1984 Birthday show

Sometime ago I rather rashly stated that the 2002 Copenhagen recording was the greatest of all Prince Bootlegs. I have been forced to swallow my words many times since then as I listen to my collection and some of the gems contained therein. There are quite a few recordings that could lay claim to being ‘the greatest’ and today’s show I would guess to be atop of many peoples lists. The 1984 birthday show is something very special. It oozes quality at every level, a brilliant sparkling soundboard recording that sounds better than the recording on many of his albums, the quality of the performance itself, and of course those unforgettable songs played to the hilt just as Prince was to ascend to his greatest heights. Yes, this one well and truly lives up to the hype, and I’m itching to take another listen to it today.

7 June, 1984, First Avenue, Minneapolis

prince-1984-birthday

The recording starts with the PA sound, and it serves as a nice soft opening. It gives a better feel for what it would have been like to be there, and we don’t have a hard jump straight into a song. There is a classic spoken intro of an announcer saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Prince, and the Revolution’, and then we are off into it. 17 Days sounds just as good here as I have ever heard it. The recording is so sharp, to my ears it sounds even better than it did on vinyl. The first thing that strikes me is the bass. It’s got an elastic feel to it, and it’s a beautiful big groove that comes out of the speakers at me. It’s almost like riding a wave, it’s so full and washing over me. The second thing that I really notice is Princes vocals. His singing is so clean sounding, it’s hard to believe it’s in a live setting. Generally I try not to gush about what I am listening to, but in this case it’s very hard not just to sit back and listen to it and be a fan. It’s oh so good. Brown Mark just grooves along underneath, and there is some nice moments when I hear Wendy playing with him on the groove. By the time the song finishes I am wondering how they could have relegated something so good to a B side.

Our Destiny starts slowly. I am not immediately won over as Prince starts singing, but when that chorus hits me I am fully converted. The keyboards are the hero of this particular song, whether it be the twinkling sound under the verses, or the muscular stabs driving the choruses. Prince’s vocals are a little more casual for this one, and some of his character shines through. Also worth mentioning is the drums in this song. Not the obvious beat of the bass drum, but instead the rather glorious sounds played on the cymbals. They seem to add just the right feel at just the right moment, and serve nicely as punctuation to Princes vocals.

The band are obviously very well-rehearsed as they move easily into Roadhouse Garden. Like the previous song it is an unreleased classic.  There is an excellent crisp guitar picking away, and it gives a sharp sound while Prince and the girls sing some nice full vocals. Listening to it now I realize there isn’t really too much to the song, the keyboards are barely heard at all, there is a solid bass line, but most of the interest is coming from the guitar sound and the girls singing. Prince tells the audience “you going to have to excuse us, we just jamming’ and it does very much sound like one of the jams that the band plays endlessly at rehearsal. It does have a good feel to it, and at no point does one member of the band get the spotlight, it’s very much a band thing.

Prince takes time to chat to the audience next, and I like it when he takes a moment to tell them “you’ll came in here expecting to drive Princes red corvette, that’s not going to work. We just going to play a few numbers, some of them you’ll gonna know, most of them you won’t” Then follows one of my favourite moments of the show, Prince says “Wendy wants to live forever. Maybe she will” and the band rip into a storming version of All Day, All Night.  The bass line is heavy and right in my face, and the whole band ride on it and it’s got a feeling as if they are playing as one, as a single entity. Every aspect is so tight and interwoven, it is an absolute joy to listen to. I could quite happily just listen to an instrumental of this, I feel like getting up and dancing as the introduction plays on. Prince comes with the first verse, and he is sounding excellent, as he is throughout the show. I love the way the groove lets up just a little at the end of the chorus so the guitar and music can take a few little steps up. Bobby Z gets a moment, and plays some hard electronic sounding drum rolls, which add to the overall pulsating feel of the song. If fact the whole song feels like it galloping a long, and when it suddenly ends it’s like a sharp intake of breathe.

Prince birthday 1984 c

Things slow down next as Prince plays a gentler sounding Free. After the dense sounding All Day, All Night, it’s very sparse sound, and it serves the song well. Princes vocals are back to being the main focus, and he delivers beautifully. I thought the Free sounded light on the 1999 album, but here it is much stronger sounding. A lot of the corniness is stripped away, and it no longer has the over the top finish as heard on 1999. All in all I much prefer this arrangement, and I am glad we get to hear it. Prince ups the ante with his singing near the end, before the song closes with the solo piano again. This is not the best song on the recording, but it is a very pleasant surprise.

