When it comes to bootlegs of aftershows in 1988, the Trojan Horse stands above all others. It is the most beloved and well known of the aftershows, but there are several others from the same year that deserve attention. The Warfield aftershow from November is highly regarded, as is Große Freiheit ’36 (especially by me). There is also the aftershow from the Camden Palace in London (sadly incomplete) and then the bootleg I will be listening to today, the early morning performance from The Palace, Hollywood. Superficially all these concerts appear to be similar, but I find that when I listen to them each has it’s own character and feel, and so it is with The Palace. It appears to be a standard aftershow set of the time, but it is played with a heavy dose of swing that is missing in the other shows. There is an element of fun, and the intensity that smothers the other concerts is instead replaced with a bright and breezy performance. The audience recording isn’t too bad, considering the era in which it was recorded, and even if the sound is thin in places, the performance can always be heard without distortion. It can probably be best compared to the Warfield show, recorded just four days later, the setlists are almost identical, and although two different recordings of that later show are in circulation, I prefer the sound of this concert.
7th November 1988 (a.m.), The Palace, Hollywood.
It is the keyboards that roll out the red carpet and lead us into the show. The slow build into “Positivity” gives the song the solemnly that the lyric content demands, and as the rest of the band join there is the feel that something special is in the air. Without becoming too intense, the song lets the individual players feel their way into the music, along with the audience, and the song envelops the recording in it’s timeless mist.
A brightness enters the recording as Prince plays a sharp version of “Eye Know.” It is at this point that the recording briefly flickers, but the band and Prince remain upfront and loud, and there is an extra energy as the song and concert blooms into something a whole lot more colorful and celebratory. Despite the wobble in the recording, it is apparent that Prince is giving another star performance, and he burns with supernova power even this early into the show. The song isn’t as as complex as it is heard on record, but the band add a baroque sound that melds well on top of Princes bare funk that can be heard churning away beneath the song.
“Wade In The Water” gives the recording an extra depth, as Prince pulls us back to his roots, while delivering some feathery guitar that sounds as if it has been handed down from God himself. Prince stays on this route, “God Is Alive” bringing spirituality and funk together in a mix that is Prince at his very best, bringing these two desperate strands together to create something unique that bestrides both sides of this religious gulf. There is the feeling of God in the air, while the bottom of end of the music suggests all sorts of other sins, this unresolved tension creating a music that never gets tiresome or stale.
The piano introduction to “The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker” shines in the darkness in this recording, and the rest of the song is equally well served by the quality if the tape. The nuance of the song is captured well, and as it segues into “Four” the piano and horns can both be heard, without either taking precedence over the other, making for another colourful and three dimensional moment caught on tape.
Boni Boyer does not disappoint as she comes forward for “Down Home Blues.” I prefer her performance here over what is heard at the Small Club gig (incidentally, the first live performance they did of the song) , she is more subtle here and rather than belting it out she instead gives it to us piece by piece, making for easy digesting before Prince makes his first major guitar move of the show with some surgical playing that neatly dissects the song. Boni Boyer returns for a final “Rock Me, Baby,” but it is Prince who burns the house down with one last fiery burst from his guitar.
It takes some time for the band to build into “Cold Sweat,” but even these opening minutes are funk fueled and one can almost hear the sweat dripping through the tape and the recording. Boni Boyer and Eric Leeds dominate the overall sound, and although the song is grounded it its forceful rhythm, it is these two can be heard adding the most to the overall feel of it. For all that though, it is a Sheila E. solo that brings the song to a close with a simple and effective break, only to be out done by the moment where Prince briefly sings the “Bad” bassline. Well worth checking out!
Some interlacing guitar work introduces “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” draping a soft lace of rhythm guitar across the sparse opening. At first Prince is swallowed up by the song, but he does emerge from this aching sound with a emphatic plea from the heart as the song builds to it’s emotional core. It is the first pillars of the guitar solo that are the gateway into the heart of the song, and as the guitar cries in the darkness the song slips away, only to be replaced by raw emotion and the purity of music itself. It’s hard to know where to place this solo on the Pantheon of Prince guitar solos, but as it claws it’s way across the raw bloodied heart at the centre of the music, it speaks not to the ear, but to the very soul, making for one of Prince’s most powerful performances.
It is a frantic “Supercalifragisexy” that banishes any such sentimentality from the show, and Prince gives a furious and mesmerizing performance. With guitar in hand he ladles on great dollops of funk, all at a breakneck speed that never lets up through the ten minutes the song twists and turns in various shades of funk. It is Eric Leeds who is the foil to Prince’s kinetic sound, he matches him blow for blow through the song, both matching Prince and pushing him further. It is only in Prince’s final hurricane of a solo that he bests Eric, and after such a blitzkrieg it is hard to envisage what might come next.
What comes next is “I Wish U Heaven (part 3).” With a heavy beat, the drums overwhelm the previous all conquering guitar, a heavy march compared to the guitar’s earlier wild night flight. The song smolders with the appearance of the horns, and as Prince hits his lines the song heats up, but it never quite bursts into flame as it promises. The rhythm though is undeniable, and it never once lets up in its drive and momentum as it powers towards the end of the show. The music glowers and growls, there is no bite, only the threat of imminent danger and darkness. It is a decisive finish to the concert, and the band unfurl their strident brand of funk in these final minutes, making a lasting impression that lingers on long after the concert has finished.
It has been quite sometime since I listened to this entire show, and I have to wonder why it doesn’t get more play at my place. An excellent show with Prince and the band at the height of their powers, there is a lot to love about this bootleg. There is very little rock or pop to be heard here, it is all about the funk, and Prince gives us plenty of his own unique style of funk as each song is brushed by his sound and sonic flavor. This bootleg is easy to overlook next to the highly esteemed Small Club, but it holds it’s own in comparison, and should not be discounted. As a record of Prince’s funk style at the time this recording is outstanding, and is not to be missed.