First Ave 1982 Revisited

Recently Mace2theO commented that this bootleg from 1982 was the equivalent to his first girlfriend. We all have a similar first girlfriend experience – she may have had braces and carried some puppy fat, but she will always be special by the fact she was the first and painted in nostalgic hues forever more because of this. It was our first proper relationship, and doomed to a crushing teenage ending, but always conjures up warm memories that do not fade as time passes.

I’m sorry Mace2theO, but  in this case your first girlfriend got around a bit. Not only was she your first girlfriend, she was my first girlfriend too. Mace2theO acquired this concert on cassette (and all the nostalgic currency that that carries), while for me I found this bootleg on CD hidden away at the back of the record store. It was far from perfect in sound quality but I can assure you that when I took a listen it shook me to my core, and the fact that 35 years on I am blogging about Prince bootlegs demonstrates how much of an influence it had over the rest of my life. Like that first girlfriend, it was a formative experience. I didn’t quite know what I was doing and I have had better relationships since, but retains a special place in my heart.

A couple of weeks ago the soundboard recording of this show became widely available. It’s not always comfortable when we meet ex-girlfriends later in life, a messy divorce behind them, a couple of kids under their arm, and the first signs of a drinking problem hiding behind their forced smile, but in this case my first girlfriend has grown up into somebody I want to spend a lot of time with. The roughness of the audience recording is gone, replaced with a shiny soundboard, all slender legs, short skirts and long luxurious hair. Oh yes, my first girlfriend is now the hottest chick on the block. She is has grown up in every way, while retaining all the charms that I first fell in love with all those years ago. I may have talked about this first girlfriend before, but now she is in full bloom and stirring up those old feelings in me. It’s not very often that I spend time with ex-girlfriends, but in this case I am going to roll back the clock and wine and dine this girl one more time.

So with my first bootleg love rekindled, lets douse ourselves in cheap cologne, grease up the hair, and head straight to the heart of 1982.

(all photos by Mike Reiter)

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

There is a heat between the thighs from the opening minute, a few quick words by Prince and then a rage of guitar pulled down by Dez. With a punk rock assault Prince and the band hang it all out in these first minutes with both power and panache. In a frenzy of guitar scuzz “Bambi” storms into the room. It’s a wild eyed performance that bounces of the walls in a maelstrom of fuzzed up guitar and shrieked lyrics, capturing the listeners attention from the start. It is much cleaner than the previous audience recording, and the soundboard brings the musicianship to the the fore while retaining the fierce sound of the more familiar recording. That first girlfriend has cleaned up her defiant punk-rock hair style, but still has a fiery intent in her eyes that hints at an underlying violence that could bubble over at any second.

“All The Critics Love U In New York” is the most Princely sui genius song of the evening, and clearly maps out the territory that he will roam in the next few years. It wears its uniqueness proudly, face melting guitar work grafted to the undeniable beat that appeals to both my gut and my feet. I am never quite sure if I should be dancing or punching the air, the music insisting that I move my body in any way possible as Prince gives us perhaps the greatest performance of this song ever recorded. The keyboard solo gains on this pristine recording, Fink’s solo standing out among the more forceful blazing guitar and holding his own calm centre at the eye of the storm. For a minute we are in another world, before the hurricane of guitar solos return and swallow up the all the sound.

There is a glimpse of the first girlfriend I used to know in the opening of “When You Were Mine,” both the title and the sound taking me back to youthful summers that were equally long and lost. It is easy to project these feelings back on a song that has been with us so long, but even at this show it has a nostalgic feel – although it was only recorded just two years previous. This is the most comfortable song of the concert, and captures the exact feelings that I first had when I heard it all those years ago.

There is a world of difference between the audience recording and this soundboard recording when it comes to “Sexy Dancer.” A far more nuanced performance emerges on this recording, and whereas before it was strident and bold, here it becomes much more of a sassy walk rather than a march into battle. Both the bass and the keyboard via for attention, each adding to a show that I am already eminently familiar with. While the bass remains holding the song together, Dr Fink spins off into an intergalactic sound with his keyboards, making me draw a sharp breath in the thrill of it all. It is Dez who gets to put an end to these flights of fancy, his solo serving as an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

Things slow, sex and lust temporarily forgotten as Prince dips into a song of love and yearning with “Still Waiting.” Prince is on lead vocals, but it is Sue Ann Carwell who is the star attraction with her contribution. At almost ten minutes long there is plenty of time for the candles of love to flicker and flame, and musically one can hear the lights being turned down as the song slows to a velvety and warm breakdown. In this circumstance it is grating to hear Prince saying “I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” but as Brown Marks bass rises up from this crushed velvet sea all is forgiven, and I am again transported away on the winds of Sue Ann Carwell’s voice.

The recording slaps me in the face and snaps me out of this reverie with a furious “Head.” On the previous recording it was nasty and slutty, on this recording it is far more sexy and erotic. While the audience recording sounded like a blowjob in the Walmart carpark, this one speaks in the language of fellatio and sex on the hood of a Porsche at a Beverly Hills party. The outcome is still the same, but it doesn’t threaten to be as dangerous, and despite some superlative bass work I am comfortable that when it is all over I won’t be visiting the clinic in the morning.

If there is a moment that demonstrates how much better this new recording is, it is the final minute of the “Head” when we can hear Prince preparing the band for “Sexuality.” We have heard his yell into the microphone before, but this time we can hear him say it a couple of times earlier to the audience. It’s not a big thing, but it does show just how good the sound is. “Sexuality” is relatively short, most of the song is given over to the audience sing-a-long that dominates. It does lose some of it’s impact on this soundboard recording, the audience recording obviously doing a far better job of capturing this moment with the audience. This is crying out for someone to combine the two recordings in a matrix mix that would better give us that electrifying live sound that makes this recording so vital.

Prince’s brief speech introducing The Time has been often discussed, and for good reason. His easy banter with Morris is refreshing, and its hilarious to hear him and Morris go back and forth, trading lines and barbs that belie the darker waters that swirl just under the surface. “Dance To The Beat” maintains this veneer of lightheartedness, and provides a pop twist to a show that has been thus far guitar heavy and drenched in intensity. There is a lift in the atmosphere and the recording shines bright for these minutes.

Prince continues to fire broadsides at the band between songs, this time with the comment “I didn’t like that, play something you know how to play.” The response from The Time is a taunt version of “The Stick” that would satisfy the most demanding of audiences. As much as I like The Time and this song, it does feel as if they have gate-crashed the date, and there is an awkward third wheel experience to hearing them on the bootleg. The real draw card though isn’t the music itself though, rather their dynamic tension with Prince, a tension that fuels his music and will provide some of his most dramatic work in the following years.

“Partyup” fuses these two elements together in a climatic finish that delivers all it promises. The opening talk between Prince and Morris sets the scene, the back and forth continues between them continues as Morris takes his place at the drum kit for this final stomp. Prince and his guitar lead from the front, but most fans will be focused on Morris and his drumming. He lives up to expectations, and the foreplay of the opening talk is forgotten as the the song becomes further arousing. Morris’s drum solo almost brings us to orgasm, but Prince pulls him back just in time with some great bass work from Brown Mark. The final climax comes with an inflamed guitar solo from Prince,but as with the audience recording there is coitus interruptus as the tape fades out, the rest of solo never realized and leaving us to only wonder what might  have been.

I have loved this concert for as long I can remember. I have grown older, but it has remained forever young, even with the imperfections of the long circulating audience recording. With this soundboard recording we have a chance to revisit our youth, and a chance to reconnect with that elusive first girlfriend. I have mixed feelings as I know that the first girlfriend is forever gone and never again will I listen to the audience recording. This new recording has created new memories and sparked a new love. It is time to move on and file the audience recording in my box of faded photos, yellowed love letters and yesterdays glories. I am firmly looking forward as with this soundboard recording I feel reinvigorated, my love burning with a new intensity. I have made up my mind, this is the recording that I want to spend the rest of my life with.

-Hamish

Bonus material:

Mace2theO messaged me this quickfire review when I told him I was covering this bootleg. It’s not written with public consumption in mind, but he has agreed that I could share it with you. I am in full agreement with everything he has written here, and he is far more succinct than me!

Re 82 – reasons the show is important to me, rediscovered with the SBDs

The First Ave show came the night after the main show at the Met Centre so going back to a small club, it has the feel of an aftershow. It is the first Revolution in all its glory, with Dez as a proper Keith Richards lead as the Black Rolling Stones, all pre-Purple Rain. Starting with a raw punk version of Bambi, it then goes into a monster version of All the Critics. While “Let ’em out of his cage” is great, my favourite is before Doc’s solo when Prince and Dez start soloing and Prince yell’s “Wait a minute, Dez” before ripping off a monster solo.

Sometimes audiences make the boot and I had been living with crowd singing at the end of Sexuality for so many years, it took me a minute to adjust to the soundboard. Same with All The Critics – without that kickdrum in your face, the SBD didn’t feel the power of the earlier version…although it sounds much better.

Most important – this is really the closest we will ever get the inspiration for the Purple Rain battle. Before all the controlling issues that came along in 83-84, you can feel the real affection between Morris and Prince (“We used to be friends”) – as trivia, it has the only time in bootleg history where someone gives Prince shit “You wanna borrow my comb?” Also history, as only time live Prince with Morris on drums.

