Lovesexy Dome – Tokyo 1989

We are into our final days of our Tokyo sojourn, I have loved every minute I have been here but I ready to sleep in my own bed again. Before we fly back to New Zealand we have time to visit one more bootleg from Prince’s tours of Japan. This one comes from the Lovesexy tour and captures a performance at Tokyo dome. Everyone knows there are some great soundboards circulating from this tour, this recording comes from the other end of the spectrum and is an extremely poor audience recording. Its muffled, thin, the audience is overly loud and Prince is overly quiet. I have chosen this one because it is the longest concert of the Japan leg, and although the recording is terrible, the show is great. I in no way recommend this one, it borders on unlistenable, but I am a die hard and am quite prepared to listen to it so you don’t have too (and after a month of Japanese TV, this is a welcome relief).

February 5th, 1989 Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

You know what you’re in from the start as the recording captures several people chatting and clapping. At first I treat it as a pleasant scene setter, that is until I realize later that there is music playing, and the crowd is drowning it out. They clap the beat, and in the distance and can hear the all too familiar opening to the Lovesexy concerts, almost ghost-like it is so faint.

I know the Lovesexy shows very well, so even though the music is distant I can easily make out the opening “Housequake.” It sounds typical of the rest of the tour, what I can hear of it. A lot of nuances are missing on the recording, but one can easily recognize Prince’s vocals and the distinctive beat. The final half of the song is frantic, and I find I listen closely to try and catch what crumbs I can.

“Slow Love” sounds better, bigger and fuller and Prince’s vocals swell and fill the recording. This holds through the following “Adore,” and I briefly consider the recording might be as bad as I thought, especially the spoken part that segues into “Delirious”

“Delirious” again displays the recording limitations we have encountered so far. The crowd is far too much in the recording, and “Delirious” is buried under a layer of grime. The same can be said of “Jack U Off,” only the horns can be heard through the fray. I can hardly hear the lyrics of “Sister,” and for the first time I think the quality of the recording might be a blessing. On a positive note, the final flurry of guitar can be clearly heard, and inspires me to listen further.

The first strains of “Do Me, Baby” has me light headed, and as the bass pops I am in seventh heaven. It slows the medley, and I begin to connect with the concert as Prince puts the crowd through their paces. A heavenly song, it rises above any other negativity that can be heard. The final spoken part from Prince has me feeling fifteen again, and visions of ex-girlfriends swim before my eyes as he seduces with merely words.

The opening riff of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is a call to arms for truefunk soldiers, and Prince rewards with a grand rendition “Head.” “Head” has always been down and dirty, and here even more so as the recording matches it from griminess. The main riff rings out loud and clear, but again that is the only positive of the recording. Even Dr Finks solo, although brilliant kinetic, is lost in the general crowd noise. I do, however, enjoy the call and response, and Prince’s continual call of “this is now a discotheque.”

I want to like “Girls and Boys,” I really do, but on this recording it is neither here nor there and leaves very little impression upon me. On the other hand, “A Love Bizarre” is fast, frantic, and utterly compelling. Prince airs it right out, and this is one of the longest songs on the recording.  The call and response briefly has me wishing I could be there, and I find this is one of the more passionate Lovesexy shows in circulation. Generally I find them almost too well staged and tight, this concert retains a looseness and a feeling that I can relate to and that makes it all the more appealing to me. The calls and response continue for sometime, although they are never boring and the momentum of the song, and the concert, is retained. Oh, and Miko is brilliant!

Prince singing happy birthday to Mr Udo (the promoter) is an interesting moment, but for me the real treasure comes next with a rough and ready “When You Were Mine” jumping out of the blocks. As always it touches the inner rocker in me, and I am just excited to hear it as the overly vocal crowd obviously are. At two minutes Prince seems to have a guitar fault, but the song and the band barrel on without him.

The arena is warmed with the first strains of “Little Red Corvette.” The rest of the song delivers on this promise of warm nostalgia, and the crowd are more than happily to sing along as required, as well as providing the necessary screams to herald in the guitar solo.

