Purple Rain Finale – Miami

Last week I took a closer listen to one of the earliest shows of the Purple Rain tour, one of the opening concerts in Detroit. To close the circle, this week I will be taking a listen to the final performance of the Purple Rain tour, the finale from the Orange Bowl, Miami. This particular day is well covered, we have a stupendous soundboard of the rehearsal, which clearly demonstrates that The Revolution have lost none of their fire as the tour progressed. If anything, they are playing harder, faster and playing with just as much to prove on the opening nights. We also have the opening act of Sheila E. in soundboard quality which gives the main show added depth and context when these supplementary recordings are taken as a whole. The main show itself is widely circulating, and I know very few people who don’t have this in their collection. As such, you might think there is no need to cover this ground, but I do want to listen to it again with the hangover of that Detroit concert in my mind.

7th April, 1985. Orange Bowl, Miami

When it comes to classic pop-rock songs, there is no song more pop, rock, or classic than “Let’s Go Crazy.” The phosphorescent guitar breaks by Prince paired with the contagious keyboard riffs fill every crack of the song. The rendition presented on this recording leans toward the pop end of the scale, a lot of the furious guitar work sits low in the mix, leaving Prince and the Linn drum to carry the song forward with their sparse rhythm. It is an energized start to the recording, and even 30 years on I can yet again feel myself being caught up in the fervor of the moment.

The 1999 songs that follow are only two or three years old at this time, yet sound light years away from the music Prince was currently producing. “Delirious” is bright and youthful, yet sounds less well considered than the Purple Rain songs that will fill the setlist. The second half of the song features piano work from Prince and some horns that speaks far more of Prince at this time, and nicely updates the song for the Purple Rain audience.

The song “1999” falls into the same category for me, even by this stage it is already sounding dated, and although it keeps the energy levels up and provokes an enthusiastic response from the crowd, it does sound very much like the era that it is from. That aside, I like it. The verses, with their relay of lines from the Revolution, are very clean sounding, as is the greasy guitar line by Prince and I whole-heartily approve of both. To my ears the ending is over worked, but that is just my own personal taste rather than anything that is happening at the concert.

I am warmed by the introduction of “Little Red Corvette,” and although it offers no surprises I welcome it like an old friend. Princes vocals emerge from the soft fog of synthesizes, standing alone and stark in contrast. It doesn’t get any better than this opening moment, the rest of the song can’t carry the emotional weight that Prince sets out at the beginning. It is crowd pleasing though, and I enjoy it for what it is here at home.

There is a wonderful jangle that first catches my ear in “Take Me With U,” the guitars creating a youthful and energetic fill that Prince and the rest of the song rides across. The bulk of the song is filled by a long rise that neatly joins the first part of the song to what promises to be a longer jam. This jam gets off to a fine start, in particular Brown Mark and his bass pull the pop of “Take Me With U” back, and instead root it firmly to the dance floor. This is sharpened with Wendy’s contribution on the funk guitar and although only two minutes it is one of the early highlights to be heard on this recording.

We can all catch a breath with the “Yankee Doodle” section, and even though I could easily skip it, I stick with it to complete the concert experience for myself. Prince’s spoken word section is interesting at first, but after numerous listens there is nothing more to be had from that section. The payoff for enduring this section is “Do Me, Baby” that follows, and for the first time we have a direct comparison to what we heard on the Detroit concert earlier in the tour. “Do Me, Baby” isn’t quite as lush as the Detroit show, but on the same hand its isn’t as indulgent either, which leaves us with a crisp,clean rendition of one of Prince’s most enduring ballads.I prefer it when Prince wrings every drop of yearning and lust from it, but having this in soundboard quality more than makes up for any thoughts.

The Detroit concert segued from “Do Me, Baby” to “Fathers Song.”  Prince has altered the setlist by the end of the tour, and we have an injection of James Brown styled funk with “Irresistible Bitch” and “Possessed.” Both provide drive and focus, and drive the concert forward after the brief lull of “Yankee Doodle.”  The Revolution are sounding great, but it is the supplemental players that elevate these songs for me, the saxophone in particular used to great effect in the last minutes of the performance.

The contrast as Prince moves to the solo piano couldn’t be greater, and although he plays with plenty of swing and swagger, the previous funk quickly dissipates. “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” sees Prince playing the audience as much as he plays the piano. In fact there is very little music after the first stanza, and most of the song consists of Prince teasing the audience with his smutty talk.

He also teases as he introduces the next song as “Temptation” from the new album. It is only that though, a tease, and all we get is a couple of lines as he plays the piano riff of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” With the saxophones present it is infectious, and is definitely one to get the crowd moving. Wendy too gets things moving with guitar contribution which nicely matches Prince on the piano, and all in all it is a hit out for all the band before Prince pulls things back in the next few minutes.

With Prince at the piano, we get several minutes of audience  interplay before he finally settles on “God.” In the Detroit concert this was paired with “Father’s Song,” and even though we don’t get “Father’s Song” at this show, we do get a quieter and more respectful audience as Prince plays “God” It is a much better sounding performance than the Detroit concert, and I find I listen intently throughout. I’m not so thrilled about the final minutes of weirdness, but I am perfectly accepting that this is part of being a Prince fan.

The is a vicious snarl to “Computer Blue” that brings an animalistic fury back to the show. The first minutes there is a sense of shock and awe as Prince unleashes the Revolution, and before I can regain my senses the song is already morphing into the second half. I am always hoping for more with “Computer Blue,” but Prince always pitches it just right. Anymore would just be tiring, and he brings it to a close as it climaxes, leaving me to indulge myself in post coital rendition of “Darling Nikki”

“Darling Nikki” is to be expected, and there are no surprises or extras tacked on here. It is a pleasing few minutes, it is never too challenging a listen and the minutes slips quickly by.

There is a sheen and polish to “The Beautiful Ones” that leaves me feeling a less satisfied than a lot of recordings I have heard. Is the soundboard too clean? I just don’t know, but there does seem to be an element of intensity and emotion missing from the performance. It sounds beautiful though, and I can only think that this is one song where one would tire from investing too much into it. Maybe, just maybe, as the last show on the tour Prince is skating through this song.

The opening guitar riff of “When Doves Cry” rips through this soundscape, and tears up the previous gloss of “The Beautiful Ones.” The guitar gives way to that irresistible keyboard hook, and I know that it will stay with me for the rest of the day. Prince’s vocals sound shallow on this recording, but it does give us more space to hear Wendy and Lisa, and that’s no bad thing. It is mid song that the song begins to fly, Brown Mark’s bass ushering in a harder, denser sound that brushes up hard against Wendy’s fearsome solo. She is absolutely formidable for the minutes she plays, and her piece is the strongest moment in the song.

Normally it is the drum machine that I hear most in “I Would Die 4 U,” in this case it is the bass of Brown Mark that I gravitate towards. The song isn’t as bright as one might expect, and certainly not as sparkling as the show I listened to from the first days of the tour. However, it is a pop song, and can carry itself despite a rather lackluster performance. The song explodes in the final minute as it becomes a jam that will eventually be “Baby I’m A Star.” One gets the feeling that this is the moment The Revolution have been waiting for, and they explode out of the gate with wings of funk.

“Baby I’m A Star” is flexible and on the Purple Rain tour could be dragged out for as long as needed. The performance at this concert is relatively short, and clocks in at a sprightly thirteen minutes. With Sheila E. and her band joining the fray there is plenty to take in. Her percussion adds an exotic quality to the song, and coupled with the bass of Brown Mark, the song is becomes a mixture of styles that removes it far from the album version. My only reservation is there is some tremendously busy saxophone to be heard, but it is low in the mix and one must strain hard to catch it all. It does come further forward later, but nearly as much as I would like. If it was louder and to the fore I would rate this rendition highly, and even as it is I thrilled to hear these new additions to Prince’s music at the time.

One would assume that the final “Purple Rain” of the tour would be an emotional one, and from the first moments the guitar is infused with a sense of melancholy and finality. Like any great art, what you bring to it is what is reflected back at you, and in this case I can feel the end of the era and the swirl of emotion that I associate with that time as Prince puts Purple Rain behind him and strides confidently into the future. It sounds big, as it should, and even though the introduction is long there is never the feeling that the band is dwelling on it, they are simply letting the song move in its own way. Prince’s opening move on the guitar is stunning, and I would be more than happy if the song ended simply at this point. However, there is so much more to come as Princes blazes a trail across the recording, his guitar a comet that lights up the arena sky. 55,000 move and sing with him, and that becomes 55,001 as I lose myself in the magic of the moment.  Even after 97 concerts, and 97 renditions of Purple Rain, Prince and the band nail it one last time with a rendition that is just as good as any other heard on the tour. I expect the guitar solo to be overwrought, instead Prince keeps it clinical and generates a inner intensity as he plays. A final goodbye from Prince closes the concert and there is a simplicity and power in his words.

A well known show, one can see why this recording has retained it’s popularity over the years. Not only is it a noteworthy mark in history, it is an equally powerful and affecting concert. Comparing it to the show from the first week of the tour, we can see that Prince has streamlined the show,in particular the sagging middle section is brightened with the addition of “Possessed” and “Irresistible Bitch.” Likewise, the piano set has been tightened up, and although still a little ponderous, it does engage the audience far more. There is no need for me to make a recommendation on this recording, most people already have it and are no doubt overly familiar with it. It has stood the test of time, and thirty years later I still label this as a must listen.

Thanks again for reading,
next week I’m going to start digging through some European concerts.

-Hamish

Detroit 1984 Purple Rain Tour

I am now firmly ensconced in the bosom of the motherland, and surrounded by the books and records that I so dearly love. Now I am back in my comfort zone I thought it would be cool to revisit the Purple Rain tour, something I have been meaning to do for a while now. It might be interesting to listen to one of the earliest concerts of the tour and see how it stacks up against the final concert of the tour. Disregarding all the one-off shows Prince performed in the lead up to the tour, the first concert we have recorded from the tour itself is 5th November in Detroit. This is the second concert of the tour, but with the hit record and movie behind him, the sold out audience is already well primed for the performance. The recording is unfortunately incomplete, I will be listening to only the last ten songs of the concert, but these are the Purple Rain songs so I aren’t too upset. There is also some confusion over the date, the recording says the 5th, but the bonus Sheila E song comes from the following night (she states its their third night in Detroit). I am going to take the Prince songs at face value, they are tagged as the 5th, so the 5th it is.

5th November 1984, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

The recording begins with the piano set coming to a close. It is an angelic “Do Me, Baby” that is the doorway into this show. I like it, some of the vocal audience members near the microphone, not so much. I have to chuckle as one guy can be heard saying “He’s good, but he gotta play more tunes and get the fuck away from this shit.” Purple Rain concerts are well known for dragging in the middle, and obviously it’s all too much for this guy. I have to disagree, and with this only partial recording I can fully appreciate the minute and a half of “Do Me, Baby” for what it is – graceful, delicate, and heartfelt.

The audience don’t settle for “Father’s Song” and although I can hear it just fine, the crowd can be heard talking and cheering most of the way through it. It doesn’t spoil the moment, but they certainly don’t show it any respect.