I have fallen in love with my first girlfriend all over again – not looking forward to telling the wife

Return to First Ave 2007

In 2007 Prince played three shows in a day at his hometown of Minneapolis. I have already taken a listen to the matinee show at Macys and the main show at the Target Center, so to round out the trifecta today I will have a look at the aftershow at First Ave. It’s notable in that it was the first-time Prince had played there in 20 years, and anticipation was at an all-time high with queues snaking around the block with fans desperate to see their hometown hero. The show doesn’t disappoint. There are some uneven moments, but it is beautifully recorded (the bootleg sounds great) and the opening 3121 is so enormous in its heavy funk that any other weaker moments are immediately forgiven. I have listened to this show a couple of times this week, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

8th July 2007(am) First Avenue, Minneapolis

3121 has a steamroller of a groove that rolls heavily over everything from the first moments.  It’s hard and heavy and reminds me of Days Of Wild on a good day. With an insistent bass and horns early on, it puts me in mind of the performance of Days Of Wild from Belgium in 2002, dark, heavy and feeling like it might roll on for days. 3121 builds with cheers from the crowd before some chopping guitar heralds the arrival of Prince. His vocals emerge from the fog of the music, ghost-like yet full and with a darkness of their own.  It’s as hard as nails, with Prince’s guitar adding plenty of venom later in the song, it too emerging from the morass of music with a piercing whine. The song rolls on for ten minutes, I could happily put it back on repeat and listen to it all day long, the show is worth listening to just for this song lone. It encapsulates all that is great about the aftershow experience and puts me right in the moment.

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We go from dark to light, with a bright and sharp Girls And Boys following immediately after. With plenty of honks from the horns and keyboards it keeps the show moving at a clip, each stab adding to the momentum. Prince himself is sounding great, and I must again point out that this is great sounding recording. It may be an audience recording but it is full and rich sounding, with the crowd audible but not the least bit intrusive.

I Feel 4 U is sprightly, with Shelby adding her infectious energy to the show. She is reasonable restrained, and nicely focused. The song itself is short, and as Shelby begins to call “Put your hands up” things quickly move onto Controversy.

In recently times Controversy has been played with and thrown into crowd pleasing medleys, and I am happy to say that the rendition here is faithful to the original. It may not be the bare funk of the album, the band is bigger and fuller, but the song is the same arrangement, at least until the final minutes as Prince calls for the audience to jump up and down. It’s not my favourite part of the song, but there are plenty more positives I enjoy listening to, especially the frenetic horn solo that adds a sense of urgency to the song. The closing guitar break from Prince is equally fine, it takes a while to get to it but it is well worth the wait.

Things slow for Beggin Woman Blues.  The groove is the steady sound of Satisfied, as Prince sings Beggin Woman Blues. The lyrics are hilarious, and the crowd are quiet as they listen carefully to catch the jokes. The real surprise is Princes vocals, they sound fantastic, especially the first few minutes. There is plenty to enjoy on the keyboard front too, with both Morris Hayes and Renato Neto taking solos before things really cut loose with a wild sax solo from Mike Phillips. Prince brings us back as he returns the song back to its roots with his vocal delivery of Satisfied. Morris Hayes does a great job of filling the sound out behind him, and it highlights Princes vocals further, his high squeals contrasting with Morris Hayes deep organ swirls.

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I can’t say I am overly impressed by Down By The Riverside. It’s a breather, and a chance for me to grab another drink (this is thirsty work).

Gotta Broken Heart Again is a standout moment. It has a stillness to it, with Princes vocals being the back bone of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocals, they are outstanding and listening is a reminder to how much of a pure singer Prince was. He even matches the horns for shrill and intensity as the song reaches its climax, an impressive feat.

Shelby takes on Love Is A Losing Game, a tough job as it is a song that in my mind is indelibly associated with Amy Winehouse. I’m not sold on the performance, although Prince provides several guitar breaks that do elevate it, but not quite enough. The guitar does sound sweet and has a zesty sound to it, on another song it would be a whole lot more.

I enjoy Shelby’s performance of Love Changes a whole lot more. She is soft when she needs to be soft, strong when she needs to be strong, and I think it is a great match for her vocals and personality. Prince adds his input with some more guitar work, and this hits all my sweet spots, they complement each other well and this is further highlighted as Prince sings alongside Shelby. It may not be a lot of peoples’ cup of tea, but for me this is as good as anything else heard on this recording. Princes guitar in the final minutes underlines the performance and seals the deal.

We have all heard Thank You (Falettinme  Be Mice Elf Again) plenty of times, and this rendition contains no surprises. Larry Graham adds his deeper tones to the song, and it does have an energy that is sometimes missing in these performances. Things heat up near the end as Prince stops the band and we get some real rumble out of Larry and his bass.

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This rumble settles into Hair, and with the keyboard playing a retro sound we are cast back to the Seventies. Larry starts out on vocal duties, but he gives way to Shelby who doesn’t do a bad effort of the song herself. It does become a medley with some funky guitar running things into Sing A Simple Song before things quickly change again, this time with Everyday People. Everyday People ends the medley on a high, it is feel good through and through and one can almost hear Larry Graham smiling as he plays and sings.

Alphabet St may start off as expected, but soon enough it is spinning off into all sorts of weird and wonderful places. Greg Boyer is present for a trombone solo, before Larry Grahams bass settle things back into a groove. Shelia E playing percussion is easily the highlight, she is the right person at the right time and her input is timely and welcome.  It’s unfortunate that things come to a sudden end (due to curfew restrictions), but it is a fine way to end the recording, as Prince thanks the crowd as he explains why they are stopping, demonstrating that he is a law-abiding citizen through and through.

I had heard good things about this bootleg, but to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from it. On the surface it seemed to be the same old songs brought out again for the aftershow. I was caught off guard by the funk of 3121, and the appearance of Larry Graham wasn’t what I had come to expect, the show had a lot of energy when Larry arrived on the scene and provided his input. Of the the three shows from this day I would easily rate this as the best of the three. A short, sharp show played with intensity and energy, and I can’t really ask for better than that.

Thanks again
Take care
Hamish

 

7-7-7 Target Centre

Several weeks ago I wrote of the Macy’s matinee show from 2007, and it’s only right that I now return to have a listen to the other shows from that day. The main show from the Target Center in retrospect can be seen as a precursor and warm up show to the 21 nights in London that will come in the following month. The set list  here being typical of these future shows, with Prince airing most of his hits in the show. The real drawcard of this show is the appearance of Wendy on several songs. I would like to say I recognized her sound immediately, although to be honest I’m not sure I would have picked up on it without being told. However, I will be listening carefully to see if I can pick her style on the songs she appears on.

7th July 2007, Target Center Minneapolis

We don’t have to wait long to hear Wendy, she appears on Purple Rain that starts the show, and this is entirely appropriate as this is the period most fans know her from. Prince is up to the occasion -a hometown show, Wendy on guitar, and he gives a stirring performance from the first minutes. His vocals are punchy and carry some weight as he sings, he does sound invested in the moment and the song soars due to this. Normally it’s the guitar break that I find myself waiting for, on this occasion I get just as much pleasure from the singing as anything else that might be going on. The guitar break however shouldn’t be overlooked, as Prince infuses this with spirit and feeling that gets the show off to a positive and highly enjoyable start.

Take Me With U maintains this momentum and good will, the recording is clean sounding with enough of the crowd noise there to get the impression that they are all aboard from the very beginning, much as you’d expect from a show in Minneapolis. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, and it comes and goes in a flash, leaving me with a smile on my face.

Prince keeps the foot on the accelerator as the segue into Guitar keeps the show moving quickly on. I did enjoy it when it first came out, since then my interest has waned somewhat so I didn’t expect too much here. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it sounds, especially the last few minutes. The verses and chorus I could take or leave, but the final few minutes is where Prince warms to his work and some great guitar work can be heard.

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My first “wow” moment comes with Shhh, a song I will never tire of hearing. Prince wraps me up in his warm vocal delivery, before an avalanche of guitar pushes this song into greatness. The contrast between the vocals and the guitar give it some dramatic tension and for me that’s what makes this song what it is. I can’t tell you how this compares to the hundreds of other performances of it I have heard, what I can tell you that at this moment it is the highlight of my week and it washes the worries of world away for the next few minutes.

Musicology snaps me back into the real world and, as enjoyable as it is, it can’t compare to Shhh. I do appreciate the sentiment behind “real music by real musicians”, but after listening to a great many shows I have found I have become tired of the phase. Musicology does provide some interest as Prince begins to sing Prince And The Band. It lacks some of the bite it had earlier on, but it’s cool to hear Prince trotting it out again. There are further highlights as Prince can be heard having fun with an audience member dancing, before Mike Phillips brings his magic touch to the song.

I have never enjoyed Play That Funk Music in Prince shows, and here is no different. The band sound good, the crowd are lapping it up, and yet listen here at home it leaves me cold. There is some fire in the guitar solo that has me regretting my words, and by the end of the song I too am won over – never underestimate the power of Prince and his guitar ability.

The cover version of Let’s Go by the Cars adds a huge dash of fun to the show and, although it is short, it is eminently enjoyably. From its catchy sing along beginnings to the scorching Prince guitar break it ticks all my boxes, and even at two and a half minutes it is a performance that leaves me breathless.