The drums take a few bars to find a steady beat for the next song as a funky sounding rhythm guitar begins to play. As good as it sounds, it is a little misleading as the song takes a sudden turn. Prince dedicates it to Shelia E, and the music takes on the smooth sound of Noon Rendezvous. Again, this is another song never released by Prince, and that’s a shame as it does have a very alluring sound to it. The guitar is playing just enough to draw me in, and the rest of the band create a smooth velvet sound. There is a guitar solo, but it’s in no way disruptive to the gentle groove, and it’s well tucked up inside the song. The second lead guitar break is slightly louder, and Prince is playing more of what I might expect from this time. The girls enter with the soft refrain of “sitting in this cafe, waiting for my baby”, but it’s not as drawn out as we hear in rehearsals, and the song ends soon after.

Things are much heavier almost right away, as a hard drum beat begins, and some rock lead guitar. It’s quite loose sounding, but after half a minute the band come on board and things immediately tighten up as they play Erotic City. Although not as bass driven as it sounds on record, it is still very strong sounding. Some of the sparseness of the record is sacrificed, but what we get instead is a lot more guitar, and a lot stronger vocals from Prince. It also sounds faster to my ears, and doesn’t sound as dirty and funky. It’s a fair trade-off, but only just. With the intonation of “all the critics love me” we get plenty more guitar of Prince, and I can hear Wendy step up the funky guitar she is playing. The band is heavily in the groove by this point and Prince becomes a lot wilder sounding on the guitar, but always returning to the All The Critics Love U riff. The keyboards also get stronger as the song progresses, and as time goes on it becomes denser and louder. It increases in intensity until it eventually comes to an end at the eight minute mark.

Birthday 1984

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) has a great dark beginning. The cold keyboard initially starts before a brooding guitar riff from Prince. He asks the crowd “alright if I just play for a minute” as he then proceeds to do just that. It’s atmospheric in sound, and suitably slow and mournful. When Prince begins to sing he captures the lonely feel of the song perfectly, especially with his “does not compute, does not compute” There is even a moment when he sings “what’s the hang-up, bitch” which adds a hint of desperation and feeling to the song. The song is without the drum machine rhythm heard on record, but that barely matters as Prince is sounding so emotional, yet the music is cold and detached, much like the woman the protagonist in the song is singing to. Later in the song Prince lets his guitar do his talking. It’s not right in front in the mix, but it does sound very good, and worth listening carefully to. This song is played right out and every minute of it is worth listening to.

Birthday 1984 b

When Doves Cry is the standout track on this recording for me. Right from the first moment it has a clean sound, and the drum line is so familiar. Dr Fink plays the lead line a couple of times, before Prince comes to the microphone. At first he blows the first line, he mumbles “how can you…” before he catches himself and quickly covers with “come on, have you heard this before?”  It’s very fast and smooth, and a great recovery. He then asks the crowd to get on board, before calling for Dr Fink to play the lead line gain. He then implores the crowd further to “get down” before calling for the lead line once more before singing the first chorus. The longer intro actually works well, and I like hearing him talk to the crowd like this. Once the song starts, I notice that Wendy and Lisa are very strong on the vocals, they are much more prominent than heard on record. It’s not bad, just different. Wendy gets her moment to shine on guitar, and its good sounding, but perhaps not as clean sounding as everything else. The best is yet to come, as the band play on, Dr Fink plays a cool solo, and then there comes a great scratch guitar. I’m not sure if its Prince or Wendy, but it’s my favourite part of the song. It plays on and on, and I never tire of it. The band sing “Don’t cry” over and over as that beautiful guitar line just loops again and again. I don’t know how long it goes for, but it feels like forever, and it encapsulates the Prince sound I first knew and loved.  And just on a side note, my girlfriend told me she thought this part was boring and repetitive -looks like I might be single again soon! This last half is a song unto itself and the recording is excellent just based on this alone.

Birthday 1984 a

Of course there is the obligatory Happy Birthday sung by the audience, before the band turn up the funk levels with Irresistible Bitch. It’s not as dark as I have heard elsewhere, but it’s still a nice version. The band are playing incredibly tightly, and it’s the guitar that mostly holds my attention. It’s so crisp sounding, and the song revolves around the guitar riff. There is a keyboard solo that sounds good to my ears, but it’s a little low in the mix, I would have of liked to hear it much more. Near the end Prince stops and starts the band several times, and as always they are right on the button.

Prince birthday 1984d

Possessed is equally funky, but with a dash of pop thrown in the mix. After a Vegas sounding opening the band open up a rapid groove, again the rhythm is king here, the only melody coming from a simple keyboard line. Prince’s vocals aren’t quite as clear as they had been earlier in the show, he is a little more in the mix, but that’s not a negative at all, and the second verse I can understand his lyrics much better, so it maybe my problem more than his. There some further interesting keyboard jamming later, again it’s a too quiet for my taste and I have to listen carefully to appreciate all of it. Prince does a scat about ‘big ole soul sisters’  and its very tightly in the rhythm, so I give him a pass despite the corniness. I think that the band are going to play this one as a long funky jam, so I am very surprised when it stops suddenly and Prince tells the crowd that they got to go.