After these two shorter songs, we get something substantial with Prince’s “God.” On record I like it, in the live context, although it sounds good, it never quite works. The opening stanzas a little too ponderous for an amped up crowd, and in this case even at home I feel like I am just waiting for something, anything, to happen. The audience recording though is pretty good, and Prince’s spoken words in the midsection are well recorded and seems to again connect with the crowd, that is if the screams are anything to go by.

I had hoped for an longer version of “Computer Blue,” instead Prince gives me a fiery intense four minute version that razes everything to the ground. It is a scorched earth rendition and Prince and the band burn with a incandescent rage from start to finish, something I fully approve of.

Prince concerts are often about contrasts, and “Darling Nikki” is certainly that, coming hard on the heels of “Computer Blue.” As always it is a crowd pleaser, and even though the first twenty minutes of this recording has been full of audience screams, they still find it in themselves to scream louder. At times it does sound almost like Beatlemania, but things quieten for Dr Fink’s off the wall solo, he is easily the highlight of these few minutes.

After listening to “The Beautiful Ones” across Princes career, I am always knocked out by how great it sounds in 1984/85. It is a great song, but at this time it is right for the moment, and it’s right for Prince. Afterwards it always had too much associated with it, but here is the perfect moment in time, and it is simply glorious. The audience recording is superb, and even through the audience are with us every step of the way it still sounds divine, as if Prince is channeling it from a higher plain. It is a lengthy performance, but it feels all too short as Prince howls, screams and emotes his way through the entire six minutes.

“When Doves Cry” is one of the main pillars of the show, and it is given a respectful amount of time accordingly. The recording, while good, isn’t quite good enough for my tastes. The bass, and general power of the band, is diluted. Under normal circumstances I would say this recording is great (there is no distortion or muffle), but for these few minutes I wish it was even better. Wendy’s impassioned guitar break snaps through any thoughts about the recording though, and at the end of the day the music wins through with Prince’s sheer will power and conviction in the music he is playing.

The best part of the recording is “I Would Die 4 U,” with Prince’s vocals crystal clear from the very start. The song shines in this context, and after the previous intensity of “When Doves Cry” it is pure sunlight. As always it is short and bright, and it really is a song that I have come to appreciate a lot more over the years. The final couple of minutes become looser as it becomes pure groove, and I can’t help but fall in love with Wendy a little more as her guitar rings out.

It is only the second show of the tour, but “Baby I’m A Star” is already a behemoth, The Revolution riding Prince’s energy with their own vitality and animated style. It doesn’t reach the same level as some of the unhinged jams later in the tour, but the essential elements are all in place as it twists and turns through a maze of solos, brief musical thoughts, and throw away riffs. For all the ups and downs, it stays surprisingly focused, and there is a crispness to the performance that makes it all the more captivating. The solo bestowed upon it by Prince is noteworthy, butmy the player of the day award goes to Brown Mark and Wendy, who heighten the level of funkiness present with their inspired playing.

It is still the epic high point of the show, but “Purple Rain” doesn’t scale the same heady heights heard later in the tour. The animalistic snort of guitar in the introduction bodes well, but the rest of the song is still by the numbers. I don’t say that as a negative, this is “Purple Rain” played on the Purple Rain tour, and as such it has a majestic and regal aura of purple about it as Prince guides us through his most beloved song. Thirteen minutes is short by “Purple Rain” standards, but Prince has all the key milestones in place throughout the song (you can practically check them off as the song progresses) and anyone here for the Purple Rain album experience would leave happy. Even though this concert recording is short, it feels like we have come a long way since “Do Me, Baby,” and with “Purple Rain” it does feel like the end of a journey.

This audience recording was much better than I expected, and even though there was some audience talking early on, the music was still the key feature and remained at the forefront of the sound.  The Purple Rain tour is well covered in the world of bootlegs, being the breakthrough tour that it was, but not many of them are as good as the recording we have here. It is short, but that works to it’s favor and the concert plunges through the Purple Rain album. Don’t be put-off by the audience recording, this is still worth hearing.

Next week, I will take a listen to the final show of the Purple Rain tour, I am curious to see how it evolved from this early concert to that final showcase.

Thanks again
Hamish

Rainmaker – Disc 3 Santa Monica Benefit

Eye records are slowly winning me over. I wasn’t an immediate fan of their output, but recently I have found their releases far more enjoyable and rewarding. Despite occasional sound issues and packaging errors (the proofreading is at at the same level as this blog -nil), I still find they have unearthed some great shows that we would not have otherwise heard. The realization came to me the other day that of late I have listened to far more of their releases than anyone else’s. The last twelve months they have had some outstanding releases and become a label worth taking notice of.

The Boston Metro concert I wrote of last week was a tidy release, and the Rainmaker release from the same week is of equal standing. The Rainmaker package brings together three complete performances (two concerts, and a full rehearsal) as well as a couple of rehearsals and jams that are incomplete, but of interest to the serious collector. Two of these performances are well-known in the bootleg community – the Minnesota Dance Theater benefit, and the rehearsal that precedes it. Both have appeared on numerous labels, and I have covered them previously in this blog. The most interesting part of Rainmaker is the third show –  a benefit concert for special needs students at the height of the Purple Rain tour. This concert has plenty to recommend it from the outset. It is a Purple Rain concert – Prince’s most popular album played at the height of his fame with his most beloved band. It is also another example of Prince’s altruism, worthy of praise and credit. What I think is best about this concert is that it is a Purple Rain concert trimmed of all the fat and excess. It clocks in at barely and hour, and is a highlights package of the nightly show. There is no meandering middle section, and no time for the concert to sag and lose momentum. It is a punchy show from the first moments to the last, with the songs shorter and coming in rapid succession. The piano section is still intact, although considerable shorter, but the concert has been shorn of the shower scene and the conversation with God. If I am brutally honest; it is all the better for it as Prince delivers a high octane performance of his very best material to date.

25 February 1985, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica

Prince sets out his stall early with a dynamic rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy.” It is crisp, both the performance and the recording, and many aspects are clearly heard on the disc. The drum machine is very prominent on one side, counter balanced by Wendy and Prince’s equally dramatic guitar work. With little audience noise the recording is almost sterile sounding, the instruments standing out on their own with very little other sonic decoration. With the bones of the song laid bare like this, it becomes an interesting listen for those that like to see what lies at the heart of the performance.

Similar ground is covered by “Delirious.” The drum machine remains strong, the guitar stands alone (highlighting Wendy’s playing) while the rest of the song seems to occur elsewhere. The most notable feature is Eric Leeds and his undefinable saxophone sound. Although not consistently through the song, it nevertheless is instantly recognizable when heard and fleshes out the song into a more organic, three dimensional sound.

“Delirious” is matched by the equally frenetic “1999” that rolls in immediately after. Eric Leeds is again busying up the sound, and the keyboard refrain is  oddly muted in this context. However, it is an upbeat and lively performance that captures the joie de vivre present throughout the show, and without being demanding is a nice sign post of where Prince was at the time.

It is the following “Little Red Corvette” that not only brings a seriousness to the show, but also pushes Eric Leeds and his saxophone further to the front. The opening minute is particularly enticing as Eric casts a shadow across the introduction with his mournful intonations. He is very quiet on the track, but he is the one part of the song that has to be heard. The spirit of the song is perfectly encapsulated in the way he plays, and his contribution is every bit as emotive as Prince and his lyrical delivery.

“Take Me With U” comes as a complete package. Every member of the band has their place, and for the first time on the recording no one instrument stands out. It is the standard short run through of the song, giving you all pop you ever need in the first minute before the band jam briefly on the coda. It is a finely balanced performance, delivering much more than is suggested by its three and a half minute run time.

The performance of “4 The Tears In Your Eyes” is yet another reason this concert comes highly recommended. The soundboard recording serves the moment well, Prince is crystal clear while retaining a live feel. I am sold on the performance long before Wendy and Lisa’s vocals join in unison, closing out the song on a high as their vocals build and support the foundation that Prince has built.

The piano section is shorter than other shows on the Purple Rain tour, I thought this might detract from the moment, yet it it makes it all the more forceful and comes as another solid punch in a show full of hits. “Free” lays out the ground work, its simplicity underlined in this solo performance that brings out another layer of emotion. This emotion remains present for “Do Me, Baby,” and as the band join him Prince gives another pleading performance full of both lust and raw sex.

A single piano plays the opening hook for “When Doves Cry” before the band join for a full unadulterated performance.  There is plenty of time to appreciate the music, Prince lets the opening riff mature in the first minutes before he eventually begins to sing. Again, the recording matches the music, and Prince’s voice is stark in its emptiness on the recording, giving the song a sonic backdrop that matches the lyrical content. Wendy’s guitar break is drawn from the same well, and the song has a satisfying completeness to it that is unmatched anywhere else on the recording. The final flourishes of Brown Mark and Dr Fink put an emphatic full stop on yet another great moment.

The show has been concise so far, and that continues with “Baby I’m A Star.” It is ten minutes, but nowhere near as long as some of the other epic versions heard on tour. True to form (for this show at least), it is Eric Leeds who leads the band into the fray, his bright sax the flag that they rally around early on. It is a storming performance, the band condensing all the usual licks and tricks into a tight package that delivers just as much as other drawn out jams. For my money, it is Bobby Z and Brown Mark that are the heroes of the moment, their rhythm carrying the rest of the band through “Body Heat” before neatly returning us back on track for the finale of “Baby I’m A Star.” This has Prince and the band playing with a quiet fury that never once loses focus and sets us up for the epic climax of “Purple Rain.”

Keeping in context with the rest of the show, “Purple Rain” is nowhere near the drawn out guitar-fest that we hear elsewhere. First, it is adorned with some fine playing by Eric, the opening minutes being a celebration of his saxophone as he brings sparkle to an otherwise melancholy opening. The rest of the song follows the script of the album version, Prince singing his lines before the inevitable guitar onslaught. However, he doesn’t go through the stratosphere with his playing, instead playing within the scope of what is heard on record. “Purple Rain” can run for up to half an hour on the tour, here it is eleven minutes – again completely in keeping with the momentum and energy of the rest of the show.

I rate this show highly. It is to the point, and not a minute of the hour it runs is wasted. Although it is a sterile sounding soundboard, I would still take that over a scratchy audience recording any day. This is the Prince we love to hear, fire in his belly performing at the peak of his powers. When taking as a complete package with the other shows Eye records have bundled with it, it becomes even better. I am sure everyone has heard the other performances on this set, but if I was starting out in the bootleg leg world this would be a great start point. Eye records may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no denying this is a nice set that holds its own in any collection.

Thanks for joining me again,
next week I will return to the book launch of 21 Nights that I started a couple of weeks ago.
-Hamish

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 2

The new Eye records release of the Uniondale shows was just too much to digest at one sitting, so today I return to the second show featured on the recording – Uniondale March 23rd, 1985. It does differ from the other Uniondale concert in several ways. There is a performance of Head that has me a gasp, as well as “Condition Of The Heart”, “Raspberry Beret” and “America” all making appearances, pointing towards the release of Around The World In a Day later in the year. Like the previous concert there are edits throughout, in particular “Raspberry Beret” is missing its second verse,  I am prepared to overlook that for now and enjoy the recording for what it is, a passionate delivery of one of Princes most beloved concert tours.

