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.
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.
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.
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.