coming, but there is absolutely no complaint from me as it begins. The keyboards swells sound just as divine as they always have, and the sound of live horns updates the feel of it. Princes vocals aren’t as good as they are on the album, but really- could anything match that performance? He does sound great here, but the spoken ‘perfect picture’ sounds too contrived and loud on this recording for my personal taste. He makes amends with some screams, and closes the song in the style which I know and love, along with a nice little horn flourish.

Lets Go Crazy’s organ intro is the next thing we hear on the recording, and its nice and full sounding. Prince gives us “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life” before the pounding beat and the band come onboard. Although an excellent recording, the mix here is a little off, and mostly we hear Prince and the beat while the other instruments are somewhere lost in the mix. That changes when Prince begins the guitar solo, and that comes at us front and centre. The solo disappears into a funky rhythm and some encouragement to the audience before the rhythm of Kiss begins.

Prince Act IIb

Kiss begins with the trademark funky guitar, but it’s backed with some heavy sounding bass, and plenty of horns. It’s far from delicate sounding, and it’s the bass gets me shaking. With the horns there is a Vegas sound to it, and they give it a lot of push and fullness. Prince vocals are stronger than I expect on this song, and in fact his vocals have been very strong so far in the show. This is quite a likable version of kiss, I can’t say it’s particularly faithful to the original, but it’s a lot of fun. For all the sounds and going ons, its still the horns that I come back to, they are that good. The song ends with plenty of call and response with the crowd.

There is a segue into Irresistible Bitch, which I can’t speak highly enough of. Like the previous song, this one is heavy on the horns, but still lacks a little of the heaviness that I have heard on other tours. But its still one of his funkiest and its inclusion is a definite highlight. It’s with great regret that it only lasts a couple of minutes, but all is forgiven when the next song starts.

The familiar riff of Always In My Hair has me out of my seat. This is two gems right next to each other, and is another stand out for me. Prince’s guitar is crisp and clean, and I am much relieved when he strikes up the first solo. Its anything you could want or imagine, and I’m pleased to see a show so heavy on dance and props still has time for a classic Prince guitar moment. He doesn’t stretch the solo or the song out too long, and the song moves naturally enough to him jamming solo on his guitar. And this is where things really go up a notch. The playing is playful, sometimes light, sometimes heavy but always it sounds a lot of fun. It gets faster and faster, and ends with me shaking my head. Brilliant.

Prince Act II

Things take a pop turn next when the band strike up Raspberry Beret. A feel good song, if ever there was one, this one lives up to its reputation. Without being able to see the ActII stage and costumes, this sounds like its straight out of 1985. Prince ends it after a single verse and chorus, but once again I am not too disappointed when I hear what is next.

The Cross has a nice raw sound here, especially Princes vocals with have a fantastic live sound- as you would fully expect. The first couple of verses I listen carefully to Princes voice, but once his guitar takes over its unstoppable. It’s got a great garage sound to it, but no garage band has played a solo as good as the one Prince plays on this track. His vocals become very impassioned as the song goes on, and the last verse he is singing half way between a sing and a scream. It’s not as long as I want, but I add it to my list of highlights from the show so far.

Sign O The Times also gets added to that list, as its unmistakable beat begins. Princes vocals have a great sound to them again, it’s strong and raw. The guitar is something I haven’t heard before, the solo is cleaner than I expect and goes in a couple of different directions. Prince then throws in an adlib with “Lets get married, have a baby, we can call him Michael B, if he’s a boy” and Michael B obliges with some great rolls before Prince gives us more excellent guitar work. This whole section of the show has been fantastic, and it doesn’t let up as the band begins to play Purple Rain.

Purple Rain begins with plenty of keyboards and a nice firm drum- just the way I like it. There is a nice organ swelling, and the piano is in the mix as well. Prince adds a heavenly guitar line, and I am salivating where I sit. We are only a minute in and already this is a great one. The heavier crunching guitar plays, and again its just right. It doesn’t overwhelm and slowly adds to the feeling. Prince takes a break from the guitar and we get a classic “owww” from the man. He then sings the verses and his voice and this recording are both top shelf. He is loud, clean and crisp, and so is he recording. I usually tire of Purple Rain but this one has me listening all the way through. Prince begins his guitar break midway through his last few lines, and as it begins proper he calls “Live for Love”. Maybe I avoid live main shows too much to concentrate on after shows, but this is one main show that has my full attention, and I can’t speak highly enough of this Purple Rain. I don’t quite get to the point of singing along, but a dare say after a few drinks I certainly would have. The last notes fade, and I sit back pretty satisfied.

Prince ActIIe

There is the sound of thunder next and I immediately know what’s coming next- or so I thought! Prince intones the opening lines of Thunder, but the song never starts, instead we get a cool little rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. It’s an instrumental, but in everyway I love it. It’s a nice change in pace, and a nice reminder of what else Prince has in his bag of classic songs. It only goes for half a minute, but that’s just perfect.