The show again accelerates from this point, with “Controversy” providing the first thrust that will carry the following numbers. It is short, and it is “U Got The Look” that continues this onward momentum. “U Got The Look,” sounds dreadful on this recording, the crowd far too loud,and the mix badly out of balance. Things don’t improve for “Superfunkycalifragisexy,” and I begin to regret that I am such a completest.

“Bob George” sounds cool, although in the Lovesexy concert it is a visual experience as much as an audio experience. It is easy to imagine what is unfolding on stage, and I find myself smiling at Prince’s dark humor.

Balanced is restored with “Anna Stesia” bringing closure to the first half of the show. It stirs up far more feelings of nostalgia than “Little Red Corvette” earlier in the setlist, I am right back in high school as I close my eyes and listen to Prince play. There is some echo, but Prince’s vocals ride over any such storms and in some ways it reminds me of the old chewed up cassette tape of Lovesexy that I used to listen to over and over.

A light is shined into the darkness in the form of “Cross The Line,” the mood of the show already lifting as it welcomes in the second half of the concert. The white noise that introduces “Eye Know” is hard to distinguish from the general noise heard on the recording, and I inwardly smile at myself as I hear Prince say “The reason my voice is so clear…”  “Eye Know” has the crowd well and truly involved and its pleasing to hear that I’m not the only one who clearly loves this song. One of the things I have found about attending Prince concerts is that you always find other like minded people who seem to cheer and appreciate the same small things as you do. Prince fans really do feel like family sometimes.

The theme of the album is maintained through  “LoveSexy,” in this case giving me an urge to pull out the original album and give it a listen. There is plenty going on in this live rendition, we may not be able to hear it all, but I know it’s there.

“Glam Slam” features more audience singing, both at the venue and all over the recording. Its not as long as the previous two songs, but I still enjoy hearing it, and I especially enjoy hearing Prince fully engaged with the album he was promoting at that time.

It’s very hard to listen to “The Cross” without comparing it to the Dortmund show. That show created such a powerful visual image and sound that any recording would struggle against it, and especially so this one. In this case I like the rawness of Prince’s guitar sound, and for a while I fool myself into thinking the echo is making Prince sound better. But who am I kidding, I would rather watch the Dortmund performance of this song anytime.

There is a lightness to “I Wish U Heaven,” not just on this recording but on all performances, that doesn’t quiet work on bootlegs. As compensation we get extra audience vocals, but they aren’t as delicate, or as beautiful, as Prince’s. It is only the last half of the song where the guitar awakes that I become interested, its too little too late, but it is a nice touch.

I love the bass of “Kiss” in these Lovesexy shows, and here is no different and it both anchors the song and propels it forward at the same time. Prince is barely audible, so its just as well the bass and guitar are so divine, and I am more than happy with what little I can hear.

“Dance On” is merely the introduction for Sheila E and her rap and drum solo, something I whole heatedly disapprove of. Not because of Sheila herself or her performance, but because I think “Dance On” should get much more time than it is allocated. That disappointment aside, it is always fun to hear Sheila as she hammers away and the next few minutes I have a happy grin as she indulges me in her trademark drum style.

Finally, one of my favorite parts of the Lovesexy concerts – the piano solo. “Venus De Milo” has my weepy eyed from the opening moments, the following few minutes containing all you could want from Prince’s sweeping piano playing. “Starfish And Coffee” isn’t quite on the same plain, but it still retains the sweetness of the moment.

There is only a brief moment of “Raspberry Beret” before Prince settles into a tender “Condition Of The Heart.” I am disappointed that it is only fleeting, but there is a treat in the form of a rare appearance of “International Lover’ that more than makes up for it. Only thirty seconds, but it raises my pulse through the roof, and for half a second a hear a teenage girl squeal of delight escape from my forty-year-old manly lips.

The piano version of “Strange Relationship” is now familiar to most people. As always, there is plenty of funk and feeling in Princes finger tips, although the audience clapping takes me out of the moment.  However, the following “Free” again has me in fanboy heaven, and delivers up the second seismic shock of this piano set. A rarity buried in the setlist, this is one of the reasons I elected to listen to this recording, and the sound has improved by this stage that I can actually say its an enjoyable moment.

