Warfield Theatre, 1988 Aftershow

I haven’t heard or read many people talking about this recording, but it is a gig and a recording I really like. Aftershows throw up a wide variety of songs, and no two are ever alike. This one has several songs that appear on numerous other recordings, but also a couple of others that aren’t played as often, and these are the ones that really make me excited about this recording. The recording is muted, but clear, but it is short- clocking in at just over an hour. But a very enjoyable hour it was indeed.

11 November 1988  Warfield theatre, San Francisco

Like many other Prince gigs, this starts with a steady beat. Just the drums playing a relatively simple beat. There is just a touch of bass, but I don’t recognize it at first, until there is a loud cheer from the crowd and Prince starts to sing Positivity. The keys enter at the same time, and even though it’s somewhat quiet, it’s an excellent start to the gig. It’s hard for me to give an unbiased opinion about this song. Lovesexy is regarded as the highest creative peak, in terms of albums, that Prince ever reached. And I know that for many people, their favorite song on the album is Anna Stesia. I love Anna Stesia too, but I also have an equal amount of love for Positivity. Its tone and mood captures my imagination, and there is all sort of interesting moments in it that excite me. So for me, to have it open this show is fantastic, and I am all in right from the start. The song gets better and better as it progresses. The keyboard gets louder, and more clunky. After a quiet first verse, Prince sings the second verse much more full throated, and it has a nice full sound to it. It’s more human and not as mechanical as it sounds on the record. There are plenty of cheers (some of them might be from me on the couch) as a long sax solo begins. Ah yes, Eric Leeds, no need to tell you again how much I love his playing. He finishes one solo, there is a brief pause by Prince, and then he calls for another solo from Eric. Not a word of complaint from me, I could listen to this stuff all day. The song then moves into a form more in line from the album, with plenty of Princes singing. He’s not as cool and laid back as you might expect, and the song is so much stronger. The bass too is not so buried in the mix, and it well heard in the last couple of minutes. With a “Hold on to your soul” the song comes to an end. What a brilliant opening to the show.

The muted chord progression of Dorothy Parker begins. I am only listening to the show, but already in my mind I picture it as a dark smoky type of gig. Both these songs have that sound to them. Dorothy Parker sounds good, there is some nice horn and piano playing, and a great moment when Prince ad-libs “Mind if I turn on the radio, Madhouse was on!” This is followed by a piano break, which has a cool jazzy feel to it, as you might imagine. The horns and piano are what this one is about, the horns never dominate, but they do add a lot of color. The song drops down a bit, and over a repetitive couple of chords the sax plays for a while. It’s a very cool couple of minutes, I can’t properly describe it, but to me it sounds like this picture looks……

Piet Mondrian broadway boogiewoogie

Prince sounds pretty relaxed as he thanks the crowd for coming out, and tells them “this beats hanging out at the hotel watching Letterman” He immediately begins Housequake, and this is again a very strong version. He sounds like his heart is really in it on this night, and his vocals are quite impassioned. The band is very cohesive on this one, and there is nothing loose or wild about it. The horn solo is brief and tight, and it played as heard on Sign O Times. It’s no bad thing at all, and this is one of my favorite renditions of this song. Not that there’s anything special about it, just its played with a lot of heart. Later in the song things become a little more exciting, there is a couple of ad-libs from Prince, and the band begin to swing off a shade more. It has a funky false ending, before Prince calls the band back for a finally couple of lines.

Prince then says “I think I want to play guitar” and we are treated to some beautiful lead guitar. He’s warming up, and playing some nice lead lines. With a hushed “one, two” the familiar sound of Just My Imagination begins. The first couple of minutes of guitar set the bar high, and it’s almost disappointing when the song begins proper. Princes’ singing is warm and inviting, and I find myself falling under his spell as I listen to this. The guitar break is equally alluring, and it draws me in slowly before Prince begins to crank up the pressure. This is one of my favorite renditions of Just My Imagination; the guitar break is passionate, but not too fast or furious. Prince sounds like he is holding back but it sounds great. I especially like what comes next- some very impassioned singing of Noon Rendezvous by Prince. It takes me a few seconds to register what I am hearing, but when I realize what it is I am blown away. I love it when he sings “I don’t care what you got on your feet baby, I just want to meet you, I just want to greet you, I just want to take off all your clothes and eat you”. Oh yes, we miss you a lot ‘Dirty Prince’. There is a loud cheer as the song ends, but I don’t think the audience realize just how great that was!