I am knocked sideways next as the band begin to play And God Created Woman, not because of its inclusion in the set list, but the fact it sounds so good. I had forgotten about this song, and that’s a great shame, as in this show its sounds brilliant. Again, it’s another shortened instrumental, but just the taste of it leaves my dying to hear more. The horns play all over it, and sound great. I would have loved to hear Prince on it, but just hearing this small piece has me thinking I should pull the album version out next. There is then just a snatch of Diamonds and Pearls played instrumentally before we return to the main show proper.

The recording resumes with Prince playing the piano. Always a favorite part of the show for me, this one begins with the beautiful Venus De Milo. Of course its part of a longer medley so we only get another small taste, but it’s a nice start to the piano set.

Next Prince begins to play I Love U In Me. Despite the corny lyrics it still manages to sound very good here, mostly due to its stripped back sound and some nice piano work from Prince. He also personalizes the lyrics at one stage, which is always a nice touch. His vocals are deep and smooth and it’s a good match to his piano playing.

The band joins in for the next song as we move onto Strollin. Its nice easy feel is enhanced with the horn section adding a bit of sunshine to it. The drums are too much for my taste, but it no way detracts from the song. Just on the chorus they are a touch loud for me. The rest of the song glides by very easy.

Scandalous is another highlight. Prince’s voice leads the whole song, and the rest of the band sound well in the background. It’s a good performance, and more enjoyable after the run of shorter songs we have just heard. The horns play another excellent break, and it’s clear how much they added to his sound at this time. Hard to believe in another couple of years they would be gone from his sound. The song is either Prince voice, or the horns at this stage, and both play hard to out do each other. It’s not as smooth as you might think but it’s still another great part in what is proving to be a classic show

Prince Act IIc

Prince introduces the next song with a couple of lines from Girls and Boys before he says the old cliché “I’m gonna stay over here until you make up your mind”. Sure it’s old and corny, but it still gets a cheer from the crowd. Girls and Boys starts again, and it’s slightly slower, and heavy on horns. It lacks some of the sassiness of the original, but still has a funky feel. Prince sings with plenty of passion in his voice, and this helps inject some energy into it. It does become one for the crowd, as the horns play over Prince encourages the crowd with some call and response and ‘clap your hands’. After this it’s the horns all the way until the finish line.

The next thing we hear is the intro music to around The World In A Day, which has be slightly confused at first, but it quickly gives way to some drumming from Michael B before the first chords of 7 are played on a guitar. 7 sounds fresh, and the crowd are strangely quiet as it begins. The first minute of so it has very much an Arabic feel to it, in fact its not really recognizable, which might account for the lack of audience response. Things change when Prince sings the first few lines and the music then begins as we know on album. The song is played as heard on record, although Prince does call to the crowd from time to time. It’s a come down after some of he songs we have heard in the last 40 minutes, but the crowd seem to like it well enough. The last minute of the song Prince reminds us that there are no Kings on earth only Princes as the band play out the last section.

The encore starts with Prince yelling “Whats up y’all?” He then presents Mayte who addresses the crowd in German – sorry no translation available! There is then a helter skelter rendition of 1999. The drums are a monster, and this one sounds like a train, it comes so fast and powerful. The band fly through it, Prince sings the first verse and chorus before the party continues with the last part and the crowd singing ‘party’. It’s a disservice to a classic song, but at the same time it is a party moment. And by this stage there is very much the feeling that we are accelerating to the finish line.

Prince ACt IIa

This is enhanced as the band without pause play Baby I’m A Star. To be honest I didn’t expect to like it, but I did despite myself. Especially I found the horns quite vibrant, but I didn’t get too long to enjoy it as its part of a longer medley.

The next song in the medley was rather surprising America. It’s not played the way I remember it to be back in the day, but it’s so good to hear it in the set list. Its not as tight as the original, the band are a little more loose and it does have a bit more swing. The horn in this is usually a highlight, but sadly it very much misses having Eric Leeds on it. A good concert moment, but we aren’t back in 1986, and that band casts a long shadow over this song.

DMSR gets thrown into the mix next. As with the last song it’s not as tight as I am used to. It doesn’t get played long enough for me to really complain about it, and the medley keeps moving quickly along.

Gett Off is the song I know and love in name in only. It’s stuffed full of horns here, and a funky keyboard. Prince sings the lyrics, but without the screams, classic beat and lead line it’s just a pasty imitation. But to be fair I do like as part of this feel good party medley. Prince does scat near the midsection, with the crowd failing to keep up with him. I would like to see this part of the show, as it does sound like a lot of fun. Just the songs flash by a tad fast for me to really enjoy. Prince displays his humor when he tells the crowd he can’t sing any more, maybe he should lip-sync. He quickly banishes that idea with a “fuck that shit!”