23rd March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

We’re now 32 years beyond the Purple Rain tour and yet I have still not tired of the “Let’s Go Crazy” opening. This rendition captures my imagination, the guitar touches on the raw sound that appeals to my punk rock roots and it has a similar energy. The recording is nice and clean, and this emphasizes the dirtiness of Princes guitar. I may have had reservations based on being overly familiar, yet I am sold on it from the start.

Likewise, “Delirious” gets a firm pass from me. It has never stood out to me as a great song, the performance though has me seeing it in a different like, especially as I can hear a wonderful funk guitar playing in the background. The soundboard recording is paying dividends and I get much more out of the song at this concert than I normally do. There is much more to it than I previously thought, and the bootleg nerd in me revels in all the small details I can hear.

There is a natural pairing of “1999” and “Little Red Corvette”. Although both from the same album they come from different places and “1999” is as much a celebration as “Little Red Corvette” is a sensitive moment in a concert that is otherwise bombastic. I am drawn to both of them, but at the end of the day it is “Little Red Corvette” that has me pushing the repeat button. There is plenty of great guitar work in “1999”, yet it is the synthesizer in “Little Red Corvette”  that places me at the concert. There is also some notable guitar work in “Little Red Corvette” as the song provides something for everyone and I think by the time it ends most people would be well satisfied with the preceding ten minutes.

I find “Take Me With U” to be highly enjoyable, although again, I gravitate towards the later section of the song as Prince dresses it up with some lead guitar and the hook of “All The Critics Love U In New York” Catchy and fun, this moment comes as a lightness before the following “Yankee Doodle” drags the show down.

I want the following “Do Me, Baby” to be great. I want it to ooze out my speakers and fill the room with love and lust. It shapes up well, but like most of these Purple Rain performances, it  is abridged and runs at only a couple of minutes. Despite its brief appearance, I still find it to be a highlight and it is certainly a lot better than “Yankee Doodle” that came before it.

The guitar is sharp and carries plenty of funk for  “Irresistible Bitch”. The guitar is subverted for the following “Possessed”, where the horn of Eric Leeds dominates. He is in fine form, and Prince introduces him to the crowd with a humorous “He just got out of college”. That comment belies the immense talent that Eric is as he interlaces his style all through the song, making it another standout.

The piano set at this show is a highlight and for me is the best part of the gig. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” has some very ‘Princely’ ad-libs in the final minute, in particular I get a kick out of “How come you don’t screw me, anymore?”. However, this is merely the appetizer, it is “Condition Of The Heart” that serves as the main course in this delightful treat. He may wrap it up after a couple of minutes, but it leaves an aftertaste that lasts with me long after. Prince coyly introduces “Raspberry Beret” with “You wanna hear some more new songs? Can you keep a secret?”, before the now familiar piano riff plays. Princes vocals stand out alone in front of the music, I find this adds a lot to the song. It sparkles in its freshness and Prince is obviously relishing sharing his new music with the audience. Sadly, the second verse has been edited out, but what remains still sounds good.

“Head” is introduced as “Something nasty” and it is a piano driven, rhythm and funk monster. Prince works the crowd with his chants and piano riffs as it becomes a stop start jam. With Eric Leeds playing over Prince’s bare piano it becomes different from what one would normally expect, making it something special that is worth coming back too. Even with the rest of the band, the song comes as a stripped back groove. Eric does lead it off to a lighter and more ethereal place, giving the song a lightness I have never heard before.

The band are again the focus for “Lets Pretend We’re Married”, both Wendy and Eric get a shout out. Eric can be heard all over the song, but for my money Wendy is the star. Even though she only gets the briefest of solos, she is sounding fierce and raw, two attributes I look for first when listening to guitarists.

It is hardly worth mentioning “International Lover”, barely 20 seconds of singing and a minute of crowd cheering, but “God’ follows and that deserves a much closer listen. It’s a fine rendition, with Prince taking some time with this introspection. As much as I like the song, it doesn’t fit well with the overall concert and as it gives way to “Computer Blue” there is the feeling that it is misplaced.

I enjoy both halves of “Computer Blue”. Usually it is the guitar fueled first half that I give all my attention to, but in this case the song is well balanced and I find I give equal credence to the delicate piano playing in the second section. That is, of course, eventually overwhelmed by the heavier groove, but not before it has made a lasting impression on me.

Some of the heavier guitar from “Computer Blue” bleeds through to “Darling Nikki”. The guitar have an extra crunch to them which gives the song a different texture against the wall of synthesizer. The music is good enough that I forget the lyrical content, which is normally the main focus, and instead just sit back and swim in the groove of it. This is another song that is resurrected by the soundboard recording, new nuances can be picked out and the song heard in a new light in this context.

“The Beautiful Ones” may have an alluring beginning, but it is the epic finish that stands out. Prince works the audience and the song into a climax that sounds as intense on record as it must have been onstage. “The Beautiful Ones” gets plenty of credit for being beautiful, but it is the intensity of the moment that marks this one as a great performance.

It is “When Doves Cry” that follows, no surprises there. It begins and ends with a great guitar performance from Wendy, who nails her part with a rock solid drive. The opening riff and squeal throwing down the gauntlet, the song staying as a groove, before Wendy accepts the challenge with her guitar solo and a solid riff that carries the song to the end. It is much less pop than heard on record, but I for one love it even more for its relentless drive and cold percussive sound.

Three minutes of pure pop joy follows with “I Would Die 4 U”. Its lightness comes as a great contrast after “When Doves Cry” and the concert again soars as the band plays.

“Baby I’m A Star” is heavily edited. There are still moments to enjoy, just try not to think about what isn’t there. As always, Eric Leeds gives plenty over a great rhythm groove, the piano and guitar both propelling the song forward.  As much as I enjoy it, I can’t help but think about what isn’t there. An audience recording of the same show reveals it to run at a longer 13 minutes, so what we have here is barely half the song. Still lets be positive, better to enjoy what we do have and appreciate the soundboard recording.

The opening few minutes of “Purple Rain” are heaven to me. I could quite happily listen to introduction on loop for the rest of my life. I can’t put my finger on it, but it makes me feel warm, safe, nostalgic, and hopeful all at once. The rest of the is good, but it does have an obvious cut that is quite jarring (at least to my ears). I still give it a solid pass mark, however, as the song is as we know it and it is a lot more complete than the first show covered by this release.

The show ends with one final encore, a furious run through of “America”. The edits made to “Baby I’m A Star” are all but forgiven as the band jam on “America” for ten minutes. There is plenty of guitar work for those who like that sort of thing, tempered again by Eric Leeds who comes to the party with lots of honk and sass. Prince does stop the song at one point, apparently to chastise those fighting in the audience, although it can’t be anything too serious as its only briefly before the band pick right back up on their groove. The band are relentless and the guitars derive a lot of passion and drive from the strong groove. The basic sound is supplemented by a Shelia E solo, but the real star of the performance is the song itself. There is a much stronger synth sound, especially on the left, and it gives a solid backdrop for the guitar to play. The song passes by surprisingly quick and, before I know it, it ends and I’m sitting in silence.

Somebody said to me the other day that this is their release of the year. Even with the edits and tags, its hard not to disagree with them. Both shows are fantastic, and the soundboard brings the Purple Rain concerts into sharp focus. I am not normally a great fan of Eye records, but I must admit the packaging and material here is exception. One can only hope that there is plenty more where this one came from.

Until next time, take care
Hamish

 

 

Purple Rain – Uniondale Pt 1

There has plenty to enjoy in the world of bootlegs in the last few days. Anyone who follows the blog knows how much I enjoyed the Act I video that appeared last week. I am also equally enthused by the Eye records release covering two Purple Rain shows from Uniondale. One show is pretty exciting, but to have two (in soundboard quality), is beyond exciting. I am giddy with joy. I should wait until I have a clear head before I write about them, but right now all I want to do is celebrate the Purple Rain tour and the songs of the era. There are two shows on the release, that is a lot to digest, so I will be taking in one now and the other later in the week. OK, enough words, I’m dying to get this on and crank the volume to maximum.

20th March 1985, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,  Uniondale, NY

The quality of the soundboard recording is apparent from the opening number. “17 Days” is normally quite bassy on concert recordings and even though the bass is prominent, even highlighted at some points, it is the other instruments and players that the recording brings to the fore. I am won over from the start, Prince sounds great, the backing vocals are nice in clean in my ear and the saxophone work by Eddie M adds new textures to the song. I’m in seventh heaven and the rhythm guitar in the right speaker is just the type of sound I love to hear.

The introduction to “Let’s Go Crazy” is the next thing heard on the recording, a song we all very familiar with, especially in the context of the Purple Rain shows. Being the second song, it does lose some of its impact, but that is secondary as again it is the quality of the sound that is of utmost importance. Each member of The Revolution is heard, and they do sound as if they are still as fresh as ever, even this late in the tour. The girls voices are sensational and even through the cacophony of noise I find I focus on them.

“Delirious” is a pleasant division, the piano playing by Prince is always a lot of fun, but it is the following “1999” that again highlights the soundboard recording. With the band taking turns to sing and all contributing to backing vocals, there is plenty to be heard for the careful listener. However, the best moments when I stop listening too hard and instead let the music carry me away. With “1999” blowing in my sails I sail back to my youth, Prince and The Revolution providing a soundtrack that has been with me all my life. “1999” may not be the first Prince song I would reach for to listen to, but tonight it hits my sweet spot and the minutes it plays I am in another time and place.

The introduction is key to “Little Red Corvette”. Over half the song is given over to the opening and it plays as a soundscape that sets the mood. The rest of the song is the standard run through, no bad thing in this case as at this stage it is still fresh and exciting with lyrics that  demonstrate Prince’s clever use of the double entendre.

There is plenty of keyboard in the left speaker for “Take Me With U”, although this is offset by a sharp guitar in the right which gives it balance. The final minute of the song could go either way, a dance number or a guitar frenzy. In this case it is the guitar version with Prince playing some catchy riffs. I do like it, but I am surprised it isn’t louder or more forceful. Criminally short, it’s one of those moments that leaves me hungry for more.

I’m going to skip over “Yankee Doodle”, it has never worked for me and here is the same. It’s a shame that it runs for almost six minutes, while the following “Do Me, Baby” gets a scant couple. “Do Me, Baby” ends just as it was building to something bigger, replaced by Wendy playing the funkiest of riffs. This brings in the funk part of the show as The Revolution groove through “Irresistible Bitch” and “Possessed”. “Possessed” is the longer of the two, a mostly instrumental jam that features plenty of Wendy on guitar and Eddie M or Eric Leeds on saxophone. The band do play a full rendition, but it sounds so good I could easy lap up another few minutes.

Prince is at the piano for “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”, another song that benefits from the soundboard recording. Eye may have messed up the sound on the Worcester recording, but in this case they have it just right. Prince is sounding right in the room with me and ever note from the piano hangs in the air. Even his cliched speech at the end sounds thrilling and reinvigorated.