Prince 1988 1

There is the sound of some lead guitar next, before the more relaxed sound of I’ll Take You There begins. The crowd sound as if they are enjoying it, there is plenty of handclapping, and a couple of whoops as Boni sings. I like the little guitar I can hear, but what I enjoy most is the singing of Boni. Usually I find it hard to get into a song that Prince himself isn’t singing, but today I find myself enjoying this one a lot. There is a few minutes of the singers repeating “I’ll take you there” while some nice guitar is played underneath by Miko. Nothing too heavy or in your face, just some nice funky rhythm. Things pick up after this and Boni and the music both start pushing much harder. The song ends abruptly, but I think it’s my recording rather than the band itself.

‘Take this beat, I don’t mind’ starts us into I wish U Heaven part 3 (Take this beat). Another favorite of mine from this period, it’s played nice and upbeat, with plenty of funk. Prince is sounding like he is enjoying it a lot, and sings “I gave you Levi, you don’t want him” a few times, before there is a great break for the bass. It gets better and faster as it goes, and it shows off some of Levis talents nicely. Now the band really begins to jam. Boni sings and we move into Cold Sweat. It’s played as we have heard before, pretty much the same as The Small Club gig. The band and Boni more than do it justice here, and its part of a much longer medley.

Next “Ladies and Gentlemen, on the drums, Prince!” He plays an enjoyable drum break, nothing too spectacular but it shows off plenty of his skills. The bass joins in after a bit, and there is a brief jam. Again, it all sounds very good, but there is nothing spectacular. A sharp “on the two” ends Princes time on the drum before the very Shelia E percussive sound begins.

Shelia E’s solo here is one of the more enjoyable ones I have heard from her. It’s much more colorful, and percussive sounding rather than just a basic rock solo. She plays some cool sounding fast rhythms, and it’s definitely a head bobber for me. As much as I love Shelia, I don’t always enjoy her solos, but this one plays to all her strengths, and it’s great. For the first time I find myself thinking “I wish that went for longer”. The recording is worth listening to for this alone.

Prince 1988 2

There is a longer pause after this, and then Prince instructs Boni to “Hit an F chord”. A moment of twinkling on the piano as Prince sings the first lines of Lovesexy, and then the beat comes in and we get a proper full-on rendition of Lovesexy. It sounds great live, the guitars can be heard much more, as can the bass. There is a lot happening to listen to, but it still keeps a groove about it. The crowd starts singing “hey hey” with Princes encouragement, and for a few seconds I can close my eyes and imagine myself there. The music swirls around, and Prince sounds like he is having a great time. He sings ‘Hollyrock’ for a bit, and I get the feeling that this song is really going to be stretched out. The bass and drums are right in front (mostly due to the recording I think) and it gives the song a much harder sound. There is a false ending, and then Prince starts pushing the band in different directions. All sorts of sounds and lines are thrown into the song. I hear a snatch of Glamorous life, as well as A Love Bizarre before somewhat bizarrely Prince sings a line from ‘Born in the USA’. This is followed half a minute later by a line from ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. The band really start smoking after this, there is a definite upturn in intensity, and then Boni starts singing Chain Of Fools. Unfortunately the recording isn’t great, and I don’t hear her as well as I might, but she sounds good. At this point the saxophone makes a very welcome return, this time playing fast and furious. The band is chugging along at great speed now, and moves effortlessly into a Beautiful Night. I often underestimate this band, but when I hear shows like this I am in total awe. They are awesome in every sense of the word. With a shout of “Vegas” Prince brings it all to a halt and the recording ends.

Prince 1988

I am very surprised that this recording doesn’t get more love. I have heard very few people mention it, but I thought it was outstanding. True, it’s an audience recording, and that does detract from it a lot. But the performance is hot, the setlist has enough in there to make it interesting, and the band is very tight. If this was a better recording it would be magnificent, but even as an audience recording I still find it totally absorbing.

I am looking forward to next weeks recording, I already have a few ‘must listens’ lined up
-Hamish

3 thoughts on “Warfield Theatre, 1988 Aftershow

  1. Take a moment when you can and listen to the 4DF “Take The Other ‘W’ Train” if you haven’t yet, it’s an alternative recording of this show, fabulous sound, more dynamic.

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