I shouldn’t like today’s show, but it is one that I actually listen to quite a lot. On paper it doesn’t have much going for it, it’s an audience recording, the set list is rather ho-hum, and it’s only just over an hour long. But I find myself coming back to it again and again- I guess there is no accounting for some peoples taste. An aftershow from the Australian tour of 2012, it’s more recent than some of the gigs I have dusted off over the last couple of months. So before I begin, please bear in mind that although I enjoy this one, it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes.
19 May, 2012 (am) The Hi-Fi Brisbane, Australia
There is an unusual start to this recording and show, as the first thing we hear is a couple of minutes of the PA, while there is a live sound check. While ‘I Know You Got Soul’ plays you can hear various instruments being checked, a few drum beats here and there, and a bass run or two. Often I find that the beauty of listening to these recordings is that I listen carefully and imagine that I myself am at the show. And with the band sound checking with the PA I can well imagine the excitement in the room, as that is the feeling I get here listening at home. And to give you further insight to my world, I often dance around the room listening to these songs, before forcing myself to sit down and listen again and write about it, and believe me and was and truly dancing around the room for the first portion of this show.
The PA stops playing abruptly and the drums of Musicology begin. It’s got a good shuffle to it, and the horn stabs and prominent while the organ adds depth behind it. The bass enters, and then some great rhythm guitar. It’s got a funky wah wah sound before it changes and starts to play some funky sounding lead lines. I have never been a fan of Musicology but if it had hace been played more like this in the main shows then I definitely would have given it much more love. Played here as a jam with plenty of guitar and bass its sounds much fuller and funkier. The bass hits a nice loop and the singers join in with a good harmony of “I know you got soul”. Because this is an audience recording, there is a lot of crowd noise, and sometimes it does drown the band, but I feel it’s a trade off, as it does give it a brilliant live feel. This one is far from the sterile shows I sometimes hear. Prince call “Brisbane, I know you got soul”, and there is great cheer from the crowd before Prince goes on to play a lot more guitar. Its not a roaring guitar solo, just very long, funky, improvised playing. Mr. Hayes gets called for a solo, and there is a moment when you can hear Prince calling to the sound desk “Turn him up, help him, help him”. The organ then becomes noticeable louder and Mr. Hayes plays a very nice break. Shelby J follows soon after singing Mama Feelgood, and I must say it’s very refreshing to hear her singing, rather than encouraging the audience as we hear at the main shows. She does have a great voice, and is a favorite of mine, but I feel she doesn’t play to her strengths at the main shows. Here it’s all about her singing, and I am onboard as a fan. The band do all get a chance to play, there is a brief drum break for John Blackwell, and Cassandra O’Neal also gets a small solo. Both are good in their own ways, but too short to be noteworthy. Again, there is very much the feeling that its a live show as Prince gets on the microphone to speak to the crowd, and at the same time asking for the sound desk to give him “more high-end on stage, more high-end” I love that this is raw and unpolished, and they are working on it as they go. He further goes on to explain to the audience “we get it right, we can stay here all night” There is then a few minutes when the song is stripped back to Ida and John Blackwell, before the crowd start to chant with Prince “ooohhhhh, Brisbane”. The last two minutes of the song is Cassandra and John Blackwell playing, it’s a funky rhythm and has me itching to dance. The song ends, and I see it’s clocked in at almost 18 minutes- a great way to start an aftershow.
Ida on the bass, and some heavy organ from Mr. Hayes starts us into Days Of Wild. The first call of Prince to the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” has them chanting along from the start. There is some heavy organ which I do like, before Prince starts to sing. As I said earlier, there is a trade off with audience recordings, and here I find I don’t hear Princes vocals as well as I expect. He’s not spitting the lyrics as intensely as he used to, and there is also some distortion in the sound which makes him hard to listen to. And of course I should mention, I have this playing way too loud for my speakers, so it’s not always just about the show! Prince comes out with his “oh by the way I play the bass guitar” but what follows is fairly muted and restrained by his standards. There is then a nice moment when the main refrain from America is played, before we return to the heavy organ groove of Mr. Hayes. I have to give further love to Mr. Hayes, when he then goes on to play a great organ break for a good minute or so. It fantastic, and adds a warm darkness to everything. There is then a great break, with just the band pulling right back while the guitar plays a funky stroke. It’s the funkiest moment of the song, before Prince begins to sing Wild And Loose. He only sings it for a verse, before there is another keyboard solo. This song is just dripping, and it’s impossible not to move to it. Liv also gets a moment to sing on it, and she delivers an impassioned and deep Ain’t Nobody. I am really feeling this one as another keyboard solo comes at us, and the heavy groove goes on and on. Cassandra plays great on the piano, but its only fitting that it’s Mr. Hayes who plays us through to the end of the song with his organ. “These are the days, these are the days”!