The spoken lyrics of “Temptation” serves as an introduction to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, a song that kick starts the concert back to life. This show is recorded only a week and a half before the widely know Syracuse concert and many of Princes spoken parts are the same as that concert, as too are the arrangements of many of the songs. Such is the case with “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and the following “International Lover”. Both could well have been lifted from the Syracuse show, they sound very close to those renditions. Due to this, I find this part of the show overly familiar, I enjoy these songs but could happily skip over Prince and his speaking to God without feeling I am missing anything.

The same can’t be said of the song “God”, I listen intently as Prince plays and sings what I feel is one of his most personal songs. The opening half of the song is deceiving, the passion and emotion all lies in the second half as Prince screams and shrieks his way to a climax.

It becomes a normal rock concert again as the band arrive with “Computer Blue”. It is a massacre, the guitar is Prince’s weapon of choice and he slays throughout the song, his guitar cutting great swaths through the song and lyrics. The best comes late in the song as the music changes and allows more room for his guitar to be heard alone. With an insistent drive the song comes to an end with Wendy and Lisa intoning their cold lines.

Things warm again for “Darling Nikki”, and although I can’t see it, in my mind the stage is bathed in reds. Most people come for the lyrics, but what really attracts me is the dirty guitar sound along with the uplifting keyboards. There is a contrast between both which creates a tension, something I can’t help but pay attention to.

I’m not really one for the spoken introduction of “The Beautiful Ones”, but the song itself has me hooked. Prince casts a spell, the vocals and music coming together in a wonderful display of song writing. Prince has written many ballads, but none compare to this masterpiece. His performance here is as good as any other, he is at the peak of his powers and the song is one of the best of the concert, if not the very best. I am a rock guy, so I don’t say that lightly, normally I am drawn to the guitar led numbers, but “The Beautiful Ones” has me in complete awe of Prince’s vocal prowess and sweeping keyboards that bath the song in soft emotion, only punctuated by Princes howls in the final moments as he ramps up the intensity.

Maybe I haven’t heard “When Doves Cry” for a while, but I don’t remember the opening guitar sounding so darn good. The guitar may lure me in, but it is the keyboard hook that lodges itself firmly in my ear and even after 30+ years I still find it as catchy as hell. Prince’s lyrics come and go and I find it is Wendy and her guitar that I am listening to most. Not just the rhythm guitar either, the solo she plays is passionate without resorting to a howl or wail. She conveys plenty of emotion while keeping the solo neatly manicured. The best is saved for last however, and the final minutes has the bass and guitar creating a funky groove that could go for days.

There is one final pop moment before the show moves to long jams. “I Would Die 4 U” never lets me down in this respect, the drum machine and keyboards creating a backdrop for Prince and Wendy to drop their melodies. It is short as always, yet just as important as any other song on the night.

“Baby I’m a Star” is the penultimate song, and it comes as a final blow out for the band. It is the saxophone that is the real hero here, as the band play their brand of funk it is to the fore providing fast and furious runs over top of the groove. I can’t stress enough, it is fantastic. Eric Leeds or Eddie M, I can’t tell, but I cling to it the whole way, it sounds beautiful to my ears. The concert is coming to an end soon enough, but what a way to finish.

The final song is obviously “Purple Rain”, although unfortunately all we get on this recording is two and a half minutes of introduction. Normally I would gush about this part of the song, although robbed of the full version it does diminish the beauty of this opening stanza. With soft, emotive guitar, it promises much more, we can only wonder what might have been.

Last time Eye records released a Purple Rain soundboard I was left bitterly disappointed. Not so this time. Prince and the band give an energetic performance that carries through well to the recording. As a record of a Purple Rain show this is a great document. However, it is not perfect. Any “Prince nerd” would notice that Eye have edited out parts of songs, the circulating audience recording of the same show clearly demonstrating the cuts that Eye have made.It’s not just one or two songs either, about a third of the songs have some sort of edit made on them.  An archivist would find this extremely irritating, a passionate fan less so. It is easy enough to over look this, sit back and just soak up the music of Prince at the zenith of his fame. It’s great to have another soundboard in the collection and I look forward to having a listen to the second show in the next few days.

Thanks again
take care
-Hamish

Miami Soundcheck 1985

David Bowie once sung “Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young” and I know exactly what he means. After the last few weeks I have had I feel like I am watching my life from a distance, I have moved house, had no internet for two weeks, and on top of that I have been battling bureaucracy with Immigration trying to keep my girlfriend in the country (should we fail, the next blog post will be coming out of Tokyo). It’s now that I have discovered the great power in music. Today’s recording is simply astounding, and as I listen to it with headphones on I find all my troubles fade away as the real world disappears into the background. I have written about rehearsals and soundchecks before, and I decided that in future I would shy away from them. This one though is so mind-blowingly good that I find I am compelled to write about it. A soundboard from 1985, this soundcheck has The Revolution playing an amazing set, and within minutes of beginning to play it I was captivated. Already there is a lot of internet buzz about it, and I will say this – believe every word you read, this one is one of the greats.

7th April 1985, Soundcheck, Miami

As soon as the recording started I wanted to talk to someone about it and share the experience. All the elements I love are present right from the start, a crystal clear soundboard, a pounding beat, some delicate funky guitar and then the sax shows up on the scene and I am mouth open and eyes bugging. The Controversy/Mutiny combination is so perfect, you need to hear it to believe it. The Controversy riff is full and dirty, I sweat just listening to it, and the sax playing the Mutiny riff, well it’s just unfair that anything could sound so good. Add in some lead guitar from Prince and this thing is TNT. No more writing here, I am going to spend the next few minutes strutting around the room with this blasting.

PandW

From funk to blues, Prince next shows his blues chops with I Got Some Help I don’t Know I Need. The Revolution shows their versatility as they turn their hand to this, in a heartbeat they go from a funky monster to a laidback deep blue’s groove. I love the feel of it, and once the singing stops and the sax and guitar take over it becomes something else again. Prince lets the sax play before upping the stakes with a stellar guitar break that leaves me with my eyes closed shaking my head, oh yes The Kid can play.

Erotic City is heavy on the drums, as it should be. It’s not much more than a minute, but those sixty seconds I am holding my breath hoping the packaging was wrong and we’d get much more.

The ‘much more’ that I had hoped for comes next. I read someone commenting that Something In The Water here is the best 12 minutes of your life, and they weren’t far wrong. Its 12 minutes of brain melting music that is The Revolution at their very best. It’s a combination of things which make it such a standout, I don’t know where to start, the funky guitar groove that runs for several minutes as the song builds, the melancholy keyboard swells, or the surprising saxophone that leaves me floored. It’s not what’s played, it’s how it is played, and I soak all of it up, not wanting a single element to ever end. I keep coming back to the saxophone, it’s got such a feel to it that it stays with me for hours after I have finished listening. The guitar picks up seamlessly from where the sax finishes, and I swear I have never heard anything so beautiful in my life. It a close run thing, but I think the guitar just tops it.

Prince 1985

The obligatory James Brown cover (Bodyheat in this case) gives the saxophone another chance to get front and centre as it holds down the groove through the song. The band is just on fire at this point, and it amazes me that they can play such a variety of styles right after one another, and inject some much life into each one. A few minutes ago I had tears in my eyes as they played the emotion heavy Something In The Water, now they are a classic funk band, complete with horn section, and jamming on a groove that demands I get up and dance. Don’t let anyone ever tell you The Revolution couldn’t do this or that, listen here, they can do it all.

I wonder what could possibly come after all this, and for the third time in the evening I have to pick my jaw up off the floor as the band play Strange Relationship. For real. I read it on the cover, but I don’t believe it until the song is deep in my ears.  It’s not as funky as it would become, but asides from that it is 98% the same song that would later be released. Did I mention it sounds good? Oh yes it does, the keyboard swells rather than grooves, and there is a piano solo mid song that pulls it  all together. There is a part of me that wants to write “this is the best thing on the recording”, that would be a lie, there is many great moments on the recording, and this is right up there with the other ones. As a bonus though it does have a great Eric Leeds solo that gains it a few more credits in my book.

Lisa

We get another rare treat next as High Fashion is heard. What a pleasant surprise, I smile as soon as I hear it begin. This is much more of a jam, and I love that distinctive rumble of Brown Mark. He has a great chugging sound, and it’s almost as unmistakable as the funky sound of Wendy’s guitar that plays over top. It’s got an undeniable summer sound and I sing along enthusiastically, much to my girlfriend’s dismay. As the riff plays over and over, I find I never tire of it and I am surprised as the song comes to an end.

With the horns playing the riff of 17 Days, it has a different sound and leaves me off balance. The heavy keyboards feel safer as they begin and the song takes on its classic sound. The instrument that I pick out for special attention is Wendy’s guitar, she is something else, and the song has plenty of her sound that I love. The song becomes a jam, and it spins off in a direction I hadn’t expected. The bass and drums pick up a different groove as the sax solos, and surprisingly I like this even more.

Groove In A is an even better jam, with everyone contributing something. Listening to this, I find myself thinking that it’s a shame that The Revolution didn’t play aftershows like Prince started doing a few years later, jams like this demonstrate to me that they would have killed it. In fact this whole soundcheck would have worked brilliantly as an aftershow, just close your eyes and imagine hearing this at a small club. Groove In A has a nice funky thing going, with a sax riff, before Prince plugs in his guitar and begins to let loose. I say let loose, but in reality he is playing well within the song, and nice and tight. It’s a claustrophobic sounding jam at this point, and I am still with it, every beat and pop, howl and squeal. The song ends with an exchange between Prince and Wendy that has Prince telling her “say into the mic, “I’m weak””, which sets us up nicely for the final song which is a Groove In F

Wendy

It starts fast, very fast, and Prince and Wendy have me laughing as she says “I hate this kind of music”. The bass the cymbals hold most of the sound, with a final appearance from the saxophone a minute into the song. Things take off at this point, Prince responds with a quick solo, before we drop back to the groove. Its funny guy Prince, with him talking funny before the last solo fades out the recording.

I have only had this recording for 24 hours, and already I know that it is one for the ages. We will be hearing a lot more about this in future, I am sure over the coming days, weeks and months everyone will be talking about it. I don’t know how many times I have felt like a jaded fan and the excitement is gone, only for a recording to surface that makes me just as excited as the first time I heard Prince’s music. This is one of those recordings, and listening to it this evening I was transported to another time and place, a time and place where The Revolution reigned supreme. A truly amazing performance and recording, this sounds just as fresh as the day it was recorded 31 years ago.

I’m going to go listen to it again, join us next week for another classic recording
-Hamish

REvolution

 

 

 

Purple Rain in Milan

I have lost count of how many times I have heard Purple Rain in my life. It’s heard at almost every live show since 1984, and is universally the first song that non fans name when thinking of Prince. I am sure Prince is just as tired of playing it as I am of hearing it, yet he still manages to play it with a passion and gives the fans what they want every night. In the last few years, the video of him playing it at this show in Milan is often cited as one of the best renditions in recent times. He certainly seems to playing it up in the video, but I am not convinced that it’s as good as often stated. And seeing it stand alone like this, I often wonder how it fits in the wider picture of the gig. Today I taking a listen to the show as a whole, and see if this thing is as good as people say. At the time I thought the 20ten tour was a little bland, and I am hoping that upon second listen its better than I remember.

