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

Purple Rain -full show Worcester Massachusetts

Several weeks ago I wrote about a leak from part of a Purple Rain show from Worcester Massachusetts. At the time, I spoke highly of it and that I hoped for the full show to be released. Now that day is upon us and Eye records have obliged with a release of the show. After high expectations, I am disappointed in hearing the full show – it is a let-down. Although a soundboard, the sound quality is poor throughout. Not poor as an audience recording, I can hear Prince and the music perfectly well, but the overall sound is weak and all life has been sucked out of the recording. I did take the time to give it a good listen, and my thoughts are below.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The opening Let’s Go Crazy is a suitable introduction for what will follow. Prince is sounding good, as is The Revolution, although the recording is lacking any depth and feeling. Let’s Go Crazy is dominated by Prince and his guitar, everything else is in the background, and although it’s an exciting opening for the show the recording captures none of this excitement and at times sounds simply as a rehearsal for the show. Cold and sterile, I feel all my energy drain away as I listen.

PandW

Delirious is better, it does a better job of conveying the feelings of a live show, although the sound is still deadened. The keyboards and horns have a fun sound to them, and bring a sparkle to the show that Let’s Go Crazy Was Missing.

The crowd is heard for the first time on 1999, again though most of the song sounds like a cold rehearsal. There is some funky guitar in the mix that I latch onto to listen, but the rest of the song fails to excite me. I know there is better to come, yet I find I am still struggling to get into the show in the early stages. The highlight of 1999 comes as the very end as Prince delivers up some thrills on the guitar, but the recording is still thin, and it lacks the muscle of other shows I have heard.

The first minutes of Little Red Corvette sound as good as ever as the band play through the long intro, and the keyboards can be heard adding their wash to the sound. This is an early high point to the show, especially as I can hear the audience cheer at one point. It’s finally starting to sound like a live show. Prince matches the keyboards when he sings, and it begins to add up to the Purple Rain shows I know and love. Despite a thin start to the guitar solo, it still sounds good and the song ends on a high as Prince sings the chorus one final time.

prince-purple-rain-tour

The keyboards are also very strong for the opening of Take Me With U. They fill out the sound somewhat, although in contrast I can hear the bass but it lacks in any real depth due to the recording. Everything is in place, yet it all sounds weaker and watered down in the recording. The end coda lacks much of anything, and the song that started so brightly fizzles out by the end.

The next section of the show I have covered in an earlier blog post, here I will reiterate some of what I have already said previously. It is easily the best part of the show as the next thirty minutes Prince is on fire.

Next on the set list is a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even in this quality. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.

Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.

When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.

prince-piano-85-2

With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.

Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.

There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.

Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.

Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.

purple-prince

The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.

Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.

There comes next a segue into some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins. It’s tight, it’s funky, it’s Prince and The Revolution doing what they do best.

There is the inevitable Possessed right after, it’s not quite as tight as Irresistible Bitch, but it still has plenty of funk of its own. The keyboards give plenty early on, before the horn swells drive the second part of the song. The count of “25” by Prince is standard practice, and the band are right on the money. There is a moment of fun as Prince speaks to the band about catching them out tonight. There’s money on the line, and the band don’t fail to deliver. The horns and the stabs are throughout, as Prince sings “I’m going to get you tonight” before calling for “63”. I lost count, as did the band – Bobby Z gives a couple of extra beats as the songs gives way to a scream and several whoops, presumably from Prince as he has indeed caught the band out.

prince-p-rain

There is more fun in the air as Prince begins to play How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore and encourages the audience to sing if they can. The song itself is kept very short, at a single verse it barely registers, but it is the final song before the rest of the show is given over to Purple Rain songs.

God is as beautiful as to be expected, with Prince and the piano holding the audience enraptured in its charms as it plays. The band add some harmonies to the vocals which is a nice touch, the only downside being the quality of the recording- on a better sounding recording this would sound magnificent, as it is it lacks a thickness and full sound. It doesn’t matter too much as the next few minutes are given over to the bath sequence of the Purple Rain shows.

prince-purple-rain-bath

The fierceness that I have come to expect from Computer Blue is lacking, in part to the thin sound of the recording. The band though cannot be faulted, and I can hear the band playing a rough and tumble version with plenty of jagged guitar from Prince. The bass work from Brownmark is to the fore, a shame that the recording lacks the richness of the performance.

The segue into Darling Nikki is predictable and entirely enjoyable. Dr Fink is a real highlight as his keyboard squiggles are all over the latter part of the song. It shines brightly after the previous Computer Blue and up’s the tempo again as we head to the last quarter of the show.

prince-nikki

The introduction of The Beautiful Ones fades in and out, but once the song starts proper it is full blooded and Prince gives another heartfelt rendition. There are plenty of shrieks and screams near the end which aren’t served well by the recording, nevertheless they add a lot to the show and the audience can be heard responding well to what is obviously a highlight.

Another show stopper follows in the form of When Doves Cry. Dr Fink and Lisa are key players, but for me the highlight is Brownmark and his elastic sounding bass. He gets plenty of time to show us what he’s got, especially the final coda which is heavy on the bass, and despite everything going on over the top, it is the bass that I gravitate to.

I Would Die 4 U starts off with a pop bent, but the final minutes are all about the funk as it gets an extended treatment, with plenty of Wendy’s guitar to the fore. It wasn’t a song that I immediately fell in love with, but I always enjoy these live performances. Even with the coda tagged on, it still only runs three and a half minutes, and as it ends just as I am developing a hunger for much more.

prince-purple-rain-galsses

I am disappointed with Baby I’m A Star. Some nights it runs upwards of twenty minutes, this version is considerably shorter at eleven minutes, and even then there is a couple of minutes’ introduction. his is the point of the show where the band traditionally cut loose, so it comes as a surprise to see this shortened version. The tempo does accelerate halfway into it,  this gives it an unbalanced sound and as it increases in tempo I feel left behind by it all. With the horns adding their burst of excitement there is the sound of show business in the air, the band jam on but it never feels like a groove as I have heard elsewhere on the Purple Rain tour. The sax is easily the best thing about Baby I’m A Star, and we have plenty of time to enjoy it before the song loses its way with Prince’s final few minutes of train inspired groove.