As a long time fan of Pope, I am very happy to hear a live performance of it. It’s slowed down, which gives us more of a chance to listen to Princes rap. His delivery is uneven, but as with most things on this recording it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment at all. After a couple of verses and chorus the band takes over with some very funky instrumental work. Some funky guitar and piano has the whole thing moving along nicely, before the horns enter and play Beautiful night. I wasn’t sure how much we were going to get, but its instrumental jam section of Beautiful Night, and Prince has some brief interplay with the audience. It very much reminds me of what we hear on the new years gig from 1987, this time without Miles Davis of course. After a couple of minutes Princes ends the song with a simple “What’s my name……confusion!”

After a minutes break the heavy crunch of guitar brings the audience back to life. Prince speaks the opening few lines of Peach, and then after that it’s all on as the guitar comes to the fore and the band joins the fun. I love the guitar sound on this recording, unfortunately I feel Prince is trying too hard with his vocals to match it. They do sound somewhat forced and a little ragged. All is forgiven however when he steps back and lets his guitar do his talking. The momentum is lost when he engages in call and response with the audience, and then some vocal adlibs. But the guitar is the thing and Prince soon returns to the solo before the song winds up. Of course it’s a false ending and there is several more minutes of heavy guitar action following this. It all sounds great, but nothing strikes me as spectacular or noteworthy.

A very well balanced recording, this one was well worth listening to. Some people have commented that it is their favorite, and I can understand why. Although not my favorite period, there was plenty here for me to enjoy, and I am confident it would stand up to repeated listenings. Not a top 10, but an excellent recording nevertheless.

Take care
Hamish

Paradiso Amsterdam 1995

I don’t know what it is in the water in the Netherlands, but to me it seems the Dutch are the most mad music fans in the world. And I am not just talking Prince here, almost any band or musician I follow, there seems to be a legion of Dutch fans following. They are all very knowledgeable and passionate, and that is further emphasized in the gig that I am listening to today. An after show at Paradiso, Amsterdam from 1995, this is one show I would have loved to have been at. Sure, I feel that about many shows I listen to, but this one in particular strikes a chord with me. The crowd are very much part of the show, and listening to it I get the sense that the audience understand exactly what Prince is about at this time, and support him all the way. The setlist, crowd, performance are all excellent, the only item missing from my checklist is that sadly this is an audience recording- I would have loved for this to be a soundboard, but I am grateful that it even exists. As soon as I finish the time machine in the garage this where I am heading, but until then listening to this recording is as good as it gets.

March 26 1995, Paradiso Amsterdam

I did warn you the crowd are very much part of this one, and right from the start we have them singing the “ow we ow” chant. It ends soon enough as the gentle chords of People Get Ready begin the show. It’s a smooth seductive sound and the soft “owww owwww” of Prince draws me right in. There is just a touch of organ underneath, and an audience led handclap for accompaniment. It’s delicate, with the simple chords of the guitar over top, before Prince sings the opening couple of lines. And this is where it all comes to a sudden noisy stop, and the entire band jump in and everything is turned to 11.

Prince1995

First up we get The Jam. I have heard so many of these over the years, and I know exactly what to expect – Prince introducing the band and them each playing a part. Normally I have no feeling for it one way or another, but this one is excellent and has me very enthused. Although the recording is less the perfect, there is a nice squelching sound, and some crisp guitar. Prince immediately gets the audience chanting “Prince is dead” and the agenda for the rest of the show is set. Mr Hayes plays a full sounding organ solo, predictably I think it’s much too short. Tommy Barbarella gets introduced on the piano and he also plays a nice funky electric break. Prince sounds very happy and confident, you can hear it in his voice. He introduces Mayte, I can’t hear much musically, but there is plenty of crowd noise. And speaking of the crowd, next we have them clapping a slightly more complicated beat than you might expect, but they do add to the fun of the evening. The audience is very passionate, and loudly chant “Go Michael” as Michael B plays his break. There is very much a party and family feeling to this one. Last, but not least Prince gets to Sonny T, and his bass solo is even more electric sounding. The band meld together very tightly after this, and already I am ranking them as one of Princes best bands.

Get Wild follows close behind and has some nice chunky piano as it starts. The recording lets us down a little here, Princes voice sounds somewhat distant, but the organ and drum still sound strong. Mayte sings her piece, but to be honest I can’t make out what she is saying. There is a large cheer soon after, and I can’t even begin to guess what is happening. Things ease back somewhat after the chorus, and Prince leads the audience in “play that motherfucking bass” Again another chorus, and more cheering from the crowd. They really are all over this recording like another band member. Mr Hayes plays an organ break which swirls but still sounds as strong as could be. The song follows a similar format to the previous number, with each band member being called on to play a break. Prince encourages the audience with “We just come from London, are you as wild as them?” and then there is a brief short guitar shot from the man himself. There is a humorous moment as there is a chant of “Go Mayte, go Mayte” before Prince says “oh, you’ll just gonna run the show huh? I ain’t got nothing to do?” before he calls for Mayte to do her thing. It’s a cool moment and well received. Sonny T then proceeds to get wild himself, playing something that sounds like a whining animal. I promise, it would have sounded great on a soundboard recording. The song ends with an “on the one”, before a short reprise with Michael B and the band closing it out.