There has been a lot of talk about this soundboard recording since it first surfaced, and I can fully understand why. This show is mindbogglingly good, and deserves all the praise heaped upon it. If someone was to tell me that this was the best recording, I would have very little argument with them. This one is excellent in every way, and a must listen for any sort of fan.

Thanks again for reading
See you next week
Hamish

 

 

Noon rendezvous rehearsal

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

noon-rendezvous

Noon Rendezvous Rehearsal May/June 1984

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

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

Prince 1984 (2)

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

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

Prince 1984

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

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

Prince 1984c

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

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

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

Take care
Hamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland 2001

Today I will take a listen to a show from Oakland during the Hit N Run tour of 2001. I have already covered a show from the Hit N Run in San Jose from December 2000, and this one from just four months later is pretty similar. Despite a lot of the set list being the same, there are some differences, and I felt that the recording is worth listening to as well as the San Jose concert. Prince throws in just enough to make me want to give this one a spin too. So, if it does read similar to the San Jose concert, I apologize in advance. Some things are the same, and some things are different, such is life.

28 April, 2001 Oakland, California.

I am not a great fan of the prerecorded intros that Prince often uses. Yes, I do understand that it helps generate the energy and anticipation for the show to come, but in a way I find the snatches of songs are like spoilers for a TV show or movie. I feel its removes some of the surprises that may lie ahead. The intro here contains snippets of My Name is Prince, and just the barest of lines from Erotic City, both of which I would have loved to of heard in the main show, but don’t get played beyond this intro (now I’m the one giving spoilers!)

Prince 2001

The thrill of Uptown live has never left me. As soon as that drum rolls kicks of, and the signature guitar line plays I am like a 15 year old again. The quality of this recording is very good, and the song sounds just as good as it ever has. The mix is very strong, and Prince and his guitar are crystal clear in my speakers. He doesn’t sing too passionately, and I do get the sense that he is just going through the motions. In fact, when I listen carefully to the song, it sounds like the whole thing is played in this way, but I am too much in love with the song to really care.

Controversy has the excellent funky guitar again right to the fore. It’s a nice rendition we have here, the rest of the band and the keyboards are back in the mix and just like the previous song it’s mostly Prince and his guitar that we hear. And that’s no bad thing, as his singing and guitar playing are very crisp and clean. However the song is keep to a minimum and we quickly segue into Mutiny.

I have long been a fan of Mutiny, and have dozens of excellent recordings from various shows. This one doesn’t live up to any of those, sadly its missing that special X factor. The playing is excellent, as is the vocal performance, but there is an energy or passion missing from it. It’s a shame, as the recording is very good, just the performance at this stage isn’t up to the same level. Najee does get a couple of solos, but fails to add anything of real interest to it. There is a very fast and furious organ break just after which would have saved it all, if only it had have been longer. Again, I’m not criticizing the recording, or musicianship, but for me it’s just missing that little bit extra.

I enjoy The Work Pt 1 much more. Its live debut was only two weeks before this show, so to Prince and the crowd it’s still very much a new song. He seems to be feeling this one a little more than the previous songs and is more engaged. The song does meander just a fraction, but Mike Phillips does play a lovely clean guitar solo which for me is the high point of the song. Prince does sing over most of it, but my ears are very much focused on what Mike is playing.

Next comes Cream, and it’s played very smooth and clean, this band seems to have a good handle on this song and it plays to their strengths. Listening to a lot of recordings, I often don’t give Cream the time or attention it deserves, but here it has my full attention. Especially when Prince plays a nice solo on his guitar midsong, and it’s very much played in the ‘Prince tone’, it’s unmistakably his guitar sound. A very pleasant surprise to my ears, this song is the first time where I feel the show is drawing me in.

That feeling continues next as Little Red Corvette gets a nice long intro, with plenty of keys and a few howls from the backing singers. As most of you know, I could just listen to this opening refrain over and over, and this one is no different. When Prince does begin to sing it’s once again with a very good clean sound. He isn’t too engaged but his vocals are very crisp. The song is kept quite short from this point, but it’s not too bad, as the next song is a real treat to my ears.

Prince begins I Wanna Be Your Lover with a bold “Stop trying to front like you know my jams, you don’t know my songs” The rest of the song starts with Prince and the crowd alternating lines, before Prince takes over and delivers his classic falsetto. Of course the crowd knows every line, and you can hear them singing strongly in the background. The bass is nicely mixed on the recording, and I can hear it nicely bumping along in the left speaker. The song itself only runs for a couple of minutes, but it’s cool while it lasts.