It’s been a long time since I listened to a full Purple Rain show, and I find myself falling in love with the song again all over as the introduction plays and the piano gives it an extra touch of special. By the time I hear Prince’s guitar noodling I am already sold on it and I don’t care what type of performance will follow. The following Cloud guitar sound lets me down, but that barely matters as what I have already heard is good enough for me. The final solos by Prince are long and over the top, normally something I would greatly enjoy, but here they are undone by a thin sound and although they are likable they don’t quite deliver the knockout blow. It is however the type of finish that this show required, and I must admit I was smiling all the way through the song.

This wasn’t the show I was expecting. The middle section I had previously heard is easily the best part of the show, and this alone makes the show worth listening too. In fact, it makes the show much more interesting than other Purple Rain shows in circulation and if the recording was better quality it would be essential. As it is, it is a serviceable sound board recording that documents a potentially great show that loses its way towards the end and becomes just another Purple Rain show. And interesting experience that wasn’t what I wanted or expected, nevertheless it was worth the time to take a listen.

Thanks for reading
Take care
-Hamish

 

Purple Rain – Worcester Massachusetts

I recently heard the newly leaked soundboard recorded at Worcester during the Purple Rain tour. It’s only 35 minutes long, and the first time I heard it I had my mouth wide open the whole time, it is a jaw dropping performance and recording and I can only hope and pray that one day we will hear the whole show. I am not always the greatest cheer leader for the Purple Rain shows but this one has me completely revaluating my feelings about them. I have to say if I heard more shows like this one, my blog would only focus on the Purple Rain tour, I could seriously listen to this stuff all day long. I don’t normally go for only part shows, but I am more than willing to make an exception in this case.

28th March 1985, Worcester Centrum, Worcester Massachusetts

The recording picks up mid-show, and what a way to start a recording – a rare performance of 4 The Tears In Your Eyes. From the outset I am lost for words. Prince introduces it as a new song “for the children of Ethiopia” and the performance of it is full of sincerity and heart. To my ears this performance sounds better than it does on record, even if it is mono. With the bare guitar sounding live and raw it gives the song some feeling in the music as well as Princes well intentioned lyrics. Wendy and Lisa weave their magic into the song as we are again reminded of The Revolution in their glory days.

Prince follows up with some more lone guitar, now switching to blues riff for his take on I Got Some Help I Don’t Need (Blues In G). Prince tells the crowd he wants to get loose, and he is as good as his word for the next few minutes as he takes a leisurely stroll through the song. There is plenty of Prince’s good natured humour on display through the song as he runs through his clever lines. As fun as it is, it’s the music that excites me most and the appearance of Eddie M for the closing sax solo is certainly something I appreciate.

purple-prince

When You Were Mine stays with the light-hearted mood as Prince plays a loose intro while encouraging the crowd to sing “whoo hoo”. The song is perky and up beat as always, and although it’s not long it is the final few minutes where all the treasures lie – a sparkling guitar solo from Prince that isn’t overplayed and keeps the song on an up. On top of the last couple of songs it is a stunning few minutes and only makes me hungry for more -especially as he ends with an elongated howl that switches to a crunching guitar jam. I thought I was beyond fan boy freak outs but apparently not – this has me squealing in delight.

With Prince taking the keyboard the mood and tempo changes with Free, just Prince with backing vocals from Wendy and Lisa. The best moments come as Prince speaks rather than sings, firstly listing the things he is thankful for before speaking (briefly) about God. It sounds on paper as if it might be corny, trust me it’s not. It’s sounds heartfelt and Prince has some sincerity to his words.

prince-piano-85-2

Do Me Baby has me back to my fanboy ways, it sounds gorgeous on this recording. Princes vocals are good, but in this case it is the pop of Brownmarks bass that I gravity to, and it has my head moving subconsciously. The song ends to make way for Head, and as much as I like Head I could have done with a lot more of Do Me Baby.

There is plenty of piano and smutty talk from Prince before the song starts proper. Firstly Prince has Eddie pull his shoes off, while he talks about some girls coming over for the evening -again with plenty of his humour on display. Eddie adds the sleazy sound of his horn as Prince continues to work up the crowd. Effortlessly cool, this is the Prince I know and love. The band come in with a great push as Head begins in earnest, the bass and keyboard pushing it along. Prince is loose, the band pull back as he continues his patter and I don’t know if I should laugh or just write down his lines so I can use them myself at a later date.

prince-piano-85

Things are more romantic with the sentimental Still Waiting, both sentimental in lyrical content and in sound. With just the piano for accompaniment, Prince knows how to wring emotion out of the song, and as his vocals go from a whisper to a soaring finish we are caught up in the feel of the song.

Things are equally cool with his solo performance of I Feel 4 U. Only the first verse and a chorus, yet with only the piano it captures attention and is another highlight in this short set of highlights.

The following Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) is equally short, and after only a verse it fades on his fingertips, but not before my heart has skipped several beats.

Prince does his usual introduction for I Wanna Be Your Lover as he was fond of during the Purple Rain shows, with his “stomp your feet” etc spiel. It’s fun and the piano riff of the song emphasizes this with its ‘pop’ soul and innate energy. The crowd take to the sing along quickly before Prince jokes with them about getting sexy.

prince-piano-85

The last five minutes of the recording features some funky piano playing by Prince. He keeps the rhythm going while speaking to the crowd about the press and reviews of his show, ending his comments with “I would rather have someone do me a long time than do me for a short time” in regards to reviews saying the middle of the show dragged. It’s something he could play all day long, as well as something I could listen to all day long. The payoff comes as the band jump in and Irresistible Bitch begins, although this is where the recording ends – leaving me hoping and praying that one day the rest of it will see the light of day.

This is only a small portion of the show, and from what we can hear this is one loose and funky show. Prince is sounding incredibly relaxed, and that transfers through to the music. This is a lightness and playful tone in the music which makes listening to this just as much fun as they sound like they are having making it. This is one of those recordings that has you hitting the replay button over and over. I’m confident that one day we’ll hear the full show, until that day comes this is going to be on constant rotation.

