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.
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.
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.
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.
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,