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I find Princes choice to cover Jailhouse Rock an interesting one. After Elvis was dismissed by Public Enemy a few years earlier with “Elvis was a hero to most, but he didn’t mean shit to me” Princes cover seems oddly out of step with the mood of the times. Maybe he was staking a claim for the music and song himself, but it does place him outside the feelings on the street at that time. His cover itself is pretty decent, Prince does a nice rasp in his voice, and the guitars and band swing along behind, giving it a slight rockabilly edge that harkens back to some of his material in the early 80s. It’s not as much of a stretch as a cover as I may have first thought. It is only a couple of minutes long, so I don’t get too long to over think it, before a flurry of guitar leads us into the next song.

Zannalee also has a swing to it, and this time the guitars are even louder with a buzz saw sound. I am not sure if the distortion is the guitars or the recording, but it doesn’t affect it too much. Again Princes vocal is lost a shade in the music, but the music is so good that that is irrelevant. As you might expect there is plenty of guitar work from Prince, and the band know how to play with him, all in all it’s a tight performance.

This band is all about The Undertaker. Listening to this I understand what Prince and the NPG are trying to achieve. The song starts, but Prince delivers a speech about gun control, and then we get the song proper. The song begins with a quiet, but heavy sounding groove. The bass is sounding great, and some funky but light guitar brightens it. As Prince sings he has the audience tracking along with a sweet sounding “Mercy” The songs rumbles along in this way for sometime, but its never boring sounding. When Prince returns to sing about the undertaker I wonder which way the song will go, but very quickly it begins a long guitar solo. I can’t describe it here, but its one I love. It’s not too fast, it’s long, and it’s got an excellent tone. I am caught off guard when the guitar solo ends and then the song a few seconds later. This is a great song that needs to be heard more often.

Prince1995a

The funk goes up several notches next when Prince hits us with Funky Design. This is one of Princes heavy funk periods, and this song just oozes it. Prince does rap, but it’s not terrible. The bass and the keys create a great funk sound and its this that I enjoy most. I get the feeling that this recording doesn’t really do the song justice. The recording is average at best, but the song still manages to sound great. There is a great false end midsong, just as I was thinking it was over Prince comes back with an enthusiastic and passionate response. There is even a sizzling guitar break which never quite boils over but always hints at more. All in all there is a lot of noise and fury, but sadly the sound is all mixed up on the recording, and I can’t quite hear all the pieces as clearly as I would like. The organ sounds strong as does the guitar, but Princes vocals are a little distorted.

The next song starts off innocuously enough with the drum beat and the crowd clapping along while chanting “Go Mayte”, before Prince gets on the microphone with a “ooooowww pussy control” Its more laid back than on record and the intro is drawn out with some nice organ and rubbery sounding bass. Prince then stops to tell the crowd that the song is too nasty, before once again beginning the song again. As he raps his way through the verses he stays with the laid back vibe, he is quite casual in his delivery. Even the chorus fails to raise any pulses. And this is in no way a criticism of the song, despite the recording limitations of the recording it’s still very enjoyable. The fun levels increase as the song goes along, and near the end of the song there is some great instrumentation and the crowd comes onboard with plenty of claps and singing. There is plenty of room for the organ to play a piece, before Prince pulls it back with a call of “kick drum” and we get an excellent rhythm guitar break- just the sort of thing that I lap up.

The kick drums comes at us again and Prince drives us into a brief instrumental, lead by the chant of “can’t get enough, of that funky stuff”. The action is once again up-tempo and funky as hell for this one. The piano comes to the fore with some great runs. I thought it was going to race through at this pace, but after a minute the band stops to give the crowd and few moments of chanting “can’t get enough of that funky stuff”. They come back to the song, this time with the guitar getting minute to play. It has a similar sound and style to the pianos break, and I am impressed the band and their tightness. The instrumental runs for another couple of minutes, it’s fast paced, and has great playing.

I hadn’t heard Johnny for a long time when I pulled out this recording. It’s better than I remember, the band play slow but still have a nice swing to their sound. Once again there is no keeping the audience out of this one and there is a chant at the beginning of “N…P….G in the mother-fing house.” I love Princes vocals, he sounds cheeky as he sings this, and it adds to the overall feeling of a fun. There is a lot of personality throughout this show, and as I said before it definitely gives me a good sense of what it would have been like to be there. The songs takes in a nice organ break, followed by a mellow smoky guitar break before we return for some more keyboards. Nothing is hurried and the band sound like they could play for days. Prince’s guitar playing is soulful and has just as much character as his singing on this song. The song ends with another keyboard solo, but it feels like it could have grooved along for hours like this.

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There is a pause in the music next as Prince takes his time to talk to the audience. He reminds them the new album ‘Exodus’ is coming-out next week, then tells them Prince is dead, and the only ones who think he is alive is the record company. This leads to a very funny moment when the crowd breaks into a loud chant of “Fuck Warner bros”. It’s made even funnier to me by the fact that they chant it like this, rather than ‘Warner brothers’. Prince seems to take great delight in it too, and asks the crowd if he could bring the president of Warner Bros next time so they can do that for him.

