Since he is one of the most bootlegged artists of all time, it is easy to get overwhelmed and worn down by the massive amount of Prince releases that come out every year. It seems impossible for the man to give a concert these days that isn't readily available on the Internet within a week or less of the show, and studio material continues to leak out, be it new or repackaged and remastered collections of long circulating tracks.
So it takes a special release to get collectors' attention and the labels Free Boot Generation and 4DaFunk (along with an anonymous source) have joined forces to deliver just that. In fact, this is the new Holy Grail of Prince bootlegs. A stunning soundboard recording of his June 7, 1984 birthday show at First Avenue in Minneapolis with The Revolution.
The historical significance of this show cannot be underestimated. The "Purple Rain" album release was still almost three weeks away. "When Doves Cry" had just been released as a single on May 16, so here you have Prince And The Revolution, still unaware of the mania and super-stardom that was soon to follow, playing a loose, funk filled, near 90 minute set of rarities at the club the "Purple Rain" movie had been filmed at. It is a fascinating time in music and Prince history, and to have it documented in such incredible sound quality is a dream come true.
I first read about this show in a magazine, it may have been Creem, back in 1984 once the "Purple Rain" hype was going full steam ahead. This was well before the days of Internet message boards and freely traded Prince material. Reading all these song titles I did not recognize had me extremely jealous of everyone who had been able to attend. Many years later, once I got into the collecting community, I was able to obtain a copy of this show, but it was a rather poor audience recording that did not do justice to the performance. It's amazing to get to hear this show, 27 years later, in all its glory with perfect sound and think back to when I first read about it.
After a brief intro, Prince And The Revolution take to the stage to the driving bass of Brown Mark and drums of Bobby Z for "17 Days", the B-side to the just released "When Doves Cry" single. What follows is what first caught my eye when I read that review of the show in 1984, two songs that to this day have never been released. Studio versions of "Our Destiny" and "Roadhouse Garden" have yet to circulate freely amongst Prince collectors, so this back to back performance, in pristine quality, is likely to be the best way fans will get to hear these rare, unreleased tracks. "Our Destiny" has a swirling keyboard pattern during the verses before it kicks into the chorus of "Our destiny is 2 fall in love". "Roadhouse Garden" is a funkier track with a catchy, repeating guitar riff and backing vocals provided by Wendy and Lisa.
Prince then takes a minute to address the audience, telling them "y'all came in here expecting to drive Prince's red Corvette, that's not gonna work, OK? We're just gonna play a few numbers, some of 'em you gonna know, most of 'em you won't." He then introduces new guitarist Wendy Melvoin before they begin the funk workout "All Day, All Night", another brand new, at the time unreleased song. Some of the basic tracks of this live version were used for the studio version the band recorded, although that too never saw release, but is widely circulating amongst collectors. Prince later gave the song to Jill Jones who released it on her 1987 Paisley Park album. I've always preferred Prince And The Revolution's version, it is a shame it never made it to an official release.
Things then slow down for a stripped down performance of the ballad "Free" from "1999". Prince is on piano, joined just by Bobby Z on drums, while the rest of the band provide backing vocals on the chorus. Prince then dedicates a scintillating nine minute performance of "Noon Rendezvous" to 'that little girl over there, that Sheila E. dame', since Sheila had flown in for the show. Her debut album had just been released three days earlier, with this ballad one of its highlights. Prince extends the song with some wonderful guitar work and The Revolution singing "sitting in this cafe, waiting 4 my baby" that I wish had been used on the released Sheila E. version.
Another brand new song is up next as an over eight minute long version of "Erotic City", with a minute long guitar intro, is played. He also incorporates some of "All The Critics Love U In New York" towards the end as well. This track would not see release until late August on the "Let's Go Crazy" single. Prince then returns to "1999" for another stunning highlight, a drastically reworked, over ten minute long version of "Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)". A cold, electronic song on record, he turns it into a guitar heavy rocker live, by far the night's highlight for fans of Prince's guitar work. The main set then ends with an over eleven minute, extended version of "When Doves Cry", which provides one of the funnier moments of the show unintentionally. Prince forgets the opening lyrics of the song, starting to sing "How can U" before mumbling then trying to play off his mistake by calling out the crowd for not clapping along. "Come on y'all, have you heard this before? Have you heard this before? Then clap your hands, come on!" Those in attendance may not have realized it at the time, but all these years later, it's obvious when he messes up one of his most famous songs.
The band leaves the stage to cheers and chants that eventually turn into the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" to Prince when he returns to the stage. They then close out the night with jams on two funk workouts, the "1999" era B-Side "Irresistible Bitch", completely reworked with a greasy guitar line and thumping bass, and "Possessed", a song that was used in the background during a scene in "Purple Rain", but has never been released.
I can't emphasize enough what an essential release this is for Prince collectors and fans. The performance is incredible, all the more so being able to hear it in this type of sound quality. Prince And The Revolution, literally weeks before "Purple Rain" exploded and made them the biggest act in the country that year, with an astounding club show. The fact something like this shows up 27 years after the concert leaves hope for other gems that just have not circulated yet to see release in the future. Whoever is responsible for sourcing this extraordinary soundboard recording, a million thanks.