Superdeluxe Box Of Prince’s “1999” Proves Nothing Succeeds Like Excess [part 12]

Prince live on the 1999 tour

The “International Lover” was poised for takeoff

[…continued from last post]

One of the good things about this boxed set was that it gave me a chance to experience the “1999 Tour” live on album and video. Prince had brought the tour to [sort of] Central Florida when the “1999” tour played at the Lakeland Civic Center in early 1983. I knew the tour was happening and was interested in seeing it but the facts were that in 1983 I had still yet to see any sort of rock concert yet. The acts I was into didn’t play Orlando. And the Lakeland Civic Center was in a sleepy orange grove town halfway between Orlando [large] and Tampa [larger] and 50 minutes away from either metropolis. Lots of acts that would draw more than the 3,000 that the Bob Carr PAC in Orlando but less than the 60,ooo of the Tangerine Bowl had few choices in the entertainment environment of the time but to play there. So hearing and seeing this tour as in the box were a second chance for me to experience Prince as I would have liked to in 1983 when I had no wheels and none of my friends were making any trips to see shows either.

prince live in detroit 1999 cover art

Live In Detroit 11/30/82 | Disc 5

Prince: 1999 SDLX box disc 5 – Live In Detroit 11/30/82 – US – CD [2019]

  1. Controversy 5:46
  2. Let’s Work 5:27
  3. Little Red Corvette 4:12
  4. Do Me, Baby 7:18
  5. Head 4:12
  6. Uptown 2:43
  7. Interlude 2:25
  8. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore? 7:03
  9. Automatic 7:02
  10. International Lover 8:40
  11. 1999 10:24
  12. D.M.S.R. 8:02

The concert opened with the infamous varispeed “don’t worry…I won’t hurt you…I only want you to have some fun” tape before laying into an intense opener in “Controversy.” That was my favorite Prince track of the time [still is, really] and I really would have lost it if my first song from Prince would have been this one, but it’s a natural set opener. It lays out the Prince ethos succinctly and declares his aim boldly. Live, it didn’t contain the lord’s prayer but still had the “people call me rude” chant. Ultimately, it was all about the coiled guitar riff vying with the synths.

A one-two punch from “Controversy” continued with “Let’s Work” that continued the jam and moved on from the LP length to partially incorporate the “work it” coda from the 12″ mix. The came the first track from the new album. Little Red Corvette” showed up in the flow here with the 7″ single version, but with an added bombastic showbiz coda the built up to several climaxes. And what is Prince unless he can deliver several climaxes? Dez Dickerson might have had one foot out the door by this tour, but he sure delivered on the even better lead solo here.

I’ll bet that Prince thanked his lucky stars that Simmons Drums were released to the market in time for this tour. Without them, the precise percussion that was the foundation [via Linn Drum originally] on the albums drawn from for this set would have faltered with only acoustic drums. “Head” from “Dirty Mind” in particular, benefited from the precise thwacks that Bobby Z. was able to give the song live, but the song’s greatest asset was the lascivious synth solo that Dr. Fink was able to give the song live; making Prince’s original solo sound positively chaste in comparison. After it was delivered, the song sped into a little over two minutes of “Uptown” to finish the “Dirty Mind” portion of the set. It seemed like a tease, in comparison. I would have wanted more in concert. Then Lisa Coleman got the synth spotlight with a chance to solo for a few minutes as she crafted the intermezzo to the concert.

Surprisingly, the then new B-side to the “1999” single was given the spotlight in an expansive rendition of just Prince and piano, finger snaps, tambourine, and lush close harmony singing by the band. The song normally stood at 3-4 minutes, but here, Prince teased the audience [who was with him every step of the way] into twice that with his increasingly provocative raps measured in between the backing bursts of “how come U don’t call me” on the beat. This continued for as long as Prince could stretch it until he declared “aw let’s go… she ain’t gonna call” and the song wrapped up, abruptly.