Endorphin Machine begins with a rush, and there is no denying the energy of the guitar playing as Prince launches into it. The band plays behind with plenty of power and passion, and for the first time in the recording I forget the quality of sound and loose myself completely in the song. I don’t often think of this band as being a rock outfit, but rock they certainly do here. After Tommy Barbarellas solo we get a short guitar break from Prince, before the song drops a notch for his spoken break. The guitar and band are right on the money when they come back in and its intensity level that carries us through the last minute of the song. An excellent performance of a keystone song of that period.

There is plenty of guitar sound and noodling next before the Prince says “I’m hungry, is there any peaches in the house?’ There is another minute or so of talking as Prince brings a couple of audience members up on stage to dance. There is plenty of anticipation before the roar of Peach finally begins. As is expected this one is all Prince and his guitar. The opening verse is quickly dealt with and the guitar takes over. It sounds like a lot of fun, but again I am frustrated by the quality of the recording. Normally audience recordings don’t bother me too much, but this gig sounds so good I would love to hear it in a better quality. The playing is fast and furious, but still the crowd gets a moment to sing along. It’s not the funkiest of songs, but it does close the show in a spectacular way. The show ends, naturally enough, with the crowd chanting “ow we ow”

As far as recordings go, this one isn’t the greatest. But if ever there was an after show I wanted to be at, it would be this one. You can keep your Small Clubs and Le New Mornings, this is the one show from the last 30 years that I’d most want to be at. The set list and playing is everything I could ask for, and I do get the sense that everyone in the building was on the same wave length as Prince. Like I said at the start, as soon as my time machine is finished, this is where I’m heading.

Take care
Hamish

Beautiful Experience

I have been badgered into writing today’s entry by long time Prince fan Jony. He has long maintained that this is one of Princes greatest recordings, and I should check it out. For the longest time I was adamant that I didn’t actually have this one, and I hadn’t heard it. Then last week I was cleaning the spare room, and voila, there was the CD. The recording itself is from early 1994, and believe it is Princes first performance as Symbol. Some of these songs are now firm favorites in my house, but at the time they were all new to me and quite a departure from what had come previously. A quality recording of one his most creative eras? Yeah, I’ll give that a listen!

13 February, 1994, Paisley Park

I love the start of this one. The first thing we hear is Prince saying “alright, lets get it started” before the sound of a computer keyboard and a voice-over telling us there is over 500 experiences to choose from, the same as we hear on the Gold Experience album. A nice scream from the back of Princes throat brings the band and the music into focus with a fine sounding performance of Interactive. This is a soundboard, but my copy sounds a little muted, its does seem to be missing some of the top end, and a little bass. Perhaps because I only have it as MP3’s. A bit of tweaking and it would sound much fuller. The band pause after a minute, while the voice over returns, then we kick back in. The drums sound good here, some excellent sounding tom-toms, before Princes guitar solo brings things nicely into focus, and energizes the song again. About now I can hear the keyboards underneath, and I realize that this one will give me something more with every listen. It’s a short sharp song, and nicely sets the scene for what is coming next.

Prince Feb 1994

And what is coming next is something extraordinary- the first ever live performance of Days of Wild. Hold onto your wigs indeed! It sounds great here, I really dig the nice deep groove to it, and it’s got a slightly dark sound to it. There is a lot happening with first listening, the juicy bass line, the moaning and groaning keyboard, the sharp keys dancing overtop, and to top it all off we have Princes vocal delivery. Not just the lyrics he is singing, but also the passionate way he spits it out, it commands my attention throughout the song. The ‘hold on to your wigs’ refrain balances it nicely, and gives me a chance to wave my wild sign high as I write this. Oh by the way, he plays guitar- its a thin sounding guitar solo we get here, it doesn’t stand up again the dark deep grooves, but its not bad. The song is already very strong and a stronger guitar break would have been overwhelming. I could quite happily turn of my computer now and just groove to this, but it does end and I find myself writing about the next song.

Prince Feb 1994d

Now has a happy sing a long beginning. Again it is another first performance of a new song. On a good day I really enjoy Now, and on an average day I find it a bit ho-hum. It is at a great disadvantage coming straight after Days of Wild. Another groove song, it doesn’t have the dark strength of Days of Wild, nor does it compare in Princes vocal delivery. For all that though, it does draw me in, and by midsong I am hanging on Princes words, even if I do find the chorus too much. Putting down the laptop and dancing around the room it would be a much better experience, but sat as I am writing about it, it’s not that great. I cannot fault Princes passion, nor the performance of the band, it’s a solid B+.