Thanks for reading
Take care
-Hamish

The Garden, February 7th 2011

All thanks this week to Ryan Mark, who asked when I was going to write about this show. At first I confessed that I didn’t recall it at all, but upon further prompting by Ryan I came around and decided to have a look. I am not one for the “Welcome 2” concerts, as much as I love the hits and enjoy Princes back catalogue, I enjoy something more fresh and exciting to my ears. Ryan did point out that Prince was in a great mood on this particular night, and the show was extremely enjoyable, so with that in mind I sat down and revisited it- and oh boy was Ryan right. It looks like a typical greatest hits show, with the additional pluses of a couple of guest appearances, some great performances, and as stated earlier Prince is in a great mood and very playful. It was well worth a second look.

7 February, 2011, Madison Square Garden

I had completely forgotten that this show opened with Laydown. After a brief spoken introduction Prince appears. It’s an unexpected surprise for me, and a very welcome one. The heavy bass opening is greeted with screams from the crowd, and Prince responds with a strong aggressive vocal. He does work the crowd while singing, punching the air and raising the roof. Things get more interesting from my perspective when he pulls out his guitar and begins to play. With plenty of concentration on his face he plays a gritty break that captures the whole essence of the song in half a minute. There is another verse before Prince starts showboating on the guitar and the song winds down to its conclusion. I like this show already.

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1999 is the more traditional opening I could have expected, and the crowd seem to rise as it’s played. I do like the fact that this is a nice clean version, that is the mix is closer to what we heard in the early 80’s without too many embellishments. Prince’s guitar is well in the mix, as is his vocals with the girls. I’m not surprised to hear that this is the abridged version, and the crowd is soon singing ‘party’ with relish. As always my favourite part is near the end as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” with the guitar accompanying him. It’s all fairly predictable, and yet perfectly enjoyable.
Prince Madison Sq2 A howl on the guitar as the band slow down and the lights turning red signals what’s coming next. After several moans on the guitar Prince sings the opening lines of Little Red Corvette. Another song aimed squarely at the nostalgic market, the crowd trades lines with Prince throughout. I do like the mournful sound of the guitar, I would like to see Prince push that sound much more. Most of the song is shallow in the emotional stakes, and it’s not until Prince goes into the guitar break does the feeling really come out in the song. He first delivers the guitar break as heard on album, before slowing down once again and begins to stretch his notes out. With only slight prompting the audience join in hand clapping, and it does give it a soft live sound. The best is yet to come as Prince gets on the microphone and recreates the moans of the guitar vocally. He moves to the slow down section with some dancing that is suitably gentle, and the crowd softly sings “Slow down”. I had tired of this arrangement, here it once again draws me back in.

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Over the sound of a piano Prince begins some pillow talk to the ladies before the lights come up and The Beautiful Ones commences. This performance here is a knock out. Not only is Prince on the piano and singing well, he is also joined on stage by Misty Copeland dancing. I don’t normally like dancers with Prince, I prefer to concentrate on the music, but Misty adds a lot to the show and I can’t take my eyes of her as she twirls around the stage. Any reservations I might have about the state of Princes voice at this stage of his career are dispelled as he builds to the end of the song, singing to Misty a top of the piano before they both finally disappear into the stage.

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The sound of the Controversy guitar next, and I know exactly what to expect. This performance is very typical of how the song has sounded over the last 5 years. The beat is loud and full, and Princes guitar adds the sharpness that the song needs. His vocals are a little lacklustre, yet the guitar sound is so good I forgive him for that. I lose interest as the crowd and Prince sing “New York” before we have the typical “clap your hands and stomp your feet” chant. He never quite loses me though, and I do enjoy the guitar solo that follows a minute later, for me that is what saves the song from being mundane. Prince cracks me up as he asks Shelby to find him someone to dance with “I want a big fine sexy Momma” One lucky woman is brought up on stage to dance the bump with him, and she looks like she enjoys every moment with him. There is further hilarity as Kim Kardashian comes on stage and stands still while Prince dances around her- before ordering her off the stage. Prince seems to be having a lot of fun with the crowd before eventually winding the song up.

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The set list seems to jump around a lot, there is fast song, slow song, fast song. He keeps to this as the gig again slows down as the opening music of Purple Rain begins. It’s a good one, with the crowd singing away for a bit, before Prince picks some gentle figures out on his guitar. He sings all the verses and he puts plenty into his vocals, there is never the feeling that he is just going through the motions. One thing I have noticed about his shows is that every night he plays Purple Rain, it’s always as you expect to hear, and yet in the last minutes on the guitar break he stretches out and finds new things to play. If not for that I would have probably given up listening to Purple Rain, as it is the one constant from all his shows and something I have heard hundreds of times. Here is no different and it’s the last minute of the guitar solo that I enjoy most.

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The concert takes an upbeat pop turn next as Raspberry Beret begins. Prince is absent at first, having disappeared into the stage at the conclusion of Purple Rain, but he does reappear a minute into the song to encourage the crowd to sing. It’s an interesting version, the first couple of minutes its instrumental, and even once Prince appears it’s sometime before he sings. He does seem to be having a great time, playing with the crowd and teasing them and encouraging them.

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The segue into Cream is smooth, and yet the energy levels seem to drop. The girls are very cool with their backing vocals, all fanning themselves as they sit on the piano. The song is neither here nor there for me, its smooth sounding yet there is nothing in it that I can really latch onto. A lot of people would enjoy it for its smoothness and I can’t really fault the performance.

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I love hearing Cool live, and the performance at this show is something I get a lot of enjoyment out of. Prince gets ?uestlove out of the crowd to play cowbell on the drums with John, and I feel a little sorry for him as he has to reach over John to play- it looks very uncomfortable to me. Prince calls for just the drums and gives ?uestlove a couple of shouts for the crowd to acknowledge. The crowd energy picks up a lot during this song, and I can feel their energy here at home. I do cringe a little at Prince and Shelby dancing, but their smiles and laughter are very infectious and there is no denying that they are having a great time onstage.

Prince runs the band well, as he calls the band to change and stops ?uestlove with a quick “Thanks ?uestlove”.  Ida starts Lets Work with some excellent bass work before the band fill out the sound. As with the last song there is plenty of Shelby and Prince dancing, and the vocals take the backseat a little as the dancing continues.