Mike Phillips certainly leaves his mark on Satisfied. I’m not feeling it early on, but then Mike Phillips arrives with his saxophone and plays up a storm. The intensity levels go through the roof, and I wonder why I don’t listen to this more often. The rest of Satisfied is as I have heard plenty of times before, but those few minutes of Mike Phillips elevates it in my estimation.

Mike stays front and centre as he and Renato Neto play an instrumental What A Wonderful World. This time I find I do mentally check out, I am here for Prince and these moments he is not on stage the energy seems to drain out of the building, and the recording. What A Wonderful World is good in its own right, but it’s not Prince.

I knew Wendy played on several songs, what I didn’t expect was her and Prince playing a solo guitar set together. This takes things to a whole other level and is easily the highlight of the show. If I had of known what was coming I would have come to this recording much sooner than I have.  The opening Little Red Corvette is other worldly, the guitars and vocals angelic as they interlace and weave their magic. Prince keeps it short, but it’s only the beginning of something special.

Raspberry Beret is a song that I feel I never have to hear again – except this version. Stripped back to the vocals and guitars it regains it youthfulness and spark. The years roll back as it plays and the sound of Wendy’s guitar is unmistakable. I am not normally one for nostalgia, but this has me back wallowing in my teenage years.

We get some Prince humour as Prince and Wendy next tackle The One U Wanna C. It starts off quickly, before Prince stops – telling the crowd that they can’t play it as its new and they might bootleg it. They then change tack and play a different version of it, slowed down and rolled with, which in my opinion makes it a lot more bootleg-able, its these different arrangements and live performances that I collect bootlegs for.  There is a downside, as the recording unfortunately captures some people discussing what seat numbers they are, but the rest of the song passes without incidence, and it sounds fantastic. This guitar set is something else, and I’m loving every minute of it.

The guitar set is rounded out by a tear-jerking performance of Sometimes It Snows In April. Its sharper and cleaner, and not as over wrought as I expect, and the performance is all the better for it. There is a purity to it that lifts the show, and the guitar flourishes are pitched just right to give it a touch of colour. It brings the guitar set to a close in the best way possible, and gives us a pause before the show pushes forward again.

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The band re-join for 7, and the show immediately becomes an up-tempo party again. 7 is an introduction for the following Come Together, and after two minutes it easily segues into Shelby singing the opening verses. Come Together doesn’t add anything special to the show, and it’s hard to fathom why it appeared in so many of Princes shows. Prince and the band never quite put their only mark on it, and for the most part it is a perfunctory run through the song. The saving grace comes in the form of Princes closing guitar break which lifts the song far above its plodding beat. If only the rest of the song sounded as good as the guitar break, it would be a different beast altogether.

The piano set portion of the show begins with a lovely sounding Do Me, Baby. Prince and piano start off easily enough, before the band do join to give the song a full, yet touching, sound. This is another moment that I find I gravitate to, and it sets the bar high for the next few piano songs.

I Wanna Be Your Lover follows in similar fashion, Prince and the piano opening the song before the rest of the band joins in.  It sounds fresh, and even here at home I am singing along with it as if it is a new song to me. The outro is played, which is a plus as far as I am concerned, and there is some funk under the pop veneer.

How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore is more in line with what we traditionally expect from the piano set. With just Prince and the piano, the next couple of minutes could have been recorded anytime over the previous thirty years. The band do join, but this signals the end of the song, rather than a fuller version.

There is only a couple of lines played from Diamonds and Pearls, before Prince plays with the crowd as he calls for his guitar. He stays with the Diamonds and Pearls album, playing a lively version of Cream. This sometimes sounds dreary to me, not tonight as Prince plays with an extra sharpness and energy. Playing to the hometown audience is bringing out the best of him, and the recording is sounding great.

There is cascade of noise and guitar work with the introduction of U Got The Look. Prince and the band romp through it, playing a boisterous, rough and tumble rendition. The guitar isn’t over worked, but it is strong, and the song is much more than the two dimension versions heard elsewhere through 2007.  It comes as an unexpected surprised, and I am pleased to hear it in this form.

The band is stronger than I expected, and they put their stamp well and truly on If I Was Your Girlfriend. There is sound and power coming from every corner as the song plays, normally it’s Prince vocals that command attention in the song, in this case all the band are vying for attention as the song plays. It gives it a fullness that is far from what is heard on Sign O The Times.

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The same could be said of Black Sweat, the band swamp it in sound as the stripped back sound of the original becomes just a memory. It may not be my favourite version, but I commend the band for taking ownership and making it distinctly theirs. Renato Neto in particular has my attention with some keyboard sounds that sound alien in nature.

The band is slightly more restrained for Kiss, although there is a low bass rumble that has me excited. The song starts off well, but it’s the guitar break that has me sitting up and paying a lot more attention. It brings some sharpness to a song that has too much happening and at times sounding unfocused.

Let’s Go Crazy on paper fails to excite me, but listening to it reveals a different arrangement, designed to engage the crowd to the full. The original opening is intact, then no verses, just a headlong rush into guitar work before Prince engages the audience in some chanting, all the while delivering guitar histrionics. The music snob in me would normally dismiss this, but like a mouth to the flame I can’t help but be attracted by the rush and thrill of it.

That rush and thrill is maintained as Prince and the band cut into one of the funkiest versions of A Love Bizarre I have heard for a long time. With Shelia E on board the song has an authentic sound, although it’s the funk of the guitar that really gets my heart going. The band are giving their all, and the song is pushed out the speakers at me with great energy and force. The trombone of Greg Boyer adds a taste of something different, and the song never once loses energy or the pure joy of simply being alive. The last searing guitar solo by Prince is the icing on the cake, and leaves me feeling like I felt the first time I saw him live.

Crazy is more like what I expected this show to be like, a gentle run through of a familiar set list, with plenty of Shelby J sprinkled through the show. It’s much more in keeping with what would be heard later in the year during the 21 nights in London, and as such it doesn’t overly excite me hearing it here. I do enjoy the guitar riff of One Nation Under A Groove that is briefly alluded to, but for the most part the song can’t compare to the highlights that came earlier.

Nothing Compares 2 U is similar, it is an uninspired run through of a song that deserves better. There isn’t the interaction between Prince and Shelby as we hear in other performances, he takes the song on himself, and the solo from Mike Phillips sounds bold but lacks any emotional pull. It is disappointing, but I can’t complain after all that has come before.

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Shelia E makes herself heard for the final song of the night, A Glamorous Life. Shelia and Prince can be heard having fun together, as they play with the song and the audience during a mid-song break down that features plenty of percussion from Shelia. I do start to lose interest, but I can’t deny it would have been great if I had been there. It is great to hear a performance of A Glamorous life, and although the song doesn’t end with a bang, the show does with this performance of a live rarity.

The show is a curious mix of the familiar and the not so familiar. Although the bulk of the show is similar to the London shows that will follow, there is enough in there for me to take a closer listen. The section with Wendy was outstanding, as was the closing with Shelia E.  Some of the other songs suffer in comparison to this, although there were moments where Prince draws from the home crowd and elevates some numbers to a higher level. This could have been a mundane show, but is saved by the guest appearances and a lively performance from Prince. Too long I have ignored this one, dismissing it as another 2007 show by the numbers. Worth a second listen, and I may have to revisit it several more times in the coming weeks.

It’s been a shaky week here, and its been a great diversion to lose myself in Prince’s world for a couple of hours
See you next week,
Hamish

Macy’s Matinee, 2007

July 7th 2007 was a busy day for Prince, and a great day for Minneapolis. Prince treated his hometown to three shows – A matinee show at Macys (3121 perfume launch) , a mainshow at the Target Centre before following with an aftershow at First Avenue. The last two shows get plenty of coverage while the first show often overlooked in the wider scheme of things. It is a short show, 40 minutes, but at the same time if is a very well recorded show that provides a short sharp shock of entertainment. It’s not too demanding, and worth a second listen.

7th July 2007, Macy’s 8th Floor Auditorium, Nicollet Mall – Minneapolis

Its hard to guess that the opening When The Saints Go In is by Prince and the band, but a closer listen and you can recognize the sound of Greg Boyer on trombone as well as the rest of the horn section. They are obviously enjoying their time to shine and the show is off to a lively start with there upbeat instrumental rendition of an old classic.

Prince can be heard for the first time as his count-off introduces the steady groove of 3121. It’s not as intense, or insistent, as I have heard elsewhere, and the horns add some lightness to it early on. The chorus has me sold on it however, as Prince sings strongly and with an obvious enjoyment. Shelby J can be heard on backing vocals, although she is oddly quiet. Princes guitar break and the crowd both add a sense of urgency to the song and make it both enjoyable and serious.

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Girls And Boys has a smoothness to it that belies its age, as Prince and the band slide across the glass-like groove. The sharpness comes at the chorus, although the twins seem to be making up their own French words for the backing vocals. The saxophone solo is replaced with a trombone solo, something that adds an element of interest to a song I have heard many times in my life. The high point for me is the solo from Renato Neto, it beams in from outer space and has a beautiful alien quality that gives the song an edge. The coda of “3121” chants sounds like a plug for the perfume, and as such I consider it unnecessary to the song.

Shelia is low key on percussion but makes herself heard on Love Bizarre. This is a great version, and there is plenty of energy heard in the performance. Shelia and Prince sound excellent together, and the recording easily does justice to the song. Shelia sings with a fierceness, I get the feeling that she is investing a lot of herself in the performance. Although only four minutes, it plays like a jam with a saxophone solo that is invested with a touch of fire, before Prince and Sheila provide some rhythm and percussion on their respective instruments. This is an excellent performance, and should not be slept on.