The bluesy The Ride follows next, and Prince pitches it to the over 35’s in the crowd, great – something for my demographic. It’s a good clean version we get here, I have heard it much slower and bluesier. The recording is great in that I can hear Princes singing so well, something I usually miss on live recordings of this where I mostly concentrate on the guitar work. Prince’s voice is full and he’s in complete control after the fury and fun of the first couple of songs. No sooner had I commented on Princes vocals then the guitar work begins. It’s not long, but it is one of the better ones I have heard on this song. Very joyful to my ears, and something I will be coming back to again. It pulls back to softer guitar before Prince ends it with “If you got the time baby, I got the ride” and a call for “Vegas in E’. Now I have listened to this song plenty of times over the years, but this was the first time I realized the lewdness of the ‘the ride’. Let’s just say I was a little naive.

The Jam next, and its very much like the all the other jams we have heard from this era, lots of Prince calling “oh he’s a funky man” as he moves around the band and gives them all a moment in the sun. Nobody gets too long to really do too much, but most parts are enjoyable enough. I do like the guitar parts, it’s different from what you might expect and has a light rhythmic touch. Sonny gives us something in complete contrast with a short heavy moment, and the the band really begins to swing. This is reined in much too soon, but is none the less is very enjoyable.

Prince Feb 1994a

I Believe In U is a cool little cover, and plays to the strengths of this band. The keyboards in particular are very strong throughout. Asides from that there is not too much that can be said about it, it does come across as smooth and light in comparison to Princes own original material. I find myself nodding along, but at the same time looking at the set list and looking forward to what is still to come.

This show is also the first time that Prince played Shhh live and reclaimed one of his most beloved songs (in my house at least) Week after week I heap praise upon this song, and this week is no different. For a first live performance of a song, it’s outstanding. This version here is one of my favorite live versions- the fact it’s a nice soundboard, Princes band is as sharp as ever, and Prince clearly makes a statement in the way he sings this, it is most definitely his song. He does go too over the top, and as the guitar break starts it’s very nicely restrained and sounds very tight. It’s excellent in every way. The backing singers are right into the mix, and close behind Princes voice, adding a lot of depth and strength. There is the second drum rolls and crashes midsong, and then Prince really let’s fly with his guitar. The sound here is beyond words, it’s really something to hear. At this point I want to say thanks to Jony for pointing me towards this show, the show is great and this song is outstanding. Most excellent, although I find it is lacking a little ambiance from the crowd.

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What’d I Say had been covered by Prince for some years before this performance, so I don’t find it overly excellent in this performance. Prince does have Tattoo on stage to play some guitar, but it’s somewhat shambolic, and doesn’t add anything of value to the show. Its does pick up later in the song, and there is a decent solo, playing on a guitar with a very interesting tone. It doesn’t sound like his usual setup at all. I can’t decide quite how I feel about this song, I didn’t have the urge to skip it, but I could have quite happily gone without it.

The next song in the set if very interesting. Peak The Technique is improvised and has all sorts of things thrown in the mix. There are plenty of samples and some very cool bass and guitar work. Prince can be heard laughing early on, and it’s obvious the band is having fun. There is not too much vocally to the song, mostly samples of Eric B and Rakims “Don’t Sweat The Technique”. The second portion of the song things really speed up and there is some excellent bass work that is funky and gets things swinging. It’s about here that I become very interested and my ears really prick up. The song ends after five minutes, but there was plenty going on there, and I could have easily listened to much more of this.

Prince Feb 1994b

I sneaked a peek at the set list and this was the song I was looking forward to hearing most. Martial Law is a George Clinton song that I never get tired of. The version here isn’t what I expected at all, it’s more a jam and groove, but it’s great. This band I have always thought sounded most like a Parliment/funkadelic band and there sound is very well suited to this song. That thought is further emphasized as Prince puts on a series of distorted and strange voices. The song pulls back to just a bare kick drum sound and more strange vocals from Prince has me slightly disorientated. The only parts left from the original song is where at one point we hear the backing singers singing “ow ow ow”. It’s the drum and piano sound that play all over this one, and some kinetic bass lines. The whole thing has certain strangeness to it, and I would have loved to see Prince do something like this more often. Weird but wonderful.

A Salt and Pepper song to finish? Why not, it’s that sort of show where nothing surprises me any more. Prince sounds very relaxed, and the piano playing also has a nice easy sound to it. It’s an instrumental for the main part, mostly piano playing over a groove, but there are a couple of DJ scratches thrown in for good measure. The organ too is well in the mix and the song sounds fat and full. There’s not much more to it than that, and it ends before I know it. A very smooth and listenable way to end the recording.

Thanks again to Jony for recommending this recording, it really was excellent. Old Prince very much was dead by this stage, and the new songs he is unveiling here sound much funkier and are coming from a different place all together. The start of the recording was sounding uptight, but by the end it was nice and loose, and somewhat strange. This is a keystone recording from a very important part of his career. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is still essential listening.