3 November, 2010 Mediolanum Forum di Assago, Milan

The show certainly starts well, I have heard Stratus plenty of times, but not opening a main show like this. It’s a very casual start to the show, with Prince seemingly just strolling out with his guitar and beginning to play. The drums and the bass and nice and full sounding, while Prince places with his guitar over the top. It’s almost after show like, and has that sound of the band warming up and easing into the gig. Princes playing is very relaxed, and I get the feeling that right from the start he is in guitar hero mode. Apart from Princes soloing there’s not much else happening in the song, that is until the space age sounding keyboard break by Renato Neto. This is immediately followed by Ida and some tidy bass work. I can’t fault it, but it fails to move me. The final guitar break by Prince is one too many for me, yet it’s the best played in this song. I have mixed feels about if I wanted this to go on and on, or finish. I was somewhat pleased when Prince makes the decision for me and the band play Mountains.

Prince Milan 2

Mountains has a very light feeling on this recording. All the pieces are there, and yet they don’t come together in a cohesive way I would like. I do enjoy it however, and especially I enjoy Princes guitar sound and vocals. The guitar sound is very sharp and I can hear it way above everything else when he plays. It’s an interesting start to the gig, I wouldn’t have expected to hear either song so early in the set list, but it does work for me. Of course, I am a fan and would enjoy anything he played. Parts of Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) are sung, and soon after the song further morphs into Everyday People.

Everyday People and I Want To Take You Higher are played together, as a Sly Stone one/two punch. I loved the original of Everyday People, but to be honest I don’t get much out of Princes version. There is that spark missing, and even though it sounds pretty it doesn’t speak to me. I Want To Take You Higher works better for me. The horns sound good on it, and there is a couple of other sounds thrown into the mix too. The band and Prince gain energy as it goes along and I can see the crowd becoming more animated as it progresses. There is a sing along and plenty of jumping as the song reaches its peak, and I love it when Prince finishes the song with a shout of “Veegggas!”

Things go dark, and a weedy thin version of the Lets Go Crazy intro begins to play. It’s OK, yet very thin sounding. Prince intones “Dearly beloved” beautifully back lit, and playing some epic sounding guitar. The rest of the song begins and it becomes much more party sounding. As of the time, it’s horn filled and brassy sounding. Prince keeps it to what people want to hear most, that is him and his guitar. He plays the first solo, and then abruptly changes the song to Delirious.

Delirious grows on me with every blog post I write. As the years progress I find myself enjoying it more and more, and today I find myself grinning throughout. It’s played with a smile and it adds a lot to the fun sound. Renato plays a fitting solo, and Prince enjoys prancing and playing as he sings the song. This one is pure fun all the way. All the band members join the party in one way or another and they all capture the spirit of the song well.

Prince Milan 4

With chants of “Oh no, let’s go” Prince again picks up his guitar and Let’s Go Crazy resumes. The reprise is little more than the chant and then Prince finishing of the song with his guitar break.

1999 sounds great. The beat isn’t too domineering as is sometimes heard, and the vocals all work very well off each other. Prince is sounding and looking youthful through the song, and the years roll back as I sit and listen to this one – I can feel myself getting younger. The song passes by in a flash, I must have closed my eyes for a second too long feeling nostalgic. Shelby can be heard encouraging the crowd through the “Party” chant, I do like her but I would rather hear Prince. The final minute is my favourite piece as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb”

Bathed in red, I have to say I register zero surprise as Prince draws out the opening guitar notes of Little Red Corvette. He milks it for all its worth and toys with the crowd for a minute as the song builds. The crowd is strangely silent on the recording as he begins to sing, I had expected them to be far more vocal in singing along. They are however back for the chorus, before Prince again slows things down with his guitar. I always associate the guitar solo with Dez, no matter how many times I hear it. Prince goes someway to reclaiming it, as after the recorded solo he plays for a minute more in his slower expressive style. What I like about this part of the recording is it’s not crowded, there is an empty sound, and Prince doesn’t over play, he does just enough to give it a warm emotive sound. The last few minutes are a completely different song to me, and one that I enjoy immensely.

Prince Milan 3

Prince tells the crowd “These are my songs, and I love each and every one of them” which I think is a nice sentiment, and probably has an element of truth to it. Finally the funk arrives as Prince’s chicken scratch guitar begins to play, and Controversy gets a long and welcome introduction. Prince has the crowd chanting long before the song starts, and once the rest of the band do join it becomes a monster. Maybe it’s not the recording, maybe it’s not the show, maybe I am just a fan who really loves this music and really loves this song, but here to me it is sounding wonderful. The crowd chant “ooh Milan” throughout the song, and Prince gives them plenty of funk to move to. There is a very long section where the crowd chants while Prince plays a variety of funky guitar breaks. Sometimes writing a weekly blog is a chore, but right now I’m loving it. The song itself disappears, and it is just a funky groove as Prince plays with the crowd. The song does however finally end, and I feel like a sit down and a cup of tea.

Things slow down next as Prince takes a break and Shelby sings Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. Shelby sounds great, she doesn’t overdo it, and it’s suitably emotional. I appreciate the song even more now that I know that Sarah McLachlan wrote it about the death of Jonathan Melvoin. Elisa joins her, and their vocals together are beautiful. Things get better when Liv joins and all three of them sing the song to the end.

Prince Milan

Prince returns and keeps things at an emotional level with a rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. I always like it when he sings this with Shelby. Shelby has a lot of detractors, but her chemistry with Prince can’t be under estimated and they bounce well off each over through the song. Shelby sings with plenty of passion, while Prince sounds smooth and this seems to work as a nice contrast. Prince calls the crowd to show their appreciation for “The baddest piano player in the world” and Renato plays a nice little flourish. The song ends with some lovely vocal touches from Prince and a gentle landing.

In the dark Prince plays some quiet lead guitar, before he softly sings “she saw me walking down the streets of your fine city, turned me on, she looked at me and said” I wonder if he is going to do it, and sure enough the band kick into Uptown. My old school roots betray me, and I immediately feel a surge of excitement. The guitar sounds just like I always love, and the only real difference is the girl’s vocals all over it. The recording sounds very good, and Princes guitar is very clean sounding. My only complaint would be that the song is played way too short.

Prince Milan 1

With a count of “one two three four” the band take a pop twist and begin to play Raspberry Beret. Prince does no singing at all, the crowd are more than happy to oblige and sing all the lyrics. It’s fun, but somewhat hollow, I would have liked to hear even a line or two from Prince. It’s not too long, and is no more than a verse and a chorus.

Cream gets a much fuller treatment, Prince sings loudly and full, and the girls are once again strong sounding in the mix. Prince’s guitar break interrupts the smooth sound of it, and he again has a nice clean sound. I am never a great fan of Cream, it’s a cool song but it doesn’t ring my bell. Here is a nice sounding clean version that feels shorter than it really is.

The party starts with Cool. The crowd dance a lot to this, and listening to it here at home it’s hard not to be moved myself. Prince is very much front and centre for this song, listening to it his vocals and guitar are the things I hear most, that and that sythn loop playing over and over. The crowd are obviously singing along, but I don’t hear them well on the recording, and indeed it is noticeable on the recording there is a lack of crowd noise, which is a plus in this case. There is a lot of dancing and fun being had on stage, but without the visuals it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable.

Prince keeps things firmly in the 80’s as Let’s Work begins. The party mood is kept up with the crowd and there is definitely a lot of arm waving and dancing. The band is playing tight and smooth, and all the fun is coming from the vocals and performance. There is some amusing dancing between Prince and Shelby before he picks up his guitar.

Next played is U Got The Look, complete with Princes “girls vs boys” spoken intro. I like the sound of this song, even if I don’t always like the song itself. This recording is pretty decent, the guitar is front and centre, but not overwhelming, Prince keeps it nice and balanced. There is the usual guitar breaks but they aren’t over the top, and the crowd does have space to enjoy it.

Prince Milan 6

Finally we reach Purple Rain, the reason I chose this show. It does begin in the traditional way with the gently chords before the keys swell and the drums enter. Nothing is rushed, which anyone who knows me will appreciate I really enjoy. The crowd play their part, with “ooh, oohh, oohh” beginning almost immediately. There is some lovely cascades played on the guitar, and it gives it an extra feel of rain falling. The strings then play for half a minute before Prince appears waving to the crowd, and then playing some further lead guitar. His vocals are clean sounding, there is very little or no echo on them, and I enjoy them like this. It’s interesting to watch him here, I can see him working himself into the song, at first he is fairly passionless, but he emotes as he goes along, and you can see him working himself up as the lines progress. He looks like he’s really feeling it as he finishes his vocal duties and picks up the guitar break. With a jarring start we are off into the solo, and Prince is playing just as much with his face as anything else, and he is telegraphing everything he is playing in his expressions. I can’t decide if its showmanship or pure emotion, but I certainly enjoy it. The first half of the break is as to be expected, and the second half where he traditionally cuts loose is more enjoyable to me. The playing isn’t as breath taking as I have heard elsewhere, but I have to give credit here to Prince for a great performance. Prince finishes by placing his guitar on the stage before taking a bow and exiting. I liked the performance, but I can’t quite find it in me to love it. Without the visuals it would sound a lot like any other performance, and here I think it was Princes showmanship that really makes the song what it is.

The opening strum of Kiss sounds, and the band play an extended intro without Prince. There is the guitar sound, but it’s very much keyboard led, and Shelby does encourage the crowd to chant along before Prince appears to take his vocals. I miss the stripped back sound that made this song so distinctive, and with this band playing a fuller sound I find this song slips into the territory of Cream, a similarity I hadn’t noticed previously. Prince’s vocals are tidy, and his dance routine at the end gets a laugh and a smile out of me.

Prince Milan 9

If I Was Your Girlfriend is a song I would find very hard to be critical of. I am a big fan, and I enjoy hearing it every time. Prince’s vocals aren’t as high as when he was younger, but he still retains a smooth sound, and to be honest I am singing along too loudly to really notice. This song resonated emotionally with me when I was younger, and I am surprised when I hear it nowadays and it has a much lighter party feel. There is a keyboard break later in the song that I really should mention, its funky and fun all rolled into one, and plays for some time while Prince and Shelby dance. Prince matches it with some vocal yelps and the groove continues with that divine bass line. Renato gets to add his touch to it, with a piano solo that has a light touch to it. The song finishes on a high with a long play out and some cool chanting.

Prince begins to get some of the audience on stage with him as he begins to play The Bird. I get the feeling now we are approaching the end of the show, and Prince wants to end it as a party. The stage is pretty crowded as he begins to sing the Bird. His vocals are loose, and I am missing the tightness of Morris’s vocals that I normally associate with this song. As you might expect a large part of the song is dedicated to chanting, dancing and generally having fun. The band play well, but it seems secondary to the enjoyment of the night.

Prince Milan 8

Things don’t let up as the band slip easily into Jungle Love. I do enjoy singing along to it, but there’s not a lot else happening here. The crowd are still dancing and partying to the groove. I become more interested as Prince begins to play his solo, and it has a nice intensity to it which briefly causes me to reconsider my stance on these two songs. However as he finishes his break the chanting and dancing resume and we are back to the party.