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Get On The Boat takes a twist, and although the horns still drive it, its Princes guitar that catches the ear early on. It has a Santana flavour to it, and it wouldn’t be much of leap from this to the Santana medley that Prince was fond of a few years previous. This could be attributed to Shelia E, whose percussion is the bedrock that the song is built on.

Shelia E stays at the front of our minds as Glamorous Life makes an appearance in the setlist. It is fitting in this setting, and it does sound glamorous as they sing it. Prince can be heard singing, but mostly it’s Shelia that is heard, both singing and playing percussion. Her final solo is the highlight of the song and underlines her talent as it finishes.

How many times have we heard Prince say “So many hits, so little time”? Too many and he breaks it out here again. The following Take Me With U has also been heard many times, although it is a bright and fresh sounding performance here. Its  a standard run through, and the song shines even as the band sound like they are giving a perfunctory performance.

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Guitar was the song of the moment at this time, and Prince gives a performance that suggests he is feeling it. With the vocals coming with a rasp, the chorus come and go pleasantly enough before the song lives up to its name in the final minutes. The solo may start as expected, but soon enough it becomes more interesting and raises some pulses. The fireworks are all in the final couple of minutes as Prince and his guitar finally do take over.

Things get crazy for the finish. First Shelby J does her thing on a cover of Crazy. The groove is irresistible, and Shelby sounds full and bright on the recording. She raises several cheers from the audience as she sings, a sure sign that she sounds as good at the show as she does on the recording. There is some “put your hands up” shouting, but I’m feeling generous today and I’ll give her a pass.

Things become crazier as Prince introduces Let’s Go Crazy. It has the traditional spoken beginning, but the rest of the song is wild ride as Prince solos, drawing influences from Rock Lobster, and gives Shelia E another percussion break. It goes by with break neck speed, and before I know it Prince is howling the last notes into the sky. It is sharp ending to what has been a short and sweet show.

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Don’t be fooled by the length of the show, at 10 songs and 45 minutes, it is just as long as his shows earlier in his career. This recording contained a pleasing mix of old and new material and Prince played a lively show to match. It may have been a matinee but it still sounded like a rock show should. Another excellent aspect of the show was the appearance of Shelia E, she definitely put her stamp on everything she played. This is a sweet little show, and something I shan’t overlook again.

Take care
Hamish

Glam Slam MPLS 1994

There have been a rash of great recordings popping up in the last couple of months, and I am spoilt for choice when I want to hear something new. I was unsure which one I should listen to this week, and in the end I chose this recording from 1994. I mostly chose it before I have been listening to quite a lot from the 1990’s recently, and this seemed to fit nicely. Last week was the glamour and show of a Diamonds and Pearls show, this recording is a couple of years later, and completely different in many ways. In the two years in between a great deal has changed in Prince’s world. It’s a small early morning show from the Glam Slam club in Minneapolis, and show cases the strength of Prince and the band musically. All the key elements of a great show are there, and as a nice bonus it’s a soundboard recording.

29th May 1994 (am) Glam Slam, Minneapolis

Things start very well indeed with a heavy insistent riff from Prince and his guitar. The scene is well and truly set as the bass and keyboard coming it, and it has a full blooded raw sound which I always like. This cover version of Sly Stones Sex Machine is well chosen, and for those fans of Princes guitar work there is plenty to enjoy and admire. He warms to his work, slow and steady with plenty of groove. It certainly has that aftershow vibe about it, the guitar moves in and out as the music swirls around it.

Prince 1994b

We don’t move too far from the Sly Stone sound, as next the band plays It’s Alright by Graham Central Station. I know this song very well now, having heard Prince play it many times over the years, what makes this version good is that it is the first time that Prince and the band played it live. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the performance, and Prince sounds quite young in places. I can feel this rubbing off on me, and as I listen I feel uplifted. It is truncated, but thankfully it’s not part of a medley, the band just fades it out after a couple of minutes.

Listening to New Power Soul next, I am thinking here’s a song I don’t recall hearing live before. It seems I was right, this is the only live performance of it. At first it fails to excite me, that is until a crisp bouncy guitar appears midsong, and there is plenty of interesting things to listen to from here on in. Prince mentions Poor Goo, the song doesn’t eventuate, he’s just talking. Morris Hayes on the keys sounds good, I would like to have him further forward in the mix though. Asides from that it’s a nice performance, and a cool oddity to have thrown in mid-set.

I saw Dolphin on the setlist and I had my hopes up. Unfortunately we don’t get a full performance, instead Prince sings the first verse before bringing it to a halt and telling us “sorry, we can’t do that, it’s private” Again, it’s the first public airing of a song, and although it was little more than an intro, it is another tease and clue to what’s going on in Prince’s world at the time.

Prince 1994

I always associate The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (Mustang Mix) with this band configuration. Played this way it’s a perfect fit with their style and it works extremely well in this club setting. It has a slow burning sound to it, and I think this is heightened by Morris Hayes playing. Some of the glitter and sparkle is taken from the song, and we have here a darker, warmer groove. Twenty years ago I didn’t get it, now I do and it’s a firm favourite.

Things get funky when the band start on a 15-minute version of Get Wild. It’s slow to start, then builds into a big groove. The best part is when we get to the breakdown in the middle of the song, first there is there is a solo from Brian Gallagher that leaps out at me, it’s got plenty of life to it, then Prince breaks it down before the chorus and groove return with a vengeance. The horn section adds a lot to the show at this stage, there’s plenty of stabs and swells as the band and crowd chant. The horns add some brightness to the groove and emphasis the main riff, giving it a real lift.

Prince 1994a

I am very pleased to hear Billy Jack Bitch next. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am a fan. It does sound flat in places here, energy wise, luckily the horns and the chorus bring it right back up.  There is a pause midsong, when it comes back it is heavy with the horns and organ, and it’s this part of the song that I dig most. Prince yells “release date never” which gives some insight to where he was in his battle to release material at that stage.

The show goes out on a high with a performance of Days Of Wild. The start is particularly good, with Prince sing a capella for the first minute before the power of the band come in behind him. The lyrics are crystal clear, this sound board recording is great for highlighting his vocals, and the lyrics are fun. There is nothing new as they groove into Hair, although the song does seem to lose it momentum, only to gear up again into the heavy grind of Days Of Wild a minute later. It is Michael B and his drumming that carries us through to the end of the song, with the crowd heard chanting “Go Michael”, a fitting end to the show.

Prince Slave

Although short, this show was well worth a listen. The fact that it was a beautiful sounding soundboard added a lot to a show that looked somewhat short on paper. It was in fact a very nice document of a show from the string of shows such as this that he played in 1994. I will be playing it for the next few weeks in my car, and really I can’t give it a higher recommendation than that.

Thanks again, have a great week
-Hamish

Dakota Jazz Club – Surprise 2

It’s taken me a long time to reach this final show in the Dakota series, much longer than I originally planned. I got side tracked a couple of times by the piano and microphone shows, but today I finally get to the final show. Another one billed as surprise, it again features 3rdeyegirl. It’s very similar to the first show of the evening, and I don’t expect too many surprises at all. Although similar I will give it a listen, I haven’t listened to any Prince this week and it sure beats watching “The Bachelor” with my partner!

18th January 2013 (show 2)  Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis

It’s raining, I haven’t had a great day at work, but all that is forgotten and I feel much better as the recording starts with Oasis Champagne Supernova played over the PA, now there’s a band I would never associate with Prince. The scene is set as Prince adjusts his guitar, asking for it to be turned up several times before the band kick into Endorphin Machine. I feel energized just hearing it, although it’s not the greatest version out there it still gets the pulse racing with that crunching guitar. Prince’s vocals are not forward enough to my ears, luckily it’s all about the guitar for this one and he certainly gives us plenty of that- especially the latter part of the song where he really unleashes.

Prince 3EG

Exactly the same as the first show we next get Screwdriver in the mix. It debuted at the earlier show, here it get’s a second outing.  Of the two I prefer this one, the band is tighter and I can hear the bass much better. Just like Endorphin Machine, it’s as the song progresses that we get much more guitar fireworks. As I mentioned in the early show, it has a lot of life to it, and rumbles along at a great rate and bounces out of the speakers at me. The crowd interaction near the end is also a lot of fun, even with Prince’s ramblings. The song leaves me on a high, and I am surprised to find myself enjoying a relatively new song so much.

I am very pleased to hear Beautiful Strange get another outing after the early show. I thought it was the best part of the early show, and I am delighted to find that this time it’s even better. Prince’s vocals are fantastic, I was going to mention that I can hear people talking during the recording, but Prince silences them when he tells those talking to be quiet and the music and singing intensifies. Fantastic stuff, I never want the song to end. Unfortunately I can still hear audience chat during the song, and that detracts greatly from the moment. Asides from that, it’s a total knock out.

The audience talk and chat is still quite prominent as Purple Rain begins. It starts with a bare piano before the guitar quietly begins to play. I would normally be raving about this type of thing, but sadly I am constantly distracted by the audience conversation. The long intro is beautiful, if I could just block out that inane chatter I would be a happy man. It’s almost five minutes before Prince sings, and it’s at this point I finally enjoy it more as he drowns out the chatter, for a short time at least. The guitar break has a high tone to it, and lacks some of the depth and power that I expect, the one good thing is it is nice and loud.

