Soundboard recordings are always great to have, and there have been plenty of wonderful Prince releases in the last few years that have surfaced. The latest to add to this list comes courtesy of Confusion Records with "Live In Nice 2010", a recording from his 20Ten Tour.
This is not a complete recording, it only captures the first hour of the show. The sound quality is indeed fantastic, the quality of the actual concert is another story. I'm not the biggest fan of Prince's current touring band, they come across to me more like a Prince cover band than a solid musical unit. Yes, I am spoiled by the bands of Prince's past, The Revolution, the Sign o The Times/LoveSexy band and the 93-95 era NPG. The band captured here are among the weakest Prince has toured with and the whole show comes across as way too 'Vegas' for me. Thankfully Prince has since replaced Cora Coleman-Dunham on drums with the far superior John Blackwell and Josh Dunham on bass with Ida Nielsen.
Unfortunately the insufferable Shelby J. is still around and she's here along with Elisa Dease and Liv Warfield on backing vocals. I know Prince had Rosie Gaines for some time, but for some reason the female backing trio is an annoyance on these shows. They can overpower Prince, something that simply shouldn't happen, and they inexplicably get a seven minute rendition of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" that is nothing more than a snooze-fest. They just don't fit with his music as the backing vocalists and Shelby's loud shouting and hyping is completely obnoxious.
There also aren't a lot of surprises in the set. The show opens with an over 11 minute version of "Purple Rain" that is piano heavy before going into big hits like "Let's Go Crazy", "Delirious" and "1999". Frederic Yonnet's harmonica playing is featured at times as well, an odd inclusion to my ears. The versions of Prince's biggest hits are rather run of the mill. They're often truncated and, again, it's tough to shake that 'Vegas act" feeling. They are simply lacking the raw energy and funk that made Prince so great. It's frankly a boring listen. "Shhh" is the highlight here simple because you get to hear Prince shred a little, but the monster drumming of Michael Bland is sorely missed.
The funkiest stretch starts with "Musicology", runs through a shortened take on "A Love Bizarre" and ends with a seven minute workout on "Controversy", but I'd be lying if I said it was the same level of funk as Prince's best bands were capable of putting out there. This lineup simply can't hang. This disc ends with a Prince/Shelby J. duet on "Nothing Compares 2 U", but the show went on for another ten songs. It's a shame the second half wasn't captured in this sound quality as a number of intriguing songs were performed including "Forever In My Life" and "Dreamer".
Again, the sound quality is not in question here. This is a fine soundboard recording so it's one you'll want to add to the collection. But it's not one I'll re-visit as I can't get past how badly Prince is coasting at this point of his career, with a rather weak band behind him to boot.