I was surprised to hear U Got The Look next, after all that dancing the guitar sound catches me off guard. Prince doesn’t bother too much with the song, with a yell of “turn me up” he plays a short yet rocking solo, before the song resumes with another chorus before Prince plays the riff out of the song. As he disappears into the stage again I realize that the song was only a couple of minutes.

There is a lovely long piano intro into Nothing Compares 2 U next. Prince is initially off stage as Renato plays, but he reappears and begins to address the crowd. There is a very touching moment as Prince dedicates the song to Bobby Z and wishes him a quick recovery. He tells that many people helped him along the way and Bobby was “a good fine soldier” He goes on to mention several other causes, before singing the opening lines of the song. It was worth the wait, as his vocals are just brilliant, and he is well accompanied by Shelby. The much maligned Shelby does a fine job, and her voice is strong and clear. The interplay between her and Prince is excellent, and there does seem to be genuine warmth between them. Mr Haynes plays a full organ solo, and with a call of “take us to church” he ups the ante. Not to be out done Prince gives his all for a final verse and chorus before the song ends.

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As the beat of Crazy begins I expect to hear Shelby take the lead vocals, instead is something unexpected, Ceelo Green appears to sing his own song. He gets quite a cheer, but not as loud as Prince gets when he appears and picks up his guitar. His playing is restrained, yet has a touch of fire to it. He doesn’t steal the song from Ceelo, but he certainly puts his stamp on it, there’s no mistaking whose show this is. As much as I prefer to hear Prince sing and play, I do enjoy hearing him just contribute his guitar sound to someone’s song. He adds a lot, without ever taking over the song completely, which I am sure must be a very tempting thing to do.

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Prince keeps his guitar on and calls a series of chords that eventually leads us to Lets Go Crazy. I do like his intro here, there is some extra guitar noodling which is fun and adds a sharpness to a sometimes tired song. I aren’t as enthused by the rest of the song, the keyboards are too bouncy for my tastes and the song doesn’t deviate from what I have heard plenty of times before. I am fortunate that it is kept short and half way Prince transitions into Delirious.

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I was wondering what he could do to freshen up Delirious, but Renato plays a quirky keyboard solo, the likes of which I hadn’t heard before and I am happy with that. As Prince gets the crowd clapping Renato plays another more rockabilly sounding solo on the piano before Mr Hayes takes a turn with the organ. It’s all very Vegas and fun and Prince leads the crowd back into chants of “oh no lets go” over Johns drum beat.

I get my wish for something newer next as Prince plays Dreamer. The opening of it sounds very good as it sounds out, and Prince is focused on his playing. It’s strong on the guitar sound, but this changes midsong as Frédéric Yonnet strolls up on stage and plays energetic harmonica (He does literally stroll up on stage). It gives the song another sound and dimension, that is until Prince reclaims it a moment later with a guitar solo. There is another treat as Prince plays the unreleased Welcome 2 America. Its little more than a few lines and a guitar solo, and a very good solo at that.

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Prince takes a break from the guitar as he sits at the piano. I was hoping for a piano set, but instead he opens with a sample of When Doves Cry. He calls to the crowd “we gonna be here all night, who going to pay the bill?” He doesn’t play much over the sample, after playing the intro and a couple of lines he begins Kiss.

He steps away from the piano to sing Kiss. It’s a very electric sounding arrangement, the keyboards have a very electric sound to them. I aren’t feeling the music, but I do enjoy the performance. Prince is all smiles as he plays with the audience. There is a lot of interaction as he sings and he works most of the stage. The song ends with a single drum beat and Prince dancing alone in the spotlight. He’s not as young as he used to be, yet he still moves smoothly even if his dance moves aren’t as extreme as they used to be. It’s enough to elicit plenty of screams from the ladies in the crowd, and a few men too.

I was half expecting the sampler set before, but it’s only now that he resorts to this box of tricks. He first teases the audience with Nasty Girl as the house lights come up, before another tease of Forever In My Life.

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He then settles on Sign O The Times, which is would be great if not interrupted by him looking at an imaginary watch and wondering aloud “how much time I got”. It does take me right out of the moment. Alphabet Street then gets a couple of lines before something better comes along.

That something better is Love Bizarre, and Prince gives it far more attention as he steps away from the keyboard. I can’t get enough of this song, and do generally enjoy it at every show I hear it. My only complaint here would be that the band sounds a little thin, but that may the recording rather than the performance. There is a fantastic keyboard solo that sticks in my head. That is the high point of the song for me, after this plenty of dancers come on stage as Prince begins to toy with Hot Thing on the sampler.

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I forgive this interlude as he plays a fuller version of Pop Life. It’s definitely full of pop, and there is plenty of smiling faces as he plays it. Prince does hover near the keyboard, choosing not to engage with the dancers on stage too much. It is frustratingly cut short as he lurches into another crowd pleasing I Would Die 4 U.

As good as I Would Die 4 U sounds I don’t get my hopes up too much as I know it will be cut short soon enough. Prince doesn’t disappoint as he quickly dispenses with it and the sampler moves to the next tease.

The next tease is All The Single Ladies, and although they don’t play the song it does provide a funny moment. One guy is enjoying it way too much, and Prince highlights him with the spotlight as he has its moment. It’s very light-hearted, and the guy makes the most of his moment.

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Prince calls for John to play something, and the band strikes up If I Was Your Girlfriend. Prince tells them “I can’t do that, someone might get pregnant” which, although corny, does bring a smile to my face. The band do however continue on and brings sings it from on top his piano. This is a good cleaning recording and the song shines. Prince’s vocals are clear and all the parts I want to hear in the song are there. I am pleased to report too that he does play the full song, now the sampler part of the show has been dispensed with. It’s rare that I have heard this song sound so good, and it’s a good reflection of the show. I must make mention too of Renato, his piano near the end is a nice little touch.

Prince calls the band to play Insatiable, and its sound is every bit as good as the previous song. It’s popular with the audience, I can hear them singing along clearly. The groove is nice and gentle and I love the sound of the organ quivering underneath. Prince does perform as he sings, but it’s mostly his vocals he is concentrating on, and the payoff is great. He does take time later in the song to acknowledge the band, and they do play very well.