With plenty of howling guitar as an intro, it’s entirely fitting that the next song is Guitar itself. The recording for these louder rock songs is much better, and although I may not like the songs as much, they definitely sound better. I thought Guitar might have been squeezed much more, Prince plays plenty of guitar and I was expecting it to go much longer than what we get. I can’t complain at all, the guitar is the hero and just like the first couple of songs, it’s just the tonic I need this evening.

Things stay on track with I Like It There, and the band sound nicely in their groove by now. In this case they do play the heck out of, and there is plenty of enjoyment for the audience to have as well. Prince’s guitar has a great howl to it, like wind on a stormy night. I like it as the band break it down and there is plenty of space for some rhythm guitar and singing along with the crowd. Inoffensive, and easy to listen to, it has a great live vibe to it.

As the opening riff of She’s Always In My Hair begins I have an involuntary surge of excitement. That guitar line is like a drug to me, and I can feel a physical reaction as it begins. Prince sounds good, and drops to a lower register a couple of lines in the song which sounds cool. As always it’s the second part of the song where it really begins to fly and the soaring guitars have me giddy like a teenager. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t one of the great performances, it’s just a song that I get a lot of enjoyment out of today. The bass especially hits me and I wish I could turn it up to eleven. There is an unexpected appearance of Liv Warfield, and she contributes something a bit different with her addition, and I am pleased to hear her. Equally the call and response works surprisingly well, and I upon reconsideration I think will be a recording I will come back to- especially as it stretches out to the 13 minute mark.

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Prince closed the early show with Dreamer, this time it shows up in the middle of the set. As much as I want to like it, it is a come down after She’s Always In My Hair. I feel it much more as it takes an upswing mid song, and Liv comes on board again. It lightens it, and I have a bounce in my step as I listen along. There’s a shot of funk in it, and the show sounds quite lively at this point. It does end with a scorching guitar from Prince and it this point I am well and truly sold on it.

The audience chat is again heard as the gentle Liathach is heard. This is one song that I have grown to love, and it’s an absolute pleasure to listen to it here. Slow building to the guitar crunch, I am slowly drawn in before that guitar hits me. Most of the song I sit swaying from side to side, I don’t care what anyone thinks, I am completely lost in the song.

The spell is broken as Bambi roars into life next. Prince introduces it with “We’d like to do another ballad right here” -always good for a laugh is our Prince.  How good is the bass, it’s very good! If there was ever a song for this band, this would be it. It’s loud when it needs to be, sharp when it needs to be, and all in all it’s a good time. There comes that moment when Prince just leans back and plays and it’s so natural and pure sounding, well that is the moment I live for. And then to top it all off, there’s a drum solo that I actually like.

Check The Record is short, and doesn’t stand out from anything else in the evening. Its fairly generic sounding, and I find it to be a space filler until the next song begins.

Cause And Effect is a fun filled crowd pleasing song. When I reflect on it I don’t find much, but sitting back and taking it in, it’s a good old time. Prince’s vocals are easy to listen to, and there is plenty of guitar action for those who like that sort of thing, and it’s never over the top.  It could never be considered a classic, although it has it’s own charm. There is a looseness and feeling that the show is coming to an end as Prince and the band mellow into a groove that drifts along.

The best is saved for last as Prince and the band play a version of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man that floors me. The smoky, bluesy, dark version here is a show stopper. Prince’s vocals are heavy sounding, but in my opinion it’s the guitar tone that captures the emotion and mood of the song. Sure, the vocals are good, but my word, it’s that guitar that steals the show, especially as the vocals drop out and it begins to howl. The next few minutes are raw emotional guitar, and even if the recording isn’t great I still love every moment of it. The call and response is great, as is the spoken word by Prince to the crowd. It’s a real rock and roll moment that connects with me, even if it is too short. The song suddenly stops at this point, just as I was hungry for much more.

Prince Dakota 2013

With that the show is finished and I am left to reflect on not just this show, but this series of shows. I want to say this show was the pick of them, but honestly I am someone who is always of the time, and what ever I am listening to or doing is “the best”. This show certainly had some high points, and when I break it down, this was the one where I enjoyed more songs, so on a pure number games, yes, it is the best. This series of six shows promised a lot, and yet by the end of it I felt like they had never quite reached the heights I had hoped. What I did like was that they showcased different aspects of Princes musical persona and at different times I was heavily into each recording. However they were inconsistent, and ultimately unsatisfying. That said, I will always give credit to something different and challenging and from that point of view these shows gave me a variety of experiences that were fun to listen to. I think in future I will come back to these again, but to nibble at rather than consume whole.

Thanks for reading,
No idea what is coming next week, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

-Hamish

Dakota Jazz Club – Surprise 1

I must admit, I had been going through the motions when it came to writing this blog recently, but after seeing Prince live last week I feel completely reinvigorated, and a lot more passionate about what I am listening too. Prince, if there was ever a good reason for touring this it, it keeps people passionate about your music, and reminds us that music is a connection between performer and audience. Nothing can beat a live show, and the reason we collect bootlegs is often as a reminder of a great show or performance we have seen. I have been too long just listening to these shows, so last week was a timely reminder of why I am such a fan.

These week I continue with my rumble through the series of Dakota recordings. They have been interesting, yet uneven, so far. This week I will be listening to the early show of the final night, a night that was billed as surprise. It is of course 3rdEyeGirl, not so much of a surprise now although at the time it did cause a stir. I have listened to a lot of Prince and the piano recently, so a good rock out is just what I need.

18th January 2013 (show 1)  Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis

Things get off to a great start with Endorphinmachine, and although the recording sounds tame I am still enthralled by the performance. Plenty of rock sound, it’s full of an infectious energy that has been missing from the previous shows. Prince throws the lyrics out at a fantastic rate, and I can already tell that this is going to be one energetic show. As the guitars howl and intertwine I am already in rockers heaven.

Prince 3EG 1

The recording next features the debut performance of Screwdriver, and I always like to hear debuts like this. It’s in keeping with the opening song, that is it’s full of energy and Prince sounds in fine form. I wish I could see his face, he sounds like he is having fun, and this shows through with his guitar playing which has a life of it’s own. Its a very lively performance, and this comes across well in the recording.

I try to be all mature and cool, but every time I hear When You Were Mine, I immediately revert to being a wide eyed teenager. There is some sort of magic in the song, because Prince always sounds younger too as he sings it. The pop of the drums, the sound of the guitar, it all sounds so youthful and optimistic. Always glad to hear this in the setlist, it keeps with the positive vibe of the show so far.

Staying true to form next we have Guitar which is the perfect fit for this setlist, and indeed this band. I do like the energy, and the solos, even if the main riff isn’t really my cup of tea. A great plus on this is hearing Donna play. Having been in the band for barely a month at this stage, its great to hear her play with a brash confidence. I also like that Prince has the confidence in her to play like this, he steps back and lets her go, and that’s to his credit. Like I often say, Prince is great  at being in a band.

This setlist almost writes itself, and I am not the least bit surprised as I Like It There starts with a nice crunch in my ears. I have been concentrating on the guitar the last few songs, so its great that I am reminded here that its a band playing, and the drums have a good crash to them, even if I have to turn it right up to get their full effect. Prince’s voice is just as strong as his guitar playing, and they compliment each other well as the song progresses.

What can I say about She’s Always In My Hair that I haven’t said a hundred times before. Oh that bass, even before the guitar starts, I am feeling it and when that riff sounds I am in heaven. I have been impressed in the last few years about how well 3rdEyeGirl play this song, they do own it and it plays to their strengths. Donna plays a solo which sounds like she looks, all tough and angular and I feel myself change as I listen to it. The breakdown is always the part I anticipate the most and it never disappoints as Prince sings “Don’t stop the groove” The emotional guitar playing of the last minute carries me out on a high, I had forgotten just how good this sounds live.

Prince- EG screw

Another debut follows with a cover of Liathach, an aching instrumental that hints at something I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s so full of memory and nostalgia and yet I can’t pin it down. The song slowly raises my spirits and the guitar breaks come from a completely different place to the piano, and yet together they work off each other so well and give the sense of flying. I would love to hear this one so much more, I guess I will have to give this some more love in future.

Whoa, I get a shock as Bambi bursts from the speakers, and suddenly the stakes have been raised. The band play as a tight unit, the song sounding tight and muscular. The song gets the full treatment, the guitars working themselves into a frenzy that whips me along with them. There is nice natural moment as the song eases and Prince has the crowd sing “All your lovers” with him. It grounds the song after the howling attack earlier and gives it that human touch. It lasts a good few minutes, before the return of the guitars and an absolutely furious finish that belies the age of the song.

Any song that starts with a “one, two” count in is OK by me. Check The Record might not be familiar to many people,and that’s understandable as this is the only live performance of the unreleased song. After a good start it quickly loses momentum and I begin to lose interest at the bass solo, and that’s not something I normally do. The song is similar in tone to a lot of other songs of this period, but it doesn’t have a distinctive shape and sound to it, and I guess that is why it remains unreleased. Still, I am happy to hear it in this forum, I always welcome new or rare music.

