Prince doesn’t release many live recordings, ever the perfectionist, I guess no matter how good the performance is- he wont be totally happy with it.
Which is a real shame, as this guy really knows how to put on a show. He rarely sticks to the recorded versions of tracks, will easily segue between songs, give you snippets of classics that whet your appetite and build anticipation, only for him to not play it- only before disappointment is felt, he has launched into another classic that means you’ve already forgotten about the previous tease.
When I first caught him live in 88 on the Lovesexy Tour, I was a fairly recent convert. The previous album, Sign O The Times didn’t make these shores as a stage show, it toured Europe for two months (Prince declined his record company wishes to tour the US- as this and the previous two albums sold better in Europe than the US) but never made it over the Channel- the rumour being the set was too large for the crossing (watch the Sign O The Times video- it was an impressive stage set!). Because of the exclusion of the UK on this tour, the nine nights he was to play over here on the massive Lovesexy World Tour bought much interest. One of these was the showing of his birthday concert in Detroit (on The Tube, I think) from the Hit ‘N’ Run Tour from 1986. This is still the coolest looking Prince (in my opinion) Short, neat hair and wicked suits. The dance routines were uber-cool, the inclusion of Happy Birthday-sweet- and How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? ensured that the performance was never forgotten. I saw it once, I wished it would be repeated… Forward twenty years or so, and welcome internet, mp3’s and bootlegs!
Whilst hunting around for a copy of this TV performance (clips found), I happened to come across a recording of his show on the Parade Tour (Hit’N’Run Tour in the US became Parade Tour for Europe and Asia) from Stockholm, this particularly caught my eye as it was a soundboard recording (ie from the source, not from the audience).
Clocking in at just under 2 hours, this is an excellent recording, the tracks are a good mix from his back catalogue, with the main theme being the recently released Parade album.
Starting with the, in my opinion, under appreciated Around The World In A Day, we then get the opening triumvirate from Parade- Christopher Tracey’s Parade/ New Position/ I Wonder U before returning to ATWIAD with Raspberry Beret, great start.
A dizzying Delirious/ Controversy combo and we’re in A Love Bizarre- Prince penned, and released by drummer Sheila E, this is a Prince live staple- it’s so darn funky live, great audience participation bits, and solo sections for the band- although it was the moving towards funk and soul and away from rock that would split the band by the end of the tour. Shame.
After this frenetic beginning, we slow down to Controversy’s ‘Do Me, Baby’, before ‘How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?’ and a short skip through 1999’s ‘Automatic’ and ‘D.M.S.R.’ (a song which deserves a funk out!) we then get the first of only two tracks from Purple Rain- ‘When Doves Cry’, before finishing the first set back in Parade with the gloriously gentle ‘Under The Cherry Moon’ and a rousing (deep breath) ‘Anotherloverholenyohead’.
The Encore is started by one of the greatest B sides ever in ’17 Days’ followed by one of the highlights of this show- ‘I hate Rock and Roll!’ Prince proclaims, before the 13min workout of ‘Head’- oh to have been there, on the floor, grooving! And the stupendously spectacular keyboard solo from Dr Fink is analogue heaven. The set finishes with essentially a singles collection- ‘Pop Life’, ‘Girls and Boys’,(not single, but great) ‘Life Can Be So Nice’, ‘1999’, ‘Mountains’, ‘Kiss’ and finally a 12min ‘Purple Rain’- in fact this last section clocks in at almost 40mins! The great thing about this being a soundboard recording is that you don’t get audience noise whilst ‘Purple Rain’ is coming to a close, it’s just beautiful.
To only include two Purple Rain tracks (his most successful album) and play three from the ‘flop’ of Around The World In A Day, shows the bullish, difficult Prince that I love!
This is an essential inclusion into any Prince fans collection, further research has thrown up another that I’m yet to get hold of- the gig in Yokohama which was to be the last performance by The Revolution- Prince uncharacteristically smashes his guitars at the end!
Another of the tour which I do have, is the rehearsal at First Avenue, Minneapolis.
Before Prince built Paisley Park- which was to hold his recording studio, offices and a soundstage to rehearse tours, he used to perform ‘dress rehearsals’ at First Avenue (of Purple Rain fame) in his home town of Minneapolis. The bootleg which I discovered recently, was an audience recording, but of a very low generation (quality of bootlegs deteriorates as copies are made, especially as in 1986, we were largely relying on cassettes), and after some tweaking by the guys at 4DaFunk, what we get is excellent quality.
As a rehearsal for the up and coming tour, the band showcase all the songs they intend to play on the tour, for Prince to cherry-pick from this selection as the mood fits. So, we get most of the tracks that were to be played in Stockholm, the short 1999 skit replaced by Soft & Wet and I Wanna Be Your Lover, no ‘ …Doggy’ and only an 8min Head.
But it’s the extras that make this set stand out- the funky horn workout of Mutiny includes portions of the unreleased ‘Dream Factory’ which would be dropped for the tour, there’s a false start on one track, with Prince commenting that the problem with a new member of the band is that they want to solo, errors sound planned with Prince. There is a relaxed feel about Prince in this performance- no mean feat as it was the première of his new set, new band (The Revolution of Purple Rain fame, had been expanded to include members of the recently disbanded Family [who recorded the first Nothing Compares 2U]), new album- Parade hadn’t been released yet, only Kiss (which went to No.1 in the US) had been issued.
With the funk workouts on Mutiny, Head, A Love Bizarre, Anotherloverholenyohead and the frantic percussive monster that is the 16min America, it almost looks like there was that rarest of Prince traits- a compromise, to leave out some of these pieces. After the US Hit’N’Run part of the tour, Bassist Brown Mark, Wendy and Lisa threatened to leave- were these the conditions on their staying for the Parade Tour? Who knows…
Purple Rain, is a beautiful 13mins on here (when is it not a beautiful track?)- but is the only inclusion from the album of the same name, which, I think, shows Prince’s intention to move away from that particular sound, to funkier grooves. Ironically, he is still referred to as the Purple One etc. (for the record, my favourite Prince colour scheme was the Peach and Black of Sign O The Times- my bedroom was Peach and Black!).
We also get FIVE Around The World In A Day tracks, and NO 1999 material- not even 1999 itself! But it doesn’t matter, by this stage he already had ‘Too many Hits!’, and fittingly the band finishes with current US No1 single- Kiss.
This was a golden age of Prince live, which wont be repeated (I, of course, mean this Pre-Sign O The Times era- a tautology, I know. See him live and you still get the best Artist in his favourite setting, cooking his favourite dish.) , thank god for the bootleggers, but how long would a set have to be for all the favourites to be played? This is still before Sign O The Times, Lovesexy, Diamonds and Pearls, Gold, countless albums during the 90’s ‘Artist Formerly Known As Prince’ era, and believe me there are classic tracks hidden in all those albums.