Sexy Dancer next, and its sounding like it’s a good song for the crowd to get up and dance to. There is no singing to speak of, it’s all groove with the snare and bass keeping the groove going with some keys run over top. It’s very tight, and great to listen to, but once again it’s only a couple of minutes. But still, I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Prince 2001c

The kicking beat of Housequake begins next, and Prince lets it run for a minute before he hits us with “Tell me who in this house know bout the quake?” From here the rest of the band join in and I must say its sounds very cool. Najee isn’t strong, but his horn line does sound good. Sure there are better renditions I have heard, but Najee does his job well, and Mr. Hayes on the keys gives us some enjoyable lines. It’s got some new things for me to listen to, and I do like it all. There’s very little singing, just a nice groove and that beat that I will hear in my head for the rest of the day.

I am very happy that The Ballard of Dorothy Parker gets another airing at this show. The low key playing of the band and the disinterested singing of Prince really suit the downbeat feel of the song. My enthusiasm wanes a little when Najee begins to play, but the moment is saved by Mr. Hayes on the keys. The song spins off into an instrumental jam, with Madhouses Four thrown in as well as Talkin Loud And Saying Nothin. It fails to fire my enthusiasm, where on some other shows I enjoy Najee, here I find him lifeless and frankly a little boring. But the keyboard throughout is good, and gives me something else to focus on. It’s all nice, but not something I would be in a hurry to return to.

There is an interlude next where Prince speaks to the crowd about the NPG music club, and strangely I find myself enjoying his sentiments, even if I know that in the future he will shy away from the internet and such openness with his fans. It was a nice dream while it lasted, and I am reminded here of his idealistic vision.

This speech about record companies and NPG music club is followed with Someday We’ll be Free. The song sounds nice, but fails to engage me, as Prince himself doesn’t sing, and there is a lot of Najee in there. I am surprised how much I dislike Najee on this recording, as on the San Jose recording from four months previously I really enjoyed him, but at this show he seems to add very little. The song has a well intended sentiment, and the execution is good enough, buts it’s not the reason I come to a Prince show or am a Prince fan.

I am back on board as Prince sings U Make My Sun Shine. This is where the quality of the recording comes to the fore, as I can hear Prince vocals, and the backing singers just beautifully working together. The song has a silky smooth sound to it, and although this smooth sound isn’t really my cup of tea, I still appreciate and enjoy it here. There is the classic Prince spoken breakdown midsong, which is fun to listen to, without being outstanding. What is really good though is the next minute when Prince asks Mike to play the blues, and there is a minute of very sharp guitar playing from him. It’s nicely paced and has a beautiful clean tone to it. Prince returns for some more spoken lines, but by now I’m a little over it and it’s perhaps a bridge too far for my tastes. Najee gets half a minute to play, and now I am dangerously close to pushing the skip button. There is some Prince playing guitar, which as always I give my attention to, but really this portion of the show is a little drawn out for me.

The next part of the show is very interesting to me, and gives a good insight to Princes world at that time. Prince tells the crowd that he is happy to be in Oakland because that’s where Larry Graham is from. He then goes on to say “Sometime I think he is my best friend in the whole wide world”. He continues by telling the crowd that Larry Graham asked him if he ever tried a show without cussing, and told him he used those words for effect. Prince tells the crowd that those words from Larry messed with him and he decided that “It isn’t the words that make me funky, it’s the funk that makes me funk”. He then plays some real funky guitar which has me excited. He goes on to shout out some of the celebrities in the crowd that night, and is in good humor as he tells the crowd that he told Laurence Fishburne he could have free tickets if he told him the plot to the Matrix 2 and 3. It’s a nice break in the action and he goes on to ask for the house lights to be turned on so he can see the crowd.

Prince 2001b

Next we get a nice up-tempo I could never take The Place of Your Man. The up-tempo beat gets the show back on track after the lull of the last twenty minutes. It’s not a totally rocked out version, but Prince does play a good break, although this is very short before the breakdown. There is absolutely no complaint from my end though, as the breakdown gets played to the hilt, and there is some excellent guitar playing from Prince for the next couple of minutes. The breakdown has some interesting guitar runs from Prince, it’s more sharply and faster than some other breaks I have heard from him. Najee enters for a minute too, and although I have been generally negative towards him so far through the recording, he does redeem himself here as I love the variation from what is traditionally a very rocky song. I am waiting for Prince to return with his guitar coda, but instead it’s Najee who plays us through to the end of the song. Interesting, but not great.

We next hear Prince at the piano for the piano medley part of the show. This one follows what we heard at the San Jose show, but it’s a great selection of songs and there is no complaint from me for what we hear next. He begins by playing my long time favorite Do Me Baby. The piano playing is nicely under pinned by some organ and a soft beat. Prince starts with his trademark “owww” before gently singing the verses that we know so well. He pauses after the line “You want me just as much as I want you” and receives and appreciative cheer from the crowd. The song resumes with Prince singing relatively softly and sounding reserved in his delivery. Even a shriek or two can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s holding a lot back.