This is a night for debuts, and the next song to get an airing is Cause And Effect. A staple of the Live Out Loud tour, for this performance it still has a freshness to it that I enjoy. The song isn’t strong in anyway, but it is perfectly enjoyable in it’s own way. I find myself smiling as I listen, asides from that it glides by and I find in a few minutes I have forgotten most of it. There is a nice moment as Prince has the crowd singing for a few minutes before closing the song with an instrumental. I feel I am there as the crowd sing, and it’s a reminder that the audience is an active participant at most Prince shows.

Prince 3EG

The opening of Beautiful Strange is one of those moments where I can feel goose bumps as song as the low key groove begins. The late night smokey sound resonates with me, times I have spend in late night darkened rooms listening and feeling things that this song so beautifully encapsulates. I feel this song as much as I hear it, and Princes vocals and music roll together and swirl around stirring up a mixture of emotions. It’s a show stopper in my book, and easily eclipses everything else we have heard this evening.

I am totally surprised when I next hear How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore. Sure, I had seen it on the setlist, but I thought it must have been some sort of mistake. It works well, and lightens the tone after the previous Beautiful Strange. Prince is a tongue and cheek mood, teasing the crowd a couple of times as the song swings in and out. In such a small venue it must have been a great moment, and the recording captures the joy and cheers of the crowd as they lap it up.

Purple Rain has a raw sound to it that I just adore. The guitar buzzes and squeaks as it plays the intro, and the piano has a loud sharpness to it that makes you feel like you are right there. Princes vocals are solid as a rock, totally dependable and there is no surprises at all as he sings. It’s the rest of the band that I delight in listening to, and what I enjoy most is that they give Purple Rain a smaller sound, its not epic and grandiose sounding, rather it sounds like what it is, a small band playing it in a small venue. Just fantastic, Prince lets the song breathe and there is a long instrumental section that ebbs and flows, sometimes the soft guitar carrying it, sometimes the piano. Prince gentle encourages the audience to sing as the song continues on this gentle path, and this may be the best rendition I have heard of Purple Rain in a long time.

The spell is broken as the next song begins. I don’t recognize Elephant And Flowers immediately, it’s more loose sounding then I remember. I would normally love to hear something like this on a bootleg, but straight after that divine sounding Purple Rain I find it jarring and I have to concentrate hard to stop myself from skipping back to the previous song. On the plus side, Prince is his usual humorous self as the song finishes, asking the crowd to “tell all your friends about us, so we can get another job”

Prince 3EG 2

We close with another full rock song as the band get their teeth stuck into Dreamer. Donna gets one last chance to rock out, and after a quiet start she is eventually head. Again I aren’t a big fan of this particular performance, the band sound like they have peaked earlier in the show, and this doesn’t match some of the earlier highs they hit. Despite that it’s still a rousing finish and does leave me feeling very happy.

This show is much more focused and tighter than the previous shows in this Dakota series. What I found particularly interesting is this band played some of great versions of Princes earlier material, but couldn’t get the new songs to sing in the same way. I must say, I thought the performance of Beautiful Strange and Purple Rain was outstanding, and this show was well worth  hearing for those two alone. They didn’t sell me the whole show, but 75% of it I found to be very good, and that’s good enough for it to be a worthy inclusion in my collection.

Thanks for taking the time to read, it always looks like a lot of words, but the couple of hours I spend listening to each show seems to fly by very quickly and leaves me looking forward to the next week.

take care
-Hamish

Dakota Jazz Club – Jam 2

These Dakota Jazz Club recordings are proving to be an interesting diversion. They are not easily categorized with his other main shows, nor do they seem to fit with the after-show mentality. They are something of an ugly duckling, not easy categorized, and I can understand why Prince simply called them an open rehearsal. The previous three shows, although very good, have failed to ignite any true excitement within me. The band is serviceable and plays well without pushing me into any real emotion. Today I take a listen to the fourth show, a late show in the ‘Jam’ section. It is shorter than last week, and looking at the tracks I see a couple of things that I would like to hear. There are also some similarities, so please bear with me if I cover some of the same territory as last week.

17th January 2013 (show 2)  Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis

One thing about these Dakota shows is that they all have a very interesting opening. This time we have the horn section playing the Days Of Wild riff, and it’s every bit as interesting as you might imagine. I enjoy the brightness of it, and the bass line that is next heard is truly awesome. It’s very well recorded, and has a deep pop and groove to it that I can almost feel the vibrations of. The song is a different variation, being an instrumental throughout, with Prince speaking to the audience in lieu of actually singing. The horns battle it out with the synth and bass, both have their moments and are nicely in front for the sound.

I am surprised to see four minutes have already passed as the band slide into Ain’t Nobody. That heavy groove stays with us as the ladies sing, and the ante is upped as Marcus plays a sax solo that is skittery and quick. I realize that the song hasn’t really changed at all, and they are just jamming on Days Of Wild.

Prince Dakota 2013c

As with the first show the drummer gets plenty of love and an early solo. It’s not spectacular, instead it’s low key and keeps with the low end feel of the song. Prince asks the crowd what they think as the groove of Days Of Wild returns. The trumpet solo is a throwback to the first evenings show, and he gets plenty of time to do his thing here in this song. I do like the jam, but for me something is missing, again I think it’s lacking in a dirty funk feel. At times they sound like they are impersonating a funk band rather than being a proper funk band themselves. Prince does sing a couple of verses but even the main refrain lacks conviction. Usually I find myself chanting along at home, however this time I am not.

The band sticks with the groove as they twist Wild And Loose out of it. Seeing this on the set list had me raising my eyebrows, it turns out to be different to how I expected. It’s great to hear Prince singing the lyrics, even if the music isn’t true to the original. I give it a solid thumbs up for novelty value.

The Days Of Wild groove goes on for days (as Prince would say) and I get a lot of enjoyment out of hearing the band jam it and throwing various songs into the mix. The horns are right at the centre of the whole song, so it’s only fitting that it’s those horns that carry the last few minutes. I am not normally a horn guy, so it’s high praise from me here when I say how much I liked them. The sax solo that finishes the song goes in a completely different way, and I like that it’s not tied into all that has come before it.

Something very different and interesting next as the band perform a one-off titled Chapter & Verse. Apparently it was created on the spot as a one off, and it does have a feeling of everything being layered on top as we go. The walking bass has a classic feel to it, and is a good base for the other sounds laid over top of it- which I guess is the whole purpose of a bass. It’s a smooth easy groove, and is easy on the ear without ever being challenging. Prince’s lyrics are left field, and do raise a smile here and there. Prince unleashes the guitar later in the song, the first time it’s heard this evening, and that definitely gets my pulse racing. The horn solo after also keeps the flow going and as Prince calls ‘blow’ I am well and truly hooked.

Things slow, and the long jams end as Liv, Shelby and Elisa guide us through a soft rendition of Lost & Found. Its delicate sounding, and the music is very soft, almost as an afterthought as the three ladies do what they do best. It’s a nice breather, and I can feel myself relaxing as they sing. It sounds short after the previous songs, but its inclusion is timely.

Prince is back on the mic next as Nothing Compares 2 U begins. As always Shelby J accompanies him wonderfully, and the only downside to the performance is I have heard them sing together like this so many times that he doesn’t have that special feel anymore. As the song heats up I do begin to feel it more, and the song still holds its own after all these years. The sax solo by Marcus increases the drama of it, and is a fine addition.

princedrawing

I really enjoyed hearing Act Of God at the earlier show, and here I find it equally good. For the next few songs this show closely follows the early show with the same sequence. Act Of God sounds great with the horns in full effect early on, and then gets better and better as Prince sings. I prefer this version to the earlier show, there is more Prince, and the band sounds a lot tighter. Prince even gives a couple of gravelly howls, something I always like for its animalistic feel.

What Have You Done For Me Lately works well over the groove, unfortunately as with the previous show I find it does nothing for me. The bits that I do like are the piano that comes in and out, it’s free sounding and marks it as something different.

There is no let up as Northside is sung. The groove doesn’t change in the slightest, Prince and the band just spitting the lyrics over the same groove. It’s only half a minute, and then the groove does change into what comes next.

It is (Theme Song From) Which Way Is Up that follows, exactly as the early show. I like it, but with having heard the early show the element of surprises and excitement is gone. There is not enough in the song itself for me to grab onto and it passes by quickly. Even having Dancing Machine thrown into the mix doesn’t generate any response from me. (Am I too jaded?)

The Partyman horn riff begins, and I hope for something substantial. Its fun sounding, I can hear the audience cheer in places which reminds me that this is a live show. The song is short, and a great crowd pleaser. Its Alright slots easily into the mix, and Prince keeps up the lead line as the song plays. It plays round and round for some time with the horn refrain and the chorus, before Prince breaks it into a bass groove. The band gets very loose by now, and I am become much more interested as Prince calls changes and the band play to his commands. As the song pulls back we get some more horns playing around on When The Saints Go Marching In, and they play in this style for the rest of the song, much to my great enjoyment. I think Prince sums it best when he says “It ain’t always what you want, but sometimes it’s what you need” a point emphasized when he finishes playing the Beverly Hillbillies riff.

Prince 2013 Dakota

We end the show with the classic funk of Controversy. It gets a lengthy intro which I enjoy immensely. What lets it down is the recording seems to suffer at this point and Prince doesn’t sound as strong and full as earlier. There is some very tasty guitar licks mid song, quick funky sounding runs that really work for me. The guitar is highlighted as the band pull back, and Prince plays that scratch guitar that I have loved since day one. It’s a great way to finish the show, and even though some parts I have found uneven, all is forgiven in these final minutes.