The Question Of U starts as purely an instrumental, while Prince plays some restrained lead guitar. I say restrained, as in its not fiery and loud, but it does have a stratospheric sound. He does sing, but it’s not The Question Of U, instead he sings the lyrics of The One over the music. The One is some of my favorite lyrics, and I am pleased that the recording is good enough that I can hear him quite clearly throughout this song. He pauses after each verse for some guitar play, nothing wild, just suitably mournful. After the second verse he does play with a tone more in line with what I expect from A Question Of U. Although he plays a good long break, the song isn’t totally about him and his guitar. After his solo, there is then a long piano break, played by presumably Cassandra. The surprises keep coming as Prince begins to the sing Gingerbread Man. The band is very quiet at this point, and it’s mostly Princes vocals and the crowd we can hear. I am not overly familiar with the song, but I really enjoy it here, and it’s a great fit for the song. Soon after Mr. Hayes plays another break (he sure is busy tonight) before the song comes to a soft end with the audience clapping and singing “ooohh, ohhh. ohhh, oooohh” A beautiful song, and again it’s played to maximum effect with nothing feeling rushed at all.
The dark bluesy arrangement of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man follows next, and it’s soaked in a melancholy feel, especially the guitar tone and Princes vocals. I am a big fan of this slowed down arrangement, and this one is particularly smoky. Prince’s guitar playing is tight earlier on, but there is a great release when he does open up and play the first break. Like a door cracking open, the opening notes pull us in and I want to hear what comes next. Prince doesn’t unleash it right away, he returns to the verse after a few bars, but it builds the anticipation. At this point you can hear some people in the crowd commenting that this version is better, and although I don’t like hearing them on the recording, I do agree with their sentiments. After the next verse Prince does open up on the guitar fully, and this is a good one, I mean the solo is full of emotion and soul. It’s not a solo for the ages, but on this song on this night it’s just perfect. He does play faster as the song goes, but never furiously so, and as I said before, the fact is it’s a very soulful and mournful solo. The emotion continues as the music breaks down and Prince sings “I could never” over and over. Every word is full of passion, and it gives the song a vibe that is missing on the album. The keyboards play some piano and organ, before Prince sings the refrain a couple more times and closes the song with one last mournful line.
Prince gets a break from vocal duties next as Shelby takes the lead for a rendition of Brownskin. After the intensity of the previous song, it leaves me a little deflated. Shelby sings well, and I can hear the band is in good form with Prince on guitar, but it’s not at the same high level of the first four songs. There is a guitar break by Prince midsong which is noteworthy, plenty of sustained notes and a very electric tone to his guitar, but it’s only short and we return to Shelby. On a better recording, I would give this one a lot more time, but being only an audience recording it is hard work to listen to, and even with another fine guitar break by Prince near the end I still can’t quite give it a pass.
Prince calls for the lights to be turned up as he starts the rhythm guitar of Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). I have heard this one plenty over the years, so it fails to fire me up when I hear it here. It’s as we have heard it previously, although the break with Prince playing plenty of rhythm guitar is cool, and for me the most enjoyable part of the song. It’s at this stage of the gig that things speed up a little, and the earlier vibe of a jam is lost. This is very much a show that has two halves. The first few songs were all longer jams, and plenty of intensity, but at this stage a lighter vibe is present, and the songs are getting shorter. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) only goes for a few minutes before it ends and Prince plays the funky guitar intro of Love Rollercoaster. He doesn’t go on to play the rest of the song, we just have half a minute of him alone playing the rhythm before we move on to the next song.
Next his guitar playing moves to the rhythm of Controversy and the kick drum comes in behind him. There is the keyboard sound, before we have the main groove that we know so well. The crowd gets a chance to sing along as the band play, and the band do a great job of it, they sound very tight. Prince does play with the crowd little, getting them to scream and shout in a brief call and response. There is then another verse and chorus a break down and Prince doing his “people call me rude” speech. Then as the Controversy groove continues Prince asks “how many people know about the quake” and we get a minute of him and Shelby encouraging the crowd to clap their hands and stomp their feet, before the song is brought to a close. Again it’s very short, and light.
The party is kept going as Prince and the band start to play I Know You Got Soul, nicely taking us back to where all this begun. Prince mostly speaks to the crowd, getting them dancing, before a very short chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”. The funky guitar starts again and we move to Play That Funky Music.
Play That Funky Music I have very strong feelings about. I don’t like it in his main shows, and I definitely don’t like it here. The band plays it very easily, and it feels a little throw away for them. This one is slightly better than others, in that Prince starts a guitar solo early on and maintains it for most of the three minutes. It swirls and grinds away while Prince occasionally sings a line or two to the audience. The song never really starts, nor does it ever turn into a jam, and it ends very quickly with Prince “Thank you Brisbane, and good night”
So there it is, an odd little show that I listen to a lot. The first part is very strong, and even though I dislike the second part of the show, it is very short and the first few songs more than compensate. As I said earlier, it’s not for everyone’s taste, but if you aren’t adverse to an audience recording and want to hear something a little off the radar, this would be as good a place as any to start.
Plenty of good shows been played here recently,
Hopefully I will get them on the blog as soon as I can.