An instrumental “With You” carries us through to the finale of the piano set – “When 2 R in Love.” I may not approve of his spelling, but I definitely approve of the song, even if it is barely a chorus and a slow fade.

I know what to expect with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and Prince gives it to me with the standard 1988/89 run through. The “go, go, go” chants leave me cold, as does the rest of the song, and although it is a sacred cow I find I dislike it.

Prince makes short work of the Purple Rain album – “When Doves Cry” is truncated, and lacking some of the bite of other concerts (more specifically, the dog bark). The audience seem to like it though, true to the form they sing loudly throughout and they are stronger than anything else on the recording.

It is a thin “Purple Rain” that makes an appearance at this show. Prince’s vocals remain distant, and its hard to know if this is a great performance or not. The guitar solo is equally lost on the recording, which surprises me as I expected the recording would pick it up much better. Of all the parts of “Purple Rain,” it is the audiences “oohhh oohh ohhh” that sound closest to what is on record, and the song belongs to them as much as Prince on this occasion.

There is no “Alphabet St.” at this concert, and it is instead “1999” that closes out the show. It is a worthy rendition with Prince at full voice as he extols the crowd to party. Its a fitting end to the show, although my ears are pleased its over. Its only in these last minutes that I let myself acknowledge just how bad this recording was.

I do not recommend this recording in the slightest. I do however wholeheartedly recommend this particular concert. It is coming near the end of the tour, and the band are razor sharp and deliver a great performance. Add in the couple of rarities and arresting moments and it makes for a curious listen. I would be far more effusive if the recording was even slightly better, but it is what it is. Not one to revisit, but it gives us an idea of the quality of some of Pricnes perforamnces at the time.

Thanks again
next time I will safely ensconced back home in New Zealand
-Hamish

 

ONA – Budokan

My Japanese odyssey continues, we are still in Tokyo where today I visited the Budokan. For me it is a venue that I was always associate with the Cheap Trick album Cheap Trick at Budokan, an album that was played ad nauseum when I was a child. Prince has played at the venue during two tours, he did four nights there during his 1996 tour of Japan, and another two nights in 2002 during the One Night Alone tour. Perhaps in this case we should call it the two nights alone tour. I am going to take a look at one the shows played during the ONA tour, as much as I like the 1996 concerts the shows from 2002 are more attuned to my current tastes. Not everyone is a fan of the One Night Alone tour, I find the tour is divisive between fans – it is either one you really love, or one you really hate. I have yet to find many people on the middle ground. I am going to stake my claim early, it is a tour I am a big fan of, so expect the following write up to be completely biased for the positive.

18th November 2002, Nippon Bodukan, Tokyo

The audience know what to expect from the start as is the norm for the ONA shows Prince begins with a distorted voice and heavily distorted drum solo. I like it, although it has no flow to it and is little more than a minute of sound that builds anticipation to the opening “The Rainbow Children.” The unease that “The Rainbow Children” creates can be heard in the music, but as always it is kept in balance by the band and their light sound that counteracts some of Princes unsettling vocal effects. By the time Prince sings “Tokyo!” I am fully on board and ready for this song to roll on and on. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (and I’m aware of plenty of people who downright hate it) but I can’t deny, Prince’s guitar work is pretty sweet on the ear, and I would hope most people would listen past the lyrical delivery and instead gravitate to this mesmerizing guitar performance. I like that the song continues to strike new ground, and it keeps me fixated without ever repeating itself.

If anyone in the audience was worried about what might come next, Prince reassures them with the more accessible, and eminently more pop, “Pop Life.” Prince’s voice may not be as crisp as we have come to expect, but the rest of the song shines like polished silver, the recording sparkling as Prince turns the music this way and that under the lights. Renato and his jazz touch late in the song speaks to me, and I am filled with regret that I never saw this band live.

Prince brings discomfort to the pop audience with his introduction to “Xenophobia,” and the following song challenges expectations. At the time it came across as something new and shocking, fifteen years on I know what to expect and I am more than happy with the way the music unfolds over the next ten minutes. With Maceo playing there is very little to dislike, and as the horns run back and forth Princes message gets lost in the raw sound of the music itself. It is the last half of the song that is the most challenging, and it feels good to hear this again, something far removed from his 80’s pop sheen, here is something with grit and body, something that looks both backward and forwards at the same time, a song that contains something new every time I hear it.