As with the other shows so far, this one is enjoyable despite being uneven. I like the songs, and the band plays well, my problem is that the band doesn’t play like a Prince band. That hard funk sound is lacking, even though I know he has some very talented musicians in there. I know the outcome, this band won’t go much further with him, and this show and sound is a stopgap measure. When this show got funky it was great, there just wasn’t enough of those moments for me. Another one to file under “Interesting, but not great”

Thanks for reading, have a great week.
I am off to see A Piano And Microphone in a few days, so hopefully I can come down off that high to write next weeks blog post.

-Hamish

 

Dakota Jazz Club – Jam 1

The second of Princes three nights at the Dakota Jazz club was advertised as “Jam” and it is completely different from the previous “Jazz“. The set list is heavy on funk, and this is a larger band giving it a fuller sound. Prince was the guy who introduced me to funk, and I hope from this set list that he will give me plenty of it.

17th January 2013 (show 1)  Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis

The show gets off to a great start, it has a fantastic deep sound to the recording, and Prince’s first words are “Dancing is allowed”. Act Of God is the first song, and it sounds very strong in this smaller setting.  Prince’s vocals are deep and full, and the recording captures it excellently. The solo by Marcus Anderson gets my attention, and it sounds especially good over the thick bass. This isn’t classic Prince, but the band put up a fine show, and they have their own funky sound. I like that after the first verse it does indeed become just an up-tempo jam with lots of horns. The bass and groove sounds good in my headphones, and the song continues to jam with Prince singing again and having the crowd clap along with him before settling on a long groove. There is a lot of little moments to enjoy and I listen carefully to hear all of them.

The intro to the next song is equally cool, with Prince asking for the kick drum then commanding “a little quicker, a little quicker” until he has it right and can overlay some funky guitar. The girls start singing What Have You Done For Me lately. It’s not as tight as I would like, and I don’t really get into it. They sing well of course, but there isn’t any intensity in the performance, at least to my ears. It’s a let-down after the first song, although I regain some interest as the keyboard plays a solo that gets the crowd clapping along. It gets stronger, the next keyboard solo is even sharper and very much the type of thing I like to hear. I wasn’t too happy with it earlier on, but once the girls stop singing and the band takes over and jams it really heats up.

princedrawing

Northside gets thrown into the mix and the jam becomes a Prince led medley. The music is great, although the singing doesn’t do anything for me. It’s the music that I am listening for most at this stage, and Northside only gets a minute or so before we quickly move on.

The segue into (The Theme from) Which Way Is Up is nice, and I am beginning to warm to Shelby J again. As much as I like her, it always takes me a couple of minutes to adjust to her style. She is a dynamic performer, and hearing only her does detract from the stage presence which I know she has. The song quietens as the some nice bass work appears, much to the delight of the crowd who whoop in appreciation. I must say I am a very happy man listening to this, a nice recording of a fun solo.

As is the way of Prince with this, Dancing Machine merges seamlessly in. It has a certain novelty value with Prince singing a Jackson 5 song, asides from that it isn’t really long enough for me to have a strong feeling for it.

Partyman has had a few different incarnations over the years and this one, although not true to the original, is pretty cool. The horn refrain sounds good with this band, and Prince plays on that, having them repeat the main riff several times as the song segues into the It’s Alright. There isn’t too much difference as the horns play something pretty close to Partyman throughout. The horns take a back seat as we get some more keyboards, before returning for the big finish.

After a frenetic last few minutes, We’re A Winner is a nice come down. It has a warm, round sound and is almost like comfort food. Shelby sounds good and is nicely retrained. It’s somewhat of a shame that it is short, it had a gentle feel to it that I could easily listen to for much longer.

Shelby stays on lead vocals with a brief rendition of I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You) It is again very short, only the verse and chorus, and I think that is to its favour. I enjoyed what I heard, but it’s always best to leave us wanting more.

The horns lead us finally into something a little more substantial, and considerable more Prince like, when they begin to play Satisfied. After the initial sax we get a piano break and when Prince begins to sing it’s well worth the wait. His vocal performance is top shelf, and his inflections as he sings makes me feel as if I am right there with him. He is nice and loud in my ears, and in fact the whole show is recorded very well, I can hear everything clearly and loud, and there is a nice fat bass sound in the bottom.

We get back to the upbeat sound with I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (I’ll Get It Myself) and this is a song that seems to have popped up a lot on bootlegs I have listened to recently. The band isn’t overly tight, and lack the hard funky groove which I normally enjoy so much. Their playing is very good, just not as funky as I like. Prince’s vocal performance is again the highlight, as well as being the funkiest part of the song.

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Prince Dakota 2013a

I like that Housequake has a nice long intro, with plenty of interaction between Prince and the audience. The beat isn’t as prominent, which is to the detriment of the song, I can hear the drum, but not the beat that intertwines with the bass. The song quickly becomes a jam, and at this stage I am mostly digging the spacey sounding keyboards. There is no singing, and that suits me just fine as the groove continues on.  Prince calls for just the beat, and finally I can hear that kicking beat that under pins it all. The horns dominate late in the song, and to be honest I am in love with this arrangement. It’s free sounding, and I forget that the beat isn’t what I am used to.

Brownskin I haven’t listened to for a while, and I immediately have a warm feeling as it begins to play. Shelby sounds mellow, and sings in a relaxed tone that is silky to listen to. The song builds well, and the release to the saxophone solo is a nice moment. The overall feel of the song is a hot sweaty day, and Shelby deserves credit for making the song sound as great as it is.

With just Cassandra for accompaniment on the keys Prince next plays what I consider to be the highlight of the show, Something In The Water (Does Not Compute). The barren sound and Princes vocals set the tone, and yet it swings a little as Prince sings the chorus. The piano plays a break, and it a thing of beauty, to hear just the piano is wonderful. Prince plays the character in the song well, as his vocals come in and out full of emotion. The song ends on an absolute high with Prince singing the final note as the piano finishes.

Lost & Found starts in a similar vein, with the piano playing softly as Shelby, Liv and Elisa sing. It’s a diversion, but a very nice one. There’s not one thing that I could really highlight on this song, the girls singing together was seamless and something I could listen to all night and all day.

It’s time for another long jam, and this time it’s Let’s Work that gets the full treatment. The bass plays us in as there is some very groovy keyboards played over the top. I find this to be much more interesting, and my interest is piqued further as the horns begin to play. Still no vocals, just the groove and funky horns. Prince finally sings after three minutes, but he isn’t needed as this song is already well and truly sounding funky. I think he knows it too, as from here on in it’s all about the horns, and they deliver right through until the end.

Prince Dakota 2013

“One more, one more?” gets a rousing cheer from the crowd as a beat begins and Prince gets the sound just right. Cool takes a couple of minutes to start proper, and this is mostly due to Prince getting the sound adjusted right. The keyboard hook still plays though, and the girls start of singing Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough which doesn’t always work for me, but does on this occasion. Immediately after their singing the jam starts with some more quirky keyboard which I seem to enjoy far too much. The song Cool reappears suddenly as Prince begins to sing, and the last half of the song is Cool sung straight. All these years, and it’s still a great party song, and a fantastic way to round off the show. The crowd is well and truly involved with lots of clapping and cheers and the song comes to a crescendo with overlaying keyboards playing, before the ‘Las Vegas’ is called and the recording ends.

I was hoping for a funky gig, and although it wasn’t quite what I expected this one was good. It was well titled, there was plenty of jams, but what surprised me most was how much fun it sounded. There was only 260 people and they partied more like 500. There was a prevailing sense of joy and the music was uplifting through the whole show. The Dakota shows give us plenty to listen to, this one is the current favourite with three more left to go.

Thanks for reading
See you next week
-Hamish

 

 

 

 

Piano & A Microphone – show 2

The first show of piano and a microphone is still running through my head. Since listening to it yesterday I have been thinking of it constantly, and at work today I had cravings to listen to it again. However I know I must put that aside for a moment so I can concentrate on this, the second show. A preliminary glance at the set list shows this to be a different show in many ways, I see quite a few songs from the last ten years in there, and I think that bodes well. I adored all the older songs he played at the first show, but I also appreciate hearing some of these newer songs in the same setting. Hopefully Prince will bring something new to the table with these songs on the piano, and I can’t wait to hear it.

21st January, 2016 (show 2) Paisley Park

I can’t help but compare this show to the earlier show. The introduction to the second show is much more straight forward. There is the ethereal sounding music, but Prince starts quite suddenly with Wow. I was constantly surprised by his selections and arrangements on the first show, and right from the start I have the same thoughts here. On record I found Wow to be good, live on the piano it is something else. It’s uplifting and soulful, and Prince makes it shine in a way that it doesn’t on the album. Prince has the ability to take songs and infuse them with a lot more heart in the live setting. In this case Wow gains a lot, I would happily listen to this uplifting sound all day.

The Love We Make I have heard on a lot of boots, and usually in a similar way to this, that is the piano and vocals. Prince sounds more restrained in this rendition than I have heard elsewhere, usually it comes later in a set list, so maybe he is pacing himself rather than investing too much of himself into it. However, that in no way diminishes the power and performance of the song. Prince sounds weaker and more melancholy, and I find that moves the song in another direction. I appreciate his vocal performance, and later in the song I lean back and soak up his piano playing. I love hearing the lyrics as his sings, it speaks to me both with the words and the music. The last lines in particular are achingly beautiful.

