Purple Rain in Milan … ovvero Prince a Milano 03/10/2010
Vi segnalo un articolo che ho trovato sul sito princerecordings.com. Si tratta di un racconto dettagliato del concerto che Prince ha tenuto al Forum di Assago (Milano) nel lontano 2010. Quello che propone Hamish, autore del sito, in questo e in tutti i suoi articoli, sono minuziose recensioni ai bootleg più interessanti che circolano in rete. Questo è quello dedicato allo show di Milano 2010. Complimenti.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard Purple Rain in my life. It’s heard at almost every live show since 1984, and is universally the first song that non fans name when thinking of Prince. I am sure Prince is just as tired of playing it as I am of hearing it, yet he still manages to play it with a passion and gives the fans what they want every night. In the last few years, the video of him playing it at this show in Milan is often cited as one of the best renditions in recent times. He certainly seems to playing it up in the video, but I am not convinced that it’s as good as often stated. And seeing it stand alone like this, I often wonder how it fits in the wider picture of the gig. Today I taking a listen to the show as a whole, and see if this thing is as good as people say. At the time I thought the 20ten tour was a little bland, and I am hoping that upon second listen its better than I remember.
3 November, 2010 Mediolanum Forum di Assago, Milan
The show certainly starts well, I have heard Stratus plenty of times, but not opening a main show like this. It’s a very casual start to the show, with Prince seemingly just strolling out with his guitar and beginning to play. The drums and the bass and nice and full sounding, while Prince places with his guitar over the top. It’s almost after show like, and has that sound of the band warming up and easing into the gig. Princes playing is very relaxed, and I get the feeling that right from the start he is in guitar hero mode. Apart from Princes soloing there’s not much else happening in the song, that is until the space age sounding keyboard break by Renato Neto. This is immediately followed by Ida and some tidy bass work. I can’t fault it, but it fails to move me. The final guitar break by Prince is one too many for me, yet it’s the best played in this song. I have mixed feels about if I wanted this to go on and on, or finish. I was somewhat pleased when Prince makes the decision for me and the band play Mountains.
Mountains has a very light feeling on this recording. All the pieces are there, and yet they don’t come together in a cohesive way I would like. I do enjoy it however, and especially I enjoy Princes guitar sound and vocals. The guitar sound is very sharp and I can hear it way above everything else when he plays. It’s an interesting start to the gig, I wouldn’t have expected to hear either song so early in the set list, but it does work for me. Of course, I am a fan and would enjoy anything he played. Parts of Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) are sung, and soon after the song further morphs into Everyday People.
Everyday People and I Want To Take You Higher are played together, as a Sly Stone one/two punch. I loved the original of Everyday People, but to be honest I don’t get much out of Princes version. There is that spark missing, and even though it sounds pretty it doesn’t speak to me. I Want To Take You Higher works better for me. The horns sound good on it, and there is a couple of other sounds thrown into the mix too. The band and Prince gain energy as it goes along and I can see the crowd becoming more animated as it progresses. There is a sing along and plenty of jumping as the song reaches its peak, and I love it when Prince finishes the song with a shout of “Veegggas!”
Things go dark, and a weedy thin version of the Lets Go Crazy intro begins to play. It’s OK, yet very thin sounding. Prince intones “Dearly beloved” beautifully back lit, and playing some epic sounding guitar. The rest of the song begins and it becomes much more party sounding. As of the time, it’s horn filled and brassy sounding. Prince keeps it to what people want to hear most, that is him and his guitar. He plays the first solo, and then abruptly changes the song to Delirious.
Delirious grows on me with every blog post I write. As the years progress I find myself enjoying it more and more, and today I find myself grinning throughout. It’s played with a smile and it adds a lot to the fun sound. Renato plays a fitting solo, and Prince enjoys prancing and playing as he sings the song. This one is pure fun all the way. All the band members join the party in one way or another and they all capture the spirit of the song well.
With chants of “Oh no, let’s go” Prince again picks up his guitar and Let’s Go Crazy resumes. The reprise is little more than the chant and then Prince finishing of the song with his guitar break.
1999 sounds great. The beat isn’t too domineering as is sometimes heard, and the vocals all work very well off each other. Prince is sounding and looking youthful through the song, and the years roll back as I sit and listen to this one – I can feel myself getting younger. The song passes by in a flash, I must have closed my eyes for a second too long feeling nostalgic. Shelby can be heard encouraging the crowd through the “Party” chant, I do like her but I would rather hear Prince. The final minute is my favourite piece as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb”
Bathed in red, I have to say I register zero surprise as Prince draws out the opening guitar notes of Little Red Corvette. He milks it for all its worth and toys with the crowd for a minute as the song builds. The crowd is strangely silent on the recording as he begins to sing, I had expected them to be far more vocal in singing along. They are however back for the chorus, before Prince again slows things down with his guitar. I always associate the guitar solo with Dez, no matter how many times I hear it. Prince goes someway to reclaiming it, as after the recorded solo he plays for a minute more in his slower expressive style. What I like about this part of the recording is it’s not crowded, there is an empty sound, and Prince doesn’t over play, he does just enough to give it a warm emotive sound. The last few minutes are a completely different song to me, and one that I enjoy immensely.