-Hamish

Glam Slam

This entry had a very long gestation period. I initially listened to the recording, and I loved it from the start. It comes from the most interesting period of Princes career. I then looked further and found that I also had a copy of this gig on DVD, so I decided to write as I watched it. Unfortunately the first time I watched it I got awfully distracted by Mayte and her hot pants (I am, after all, a red blooded male), and found that I wrote not a single word as I watched it. I watched it again, and then once more just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Someone pointed out to me the other week, that this stage of Prince’s career he was reborn, and was an entirely new artist. It really did seem as if Prince was dead. He played nothing from his back catalogue, only concentrating on the music he created under the symbol name. And the music itself was fierce, the pop songs were gone (with the notable exception of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World) and the focus was on funk, with a capital F. Many people compare Michael Jackson to an alien sent to live among us, but watching this I was struck by the thought, that it was this reborn Prince that was the alien. His freakish look, and funk fuelled music wiped any thoughts of the 80’s global superstar from my mind. Watching this DVD the comparison that was upper most in my mind was Parliament-Funkadelic, with his look, sound and style.

This period was my wilderness years, at this stage it was hard to follow him and what he was doing. There was a huge amount of new music, but not a lot of it was available. I walked away for a few years, and only came back on board with Rainbow Children (that’s a long walk, I know) But now, I look back and think “What, I must of been crazy!” This was the most interesting part of the trip, and the music is some of the best he ever made. I must have been mad not to pay closer attention. Recordings from this era are some of my absolute favorites, and I wonder how I didn’t ‘get it’ earlier.

This recording is another birthday gig, June 7 1994. The one year birthday of The Artist formally known as Prince. Played at the Glam Slam club in Miami, and live simulcast to the Glam Slam in Minneapolis and L.A, it’s ambitious and funky. Prince looks to be having a great time, and the funk is hot. Hold on to your wigs, we’re going in!

7 June 1994, Glam Slam, Miami Beach

The show opens with the roar of guitar as Prince slays us with the opening riff of Endorphin machine. A roar from the crowd, and a scream from Prince, and in a blaze of lights and lasers it all on. Old Prince is definitely dead, The Artist looks like he has a second lease on life and the energy of the music reflects this. The band and music is rowdy, and yet incredibly focused. Prince is playing with fire in his belly once more. With his elfin hair style and pale face he tears it up right from the start. Obviously the song is lacking the annoying cowbell from the recorded version that followed later (I’m putting my line in the sand now about where I stand on the cowbell). The keyboard has a great whammy loose sound to it, and stands up well to the guitar.

Slave 1
How did I not love Space right from the start? Space played here is beautiful. I hear his vocal so well here, and it’s very soothing and inviting. Tommy Barbarella plays piano all over this one, and the song itself has a space about it. With Tommy wearing a big furry hat, the keyboard draped in the US flag, and Mayte dancing, the whole thing very much has a Parliment/funkadelic feel to it. Prince comes in with some stinging guitar near the end and closes of the song nicely. Even after it’s finished I find myself singing “space, space, space”

Prince takes the time to talk to the crowd, and acknowledges that it is his birthday, and then lets them know that he is one year old, following his life changes of the last year. I thought he was going to say more about the whole drama, but he chooses to let his music speak, and they play Interactive. Interactive feels a little light and throw away, but is saved somewhat by Princes guitar solo. The song feels short, and I think the gig loses momentum.

“Hold on to your wigs” and we all know what’s next. Days of Wild was his theme song at this time, and for me captures exactly what he was about in the name change era – all funk and attitude, especially the attitude. The attitude is in his flow, and in the music. The bass sounding so heavy and squashy here, there is a lot about this I love. Like most, I love it when he picks up the bass guitar and works it for a bit. The song is long and drawn out as you might expect, and the band rumble on as Mayte presents Prince with a cake mid song – with a single candle I might add. Plenty of Prince on the bass, and Mayte shaking it, the song is as much a visual experience as an aural one.

Glam Slam 3

A brief pause and then Now introduces itself with Prince imploring the crowd “Jump up and down South Beach” I have a love/hate relationship with Now, but at the end of the day its a fun song. He sings it with a lot of character in his voice, and every verse comes at us with a fair dose of personality. One of the things I enjoy about Prince is not just the quality of his singing, but also the personality and character he injects into his singing. Technically he is very good, but also he has a lot of himself in it too. There is plenty of nice organ grooves to enjoy in this song, and the drummer also gets a moment and a shout out. There is a moment of Prince humor when he asks the crowd “How many of you got babies, take care or they will turn out like me” There is also a couple of funny moments when Mayte stage dives into the crowd- not very lady like at all!. There is some very fine squeaky guitar from Prince, seriously, and the song fades out with Prince and the crowd singing “Ain’t no party like a new power party” The song stops with “On the one, you in the house”

Glam Slam 2

A nice beat and organ chords slowly bring us into the relaxed Mustang mix of The Most Beautiful Girl In the World. Yeah, it’s a favorite of mine. It has a more music to it than the single that hit the charts. The single was all about the melody and Prince, where this version has a couple of layers that I enjoy to. There’s not a huge amount more, but I prefer it. It seems strange to me that this was his big hit, when at the time it wasn’t really representative of where he was at musically. This live version takes its time, and there is a very long fade out. The main song finishes but the music continues with Prince singing and talking. It’s well worth a listen. He sings about taking his time, and it the overall vibe is very sensual rather than sexual. .