Piano Mic 2016

I have never sat down and fully appreciated Hitnrun phase 2, so Look At Me, Look At U strikes me for its newness. Prince is effortless in his delivery, and one feels as if this song just fell into his lap as he was playing. His vocals are low key, and once again it’s the piano playing that I get a buzz out of hearing.

The Question Of U is unlike I have heard before. I have heard subdued versions, and instrumental versions, but nothing quite like what we have here. This one is my new favourite, the piano sounds as if it is floating on air and Prince picks out different parts and keeps the song twisting and turning. There are so many words I could use to describe it, it’s beautiful through and through.

1000 X’s & O’s sounds thin, yet very enjoyable. Prince doesn’t push it hard, and the music glides out of the speakers at me. There is a downbeat feel to it, but the playing is divine. Prince on the piano is sublime, and I have to be careful because I could well write that for every song. I listen careful to his playing, and lose myself in its sound.

The next song played is U’re Gonna C Me. To be honest it’s pretty much the same as we heard in the earlier show. It’s a good song that doesn’t leave any lasting impression on me. I know it must be someone’s favourite song, for me it’s something I enjoy then forget about shortly after.

It has been a while since I last heard Call My Name, and listening to it now I wonder why I don’t play it more often. The piano is again sublime, some pieces are just plain brilliant. The vocals are uplifting, although as with the previous songs it sounds as if Prince is being restrained in his delivery. I love the way Prince sings it in this manner, later in the song he warms up, and I am drawn right into his world as he sings. As always my favourite parts are when he sings “I just can’t stop writing songs about ya”. A great performance again.

Whenever I see Purple Rain in a set list I wonder what can I write about a song that I have heard so many times. I knew when I saw it here that it would be something different and maybe more emotional. There will be no big beat stadium sound, no guitar solo release. Instead just Prince, his piano and the song. Purple Rain sounds better than I have heard it in years. The slow keyboard as Prince sings the opening lines sets the tone. He plays a variety of parts, mixing them up and that keeps me interested as we go deeper into the song. He draws out the verses, there is a lot of space in there, and I think that adds to the emotional element as after every few lines there is time to soak up the sound and feel the weight of the words. He never enthusiastically sings it like a stadium show, instead he passionately sings it to himself and mic in a way that feels much more personal. There is one moment that I particularly enjoy and that is when as he sings “I never wanted to be your weekend lover” some one in the crowd lets out a whoop, very similar to what’s heard on the original recording. By design, or accident, it’s a cool moment.  At one point he plays some chords on the piano that recreate that strong guitar sound as he sings “I know, I know, times are changing”, and it’s all these little things that add up and make this performance so great.  Most of the song I feel like the crowd you see in the Purple Rain movie, I am nodding along feeling all the emotion of the song. There may be even a tear in my eye (it’s just dust, honestly)

The Dance is an overlooked song. It gets its moment in the sun here, and rightly so. I hadn’t heard it for a while, so I find myself concentrating carefully on the lyrics as I listen and Princes vocals are flawless throughout. I am so pleased that Prince pulled this out, I am sure there is many other great songs buried on albums that would be much appreciated on a fresh airing. The song sounds almost new to my ears as I listen, and I will make a point of playing this a few more times in the coming days.

Prince gives a dripping performance of Ta Amo Carazon, the song lends itself well to this performance and emotion. I am impressed how many of these modern songs carry more weight solo at the piano, and Prince is able to give them the same status as some of his earlier material. I find I am feeling just as much emotion at this second show as I felt at the first, although they are different in many ways, and this one is less personal to Prince, and yet more emotional to me.

Paino Microphone 2

A Million Days follows suit, and again it’s Princes vocal delivery that has me in raptures. His voice doesn’t have the same smoothness, and it gives the song more feel as he cracks and growls in places, before ending with a beautiful falsetto. It’s another master class as he injects the song with new life.

I do greatly enjoy Nothing Compares 2 U, although I can’t find anything that I feel is new in it. I have heard Prince sing it plenty of times, so it’s piano playing that I find I listen to most and he gives it a little extra which I appreciate. He doesn’t draw the song out too long, and he gives us the essentials, again I think that is a smart move for a song that we all know so well.

With the words “one more sad song” Prince takes us back with a performance of How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore. The previous show he only teased us with it, this time we get the full song, complete with the audience clapping and singing along. With the audience involved it brings some warmth to the evening, rather than Prince singing melancholy songs alone at the piano. The are plenty of cheers and Prince rises to the occasion with some whoops of his own. The song ends with some call and response and it lightens the mood considerably.

Listening to the last show I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I heard Condition Of The Heart, this time it’s The Ladder that has the same effect on me. It’s good. I mean it’s really good. It’s a brilliant moment at the show, with Prince speaking the lines as his piano rocks back and forth underneath. When he releases and begins to finally sing the effect is spellbinding. It’s everything you could ever wish for in a performance, and it cements my thoughts on these two shows, they are easily up with the best I have ever heard.

I Wanna Be Your Lover brings a pop spark to the show, and Prince sums it up nicely with the single word “karaoke” as he begins to play. Sure enough the fans deliver, singing the lines back to him as he plays. It’s very infectious, and my partner is laughing at me as I play air-piano along with it. It’s full of fun and, as with the last show, it’s the outro that steals it for me, with Prince playing it all on his piano. Again, he is untouchable.

Lisa gets credit again as Prince plays Raspberry Beret. He doesn’t give us a full story like we heard in the previous show, but he still mentions the part Lisa wrote. The spoken part in the middle song sounds a little strange to my ears, the crowd however love it and sing enthusiastically along. Prince gives a laugh and I can feel his smile coming through the speakers at me. You can’t beat hearing someone who sounds like they love what they are doing.

Piano and Mic

Starfish and Coffee sounds good, this time I know what to expect and as before Prince keeps it short and perfunctory. It is a fun song, yet it doesn’t quite fit with the pop of I Wanna Be Your Lover or Raspberry Beret, nor does it fall in with the melancholy ballads that we heard early on. It is its own thing, and seems out of place here. I still love it though.

Once again Venus De Milo is mesmerizing and I can do nothing but sit and listen. A classic though and though this almost steals the show, as it did in the earlier show.

Second time round I appreciate Sometime It Snows In April much more. Prince sounds cleaner to my ears, and the words speak for themselves. His piano swells and rolls under the lyrics, and I know this is a slow burner that will stand up to repeated listens. He plays with the arrangement later in the song, and for me that adds to the attraction of this song.

I have always liked Dear Mr Man, so I was very interested to see how this arrangement would play out. The piano works well for the song, and it’s got a fuller sound than the guitar. That might detract from the lyrics, but Prince is well in his stride now and the lyrics are infused with a quiet power that has me nodding in approval. The lyrics are poignant, and I think the crowd realize that as the quietly listen. Prince’s piano has a slight swing to it, I am impressed by how expressive he is with it.

After listening to the first show, hearing A Case Of U doesn’t come as such a great shock. It’s still a great performance, although I am not as moved as I was when I first heard it on the piano. It’s a touching song, and I wouldn’t want to hear Prince play it too much, least it loses that sheen of special it has about it. As great as Prince’s piano sounds, it’s the lyrics that have me transfixed. They convey so much and in such a beautiful way, this could be the best cover he has chosen to do.

I must admit that I didn’t pick Kiss right away, it’s a left field selection for a show like this. It has me scratching my head, its takes some time to wrap my head around what I am hearing. It’s mad, in a genius sort of way, and I can’t help but like it. That sharp rhythm guitar that I thought was so important is gone, and instead Prince bangs out the rhythm on his piano, again demonstrating how rhythmic a piano player can be. The break is excellent, the clunky piano reminds me of some party’s I have been to, and it has a homely feel to it. The crowd get into it, with some singing that adds the sense of fun with Prince teasing them a couple of times.

What the, is that Black Sweat? Indeed it is, and it’s a lot of fun. Prince is still playing that heavy rhythm on the piano as he sings, and I almost laugh at how he is even doing this. He definitely has vision. It sounds like the crowd are with him as I hear some cheers and clapping along. He only keeps it up for a couple of minutes, its well worth hearing though as it shows him attempting something unexpected.

I was unfamiliar with Free Urself. Prince sings “if you know the words sing along” and it seems I am not the only one who doesn’t know this song. The song has a simpler feel to it, and it kicks along nicely as Prince sings Free Urself. It’s up against some great songs in this show, it’s never going to be a knock out, yet it has its place and is an uplifting way to finish the show as I can hear the crowd singing ‘Free Urself” It’s a positive ending to yet another great show.

It would be unfair to compare this second show to the other. It’s tempting to do so, yet both are quite different to each other, and this one stacks up very well to the earlier show.  A few hours ago I would have sworn the first show was the show to end all shows. Now in the cold light of day, and after listening to this one, I’m not so sure. This show was great in its own right, and deserves just as much praise as the first show. Prince has pulled out some forgotten songs, dusted them off and given them a new lease of life, and he must be commended for that. It was a brave move, and I think it paid off, especially as he threw in songs that are not easily suited to this style such as Black Sweat. All in all, I need this show just as much as the first show. If Prince ever chose to give this an official release I would be first in line paying whatever it took. Prince has given me so much joy throughout his career, and these shows are the cherry on top. Thank you Prince.