Three shows on the same night with three different bands. Only Prince could pull something like that off, and he did just that the night of March 28, 2009 in Los Angeles in celebration of the release of his "Lotusflow3r" CD set. Making the L.A. Live complex his home base on this night, he started out with his current touring band at the time, (as well as a guest appearance by Sheila E.), for a show at the Nokia Theatre that focused on a lot of his funkier hits and some covers. The night then moved to The Conga Room for an incredible, guitar heavy show with the New Power Trio of Prince and old NPG members Sonny Thompson on bass and Michael Bland on drums.
That brings us to the show captured here. The final show of the evening started well after midnight at the Club Nokia. Prince was joined by Rhonda Smith on bass, the incomparable Renato Neto on keyboards and John Blackwell on drums for a mellow set focusing on his more jazzier, laid back material. This show can now be seen as the precursor to his July Montreux Jazz festival appearance, as many of the songs that were played here for the first time live would be incorporated into the setlists at Montreux.
Like the Montreux concerts reviewed here last month, this Club Nokia show has been released as a Pro-Shot DVD and soundboard CD on the "L.A. Confidential" set by Eye Records, and it is a stunner. Prince fans continue to be spoiled with these incredible releases as this is another high quality, must have item. The only letdown is that the other two shows from this night weren't recorded in this fashion that I am aware of. What you get here is the entire set, just over 90 minutes long, professionally filmed and recorded. The CD here is obviously just the soundtrack to the show, although there have been some complaints about the audio mix missing much of the low end. The focus though should be on the true highlight of this set, the Pro-Shot DVD.
The show kicks off with a couple of instrumentals before Prince takes the stage. The band runs through "Under The Cherry Moon" and "Dreamin' About U" before Prince appears for "When Eye Lay My Hands On U". It's one of the few songs on the night where Prince plays guitar, and it's always a treat to hear this song done live. A couple of major surprises follow as the rarely performed 'Emancipation' outtake "Journey 2 The Center Of Your Heart" is next. Prince's version was never released, but the song was recorded by Chaka Khan on her 1998 NPG Records release 'Come 2 My House'. The second half of the over eight minute performance features Prince's best guitar work of the night. A smoothed out version of "The Sun, The Moon And Stars" is yet another rarity in the set.
Prince leaves the stage for another band instrumental, this time on "Sometimes It Snows In April", before returning for a twelve minute workout on "When The Lights Go Down". He then literally asks for the lights to go down and the crowd to be as silent as possible for a performance of "Eye Love U, But Eye Don't Trust U Anymore".
It must be said at this point, Prince was unhappy with the sound quality throughout the evening. All three shows were marred by technical problems, feedback and poor sound systems. By the time this show was in motion he had enough. During the early part of this set he asked for adjustments to the sound several times. Before the next song, he launched into an epic rant from the stage, directed at AEG who he had been working with for a number of years on his tours, including the massively successful Musicology Tour of 2004. AEG oversees the entire L.A. Live complex and Prince started naming names, specifically calling out AEG Live President and CEO Randy Phillips and AEG's President and CEO Tim Leiweke from the stage in a 90 second public lambasting.
"Before we play this, Randy Phillips, Tim Leiweke, they run AEG. And, uh, this is their building so the buzzes you hear you can talk to them about it. I'm gonna play through it, I'm gonna do my best. Now feel me, they spent a lot of money on the seats, and the lights are beautiful. But I done told them several times, let's work on that sound. I came to see Alicia Keys here and it was the worst sound I ever heard. But Alicia is a genius, bar none. She is music and she deserves the best, alright? So we're all in this together. So if we fix the sound, I'll be here every night. This is what I do. And I'll do it for free, I won't charge 'em. But now I got to go back to my three million a night!"
Prince then kicks into "She Spoke 2 Me" by shouting sarcastically "It's alright Tim and Randy, we love ya!", then during the performance gets the crowd to chant 'AEG, AEG' over and over. I cannot emphasize enough what a monumental night this then became. AEG made Prince a ton of money helping him make his 3121 shows in Las Vegas and his 21 Nights in London a reality. He planned to do a similar 21 night stand in L.A., but in one onstage rant, he called out the highest executives of the company by name, publicly embarrassed them and burned yet another bridge in the entertainment industry. His relationship with AEG, again a company that made Prince millions of dollars, was over and he blew it up right in front of about 2,500 fans. The fact we now get to see it on video is priceless. Prince closes the performance of "She Spoke 2 Me" by introducing the band then getting one last shot in at AEG by declaring, "And my name is Randy Phillips. Thank you, goodnight."
Prince and the band return for the first ever live performance of the unreleased "In A Large Room With No Light", before he breaks into that famous guitar line that kicks off "Sweet Thing" and special guest Chaka Khan makes her way to the stage. The performance is just Chaka on vocals and Prince on guitar while the audience helps by singing along. A very cool version that, in some strange way proves Prince's point, by ending in a big burst of feedback from Khan's microphone causing her to voice in agreement, "This ain't no joke! You were not kidding about the sound", as Prince chuckles and shouts, "What?? Told ya! Told ya!" I can't imagine the uncomfortableness in the room for those in attendance but this is gold to watch on video.
The show then ends with four of Prince's finest ballads, truncated versions of "Insatiable" and "Scandalous", a mostly complete run through of "The Beautiful Ones" and the closing "Nothing Compares 2 U". Now make no mistake, as pissed off as Prince obviously was at the sound problems, enough to destroy a relationship with the entertainment behemoth AEG, he does not make the fans suffer over his problems. He is very grateful for their support and still appears to be in a good mood overall, enjoying his band and the music. The band is on fire all night, with Neto especially displaying his mastery of the keyboards during numerous spotlight solos.
With gorgeous packaging to boot, "L.A. Confidential" is a must own set. These professionally filmed shows that are making their way to DVD are an embarrassment of riches for Prince fans and collectors. Here you get a set loaded with rarely performed songs, a Chaka Khan guest appearance and an incredible tongue lashing of the giant AEG. Who else but Prince can deliver this much excitement in one night?