I enjoy the sound of Love Bizarre much more, the bottom end especially sounds good. Prince puts plenty into his singing, and well he has to, just to compete with Shelby. I like it later in the song as Prince plays more rhythm guitar, and the band strip back. He maintains his funky guitar sound as the full band join in once again, and he maintains this to the end, and even throws in one more solo, which for me is the best guitar playing of the night. He downs his guitar for a round of waving to the crowd and then the party continues for another minute before a call of “Las Vegas!” ends it.

Prince Milan 7

With the stage emptied of people, Prince returns with his guitar and the band play Take Me With U. There isn’t much to the song, it doesn’t surprise me in anyway, and sounds pretty much the same as the day I first heard it. Having the girls sing strongly on it is a bonus, and they do well not to overwhelm Princes vocals. Its sounds empty after the previous songs, and it is a nice come down.

With a shout of “turn me up” Prince strikes up the opening riff of Guitar. It’s not as strong as perhaps I would like, however it does sound good. As throughout the whole recording, Princes guitar has a clean sound, and that is one thing I have really appreciated on this recording. This is the last song of the show, and I was expecting Prince to indulge himself in some guitar heroics, he is however very restrained. He does play some good solos, but he doesn’t go over the top, nor does he draw them out too long. The song wraps up quickly and even with a final reprise it is very short. With one final showman flourish the song and the show end.

Prince Milan 10

Purple Rain wasn’t as great as many people would have me believe, but the showmanship, and the rest of the show was worth the effort. The show was standard, but I did enjoy the effort that Prince put in, and I felt this is a good reflection of the 20ten shows. It was well paced, and it got better as it went along. A solid record of a good show- I’m still not convinced about that Purple Rain though!

Take care
Hamish

 

Prince Milan 5

Noon rendezvous rehearsal

I am rare to listen to rehearsals. I admit that they are great, and show off another side of Prince and his talent. But they don’t have the same intensity as a live show, and that’s what I enjoy most. However, without that intensity we do get some very cool arrangements of the songs, often being drawn out and just letting the band do what they do best -play! Today’s rehearsal is from May/June before the birthday show of 1984. There are a few rehearsals from this period, and I think this one exists in several variations, but this is my favourite and the one I play most.

noon-rendezvous

Noon Rendezvous Rehearsal May/June 1984

As I mentioned above, there is a couple of variations of this rehearsal circulating, the major difference being the sequence of tracks. I am listening to the FBG release, which opens with I’ve Gotta Shake This Feeling Baby (Purple Rain), and I have to say that right from the start it grabs me and any reservations I have about listening to a rehearsal are immediately laid to rest.  Over the familiar beat of Purple Rain, Prince lays down some very raw, yet beautiful guitar work. There is very little in the way of lyrics, just Prince singing “I’ve gotta shake this feeling baby” over the top of the Purple Rain music we know so well. He does ask for a longer echo at the start, but I can’t hear where it is applied. The rest of the band are a solid base on which Prince lays his guitar work. Some of the phrases and melodies he plays are familiar, and some are new to me. The best parts are for me when he reins in the guitar and plays it tightly in the song. The quality of the recording is very good, and all the other instruments can be heard clearly, especially the piano, which I enjoy. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy this, and what a complete surprise it is to me. I was planning to sit down one evening to write this blog post, but truth be told I played this several days in a row, dumb struck, jaw on the floor, before I finally was able to find the words. It’s a great listen, imagine the second half of the Purple Rain song doubled in length, and that pretty much what we have here.

The treats keep coming as without pause the band play an electrifying version of Noon Rendezvous. Although the music does have a gentle sound to it, what is attention grabbing is once again the raw guitar sound of Prince in the mix. The lead guitar isn’t over powering, but it does give it a rock edge. The guitar does pull out and Princes singing is light and ethereal, and blends in well with the overall feeling of the song. It is an intoxicating song, and before I know it Princes guitar sound is back in the mix as we get a brilliant lead break. For the longest time I couldn’t understand the fuss over this song, but in recent years it has really grown on me. I always loved the version on the 1984 birthday show, but I can’t quite decide if that one or this is my favourite. On any given day it may well be the one I am listening to here. As the song continues on and Prince is “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby” I am in heaven. And even better, this goes on and on, there is no audience, no time constraints and it feels the band is playing on and just enjoying the gentle groove. It’s just brilliant, and oh, did I mention it goes for almost 20 minutes?!

Prince 1984 (2)

There is then what I more associate with rehearsals, checking to get the sound right, some tinkling and crashing of instruments and the like, before a steady beat is taken up, the piano plays and then we settle into Free. Free consists of just a drum beat, a piano, and Prince and the girls singing. I find the drum a little plodding, but I do like Princes vocal performance on this one. He sings around the melody, and plays with it. And the girls sound excellent, and once again it only highlights how great Prince, Wendy and Lisa sounded together. The song doesn’t get played on as much as the previous two songs, and it remains reasonably faithful to what is on record, sans the big finish.

Things take a serious turn next as we hear the strong drum pattern of Erotic City, and some equally erotic sounding guitar from Prince. I wonder what kind of heavy arrangement he is going to play, the vocals begin and it reverts to it familiar sound. I rate this song just as highly as the first two songs on the recording, it’s fantastic. After sticking with the song for the first couple of verses, Prince then unleashes his guitar, as well as a line from All The Critic Love U. The guitar has a howling whining tone at this point, and it gives the song a harder, darker edge. The guitar becomes more intense as the song progresses, and Prince is really working it in the latter part of the song. As brilliant as it is, it’s almost relief when it finishes, it was so intense. Yet another highlight in a recording full of highlights.

Prince 1984

I am used to hearing guitar heavy arrangements of Something In The Water of late, but this one offers another dimension. Sure, it’s full of guitar as he has recently played it, but here he is backed by the Revolution, and they give it a cold remote feeling behind Princes guitar playing. Prince’s voice is in fine form, and although he doesn’t scream, he does at one point give a nice long howl. As the song gets to the refrain of ‘must be something in the water you drink’ the guitar again comes to the fore. I know Prince is a good guitarist, but even after being a fan for 30 years I still find myself shaking my head as I listen to some of these recordings. He plays some much, it’s everywhere, and he plays on and on. Even today I still think of him as a song and dance man and listening to his guitar playing is always a headbuster. I didn’t think this rehearsal could get any better but as the song moves past the 12 minute mark I realize that I underestimated this recording by a long way.

When Doves Cry begins very faithfully to what we know so well. After the main hook is played a couple of times, Prince is straight into singing the verses and chorus. Even though it is played as per record, it does have a harder sound to it. Obviously it’s not as polished, but I do love the sound of it here, it is a much stronger band sound. Later in the song we do hear Wendy’s rhythm guitar, which I always enjoy immensely. And my smile becomes even broader as Wendy launches into her guitar solo, it’s impossible not to enjoy her and her playing. After Dr Fink plays his equally cool solo, and Prince gives a fairly impassioned scream, he’s not holding anything back for this rehearsal. The rest of the song is pure groove, and for a few minutes I forget to write as I sit enraptured by the music.

Prince 1984c

A couple of James Brownesque grunts and ‘huh’ and the band play the equally James inspired Irresistible Bitch. For the first time on the recording I find it lacking the intensity of earlier. This is a great song live, but here it’s missing that sharpness and quickness. There is a Dr Fink solo, which has all the qualities you would expect from such a thing, and it’s at this point that I find my interest in the song reinvigorated somewhat. I am very impressed at how well drilled the band are, and how well they respond to Princes call. But I’m not really surprised as I know how much Prince rehearses his bands, and the Revolution are one of the greatest bands he has put together. I thought that this song would have been ripe for the long jam, but it’s played very straight, and Prince ends it sharply after a few stops and starts with the band.

As far as rehearsals go, this one has forced me to reassess my feelings about listening to them. This is far from a rock rehearsal, yet there is plenty of Princes guitar on all the tracks. If anything, it only served to highlight what a well-balanced and versatile band The Revolution were. They have plenty of funk, but rock when they have to. As I said in the beginning, I am rare to listen to rehearsals, but if I was going to take a listen this would be one of my first choices.

So that’s a rehearsal for the birthday show, I guess next week I better listen to the birthday show to see how it all plays out.

Take care
Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Rain Atlanta

The Purple Rain tour is very well documented in the bootleg world. There were several very good shows I could have chosen, but I plumbed for one I have a DVD of. The Purple Rain shows are standard from show to show, they didn’t deviate too much from a set formula, and listening to them is sometimes a little repetitive. I especially tend to lose interest in the mid portion of the show when there is a lull in the proceedings. However I love watching the shows, the Purple Rain tour looked great- the costumes, the dancing, there was something exciting and exhilarating about the whole thing. It really was an event, not just another gig. So with that in mind, today I will be watching a show from Atlanta 1985, Prince playing his most successful album to an adoring audience.

January 4 1985, Omni Atlanta

I don’t mind admitting that even after 30 years I still feel a thrill of excitement when Prince says in darkness “Hello Atlanta, my name is Prince, and I’ve come to play with you.” The organ swells that we know so well, and the spoken intro of Lets Go Crazy gets screams of anticipation from the crowd, and when the single spot light hits Wendy for the main rift there is a further scream before the stage lights up and the show begins in an explosion of light, noise and flowers raining down. I have seen it I don’t know how many times, and I still get a kick and a rush from it. The song does not do much more than what we hear on record, there is no piano break in the middle, or drawn out solos, but it does lack any intensity or punch. And to my mind there is no greater sight in concert than seeing Prince playing the guitar lead here, leaning back, face contorted with the music, and his pink stole blowing in the wind over his shoulder. This will always be the Prince I reference when people ask me about being a fan. The song ends much as we have heard plenty of times before, Prince wailing on his guitar. He doesn’t solo too long or hard, but it’s still a perfect opener to the show.

Atlanta 1985

There is plenty of noise from the band next as they stall while Prince hands of his guitar and removes some clothes. Things suddenly take a pop turn as with a shout from Prince of “one two” the band strike up Delirious. I often dismiss Delirious as its not my cup of tea, but even my ice cold heart enjoys it here, its a lot of fun to watch Prince prancing and dancing around the stage. The music doesn’t do much for me, but the visuals more than carry it. As an up-tempo fun number it does it job and keeps the show moving a fast pace.

1999 next and its performed as we see it on the video clip. Prince dons his shiny purple trench coat and we really are back to the 1999 era. The vocals from the rest of the band aren’t great, but I’m going to blame the sound recording rather than them personally. Now days Prince often races through this one near the end of the shows, so it’s a joy here to hear it given the full treatment. And the vocals from the rest of the band do improve as it goes, and by the end of it I have nothing negative to say. It sounds better here than it did on the 1999 tour, and it has a little more energy to it. The band seem to enjoy playing it, and again its great to see them dancing and interacting together. Perhaps the last minute is my favorite, after the “mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” Prince plays a nice guitar break, them ramps its up as the song ends in a crescendo of sound, light and smoke.