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Prince continues in the same vein as next the opening notes of Scandalous sound. This is a great sounding trio of songs, and I think to hear them all together is a great way to near the end of the show. I can’t decide which of them sounds best, but rest assured this one is just as good as the previous two songs. I can’t speak highly enough of the last 10 minutes we have just heard.

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Prince caps all this off with Adore, which has me beside myself. The crowd is on its feet singing and I know just as many people feel about this song as I do. Prince lets them sing at first, but then picks up the microphone to deliver his lines. He sings in his falsetto, and yet still drops down to his natural voice in places. His vocals are passionate, playful, full of character and just downright great to listen to. I have been listening to this song for almost 20 years now and this show is just as fresh as the day I first heard it. I am surprised by the very simple ending as Prince and the girls sink into the stage, a fantastic ending to the show.

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The encore starts out with Prince and the band playing a smashing version of Mountains. Again it’s a nice surprise to hear an old favourite. The girls carry the vocal load well, and Prince isn’t heard until the chorus. The song is very much a band sound, and there is again a lovely moment as Prince calls Bobby Z right before the bridge. The song becomes a jam as they begin to play Shake Your Body. Prince roams the stage, apparently having a lot of fun, even playfully tossing a chair from stage and encouraging a fan to take it. The crowd seems amused and Prince waves at the crowd as they move onto Everyday People. The mood is very upbeat, and this comes across well on the recording, you can almost hear the smiles. I can’t say I’m too surprised as I Want To Take You Higher follows, its completely in character. The crowd is well and truly on their feet and dancing and Frédéric Yonnet returns for another shrill harmonica break. The band hit their groove for the last couple as minutes as Prince solos before dropping his guitar into the crowd. There is one final hurrah before he sinks into the stage for one last time.

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I could not have guessed how must I was going to enjoy this show. For a relatively recent hits show, I was caught off guard by the sheer fun of it. Although I couldn’t pinpoint one moment that made it great, there was enough very good moments to make the whole show one to enjoy. The last half hour of the show was the highlight for me, and a reminder of just how good Prince is every show.

Until next week
Hamish

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Making of Rain-Minnesota Dance Theatre benefit show

I am very intimidated about writing about this recording. Some shows are so legendry, so much part of the Prince mythos, that they are almost untouchable. This is very much one of those shows. Recorded between the albums 1999 and Purple Rain, it captures the genesis of what will follow in the coming years. It is legendary on so many different levels, and offers something for everyone. First of all, its Wendy Melvoins debut with the band- that in itself is a key marker for the storm that will follow in the next few years. Next, there is six new songs introduced, and three of them recorded for the basic tacks on Purple Rain (I would Die 4 U, Baby, I’m a Star, and Purple Rain itself). Again, a mouth-watering proposition for any fan. And one of the songs played here is the unreleased fan favourite Electric Intercourse. The most famous song that Prince never released? Perhaps, but I aren’t going to pass judgment on that. I can barely bring myself to write about this show, least I do it an injustice. I am not one for hype or hyperbole, but this show more than lives up to every expectation heaped upon it.

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The opening keyboard of Lets Go Crazy is the first thing heard on this recording. The crowd cheers, but there isn’t the frenzied anticipation we see in later years. As a new song I am sure most of the crowd are unsure of what to expect next. Prince quickly shows them as he finishes his after world speech and goes into the now familiar riff of Lets Go Crazy. The vocals on the recording are a little fuzzy, but the song is already being played very tight, like all Prince bands there is many hours of rehearsal to back them up. Despite hearing this song hundreds of times, it sounds fresh to me here- perhaps as its fresh to the band themselves, and they certainly look like they are having a lot of fun playing it. Prince still has his 1999 look about him in terms of clothing and hairstyle, and he plays with a big grin on his face. I find myself smiling with him and I love it when he plays alongside Wendy and there is some nice interaction between them. Wendy makes an immediate impression, and she more than holds her own on this song. At times she does look a little stiff, but overall she kills it on the guitar and already has good onstage chemistry with Prince. It’s a great opening song, in fact it was so good I went back and played it twice.

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The audience is much more familiar with the next song, When You Were Mine. I was going to write that this is another favourite of mine from this recording, but then I realized that I love all the songs on this one. It’s a good rocking version here, but Princes guitar is a little more buried in the mix, it sounds much noisier, and it’s not as clean as other versions. It’s a short song, but here it’s even shorter, as when the music stops and I expect Prince to do his unaccompanied singing before a reprise, the mood changes and he instead starts playing a slower song on his guitar. I have to give a shout out here to Dr Fink, his robotic handclaps are very entertaining.

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That song is of course a cover of Joni Mitchells A Case Of You, and what we have here is outstanding. Prince delivers a knock out in this one. His singing is beautiful and his guitar playing compliments his vocals fantastically well. The only other instrument is a keyboard filling the background, but I am totally entranced by Prince and his delivery. It’s only a minute and a half, but it’s one of my favourite minutes of his whole career. This one is otherworldly in its beauty. Although the lyrics aren’t Princes, he delivers them with total conviction, he more than does justice to Joni’s words. In particular the opening lines he sings are obviously heartfelt

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that isn’t afraid

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Things change completely as Prince introduces the next song “This song is called Computer Blue” As much as I love this song, I find it jarring coming in right after A Case Of You. But soon all is forgiven as Prince and the band play a rollicking version. A lot of the audience looks pretty stunned at this stage of the gig, and who could blame them. For all his history of guitar work and rock sensibilities he hadn’t played a song quite like this before. It’s not just the guitar I am referencing here, the overall tone of the music is darker and heavy, from the drum beat to the keyboards. All of it has a foreboding sound. The band is pushed right back on the stage, and Prince stands the edge of the stage pulling all the guitar licks and tricks he knows. Like the last song, it’s all about Prince, and he holds the centre of attention all song. The keyboards are strong, and aren’t drowned by the guitar as you might expect. Wendy goes to her knees when Prince wails on his guitar for a bit, before the fantastic segue into the second half of the song, and another chance for Prince to get busy on the guitar. The lead is played as we have all heard before, but here once again its sounding fresh, and Prince is very much playing the hell out of it with great relish. The last guitar break in particular has some real venom in it, and has a nice heavy, almost industrial sound to it. The song ends with a big smile from Prince as he throws his guitar pick to the crowd.