Prince can’t quite keep to his promise to challenge and test the audience. It is “Purple Rain” that follows quickly after and soon enough any questions raised by “Xenophobia” are quickly painted over in the shade of purple. The audience recording is remarkably clean, there is very little background noise aside for cheers at the appropriate moments. Should I thank the recorder, or the restrained crowd, I don’t know,  but I do know it sounds very good indeed and I am more than happy with the performance of “Purple Rain” that matches it. It never ignites into the blazing wildfire it sometimes becomes, but it delivers everything that one would expect at a Prince concert, be it your first concert or your 100th.

“The Work Pt 1” surprisingly fails to fire. I had such hopes. I was expecting funk by the bucket load, instead I get a series of solos that never quite build into a much wished for payoff. I like the music just fine, but it is a platonic relationship and never becomes an intense love affair. Prince is too fickle and the music comes and goes as it pleases without giving me the time I need. I do like the “To-k-yo, woo-hoo” chant, something I may have been guilty of singing under my breath for the last three weeks as I wander the streets of Tokyo. The inevitable dancers on stage is the last straw for me, the heart of the song belongs to the audience in the building, and not us listening here at home.

For me, “Mellow” is all about the sound and vibe. I have very little idea what Prince is singing about, but I do love the feel of the song. This performance is cool, and “Mellow” lives up to its name, aside from the occasion burst of horn. It is unlike anything heard thus far on the recording, and for me it again highlights the scope of music Prince created. It wouldn’t be the first song I’d put on, but it is one that I always like when I hear it.

The concert energy again surges with engaging rendition of “1+1+1 is 3.” Of course it can’t lose with Maceo adding his years of experience with an instantly funky solo. Prince may claim that he is funky, but in this case it is Maceo who brings the funk to the party. There is a funky guitar underneath that is pure Prince, but for my money it is the horns that make this worth hearing. Nothing is added by appending “Housequake” and “Love Rollercoaster” to the second half of the song, and they could have easily been left off in my opinion.

The melancholy dip and swoop of Prince’s guitar brings the concert into a more traditional  realm, and the performance here could have come from any show in the last twenty years. That’s no bad thing, the guitar wail calling most Prince fans to duty with it’s mournful call. There is a heavy influence from the band, and the flashes of jazz later in the song reminds you just what configuration of the NPG this is. The final few minutes belong all to John Blackwell, and that makes this rendition well worth a listen as he kicks and stutters around the kit.

I am pleased to find that “Strange Relationship” is just as funky as it has every been, the band locking together in a solid squelching riff. If anything, it is aged even better, and like a fine wine I find it strong and more flavorsome than its 1980’s incarnation. Prince in particular seems to get a real kick out of playing this song, and he pulls the audience with him with his unbridled enthusiasm. It stands far above anything else heard on the recording with its energy and pure Princeliness.

“Pass The Peas” I am happy to take a pass on. I like Maceo, but Prince and the band don’t add anything to the song we haven’t heard before. It does give the horn section a chance to strut, but it pales compared to the previous “Strange Relationship.” Although, to be fair, almost anything would pale compared to that.

A torrent of guitar notes fly from Prince’s hands, and serves as a great introduction to “The Ride.” What is great about this show is that every song gets a full rendition and plenty of time to marinate in its own juices. Every song runs five to ten minutes, and after years of feeling short changed by Prince medleys with these concerts I finally feel Prince is letting us fully appreciate his music. His comment “Can I take my time” gets full approval from me. The song contains the unrestrained howl of his guitar as he finally lets it off the leash and it runs rampant for the next few minutes. It is a biting performance that snaps and chews in equal measure.

As a Prince fan I fail miserably, not recognizing “Sign O’ The Times” immediately as Prince elicits to shroud the intro with his chugging guitar. The song never really settles on a style from here on in, sometimes the horns come to the fore, giving it a brighter sound, while the record scratching pulls it in another direction entirely. And then pulling in in a third direction is Prince’s guitar. I would happily take any style, but to my ears all three don’t quite gel. There is some lighter guitar later in the song, which with the horns would be a much better fit for this band.