Scandalous too has this feeling about it, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it immensely. Prince’s vocals are delicate, and the band provides some nice little stabs behind him. It doesn’t have the seductive power of the original, but it is well played. Again Najee comes on board for a solo, but it’s neither here nor there, and comes across as bland rather than inspirational. The drum seems to lack some pop to it, and I wonder if it’s the mix, or the performance.

There is plenty of Najee influence all over Diamonds and Pearls, and it begins with him playing before Prince vocal lines begin. It’s easy to dismiss it as nice but boring, but I do enjoy the half minute we get here. Prince sings only the first verse before we move on to the next song.

I was looking forward to hearing The Beautiful Ones when I saw it on the setlist, and it doesn’t disappoint. The sound seems to change during the song, and I wonder if it’s the recording, or if my headphones weren’t quite plugged in right earlier. But the recording does take on a deeper fuller sound, and at just the right moment too. Prince’s voice has more strength to it on this song, and he sings the second part of it in his throaty voice. This is some great howls and shrieks near the end and for a minute I am transported back to the 1980s. The song ends, but it seems like the concert has turned a corner, and we have reached a better place.

Nothing Compares 2 U keeps to the loves lost theme, and Prince plays the part of the victim well. He voice is suitably sad and mournful when it needs to be, without ever being over the top. There is a moment when midsong he introduces Najee for a break, but it is kept short and we return quickly to the main body of the song. The song fades out with Najee playing while Prince speaks to the crowd about love, before the final coda with Najee. I enjoy him much more at this point, this seems like a much better fit for him here.

There is then a break with what sounds like electronic movie music. It doesn’t do much for me, and it certainly doesn’t seem very Prince like. But it does nicely fill the break while we wait for the encore.

Prince 2001a

The encore begins with the long keyboard intro of Lets Go Crazy. There is no spoken piece as you may expect with it, but it does run for a good minute before Prince can be heard with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” and the classic guitar riff begins. The drums sound good, the bass sounds good, the guitar sounds good, but once again it’s missing the Xfactor. I can’t fault the song in anyway, but it never quite grabs me. Prince’s guitar solo is nice, but not much more, and the song ends before it feels like it has even begun. Here it is just a shadow of its former self.

Take Me with U begins, but it too feels like it is just plodding along. Prince sings a little, and then leaves the crowd to sing the chorus before we move quickly on to……..

Raspberry Beret. Not much surprise there. Prince does speak to the crowd briefly about God and Christ, before the song begins proper with the crowd singing along. Prices guitar does chug along nicely, and the crowd do sound like they enjoy it. And it is good to hear a bit of pure pop and joy in the evening, which has sounded like a Prince concert by the numbers.

Darling Nikki is a funny and cool arrangement. The rolling snare sounds sharp, and the keyboard has a fun dainty sound to it. Prince cleverly avoids singing the lurid lyrics by having the crowd sing some of the more risqué lyrics. The latter part is also a bit of fun, with the bass rumbling well in the speakers while the keyboards provide some thrills and excitement. They even play it right through to the end, complete with the backwards finish, which is a treat.

The start of When Doves Cry is pure purple Prince, with the cold passionless Prince singing the main lines while the keyboard plays in the background. It briefly raises my hopes that this too will be played in full, but after a brief drum and keyboard refrain we move on.

Fathers Song is great, although short. Najee plays most of it, and he does a fine job of it. There isn’t too much more to say about it, although it does end with a few moments of him playing Computer Blue, which too is a tease and a treat.

As with the San Jose concert, the arrangement of The One, mixed with I would Die 4 U and Baby I’m A Star is outstanding. Over the somber music of The One Prince sings one line of Baby I’m a Star, and I Would Die 4 U. I couldn’t have imagined it working before I first heard it, but it is truly excellent. It runs at two minutes, and that is mostly the music alone before Prince sings his lines near the end. In my view, the concert is worth it just for these couple of minute.

Over the music of God Prince works his way through the band introductions, before he ends and hands the song over to Najee. Najee seems in his comfort zone here, and he gets a good four minutes to do what he does best. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea- it’s certainly not mine, but it does sound good, he does what he does well. It does feel like the show is coming near the end with this type of song and that’s proved correct as the next song is the final Purple Rain.

Prince 2001d

There is very little in way of introduction for Purple Rain, Prince starts singing almost right from the start. The recording has sounded good all the way through, and on this song you can really hear the nice echo on Princes vocals. You can also pick up some seconds of sweet guitar playing throughout as he sings his lines. Later the more heavy guitar enters and its here that for the first time in the show it sounds as if Prince is really expressing himself. After the initial intro to the guitar that I am used to he goes into his longer improvised section, and it’s now that I listen more carefully and get a lot more out of this show. It’s not fiery, but it is impassioned. The crowd does have its moment near the end, but the recording doesn’t pick them up very well, either they weren’t into it, or the mics just didn’t pick them up.