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Another about face next, as Princes puts down the guitar and we hear the quirky pop of Delirious. Plenty of dancing and handclapping from Prince soon has the crowd-back on board. Although I have no great love for the song, it does seem like a very fun song to play. Freed from guitar duty, Prince does interact a little more with crowd, moving back and forth across the stage and holding the microphone for the crowd to sing. The response is inaudible most of the time, mostly because the band are very loud, and at times it seems that Prince himself is almost yelling over the top of the band. That’s one thing I like about the gig, it does have that great live sound, where everything is a little louder, and little nosier, and overall a little more ‘rock n roll’. Prince does pick up the guitar near the end of the song, he is playing the main lead line, but it’s more raw, and just on the right side of loose.

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What follows is one of the most famous unreleased songs in the Prince canon – Electric Intercourse. Lead by Prince at the piano, this song was desperately unlucky to not be on the Purple Rain sound track. For many years I thought this song was over rated, but now I am firmly in the camp that considers it a great lost gem. The keyboard and piano in this one sound great, and Prince uses plenty of shrieks and screams throughout to emphasis his emotion. Between verses there is some very nice piano lines, while the band holds it all together in the background. Even Princes corny spoken word (Don’t you want to make love?) fails to take the shine off this. It’s very much a highlight, and worth listening to if you have a chance.

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Nasty Prince is back in full effect when Automatic begins next. As with the other songs on this night, it’s not as clean and smooth as it sounds on the album. Some of the robotic coldness is gone, but it’s more than made up for with the intensity of the bands playing. Prince puts a lot into this one, and the crowd responds in kind. He gets them all waving their hands mid song, and there is plenty of shouts and screams as he strokes his microphone stand. Prince doesn’t play guitar on this, but there is some great playing from Brown Mark and Wendy. As far as the band go, I think this is the song where they are at their best. Admittedly every song played tonight is top drawer- with some recorded as a basis for use on Purple Rain, but in this one I feel we get to see a little more of each band member, and as far as I can see they are all giving maximum effort and enjoying playing. Prince does lie on the floor for a minute to talk some smut. It’s pretty cool, but I just wish I could hear him a little better. The next part of the song is a long groove, and Prince engages in a few dance moves with the rest of the band. There is no let-up in the intensity though, and overall it’s a riveting performance.

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There is quite a long pause next, with the stage in darkness, before Prince introduces “This is I would Die 4 U” The distinctively drum machine immediately begins, and already I can tell that I am going to like this one a lot. Prince spits out the lyrics rapid fire, slowing down during the chorus and releasing a single note on his guitar. I realize that this song is actually pretty minimal but it’s the drum machine that’s filling all the space and giving it that immediate energy. The guitar break by Prince is a highlight for me, not what he plays, but the tone of his guitar. It’s nice and strong, and I think that’s the best way to describe it- strong. The song goes by in flash, so I had to listen to it a few times, twice because I enjoyed it so much, and once because I hadn’t written anything about it the first two times.

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Baby I’m a Star has a nice long intro before Prince throws some tambourines’ and it begins proper. This is another recording that was used for Purple Rain, so as you might imagine a lot of this sounds as it does on record. Part of the fun in listening to this one is trying to work out what he has used on the final record, and what has he changed or overdubbed. I’m impressed by the passion demonstrated by Prince on every song on this recording. Here we find him covered in sweat, putting all his energy into the singing, especially when he goes to the floor and unleashes a series of excellent screams. Back on his feet he calls “Doctor” and Fink plays the quirky sound we know and love so much. I was half expecting the song to go on way past this point, but it wraps up very quickly after this.

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The familiar strains of Little Red Corvette elicit a few squeals of delight from the crowd. Lisa is beautifully lit from behind, and every time I see this and hear her play fall in love with her a little bit more. In near darkness Prince sings the opening verse before the lights come up for the chorus. I thought the crowd would be more animated, but they are fairly subdued throughout the performance of this. Prince delivers a very raw performance of this, no choreography or tricks, he just delivers it straight down the line with fantastic backing from the band. It’s a more raw performance I would to see more, a sweaty band playing hard and delivering the song straight out. Wendy steps up to the mark and plays the solo, and I am struck by how young she was at this time, and how good she was and not the least bit intimidated. The solo again has a heavy tone to it, not her playing but the sound of her guitar. The song ends simply enough with a “Thank you, good night” from Prince.

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There is a break in proceeding next as Prince is publicly thanked and presented with a flower. Tucking one into his breast pocket he takes the mic as Wendy begins to play the public debut of what will become his signature song – Purple Rain. The fact that this recording was used as the basic track for the finished song tells you how well it’s played here. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this song is the same as the album however, there is a suitably drawn out and beautiful start to the song, as Wendy plays the opening chords over and over while Prince indulges in some nice lead guitar. Foreshadowing future live performances on this tour, it’s a good few minutes before Prince begins to sing. And sing he does, the vocals here are magnificent, it’s hard to believe that this was the public debut of the song, he sings so strongly and confidently. It’s interesting to note the expressions of the audience at the time, some of them look noticeably bored as Prince plays his new, distinctly unfunky, song. There is an extra verse sung that doesn’t make it into the final song, and when you hear it you can understand why it didn’t make the final cut. It doesn’t quite scan as well as the other verses and the song is much more cohesive without it. There is a moment in the next verse when someone from the band or audience lets out a “whooo!” which can be heard on the final album version. I’m not sure if it’s an audience member, but I kind of hope it is, that would be cool. Prince plays the impassioned solo, with plenty of suitable face pulling thrown in for good measure. The audience look muted throughout, and there is no arm waving for this new song. Only a couple of girls with hands in the air near the front seem to be feeling it at all. It’s a stunning performance of what is now a classic, and I would think this recording is worth having just for the historic value of this moment alone.