Prince tells the crowd “These are my songs, and I love each and every one of them” which I think is a nice sentiment, and probably has an element of truth to it. Finally the funk arrives as Prince’s chicken scratch guitar begins to play, and Controversy gets a long and welcome introduction. Prince has the crowd chanting long before the song starts, and once the rest of the band do join it becomes a monster. Maybe it’s not the recording, maybe it’s not the show, maybe I am just a fan who really loves this music and really loves this song, but here to me it is sounding wonderful. The crowd chant “ooh Milan” throughout the song, and Prince gives them plenty of funk to move to. There is a very long section where the crowd chants while Prince plays a variety of funky guitar breaks. Sometimes writing a weekly blog is a chore, but right now I’m loving it. The song itself disappears, and it is just a funky groove as Prince plays with the crowd. The song does however finally end, and I feel like a sit down and a cup of tea.
Things slow down next as Prince takes a break and Shelby sings Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. Shelby sounds great, she doesn’t overdo it, and it’s suitably emotional. I appreciate the song even more now that I know that Sarah McLachlan wrote it about the death of Jonathan Melvoin. Elisa joins her, and their vocals together are beautiful. Things get better when Liv joins and all three of them sing the song to the end.
Prince returns and keeps things at an emotional level with a rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. I always like it when he sings this with Shelby. Shelby has a lot of detractors, but her chemistry with Prince can’t be under estimated and they bounce well off each over through the song. Shelby sings with plenty of passion, while Prince sounds smooth and this seems to work as a nice contrast. Prince calls the crowd to show their appreciation for “The baddest piano player in the world” and Renato plays a nice little flourish. The song ends with some lovely vocal touches from Prince and a gentle landing.
In the dark Prince plays some quiet lead guitar, before he softly sings “she saw me walking down the streets of your fine city, turned me on, she looked at me and said” I wonder if he is going to do it, and sure enough the band kick into Uptown. My old school roots betray me, and I immediately feel a surge of excitement. The guitar sounds just like I always love, and the only real difference is the girl’s vocals all over it. The recording sounds very good, and Princes guitar is very clean sounding. My only complaint would be that the song is played way too short.
With a count of “one two three four” the band take a pop twist and begin to play Raspberry Beret. Prince does no singing at all, the crowd are more than happy to oblige and sing all the lyrics. It’s fun, but somewhat hollow, I would have liked to hear even a line or two from Prince. It’s not too long, and is no more than a verse and a chorus.
Cream gets a much fuller treatment, Prince sings loudly and full, and the girls are once again strong sounding in the mix. Prince’s guitar break interrupts the smooth sound of it, and he again has a nice clean sound. I am never a great fan of Cream, it’s a cool song but it doesn’t ring my bell. Here is a nice sounding clean version that feels shorter than it really is.
The party starts with Cool. The crowd dance a lot to this, and listening to it here at home it’s hard not to be moved myself. Prince is very much front and centre for this song, listening to it his vocals and guitar are the things I hear most, that and that sythn loop playing over and over. The crowd are obviously singing along, but I don’t hear them well on the recording, and indeed it is noticeable on the recording there is a lack of crowd noise, which is a plus in this case. There is a lot of dancing and fun being had on stage, but without the visuals it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable.
Prince keeps things firmly in the 80’s as Let’s Work begins. The party mood is kept up with the crowd and there is definitely a lot of arm waving and dancing. The band is playing tight and smooth, and all the fun is coming from the vocals and performance. There is some amusing dancing between Prince and Shelby before he picks up his guitar.
Next played is U Got The Look, complete with Princes “girls vs boys” spoken intro. I like the sound of this song, even if I don’t always like the song itself. This recording is pretty decent, the guitar is front and centre, but not overwhelming, Prince keeps it nice and balanced. There is the usual guitar breaks but they aren’t over the top, and the crowd does have space to enjoy it.