Atlanta 1985 3

The other big hit from the 1999 album follows close behind, with the warm swells of Little Red Corvette beginning as the sound and fun of the last song fade. There is the sweet piano refrain played, which I know I have said before I love. Wendy does of course hand out flowers to the crowd before encouraging them to clap their hands. It’s contrived, and yet I find it very endearing. Prince begins to sing bathed in red light, and it’s obvious that this show couldn’t fail, everything seems to have a touch of class to it. Princes vocals are getting better and better with each song, and on Little Red Corvette when he sings “oowwwww owwww owwww” it’s a great concert moment for me. He does his dance while the guitar solo plays, and while I do enjoy it, I find that it distracts my attention from Wendy. One thing I will comment on about this show, is that Prince and Wendy are the centre of everything. The other band members don’t get the moments that Wendy gets, and she does have plenty of interplay with Prince. Sure, a large part of that is the fact she is the guitarist, but I would have liked to see Brown Mark and Prince more often, or perhaps Lisa given more time. Little Red Corvette ends with a sudden handclap, and the rolling drums from the start of Take Me With U Begins.

Prince is right in his element for this one. Right from the start of Take Me With U, he stomps back and forth across the stage, guitar to the fore. I can hear Princes vocals very well, but unfortunately the girl’s vocals are lost in the mix. I can hear them, but not loud and clear like I would want. However, all that is made irrelevant as after a quick verse and chorus everything just becomes a big beat and groove for Prince to play guitar god over. And play he does, the next minute is guitar playing Prince at his very best. There is no sweet delicate playing here, it comes at us fast and furious, and plenty of rock poses thrown in to boot. I should be cynical and point out how clichéd it all is, but in truth I lap up every single moment of this. I love this arrangement, and this performance. The only problem is it ends way too short for my liking.

Usually I skip right over the Yankee Doodle Dandle section when listening to Purple Rain shows. It doesn’t do anything for me musically and I find it annoying. I have never properly understood what is happening on stage at this time, and even watching the DVD I’m not sure what’s going on. Mercifully it is quite short, but in future I think I will go back to my normal ways and skip right past it.

The next section starts with Prince sitting at the keyboard, and I am much more comfortable again. I do enjoy watching him play the piano, it’s hard to believe it’s the same man who floored us with his impassioned guitar playing just a minute ago. The piano set begins with some very soft and delicate paying from Prince, and I enjoy this just as much as any song he plays. He does settle down and begin to play Free. Free works a lot better live than it is on record. It’s not as over the top and the piano playing is much better without being drowned in the other distractions.

Prince leaves the piano next and delivers up Do Me Baby. This performance is very nice, he has all his moves and vocal styling’s down, and comes across very smooth. It’s not the greatest sounding version I have heard, the instruments are too loud and Prince is fighting against them to be heard. But the showmanship more than makes up for it, this is to be seen as well as heard. It’s very short on this recording, I was expecting more from it. Not the greatest I have heard, but still a vital part of the show.

Atlanta 1985 7

How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore has Prince back at the piano, and initially its his piano playing that excites me the most. He does interact with the crowd to get them clapping along, but it’s the vocals and piano playing that are the most important things here. There is showmanship, but its all in his vocals and the looks at the crowd. That changes however when he does the whole “I’m gonna stand over here until you make up your mind” The crowd shriek and yell in delight, but I have heard it too many times by now to get excited. The song progresses to the point where Prince really plays with his vocals and demonstrates just how good a singer he really is. Like everything its just a few moments, but its enough. This guy really can do everything.

Things pick up when Prince starts with a spoken intro to Lets Pretend We’re Married. We now know that the spoken intro would later become the song Temptation, but at the time it was new to our ears. Prince teases us with the vocals, some piano playing and at one stage throwing off his jacket. Finally the teasing ends and Prince kicks into the song. His piano playing is very expressive and it’s a nice full sound he generates from the piano. The song played as we know it is only very short, it’s all about the tease at the start. There is a good energy to it, and Prince delights me, and the crowd, by leaping off his stool and playing standing up.

Father’s Song gets only a minute, but it’s my favorite moment at the piano, and of the whole show. In almost complete darkness Prince plays the refrain, and it’s filled with a melancholia that stays with me long after the performance. Sometimes the shortest moments are the best moments.

Atlanta 1985 4

The lights come back up a little as Prince begins to play God alone at the piano. With smoke swirling at his feet it does have a heavenly appearance. This is tempered somewhat by his vocals early on being fuzzy on the recording. After the first few lines this does improve, and I can better sit back and enjoy the song. The song does sound good, and Prince delivers some great screams near the end of the song. He loses me shortly after with his conversation with the audience being played out on stage and the bath sequence. Listening to the show, this part goes for too long, and even watching it I find myself just wishing it would end. Yes, it was cool the first time I saw the bath sequence, but now I just want it to end so we can get back to the music.

The purple part of the concert starts next as Lisa asks Wendy “is the water warm enough”. The next seven songs are all off the Purple Rain album and it’s quite a performance. First Prince rises from the stage to play Computer Blue. The song starts with plenty of keyboards. I usually associate this song with guitars, but the keys are nice and strong and form a nice thick sound for the guitars to play against. Prince starts off singing and playing well, and he gets louder and louder from there. His solos aren’t spectacular- they are as you hear on the album, but once again it’s the performance of the song that has t be seen. Firstly Wendy gives Prince simulated fellatio while he solos, then later in the song Prince puts down his guitar and dances. He dancing isn’t delicate, but he does capture the mood of the song. And visually its looks quite striking, especially when he dances next to the rest of the band.

Atlanta 1985 5

In a seedy red light Prince next sings Darling Nikki. An audience favorite, I am sure most of them just want a chance to sing the x-rated lyrics. There is several opportunities’ for the audience to sing various lines, asides from that the arrangement is as heard on record. The fun part comes later in the song when the good Dr plays his solo and the band all look like they are having a good time. I also appreciate the end of the song when the backwards music we hear on album is played forward and we hear Princes ‘hidden message’

The Beautiful Ones is, well, beautiful. Up high and in softy blue and red light Princes plays piano and sings the emotional high point of the Purple Rain album (asides from the Purple Rain song itself) Princes piano playing is good, buts its the other keyboards dong all the work, and Dr Fink and Lisa fill out the sound with plenty of swells and swirls. Prince leaves his piano for some delicate dancing, and to concentrate on his vocals. This is his best vocal delivery of the night, there is no distracting talking to the crowd, no guitar playing, its all pure vocal delivery. He looks suitable moved and drops to his knees to deliver some passionate screams and whoops. He eventually rolls on to his back for a final howl before the keyboards play us out with a couple more swells.

Atlanta 1985 6

Doves Cry gets the full treatment next. There is a brilliant long intro, with just the bare beat and the piano lead line played over it. It builds plenty of anticipation in the crowd, and for me here at home. The lead line on the piano is the key element in this song for me, and even through I have been listening to it for most of my life it’s still something I enjoy immensely. Prince begins his lines, but has almost too quiet, and I don’t get the strong vibe as I hear on the record. The lyrics of Doves Cry are amongst the best he has written, and it’s a shame I can’t hear them better on this. I used to think that the bass line would detract from the song, but it’s actually quite funky to hear the song with a bit more bottom end in the mix. Prince introduces Wendy to play the guitar solo, and I must admit that I fall in love a little. She plays so well, and she looks dead cool while she is doing it. The final section of the song features a lot of dancing from Prince. He doesn’t always look cool, but I have to admire his efforts to entertain us.

There is then a very long pause as the crowd chant for more. Finally the band return and the next song is I Would Die 4 U. It has a lightness and pop sound to it and is enjoyable right from the start. Wendy’s vocals sound good next to Prince, and there is a nice moment when they share the microphone before Prince engages in some enthusiastic dancing. There is some very funky guitar playing later from Wendy while Prince sings a long with the crowd. It is reminiscent of the 12 inch version, and that is absolutely fine by me. However after only a few minutes it segues into Baby I’m A Star.

Baby I’m a Star is an absolute joy to watch. Musically it’s awesome, and having the extra players on stage means there is so much to take in. Early on its Eddie M who I enjoy the most, his saxophone playing gives the music an edge. Prince also takes the opportunity with the extended line up to indulge in some James Brown style dancing, and band leadership. As is par for the course there are plenty of stops and starts form the band. After such a choreographed show it’s wonderful to see the band playing here, and there is the feeling that anything might happen musically. Baby I’m A star as we know it disappears and the funky jam takes over. Its Eddie who really steals the show on this one, he is just killing it on the sax. There is a funny moment when Prince begins to take the band off, before stopping to the calls of the crowd. It’s staged, but has me smiling. Prince gives us a little of everything, he sings, he dances, and he takes the piano for a while too, always keeping the groove and the beat going.

Atlanta 1985 1

Finally the last song begins, in what I’m sure was the high point for everyone there. I have heard many arrangements and performances of Purple Rain over the years, some are great, and some not so great. But for me the definitive version will always be the one played on the Purple rain tour, starting with the beautiful chords played by Wendy. Here is no different, the song begins with Wendy alone playing the soft chords I have heard a thousand times before, and I’m not tired of it one bit. She does get a few minutes along to play and I feel the song slowly drawing me in. The appearance by Prince is understated, and he adds his lead lines into the song. Playing the Horner he plays his delicate pieces, not hurrying at all, but slowly building the song up. I think this is my favorite style of his playing, when he’s softly playing lead guitar. He keeps it fairly short and begins singing early on. At first his vocals are a little lost in the echo, but it soon sorts itself out after a few lines. He is singing here in his vulnerable voice, rather than the triumphant tone we sometimes hear in Purple Rain. After only the first verse and some softer guitar he leaves the stage and returns with the cloud guitar. He immediately plays a more hard rock and anthemic sounding solo before singing the next part of the song. I can’t speak highly enough of his vocal performance, it’s not the notes he hits or the strength of his voice, it’s the emotional delivery and personality in his voice. Normally I would be writing about his guitar playing, but in this case it’s the vocals that have made the bigger impression on me. Prince does finally get to the guitar solo, but he doesn’t seem to pull anything special out for it. It’s played straight, and it’s only much later that he begins to let off some fireworks on the fret board. I have certainly heard other solos that have left me opened mouthed, but not this one. Despite that, my girlfriend tells me I did watch the TV transfixed while he was playing, so he must have had some sort of magic in there. He clambers to a high point to deliver one final blast before the keyboard twinkling ends the show.