Ahh, the old “Take Me With U,” “Raspberry Beret” combination. Regular readers will be familiar with my feelings about this. I like sweet pop sugariness as much as anyone, but not so much now I am older and, ahem, more mature. I happily digest “Take Me With U,” but by the time Prince segues into “Raspberry Beret” I have had my fill and am ready for something more substantial.

“The Everlasting Now” wouldn’t be my first choice for something more substantial, but I do find it more rewarding than the previous couple of songs.  The first few minutes are a nice little appetizer as Prince gives us a taste of what’s to come with parcels of funk and chants. The main course comes with some Santanaesque guitar before the rest of the band add their sauce of horn riffs and piano twinkle. It’s a flavorsome combination, and one that I happily indulge myself in. It is Maceo that rounds out this feast of sounds, with his dessert of saxophone sprinkling chocolate sprinkles over all that has come previous. I am sold on it, and as it all comes to an end I feel well nourished and satisfied.

A short break lets me digest what we have heard so far, before the encores open with Prince at the piano. “Condition Of The Heart” is simply divine, I am beyond words as I sit and listen to it, letting Princes music and lyrics washing over me. It does become a medley, “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” getting a line, before Prince indulges us with a slightly longer “Diamonds And Pearls.” It is “Adore” that gets the most time and attention however, with John Blackwell ever so gently adding a heartbeat to the song. The crowd sit in an enraptured silence throughout, making this recording pristine and clean for the next few minutes.

Prince piles on all his tender ballads at this part of the show, and “The Beautiful Ones” brings a further string of heart tugging moments. It is almost too easy listening, some of emotional strength of the song sapped by its easy sheen and polish. I am engaged though, even if its not the heart stopper it used to be.

Its very hard to clear my feelings about “Nothing Compares 2 U.” A song I heard countless times in the 80’s from Sinead O’Connor, and then hundreds of times since from Prince, it is a song I am overly familiar with. Sometimes it breaks through and gets me in a soft moment, and sometimes it passes by making barely an impression. The rendition on this recording is good, but it fails to break my jaded exterior and I find I listen to it in an almost emotionless state.

On the other hand, “The Ladder” shoots straight for my heart and does make the emotional impact I crave.  The drums are a little too much, but Prince’s vocals and delicate piano carry the moment. It is one of the shortest songs on the recording, barely a minute and a half, but it feels real to me and sincere.

This pleasant stroll through Prince’s piano songs is rounded out by “Starfish And Coffee” It may not be on a par with the other ballads and emotional heavyweights in the setlist, but it does keep things light.

The final song featuring the piano is “Sometimes It Snows In April,” a song that has taken on an extra significance since Prince’s passing. This rendition is a fitting tribute, his vocals alone out front in the recording, smooth and velvety and carrying a hint of emotion that makes it all the more powerful. A moment to sit back, listen, and reflect.

“Days Of Wild” isn’t as sinister and threatening as sometimes heard, but it is still a stone cold classic. There are better versions on this tour (see Antwerp a month earlier where I swear Prince tears the roof of the place), but it is still eminently enjoyable, and as always I find my head bobbing and without even being aware of it I am singing along with Prince. The grind and churn of the song brings several different players to the surface, Dudley D can be heard on the turn tables midsong, and it is the horns that bring a different feel to the song. The song drops intensity half way through though, and as the bass is pumped up for the first time the recording distorts. This mars the occasion as the final few minutes becomes a difficult listen. The rest of the recording has sounded great, making this part sound all the more worse.

This show is fairly typical of the ONA tour, but is very well recorded (asides from the final “Days Of Wild.”) There is a plethora of material available from the ONA tour, I would happily listen to any one of them, but I do enjoy this concert for the  quality of the performance and the recording. The setlist doesn’t throw up anything too much in the way of excitement, but this bootleg does a nice job of capturing the standard ONA show. Very good without being essential.

Thanks again
Hamish