This show should have been more to me. It’s a great recording, and it’s got some top songs, and the band is faultless. And yet, as I said time and time again, it was lacking that magic to it. There was something missing, which left the songs sounding ‘nice’ but not great. Prince is in a holding pattern here, the next stage of his career, The Rainbow Children and ONA is very interesting for me, but here he is not quite there yet. He has moved on from his symbol era, but hasn’t really found his next place yet. But this is a great recording of a decent show, and I can’t fault it for that. A nice listen, but not essential.

See you next week with more of the same, but completely different
-Hamish

Parade Tour in Sweden

Was there ever a bad show on the Parade tour? Maybe, but this one certainly isn’t it. Today I return to one of my favorite tours- The Parade tour, and take a listen to a recording from the Swedish concert. This is a fairly well known recording, it is available in video and audio, and one that I know many people enjoy – myself included. My two go to shows from this tour are the warm up show at First Ave, and the Cobo birthday show, but this one is a close third place behind those two. So, let’s sit back and enjoy what we have here.

22 August, 1986, Johanneshov, Sweden

The classic “Please welcome Prince and The Revolution” begins the show, while the band plays the beginning of Around The World In a Day in darkness. There is plenty to enjoy in the music at the beginning, lots of different instruments to pick out and enjoy, and these senses are heightened by the fact the band are playing behind a curtain. I do like this song a lot, and don’t really know what to expect from a live version, and the first thing that really grabs me is the wonderful sound of Princes voice. It has a well rounded and warm sound to it, and contrasts nicely to some of the instrumentation in the back ground. The rest of the band joins and the song starts proper, but after a minute of some great bass work and fanfares from the band we move into Christopher Tracey’s Parade.

Prince Parade

There is some guitar work in the left at the start of the Christopher Tracey’s Parade that seems a little out of place, but overall the sound and the texture of the song is just wonderful. I especially like the keyboards playing after the first verse. Lisa is playing some great stuff as well as providing backing vocals to Prince. The second half of the song the band moves up a gear and Prince takes his first break at the organ. He doesn’t play anything mind-blowing, but the organ adds more warmth and fullness before we move without pause to the next song.

New Position sounds very full and colorful here in comparison to what we hear on album. The horns play some nice wiggly lines, and the rest of the band fill out the song much more. In particular I can hear the guitar much more on this number. The song ends naturally enough with a flourish from the horns before the tempo changes.

I Wonder U is quite a change from what we have just heard, and the atmosphere of the recording changes with it. Here it’s again the keyboards I enjoy most, although the singing from Wendy is fine enough, it’s not a showstopper. Atlanta Bliss on the trumpet though, now that is a nice touch. He plays a break that sounds shaky but is actually very good. Already it’s my favorite moment of the first ten minutes of the show.

Prince asks if we are ready to rock and roll before the horns introduce Raspberry Beret with a flourish. Prince uses the song to encourage the audience to clap their hands and to sing. He himself sings most of it, which has me a little surprised as I expected he would leave it mostly to the crowd. The song sounds good enough, but I find that with verses cut out it does lack the charm of the story telling original. Again Prince teases us with just a brief moment on the organ, before the song transitions into the next part of the show.

Prince Parade 3

Prince does some cool sounding vocals at the start of Delirious, and then the band joins in and we go racing off. The vocals at the start are well worth the few seconds they get, I can imagine him doing more with it like this, especially when he stretches his voice out. The rest of the song is a fun dance along number, with plenty of time devoted to Prince and his back up dancers.

The funkometer goes up to ten next as the classic opening riff of Controversy begins. Always my favorite part of the Parade gigs, this is where the show starts for me. The song starts with plenty of funky guitar but the keyboard and horns also come in heavy and it’s a great funk sound. It could have derailed when Prince goes into his cigarette smoking routine, but things are saved when the next song starts.

Prince owns Love Bizarre in these live performances. The sound is funk yet still there is plenty of pop in there. The band and Prince deliver it all with such intensity, not just the music but also the performance. Wendy and Lisa sound great on the backing vocals, and the guitar playing is just as good too. There is a keyboard groove that keeps me moving, and I think groove is the perfect word to describe this song. The guitar and keyboard are relentless, and the horns add just a splash of color. Eric does get a solo moment, and he sounds as good as ever. Prince does encourage the crowd with “who’s house, Wendy’s house” and I want to sing along here at home. At one point the band drop out leaving just bass and drums, and I don’t need to reiterate, it’s so funky. ‘Stop on the one’ has Prince in band leader mode, but he doesn’t play up on it too much, content to just sit back and let the band play. The song ends with Prince on the drum riser, and I wonder how he can top that.