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There is again another long break before the next song, but the reason why is apparent when Prince begins DMSR in his old school leg warmers, bikini briefs, long coat, hat and mirrored glasses. Wendy shows another side to her playing on this one, and her funky rhythm holds it down throughout. The song has an effortless groove to it, and Prince is nice and funky on the microphone. This is the party song of the evening (and perhaps of every evening), and Prince and the audience seem to be having a great time. Prince is constantly moving throughout the song, with lots of dancing and audience participation. As you might expect, this is the song that they stretch out, and Prince shows of how well drilled the band really is. The song ends with Prince saying goodnight, introducing the band one by one, before they kick back into the song-this time it’s all groove and Dr Fink gives a cool little piano solo. Prince clowns around a little on the mic, calling for horns as the keyboards play what would normally be a horn line. There is another false ending, and then, as per his modus operandi, he calls them back in on the beat. This happens a couple of times, and Prince engages in some very energetic footwork. Another nice touch is when he calls for just Wendy and Brown Mark, and they have just half a minute just grooving on it. The song ends rather abruptly, it stops and then without a word Prince and the band walk off stage.

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Nothing I write here can do this show justice. Everything here is a 10/10. The songs played at this stage touch on his past, his future and gives us pointers to his influences, as well as what gems still lie in the vault. The band is as tight as they have ever been, and young Wendy is a star right from the first notes she plays. The blueprint for the next few years is laid out, and it’s fascinating to see it all unfold here right before our eyes. I watched this one with my mouth open for the whole 70 minutes, and I still shake my head when I think that such a historic show has been captured for us to enjoy. Amazing.

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Everything I write about in future will pale in comparison to this, but I will be back next week with another one.

Take care
Hamish

 

Rehearsal for First Avenue Benefit Concert ’83

After claiming that I rarely listen to rehearsals, I find myself listening to another one today. Listening to the rehearsal for the 1984 Birthday show piqued my curiosity, so I pulled a rehearsal of another famous show- the 1983 benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre, at First Ave I will be listening to that show next week, but I thought I would take a look at the rehearsal first to round out the full picture.

Rehearsal for First Avenue Benefit Concert 1983

The rehearsal begins with Princes spoken word intro of Lets Go Crazy. The most striking thing about it is how deep his voice is as he speaks it, it’s not the voice I am used to from Purple Rain. He sounds very relaxed, and he does have fun with it as he says “there’s something else.. that’s right, something”. The second thing that hits me is when he says “so when you call up that nigger in Beverley Hills”. It seems a little out of character now, but I guess it is of its time. The rest of the song sounds light after the deep voice of the intro, even with the heavy sounding bass and guitar, the keyboards have a very bright sound that seems to permeate through the song. There is plenty of guitar in the song, but there is so much of everything else that it never really comes to the fore as you may expect. The final solo and howl is a little damp, and I have to remind myself that this isn’t a live situation, it is a rehearsal. And as such the song seems to stop dead, only a silence greets the final note.

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When You Were Mine sounds excellent in this situation. I warm to the song right away as the keys and guitar come in.  The playing is tight, and you can hear Prince give instruction to the sound guy. There is an innate energy in the song, even without the audience it shines. The ladies voices are very strong in my right ear, and I was going to comment more on it, but half way through Prince calls for sound adjustments, and they do disappear back into the mix. Another part of the song I enjoy early on is when Prince talks to the sound guy, and then the band play on for half a minute with no vocals. It’s got a good stripped down sound that I like. The ever reliable Doctor plays an enthusiastic solo, before the song comes to a sudden halt.

Prince’s delicate guitar playing draws me into A Case Of U, and I am in love almost right away. As the keys move easy beneath his guitar he sings beautifully. Even in rehearsal there is the touch of emotion that is needed to carry this song off. The lyrics match up great with his playing, and there is a fantastic little guitar run as the song nears the end. I would have a lot more to say about this song, but the final version played live at the show is so phenomenal, that even as good as this is, I know that there is better to come.

The introduction of Computer Blue is without the girl’s spoken piece, but that isn’t a big deal as the music is extremely cold and strong sounding. The keyboards provide some good runs, but it really is the guitar and bass on this track that makes it what it is. I had to listen to it twice, as I was so enraptured with the guitar sound the first time I missed everything else that was going on. One of the great thing about listening to Prince and his music, there is so much to listen to that I can always find new things every time I listen to a song. Prince’s vocals stray from what we know, especially as he sings “where is my baby” in a variety of styles, before ending with a throaty shriek. The change midsong is, as always, killer, and I never seem to tire of it. Here I can hear the keyboards much better than I remember, and they provide a nice layer of fills in my left ear. All the while Prince continues with his guitar break. It is par for the course, and somewhat quieter than I am used to. However just as I was thinking that he comes on with the second half of his guitar break which is much more improvised and freer, and I am happy to hear more of this from him. The song finishes with a great roll and howl that belies the fact it is a rehearsal.

Wendy Purple Era

Delirious is a complete 180 from what we have just heard and it takes me half a minute to adjust to the sudden pop bounce. The guitar vanishes at the start, and as one might expect there is a lot of light keyboards playing. Later I do hear a rhythm guitar but it is very low in the mix. I am normally dismissive of Delirious, but tonight I enjoy it a lot. It does have a lot of nostalgic value for me, and this arrangement is a lot of fun, with lots of crazy keyboard solos, and a rockabilly guitar all vying for attention later in the song. The song ends in a keyboard crescendo as Prince instructs Lisa to turn the keyboard effects up, and she in turn replies that her keyboard is dead. Then as the music simmers Prince sets his piano sound, playing as the sound comes to his liking.

It took me a long time to come around to Electric Intercourse, but its performances like this one that won me over. The bass in the right speaker is pitched just right, and Princes vocals are on point from the first line to the last. I think part of the attraction of this song is that it has never been overplayed, it still has a freshness to it, and this recording in particular catches that feeling. In fact it’s so fresh that at one point Wendy misses her cue, only to be chastised by Prince with a loud “Wake up Wendy!” The keyboard solo has a sweetness to it, and although it’s short I still give it a lot of appreciation. As the song progresses I find myself listening to Prince more and more carefully, and the way his vocal arrangement works with the girls, he definitely knows how he wants it to sound, and what is required.

