I consider myself one of the lucky people that actually saw one of the shows that Prince performed during his 21 Nights at the 02 Arena in London, England in the summer of 2007. In fact I wrote a very detailed blog about the experience (http://bit.ly/1Q6XZC). I’ll sum up that article by saying that this was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and the greatest concert I have ever seen. This event was so huge that I believe Michael Jackson may have died trying to top him.
The question is, can a book and CD translate to the reader/listener how exciting an event this was? The answer is: partially.
The most successful part of this package (not surprisingly) is the CD called Indigo Nights/Live Sessions CD, which is over an hour in length and is a live recording of one of Prince’s after show concerts at the Indigo2 (a smaller venue within the 02). As if it wasn’t enough that he had just performed a full length concert, on some nights he treated fans to several hours of more music. This was one of the shows I witnessed. The thing that is amazing about these shows is that it is Prince just doing whatever he wants. Don’t expect a stream of hits from one of these shows (although Alphabet St. and Delirious are in the set list).
Real fans appreciate hearing songs from the Graffiti Bridge and New Power Soul albums mashed together, as he does with his mixture of The One and The Question of U. Similarly, the CD opens with a mix of the songs 3121 and D.M.S.R. These songs weren’t hits to the regular population but they are to the “true funk soldiers.”
He plays other artist’s songs as well. This must be a huge honour for the original artists. There is an instrumental version of Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin revealing Prince’s masterful guitar playing. I’d love to play this for some Zeppelin or Hendrix freak and see the look on their face when I tell them it’s Prince. I think this track, more than any other, displays his sometimes over-looked abilities as a hard rock guitar player. Some people have trouble getting past the image, I guess.
Also included here is the astounding version of Misty Blue by vocalist Shelby J. Prince’s excitement about the talents of his band is infectious, so when he declares that “a star is born” after Shelby’s set you know that he’s right – the rest of the world just has to catch up. Saxophonists Mike Phillips and Maceo Parker (who is formerly of James Brown’s band) are highlighted as well in several dramatic solos where they are given room to cut loose.
Prince’s engaging personality and humour is always present on this disc. Sometimes this aspect of his personality is lost in his studio recordings. In some ways you haven’t really heard Prince unless you’ve heard him live. There is one song with a monologue called Just Like You where he talks about what his life was like before he was famous. It’s hard to imagine after all these decades that there was a time that he wasn’t famous. He says that he knew things had changed when a photographer told him he could retire if he could just get a photo of him and Michael Jackson together. This is what Prince’s longtime supporters want. They want to know who Prince really is, and this CD offers a glimpse.
The book, with photos by Randee St. Nicholas, is another story. It has hundreds of stylish photos of the event but it is a little bit disappointing in my opinion. As much as I can relate to Prince on a recording, the book shows the other side of Prince: wealthy, private and aloof. Many photos seem posed and enter the realm of sexual fantasy. That’s great and everything, but I guess I was hoping for something that was more of a documentation of the events that actually happened on stage – or backstage. For instance, several major rock stars came and performed with Prince. I wanted to see pictures of Prince and Paul McCartney together. If not that, can I at least see what he eats? What does a wealthy vegan have on his rider?
There are some circles of people in the fashion world who adore his style because of his boldness. And if you are someone who is interested in fashion and fashion photography then you might find this book interesting. To me the best photos are the ones of Prince actually performing. I’m a musicican so that is what I’m interested in.
I also think the inclusion of song lyrics makes the whole thing seem like an official tour booklet. One of the funkiest songs Prince has done in recent years is Chelsea Rodgers from the Planet Earth disc. But if you aren’t listening to the music the lyrics just seem nonsensical and absurd. With the funky groove, however, they are magical.
Overall, I think it is an interesting package for a CD. The problem is that it was sold as a book. Personally I did not know that there was a CD included until a year after it came out when my wife bought it for me as a birthday present. That disc is worth every single penny she spent ($50.00 Canadian).