Prince Parade 1

Again the tempo drops, and Prince delivers a slow burning classic rendition of Do Me Baby. As always his vocal delivery is top shelf, but on this recording it’s the backing vocals that I notice most. They are right behind him on the chorus and it’s perfectly complimentary. Prince Wendy and Lisa really do sound wonderful together, I can’t deny. This is one of the better versions I have heard, Princes vocals are very clean sounding on the recording, and I can hear every note and inflection in his voice. The horns playing give the song and extra push near the end, and add to the seductive nature of the song. When I started writing about this show I didn’t expect Do Me Baby to be one of the highlights, but it is. The end of the song is breathtaking, and I don’t say that lightly, as Prince pulls the band back and sings as the crowd clap along. His lyrics sound excellent, and he throws in some appropriate screams and yells. He finishes up with the crowd singing with him. If the show ended right here I would be happy.

I still haven’t worked out why How Much Is That Doggie is in the set list, but I easily forgive them when the brief instrumental of Lady Cab Driver is played. Its only seconds long but its enough to remind me how much I love that song. The band move easily onto Automatic, which is no bad thing as it also is a favorite of mine from the 1999 album. Its not as dark as it sounds on album, on this recording its much more of a dance song, especially with all the horns thrown in, and Prince plays up this aspect for all its worth, with plenty of dancing throughout.

We stay with 1999 with a short but cool version of DMSR tacked on to the end. Again, it’s a medley version, with plenty of horns, so we don’t get to enjoy the fullness of it, but I know that as soon as I finish writing this I will be pulling out the 1999 album.

The simple keyboard riff of When Doves Cry is enough to get the crowd screaming. It’s played true to the album here, if anything it’s got an even more stripped down sound, the beat that Prince sings over is very sparse sounding. Part of the beauty of this song is the sound of Prince voice out alone in front of the music, and it is definitely true in this case. Its very melancholy sounding, and even when the bass enters that feeling remains with me. But the best part is definitely Wendy’s solo. The guitar tone is brilliant, and it’s got the sound of a lone instrument. The beat is still barren with just the occasional bass sound as she plays, and it’s a great rock moment. The full band enters soon after this point and the horns are finally heard, and sound oddly out of place on this recording, even thought I have enjoyed them plenty on other occasions. The coda has the horns playing while Prince plays at the organ, and I warm to them at this stage, it could well be another song but the sound is fantastic.

Prince Parade 4

This show gets better and better, I can’t believe how much I have gushed over it already, but still it keeps delivering. Next we have Prince alone at the piano, and instead of starting straight in on a song we have a couple of minutes of him improvising. Even if he is just warming up it sounds great, and I could happily listen to it for much longer. He does start to play Under The Cherry Moon, and I am even happier. Just the sound of his vocals and the piano are perfect and it seals the deal for me- this show is one of the greats. Prince and the piano are backed very well by some other keyboard work, but its never intrusive and Prince still has plenty of time to play his piano parts.

My favorite song from the Parade album is Anotherloverholenyohead, and to hear now with this band on this tour, well it doesn’t get much better. Lisa and Prince sound great, I was expecting to be writing about Eric Leeds, but it’s the girl’s voices that get my attention first. Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss do get their moment later in the song, and as you might expect they live up to their billing. Everybody seems to chime in for their part on this song, and Prince introduces Lisa as we get a long break of her piano playing. There is some great chords, and some fast delicate playing as well, and I can’t speak of it highly enough. In a show packed full of highlights this is yet another one.

Prince Parade 5

17 Days is another song that we need to hear more of. The bass line on this recording is nice and strong, and the full band makes for a much fuller sound than we hear on record. Like everything it’s a compromise, we lose some of the morose feeling of the original, but there are so much more great things to listen on here. The horns take over as Prince engages with audience, and throws bundles of flowers to the fans. The groove gets deeper and darker as the song goes along, and Prince gives us some organ play which fills out the sound a lot.

Prince Parade 6

“I hate rock n roll, who wants some head?” and the nasty part of the show begins. Head has a nice intro, moving from bare rhythm guitar to dirty horn stabs. Head is dirty by name and dirty by nature. I can hear the guitar lines on this one very well, and they lay a nice layer over which the horns and keyboard stabs play. Any show that has Head in it usually has me writing that it was a highlight. I am reluctant to say that, with a show packed with highlights, but it is the moment when I most wanted to put down my laptop and enjoy the music. Dr Finks solo sounds great, it’s a little different sounding than I am used to but still has me listening intently. The song breaks down to a nice long jam, and Prince calls for Bobby Z who lays down a nice snare beat. I was waiting for Prince to take his time and dance for much longer but instead he returns to the organ for another break before he starts dancing again. Head gets the full treatment, its drawn right out, lots of audience interplay and Prince playing band leader. He breaks into his electric man routine as he lies on the floor, which would be great if I hadn’t of seen it so much already. But as he calls for Booby to hit him with the snare I’m back on board. The band is on fire and of the whole show this is the performance I enjoy most from them. There is a little bit of everything. Prince even picks up a guitar to deliver some suitable dirty guitar to the proceedings, then walks off the stage as he finishes his guitar break and the band play us out in darkness.