We are back into more familiar territory next as Automatic begins. It has a dense sound to it, and feels somewhat like a sledge hammer following the delicate Electric Intercourse. It is a joy to listen to the synthesizers play off against each other, and it’s another one of Princes songs where he very much creates a mood with the sound of his music. The song sticks fairly close to the original, there is one stage where the keyboards get all weird and wonderful, before pulling out and Prince plays a staggered guitar break. Right after this it takes on a dance feel, and despite still having a dark sound I find myself beginning to move.

Prince 2007

Again there is a great contrast in the track list as Prince flips the mood with I Would Die 4 U. The song has a fresh and energetic sound, especially coming off Automatic. I like Princes vocals, but he does sound removed, almost as if his voice is coming from another room. It’s not that his vocals are low in the mix, just the effect on his voice. The song goes past at a fair clip, and it’s a real sweetener.

Baby I’m A Star suffers a little at the start as the tape has that ominous chewing sound that I grew up with. However it does recover by the times Princes vocals start, and it’s not a big deal. As with the previous song Prince does have the sound of being in an empty room. I like the sound of it, but it does feel as if he is coming from a distance. The rest of the band are fairly anonymous through the song, its Prince I am listening to, and the keyboard coming from the left speaker. Although unreleased at this stage, the band sound like they have the song well and truly down, and they play note perfect throughout. The Doctors solo is very enjoyable, and even though it’s as I have heard plenty of times, it’s still infused with a joyous sound.

Things once again slow down with Little Red Corvette. By this stage the band had played it many times, and it seems that they could play it in their sleep. It’s so spot on note perfect, I love it for its perfectionism. The introduction is kept short, and Prince sings the song in an upbeat voice, foregoing emotion for efficiency. Hitting the first verse he does ask for more echo, but the song never lets up, in fact the whole song seems to fly by, the guitar solo is upon us before I know it, and then the whole song wraps up a line later, with Prince dead panning “Thank you, good night”

The guitar opening of Purple Rain is what we hear next, and it differs from we know so well in that  it doesn’t have a flat drum beat. The beat has an echo on it, which gives it a double kick all the way through. I find it distracting, but I do enjoy the rest of the song. Prince sounds cold at the beginning, but he asks for more echo on the voice, and this gives him a much warmer sound as the song moves forward. I do also enjoy the extra verse that didn’t make the final cut, I can understand why it was cut though, as thematically it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. The song meanders after that verse, but things get back on track as Prince gets to “Purple Rain, Purple Rain” and then the epic sounding guitar solo. The solo is as expected, although for the first minute Princes guitar sounds thin, but this is rectified, and he takes on a bolder sound as the solo progresses. It’s an interesting solo, Prince is still playing with it, so apart from the opening, and the rest of it is new and interesting to hear.

DMSR has another ad-lib start as Prince kicks it off with “Holland, London, Paris, France” before some funky bass ups the ante. The bass playing hasn’t garnered much comment from me up until this point, but now I find I am paying close attention as Brown Mark rumbles along. Again when we reach the chorus Prince reverts to calling sitting names, this time throwing New York into the mix as well. There is a rhythm break for the guitar, but its low in the mix and I don’t hear it as well as I would like to. The song catches me off guard with a false ending, before it comes back in and there is a cool little piano solo. Prince calls “Give me some horns” and the keyboards provide a nice sounding line. With another call of “Telephone” we get a quirky keyboard run and Prince taking a mock call. The song is a showcase for the band, and Prince gives them several calls and leads to follow, and they respond well. There is another piano solo, with Prince chanting “Planet Rock, we don’t stop” as well as singing lines from George Clintons Loopzilla. Just as Prince calls break time I think its all over, but there is a couple more reprises. This is one of my favorite songs on the recording, the groove is excellent and it sounds like a lot of fun is being had.

Prince 1984

I cringe when I see the next track listed as ‘Band Tuning’. These are just the sort of things a dislike about rehearsals- minutes of the band tuning up and getting there sound right while very little happens musically. There is not much for me at this stage of the recording, so I am quietly happy when the tune up is over and we move to the next musical portion of the recording.

Things get back to the music next as the band play a laid back Africa Talks To You. Its a nice groove, and there are some enjoyable keyboard played over the top of the groove. Prince ad-libs a bit too, which is fun. I especially like it when he calls out “You gotta purify yourself in lake Minnetonka. You can also hear him asking for Wendy’s guitar to be ready “that’s why we bought it for her”. The song does meander towards the end, before it peters out into some tom foolery.

Next is ten minutes of the band fooling around and generally having fun. Its primarily led by Dr Fink, who does a variety of voices as he sings a medley of tunes and plays a light organ.  I Could Have Danced All Night has me smiling, as he sings briefly with great gusto, before moving to Catch A Falling Star. There is all sorts of snippets played including Our House, and the James Bond theme. There is also a Popeye impersonation that is actually pretty good. Its really great to hear the band feeding off each other and being completely at ease. I don’t feel I ever have to listen to this track again, but it was fun to listen to once. The track ends appropriately enough with a Dolphin singing Stevie Nicks ‘Stand Back’. If you have heard it you will know exactly what I mean.

Things become business like again as Prince says “All right, lets go” and the organ of Lets Go Crazy begins again. This time it starts closer to what I am used to, but then Prince quickly takes it in a different tack with the final couple of lines of the intro, before the band begin right on cue. After the looseness of the previous few tracks its some what surprising how quickly they tighten up, they are right on the money for the rest of this track. Princes guitar is very faint as he solos, I can only just hear him. Even the latter solo is faint, and the rest of the band easily drown him out in the final crescendo.

After listening to this rehearsal and the one the other week, I think I should more time to rehearsals. I prefer this rehearsal to the last one, and I thought the last one was excellent. This one had the band playing the songs in a very fresh sounding way, and yet they were very tight as a unit. And also you could hear how much they were enjoying being a band and being together. If you only hear one rehearsal in your life, this would be the one I would choose. But then again I do have another couple of excellent propositions…

Next week I will be listening to one of the greats, the benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre.

Have a great week
Hamish