The second half of the set delved deeper into “1999.” “Automatic” was recast in a very different light as the machine-tooled, aerodynamic precision of the all-Prince + machines album version was translated to a much less clinical arrangement. One with room for the guitars and bass to manifest at the song’s midpoint; taking the pneumatic track into the red for some visceral Rock music grit.

The live version of “International Lover” was announced by Lisa Coleman in stewardess mode, but overall, the live version, while longer, was a less campy take with none of the smirk audible as on Prince’s album performance. Here, he was perhaps more serious and less tongue-in-cheek about the nature of his seduction. After his stream of pillow talk at the song’s halfway point the instrumentation took over as Prince was surprisingly quiet for the last third of the song [we’ll find out why, next] as the synth players vamped and shimmered over the beat until the destination [a.k.a. “satisfaction”] was reached.

Then the synthetic whipcrack of the “1999” intro made room for the eponymous song of the album to finally play out. It played closely to the 7′ mix before extended to the “party” call-response movement as on the LP version. Then, after the “mommy… why does everybody have a bomb” section, the song took off at midpoint for uncharted territory as the groove got embellished with further funky guitars and synth licks that expanded upon the arrangement.

Prince led the audience in a call-and-response volley, giving our ears the extended 12″ mix of “1999” that were were secretly pining for. After a second drop of the “mommy” speech, the guitars got specially crunchy while the synths became climactically church like, leading the song to a powerful apotheosis over eight minutes in. Don’t let the timing I listed fool you. There then came two minutes of cheering before the encore!

Which was a dramatically reconfigured “D.M.S.R.” The tune was familiar enough to its halfway point, but the it shifted gears dramatically with a whole new phase of melodic development as the shimmering synthesizers began working their way up the octaves as the guitar and bass syncopated with the rhythm to build up the pressure, where it finally plateaued for a few bars before the “don’t worry” voice returned to signal the end of the show.

It was certainly a treat to hear the differences between the album and in concert renditions of this material. The tape used here was a soundboard recording and drummer Bobby Z’s brother and Prince confidante David “Z” Rivkin must have worked wonders to get this show mixed in to this level of coherence. At times, especially early on, one can hear Prince obviously moving around onstage vigorously, as he drifted from mic to mic; sometimes being picked up primarily from the monitors. He was definitely not wireless. At times backing vocals and guitars were also variable in the mix. The lack of glib slickness is a big plus with me. This is just the sort of live recording that may have a lot of sweat put into its production, but it’s nevertheless a more honest document of the show than a multitrack remote truck recording where almost every voice and instrument might have been re-recorded in the studio to simulate a highly idealized “live album.” This was recorded probably for review as a matter of course and it sat there for almost 40 years to give the teenagers in us a glimpse into what it was to experience Prince immediately before the flashpoint of superstardom. Taking Post-Disco studio music made by a single person and letting a Rock band cut loose on it.

Next: …Prince In Tejas

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Superdeluxe Box Of Prince’s “1999” Proves Nothing Succeeds Like Excess [part 12]

  1. zoo says:

    As a Florida guy, I can appreciate everything you’re saying about Orlando, Lakeland, and Tampa. What’s amazing is that a mere 2 years later Prince and co. were playing the Orange Bowl. They blew up huge! Not that I was there (I was 13 years old), but I remember it was a big deal in Miami where I grew up and was living at the time. The other thing that stands out is that the show was on Easter Sunday.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Glad you know the score and can appreciate the feel, even as a youngster at the time. The “1999” tour documented the crossover from a predominantly black audience with the white audience blowing up after “Little Red Corvette” hit big. I’ve read band members recounting how quickly the shift happened as the white, Top 40 audience discovered Prince. That he had a platinum selling double album in 1982, when the record industry was still in a several-year slump as the double sucker punch of Rock complacency, and video games were taking a huge bite out of the formerly rosy music industry, was amazing. Especially when to most people, “1999” was effectively his debut album. I totally understand the love for “Purple Rain” though! There’s nine good reasons why it sold millions of copies. When I look at the dispiriting lists of top selling albums of all time, “Purple Rain” is the only one where I can breathe a sigh of relief amid the gastric distress.

      Like

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