Prince Parade 7

The tone is lightened again as the band strike up Pop Life. Live it sounds just as joyous as it does on record, and it starts off with Prince singing “Life it ain’t too funky, life it ain’t too funky” The rest of the song follows as heard on record, the main difference is that Princes vocals sound much stronger, and the keyboard riff is more to the fore. It does have a great live sound, Prince vocals are a little ragged, but it still has that pop. It also nice to hear Eric Leeds playing the flute solo live, a nice little touch that I didn’t expect. There aren’t any surprises musically or performance wise in the song, it does exactly what you would expect from the title. Prince does try for an audience sing along before the end, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the song ends at this point.

Girls and Boys sounds funky, but lacks the deep funky sound I associate it with. But I am in no criticizing it, I enjoy this performance a lot. As with the last song, it seems to gain an extra emphasis from the raggedness in Princes voice. He’s never rough sounding, but it does sound a little more throaty than earlier in the show. The best part for me is near the end when Prince lays down his spoken part. It sounds so strong and funky and for me it’s a great way to end the song.

The band keep up the pace with a quick segue into Life Can Be So Nice. There is plenty sound on this, but its kind of hard to pick out all the instrumentation, the mix is such that at a couple of points there is too much sound to digest. I love it for this, it’s an ambitious live song, and once again I find myself in awe of The Revolution. The second half of the song is where the groove really goes, and as is so often it has that sound that The Revolution might just play on like this for days. However the song does fade to a halt with The Revolution singing the main refrain over and over.

1999 sounds so good, it feels that this band could sleep walk through it and it would still sound great. There is just a touch of horns in it, rather than the full on horn treatment it receives in later years, and it still has that synthesized 1999 sound. With all the band members and dancers from the Parade era revolution I wonder how far they will push the party time coda, but it’s played straight and doesn’t out stay its welcome.

Prince Parade 8

There is a break for perhaps a minute after this. A chance for us to collect our breath before Mountains begins. Mountains sounds great right from the start, there is nice deep organ sound that can be heard underneath at the start of the song before Prince starts singing. The song doesn’t deviate too far from the original, but it’s great to hear it live. Especially Wendy’s guitar seems to sound more funky and raw live, an over all more organic sound. If I had any complaint about this song, it would be that it seemed to go by in a flash, but every moment was a joy.

The arrangement of Kiss on this recording is also very cool. The main riff is played on the keyboard, and the guitar only has a very low key presence through the song. The horns start the solo, and they sound sharp, before Wendy plays her solo, and the guitar comes to the fore for the rest of the song. As much as I love Wendy, I would have to say it was the first half of the song I preferred more, the sound of the keyboard playing the main riff was very cool to my ears. That said, the last 30 seconds with just the bare sound of Wendy’s and Mikos guitar has me reconsidering my words. They both have different sounds, but at the end of this one they sound great together. Its 30 seconds that I could listen to for hours.

Prince Parade 9

A single spot light on Wendy playing guitar takes us into Purple Rain. The introduction is very short, Wendy plays the opening chords only once before Prince starts singing immediately. I have heard plenty of drawn out introductions, so this on is actually a nice change. Prince doesn’t push his vocals too hard, and the keyboards sound way too loud compared to everything else – at least in the first verse, but again it’s not a bad thing. Another thing I notice about the mix, the girl’s voices are very loud and clear. It’s a good thing, I can easily hear how well they work together. There are no surprises in the guitar solo, but I had a good few minutes playing air guitar along with it, so it’s just as enjoyable as any other I have heard. He does play it for all he can, so we do get a nice long rendition. There seems to be very little crowd singing along with it, but this maybe a reflection on the recording, rather than the audience at the concert. There is a good 5-6 minutes of guitar to close out the show, and it’s nice to see him with his guitar again in a show that seems to have a touch of everything.

I love Parade shows. This one doesn’t offer up too much when you see the set list, the set list is average, but the show is anything but. The performances are what make this one so good, both musically and visually. Its well worth listening to if you want a reminder of just how great The Revolution were, they were all outstanding. This one is a great document of the Parade tour, and is essential for any collection.

Thanks again
Hamish

Another Lonely Christmas Live

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

26 December 1984, St Paul

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

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

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

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

Wendy Purple Era

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

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

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

Prince Purple Era 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince Purple Era

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

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

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

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

Prince

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

Another Lonely Christmas 2

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

Another Lonely Christmas

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

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

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