Writing today’s entry was definitely a labor of love. The show was an excellent record of Prince at the peak of his powers, and despite the material and performance being very familiar to me I still loved all of it. There was a reason that Prince became a global superstar, and this is it. If you ever needed to see him during his purple period, this would be the place to start. Its not perfect, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

thanks for reading

-Hamish

 

Another Lonely Christmas Live

I don’t often listen to Purple Rain gigs. I know that’s unusual for a fan of Prince, after all it is the Purple Rain tour, movie and album that made him. But I find the concerts lack the intensity of the early days, the variety of the later days and I always have that nagging feeling that I have heard it all before. Of course a big part of this may be that in 1980’s I played everything Purple Rain over and over at the time, and I have overdosed enough to last me 30 years! For all that, Purple Rain gigs are enjoyable, fun and still sound good today. There are points of the show that I find aren’t as strong as they could be, but that’s a small quibble. So today I am listening to the Christmas show of 26 December 1984

26 December 1984, St Paul

As you might guess from my first paragraph above, I was cynical about this show before I listened to it, however as soon as Prince says “My name is Prince, and I have come to play with you” any such thoughts had vanished. I was immediately transported back to the teenage me, and all those feelings of excitement and anticipation welled up inside of me. This is how to open a show! Prince delivers the opening lines of “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” solemnly, and the crowd can’t help but react. It should sound corny, hell- it does sound corny, and yet I feel myself getting caught up in it all. I have heard the beat of Lets Go Crazy, and guitar too many times, but here it still sounds energy filled and passionate. With a whoop the band all kick it, and the recording really comes alive. The recording itself is very nice, an excellent soundboard recording, with not too much crowd noise, just enough to give you a feel of being there. The song is not drawn out too much, Prince doesn’t go overboard with the guitar, it follows the same arrangement I have heard throughout the tour, and ends with a flurry of noise and drum rolls.
Prince Purple Era

A long drum roll and keyboard fill leads us into Delirious. This is one song I have never got. It’s pleasant, but feels a little light to my ears. Its better live, I will give it that, and I really enjoy Princes keyboard break in the middle of it, then more groove and I assume dancing. It’s a shame it doesn’t sound this good on the original record. (For the record, 1999 is my favorite album, so not slight intended on it from my end)

Another 1999 songs follows (most of you could recite a Purple Rain set list by heart, I’m sure) with the title track itself, 1999. The guitar seems to be lot louder on this recording, and guess what, I like it. There is the funky guitar rhythm, but also a heavy guitar occasional grinding, for the start at least. The crowd is often heard, and these songs are obviously a crowd pleasing opening for the show. The breakdown is great, with the crowd singing ‘Party’ over some great funky guitar. If I could sample this section, I would play it all day.

Although I am a big fan of the modern arrangement of Little Red Corvette, the version played here is, for me, the definitive version. The long drawn out keyboard introduction, the beautiful keyboard swells drawing me in, the beat ticking away in the background, and just a touch of piano, I can’t help but love it. It’s almost a shame when it ends and the song starts proper. Prince vocals come in just right, just a touch of vulnerability, but not pitying. His delivery is spot on. The guitar also has just enough rawness, without changing the dynamic of the song. The guitar breaks starts with Prince saying “You need a love baby, you need Princes love” before the guitar solo unfolds. It’s all very tidy, and I would happily add this to any Purple Rain playlist.

Wendy Purple Era

“Uptown, my home town” Prince tells the crowd between songs. He plays the audience very well, informing them “Be nice to me, because I belong to you” It doesn’t take much to win them over.

The next part of the show has always been my least favorite part of any Purple Rain show, the long instrumental break, with Yankee Doodle Dandy. Maybe it’s a case of “You had to be there” -unfortunately I am not. I can’t see what ever is happening on stage (Although I have seen on other shows), but sonically it’s nothing to write home about. In its defence though, I do like the bird noises. Mercifully, this section isn’t too long on this recording.

The piano set begins with Free. Free is one of those guilty pleasures for me, I know many people think it should of been left off the 1999 album in favor of Moonbeam levels, and I agree the lyrics are simplistic, but it does have a charm about it that I like, especially when played in the piano set like this. There is a crowd pleasing moment when Prince sings “Be glad for what you got, I’m glad to be home”. In only a couple of words he has the audience in the palm of his hand.

Prince Purple Era 4

Take Me With U follows, and although only short it still causes an impact with the crowd. It’s well suited to the piano, and just hearing the few lines whets my appetite to hear much more. Prince only sings a few lines, and then pauses to engage the audience.

Staple of the piano set, How Come You Don’t Call Me, is next. As always it’s the centre piece of the piano. Prince takes a pause mid song to “Stand over here until you make up your mind” before returning to the piano for some very nice falsetto. As per usual there is plenty more Prince Interaction with the crowd and he runs through all the usual phrases we have heard before. Somewhat surprisingly I still enjoy it, and maybe I am just as corny as Prince. There is some fantastic vocal gymnastics by Prince near the end of the song, and these are well worth hearing.

The introduction of Dirty Mind is a definite highpoint for me. I have always been a huge fan of this song. It’s got a great inner energy that gets me every time. Prince’s spoken intro starts like this:

“Maybe she don’t like men with motorcycles,
Maybe she don’t like men with Dirty Minds,
If you got a tambourine shake it,
If you ain’t got a tambourine clap your hands
If you ain’t got hands stomp your feet,
If you ain’t got feet shake your ass.”

The riff sounds fresh, played on the piano by Prince, and I can’t help but feel disappointed when it ends after a minute. Such is the piano set with Prince.

I Wanna Be Your Lover comes next, again it sounds great with just his voice and the piano, and yet again I bitterly disappointed when it ends just a couple of minutes in, but not before Prince demonstrates some great vocals.

The band return, and Do Me Baby is played. I have heard some arrangements with long introductions, however here we just get a few seconds of introduction before Prince starts singing. It’s nice to finally get a fuller version of a song, and even though the previous songs had more energy they were just too short. Do Me Baby gets things back on track again and the concert picks up.

Prince then delivers his spoken word introduction to Temptation. With the song yet to appear on an album, the crowd play along to Princes words, but none of them know yet that they will be hearing more of it in the future.
The spoken introduction leads into Lets Pretend We’re Married. It starts with Prince singing over the top of some very quiet music, before it explodes at the first chorus. Wendy’s guitar sounds great, and I was hoping this song would really get played out in full, but again after a minute we take another change.

International Lover was a real highpoint of the 1999 gigs I have heard. Here it is just a shadow of its former self. Prince sings a few lines, before he goes into his monologue with God. Sure he could have played full versions of these songs, but then of course the show would run for 4 hours. I feel cheated but I understand why it is this way.

Fathers song is one of those sings that I wish had of gotten a real release. It’s played only briefly here, but it’s none the less very enjoyable. Another one of those songs I could happily listen to over and over.

God is obviously one of those songs that means a lot to Prince, and he plays it with all reverence on this recording. The first half is practically beautiful with Prince playing alone at the piano, and I can’t fault it. He does however lose me later in the song when he enters into his “who screamed?” section. I like as much Prince weirdness as the next guy, but I just can’t bring myself to enjoy this long spoken interlude. It goes for quite a while, and its not easy listening.

The Wendy and Lisa introduction to Computer Blue brings me back. The song is rowdy, and harks back to Princes younger days, there is plenty of guitar playing, and noise. The start of the first guitar break suggests we may get more for our money, but he stays faithful to the original. The song segues into the second half and here it gets a nice rhythmic feel to it. Prince plays more, and encourages the crowd to “Wave your hands in the air”. There are a couple of stops and starts, but it’s all excellent and feels very tight.

Prince Purple Era

The song then evolves, naturally enough, to Darling Nikki. The crowd takes great delight in singing along with it, and I must admit, even I know all the words. The music is very good, plenty of nice guitar action, and Dr Fink having his moments. I once read that he say this was his favorite song to play live, and I can see why. He has plenty of time to really do his thing. The fade out is always interesting, with the background music from the album being playing forward so Prince can deliver his message of hope to us all.

The Beautiful Ones gets it more full introduction here, with Prince saying “the beautiful ones, you always seem to lose”. The lapping keyboards are sublime, both live and on record, and it’s hard not to be seduced by one of Princes greatest songs. His singing is as per album, but the spoken parts sound more mature and passionate, live this rivals the album version. Prince really racks up the intensity near the end, as always it’s the high-point of this song in every performance. His delivery is just as good as I have ever heard it, and even I feel emotionally drained by the end of the song.

Things stay on the purple vibe with Doves Cry coming quickly after. For me the definitive version of this is from his birthday gig early in the year, so anything else will always pale in comparison. That said, this is pretty good. I especially like the long drawn out beginning, with the drum beat and repetitive keyboard riff. Prince sounds a little subdued when he sings, but maybe that suits the lyrics better. I have always loved these lyrics, so it’s always something I am going to listen to carefully. When Wendy comes in for her lead break the guitar begins very loud and bold, but seems to fade a little later. Maybe the recording, or maybe some gremlins in the mixing desk, I don’t know, but it doesn’t detract too much from the song. The song ends, leaving me wanting more, but luckily it’s a false ending, and the song returns with some great sounding bass. But even when it finishes a couple of minutes later I am still greedy for more.

I Would Die 4 U sounds simple to me, and yet it seems to work. I often dismiss it as being too light, yet I can’t deny it’s an utterly enjoyable song. I have always loved the 12 inch single, I only wish we could have had something like that played out here. The song however is played as per the album, and although it sounds great, it does end after a few minutes.

Prince

The band finally gets a chance to breathe and stretch out on Baby I’m A Star. The Purple Rain gigs always feel very structured and uptight, and it’s only on this song that the band really get a chance to show what they are capable of. The song has a great tempo to it, and Prince sounds very enthusiastic when he sings. The horn of Eric Leeds makes a welcome early entry, and it adds a great tone to the song. I would have liked to hear him on I Would Die 4 U as well, but this is Princes show, not mine. The song is played as per the album for the first 5 minutes, but then after a pause Prince says “I’m not done yet” and the band are all in, slightly heavier and funkier. Prince stops and starts them several times, a la James Brown, and the band is just as sharp as you might expect. The horns come to the fore after this, and Eric’s playing is very hot and fast, I can’t speak highly enough of it. The rhythm guitar also seems to get a little louder now, and it sounds nice and chunky. A couple more breaks, then Prince breaks it right down for some “woof, woof” before the band jumps in again, and even the piano can be heard over it all playing. Things are really swinging now, and it really is a long jam.

Another Lonely Christmas 2

What makes this gig a little more special than some others on this tour is the song that comes next, Another Lonely Christmas. It’s an appropriate song given the date, and the arrangement here is spot on. It’s not as full and crowded as I expect, Prince has gone for a more gentle tone, and it sounds great. Considering this is the first, and only time, it has been performed live this is an amazing performance. The band totally nails it, and it sounds perfect. There is a very gentle guitar break, I presume its Prince, and the tone is sharp and clean. It’s very nice indeed. The song is in complete contrast with what preceded it, but it does pave the way for what comes next.

Another Lonely Christmas

Purple Rain gets the full treatment here. As per other Purple Rain shows the introduction is a full five minutes before Prince even sings. He does play some very nice lead guitar in the intro, before the louder cloud guitar can be heard. This was always the emotional highpoint of any Purple Rain show, and here is no exception. The song is played full, which I enjoy, I am a little tired of the abridged versions we hear nowadays. The guitar at the end seems to go on forever, and yet I don’t find myself getting too tired of it, he has a nice balance to his playing and its always enjoyable. There isn’t too much more that can be said about his most famous song,as it’s something we have all heard 100’s of times.

As I said earlier, I am no big fan of Purple Rain shows. However I can’t deny that they have great songs, performed by Prince at time when he was on top of the world. And this is reflected in the recordings, every night Prince went out and put his best show on the stage. I find the set lists and playing quite constrictive, and it’s only near the end that the band gets to play a little looser. Despite that, Purple Rain shows are very good. This recording was thoroughly enjoyable, despite my negativity, and I rate it highly.

Thanks for reading,
Next time we go back to the early Eighties to watch a Controversy show.
-Hamish