There is a pause in the music as Prince checks on the other Glam Slams in the simulcasts. It’s fine at the time, but it breaks the mood and flow for us watching at home. Plenty of live technical problems as they try to hook up to LA, a lot of “Can you hear me, can you hear me?” It was uncomfortable listening on CD, but a little better when I could see Nona Gaye on the DVD, if you know what I mean.

There is more pointless chitchat, and Prince tells Sonny to “play something, but I don’t want it to sound like a bass” There is some playing, and then Prince begins slowly jamming on the guitar. Then things take a bluesy turn and the band plays The Ride. Prince asks if it’s a blues crowd, and for the lights to be turned blue. Prince sings “if you like it fast, I can’t help ya, if you like it slow, I got days” As you might imagine it is very laid back before it gets hotter with a typically Prince guitar break that gets better with repeated listens. Take it from someone who knows! The song does indeed feel like days as the last few minutes are just the slow groove as Prince toys with the crowd and has them singing “Ooooooo, ooooooo” over and over.

Slave7
As is common for this period, Prince talks of his battle with Warner brothers between songs, and reminds the crowd that it’s all about the music. He doesn’t dwell on it too long here, and moves on to talking about his time in the city.

Prince tells the crowd that the next song was written by Sonny, and it’s a slow mellow song, and then as he puts his bass playing to the fore they play Get Wild. The bass playing is solid during the verses, but it’s between that Prince steps back and shows us what he’s got. He certainly looks like he is having a lot of fun, it’s a shame he doesn’t play bass more often in main shows. As you might expect there is plenty of time for Mayte to do her dancing, and for most of the song it seems like there is just Mayte, Prince and Sonny having fun together. The casual chat and fun between them is very natural and is reflected in the nice relaxed groove of the song. I get the feeling that despite his troubles, Prince was extremely happy and comfortable about now.

The next song begins, but Prince says he’s got “more presents, I stop for more presents” The beat continues and Prince goes on to say “I got funk that’ll kill ya”, and I based on what we have heard so far, I fully believe it. Acknowledge me has a nice long funk intro and I enjoyed it even more when I watched the DVD and saw the dancers. Whoa!

Glam Slam 4

If you asked me to name my favorite Prince songs, Acknowledge me would never be one that springs to mind, but listening to it here it hits all my sweet spots. Maybe because he makes it all sound so effortless I don’t rate it as highly as I should. But it really is a good song, and this performance does it justice. Unfortunately the song is a little ruined for me, when the breakdown comes and the MC encourages the crowd to sing Happy Birthday. It’s not the gesture I dislike, it’s her whiny voice and forced delivery. Thankfully after an awkward couple minutes Prince comes back on the mic and things instantly pick up. Sure, he’s rapping, but anything is better than the last minute. Despite criticism of his rapping ability, I actually like his little rap here. Then things really slip into the Parliament-Funkadelic realm with a long distorted vocal ramble by Mr Hayes.

The pace quickens again with Race. Sharing the mic with Mayte for the chorus it’s actually pretty good. Like all songs it quickly moves beyond the recorded version we are familiar with and into a danceable groove and jam. I practically like it when Prince moves to the keyboards and with his head, shaking plays for a couple of minutes. Then with the briefest of “thanks, we out” the song ends. It feels short, but again clocks in at seven minutes.

There is another interlude with MCs wishing Prince happy birthday (or should I say the artist). It’s something I could do without, and thanks to modern technology I can easily make it vanish and move onto the next jam, which is just that, a jam. It sounded good on CD, with every band member getting an intro and a moment to play their thing, and on DVD was the added bonus of seeing Mayte shaking her thing, something I missed on the CD! Again the chemistry of the band is very apparent, and they feel like gang.

The pace changes again with the show closing with Shhh. Its not a song I would choose to end a show with, but that in no way detracts from the song itself. It’s played smooth and sexy, and even the jarring line about “I’d rather do you after school like some homework” slips by me without too much bother. Prince serves a nice clean guitar break mid-song, but it’s his final guitar solo that get pulses raised, the classic Prince wailing guitar. I think I prefer the earlier guitar break, but that’s just me being contrary. Hold that thought, I just watched it again, and I love the second guitar break just as much. The song finishes, and the show itself with Prince thanking the crowd and telling them they are always welcome “My house is your house”.

Glam Slam 1

It’s very difficult to condense my thoughts about this one. This stage of his career is just extraordinary by any measure. The creativity in not just his music, but every aspect of his life rivals, and indeed in some cases, exceeds anything he did in the Eighties. This gig is an excellent snapshot of that, and although I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time, I certainly do now. I am reluctant to call anything essential in the Prince canon, but to better understand what he is all about, this is a must listen.

As the man himself might say -Peace and be wild
-Hamish