Finally we reach Purple Rain, the reason I chose this show. It does begin in the traditional way with the gently chords before the keys swell and the drums enter. Nothing is rushed, which anyone who knows me will appreciate I really enjoy. The crowd play their part, with “ooh, oohh, oohh” beginning almost immediately. There is some lovely cascades played on the guitar, and it gives it an extra feel of rain falling. The strings then play for half a minute before Prince appears waving to the crowd, and then playing some further lead guitar. His vocals are clean sounding, there is very little or no echo on them, and I enjoy them like this. It’s interesting to watch him here, I can see him working himself into the song, at first he is fairly passionless, but he emotes as he goes along, and you can see him working himself up as the lines progress. He looks like he’s really feeling it as he finishes his vocal duties and picks up the guitar break. With a jarring start we are off into the solo, and Prince is playing just as much with his face as anything else, and he is telegraphing everything he is playing in his expressions. I can’t decide if its showmanship or pure emotion, but I certainly enjoy it. The first half of the break is as to be expected, and the second half where he traditionally cuts loose is more enjoyable to me. The playing isn’t as breath taking as I have heard elsewhere, but I have to give credit here to Prince for a great performance. Prince finishes by placing his guitar on the stage before taking a bow and exiting. I liked the performance, but I can’t quite find it in me to love it. Without the visuals it would sound a lot like any other performance, and here I think it was Princes showmanship that really makes the song what it is.
The opening strum of Kiss sounds, and the band play an extended intro without Prince. There is the guitar sound, but it’s very much keyboard led, and Shelby does encourage the crowd to chant along before Prince appears to take his vocals. I miss the stripped back sound that made this song so distinctive, and with this band playing a fuller sound I find this song slips into the territory of Cream, a similarity I hadn’t noticed previously. Prince’s vocals are tidy, and his dance routine at the end gets a laugh and a smile out of me.
If I Was Your Girlfriend is a song I would find very hard to be critical of. I am a big fan, and I enjoy hearing it every time. Prince’s vocals aren’t as high as when he was younger, but he still retains a smooth sound, and to be honest I am singing along too loudly to really notice. This song resonated emotionally with me when I was younger, and I am surprised when I hear it nowadays and it has a much lighter party feel. There is a keyboard break later in the song that I really should mention, its funky and fun all rolled into one, and plays for some time while Prince and Shelby dance. Prince matches it with some vocal yelps and the groove continues with that divine bass line. Renato gets to add his touch to it, with a piano solo that has a light touch to it. The song finishes on a high with a long play out and some cool chanting.
Prince begins to get some of the audience on stage with him as he begins to play The Bird. I get the feeling now we are approaching the end of the show, and Prince wants to end it as a party. The stage is pretty crowded as he begins to sing the Bird. His vocals are loose, and I am missing the tightness of Morris’s vocals that I normally associate with this song. As you might expect a large part of the song is dedicated to chanting, dancing and generally having fun. The band play well, but it seems secondary to the enjoyment of the night.
Things don’t let up as the band slip easily into Jungle Love. I do enjoy singing along to it, but there’s not a lot else happening here. The crowd are still dancing and partying to the groove. I become more interested as Prince begins to play his solo, and it has a nice intensity to it which briefly causes me to reconsider my stance on these two songs. However as he finishes his break the chanting and dancing resume and we are back to the party.
I enjoy the sound of Love Bizarre much more, the bottom end especially sounds good. Prince puts plenty into his singing, and well he has to, just to compete with Shelby. I like it later in the song as Prince plays more rhythm guitar, and the band strip back. He maintains his funky guitar sound as the full band join in once again, and he maintains this to the end, and even throws in one more solo, which for me is the best guitar playing of the night. He downs his guitar for a round of waving to the crowd and then the party continues for another minute before a call of “Las Vegas!” ends it.
With the stage emptied of people, Prince returns with his guitar and the band play Take Me With U. There isn’t much to the song, it doesn’t surprise me in anyway, and sounds pretty much the same as the day I first heard it. Having the girls sing strongly on it is a bonus, and they do well not to overwhelm Princes vocals. Its sounds empty after the previous songs, and it is a nice come down.
With a shout of “turn me up” Prince strikes up the opening riff of Guitar. It’s not as strong as perhaps I would like, however it does sound good. As throughout the whole recording, Princes guitar has a clean sound, and that is one thing I have really appreciated on this recording. This is the last song of the show, and I was expecting Prince to indulge himself in some guitar heroics, he is however very restrained. He does play some good solos, but he doesn’t go over the top, nor does he draw them out too long. The song wraps up quickly and even with a final reprise it is very short. With one final showman flourish the song and the show end.
Purple Rain wasn’t as great as many people would have me believe, but the showmanship, and the rest of the show was worth the effort. The show was standard, but I did enjoy the effort that Prince put in, and I felt this is a good reflection of the 20ten shows. It was well paced, and it got better as it went along. A solid record of a good show- I’m still not convinced about that Purple Rain though!
Foto by SimoneNiga