Coming to you late tonight because I’ve been sidetracked by…you guessed it…Prince all night. Let’s rewind. I had to go to a jobsite for work today and didn’t get home until 6:00, which is exactly when the Sign O’ The Times New Year’s Eve 1986 Pre-Show started on YouTube. Prince superfan Maya Rudolph was the perfect host and interviewer for what ended up being a fascinating hour of conversation about Prince featuring his ex-fiance Susannah Melvoin, keyboardist Matt “Doctor” Fink, Saxophonist Eric Leeds, and bassist Levi Seacer, Jr. The highlight for me was a story told by Seacer. He recalled one night before a show after they had only been playing together for a few weeks. Seacer said that he didn’t know why he said it, but before the show he said “good luck” to Prince. I’m paraphrasing, but Prince turned to him and said, “We don’t need luck here. We practiced our asses off. We got here because of hard work.” Again, I’m paraphrasing, but it was an amazing story and insight in to Prince’s mentality and relentless work ethic. Here’s a link to the entire show if you’d like to check it out.
After that, the New Year’s Eve 1987 show from a brand new Paisley Park began. When it began I thought we were just going to see the exact same show from the Sign O’ The Times concert film as it opened with “Sign O’ The Times” and “Play in the Sunshine.” It soon broke off in to some of his older stuff, but never strayed far from the Sign O’ The Times stuff for long. The live version of “Adore” was mind-blowing. Late in the show he broke out some of the Purple Rain classics with “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” and a mashup of “Auld Lang Syne” and “Purple Rain” that kind of needs to be heard to be believed. It was a New Year’s Eve Parth, after all. Prince starts singing a shockingly soulful version of “Auld Lang Syne” and it becomes obvious that he doesn’t know the words and ends up making some self-deprecating jokes about it. I would’ve thought the show was going to end on “Purple Rain” except I knew from reading about the concert that Miles Davis was going to show up during “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” and they hadn’t played it yet. After an encore Prince and the band came out and what followed was 30 minutes of live music so funky and tight it had to make James Brown jealous. Until tonight I believed the Soultronics from D’Angelo’s 2000 Voodoo tour were the best live band I’d ever heard. I might have to rethink that after seeing Prince’s show. Too many highlights in the last half hour of the show to know where to begin. It was cool to see Prince on the drums while Sheila E. and Cat Glover dance and traded verses. Special shout out to Eric Leeds who damn near set the roof on fire with his tenor sax solos. Yes, The God Miles Davis did make a brief appearance in a purple suit. He appeared in the middle of the stage in a manner that made me ask, “Where the hell did he come from?” and after a four minute solo he backed out stage left and was never seen again. His portion of the show was not necessarily a highlight musically, but it felt historic to see Prince and Miles share a stage, nonetheless.
Nothing I say can do this music justice. That band was so well rehearsed it’s stupid. Prince had this band so tight they made James Brown’s bands look sloppy. I’m not exaggerating. You have to see it to believe it. Just click here and enjoy. After taunting the crowd with multiple stops and threats of, “Thank you, good night,” Prince finally said, “Y’all ain’t gonna go home until you get your ass kicked, I can see that right now. Is that a fact? Do you want your asses kicked?” As the crowd screamed Prince instructed his band to “KICK SOME ASS.” With that, they proceeded to kick ass. It must’ve been amazing to be present at Paisley Park on January 31, 1987. What a concert.
Now I’m up late enough to listen to the Super Deluxe Edition of Sign O’ The Times as it just dropped on Apple Music, but I’m going to resist. I’m picking up the vinyl copy when The Exclusive Company opens at 10:00 AM tomorrow. I’ll be there when the doors open to grab it, then I’m going to enjoy it. I actually took the day off. I got PTO, but I’m calling it Prince Time Off. Sorry, bad dad joke.
Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about “Man ‘O’ War” but really, I can’t focus on that right now. I’m too busy playing the final 30 minutes of this concert on a loop. Let’s see, what can I say? “Man ‘O’ War” first appeared on 1999’s Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. The album was a critical and commercial flop as, in my opinion, Prince was sounding too much like the R&B/hip hop/pop music of the day and less like Prince than ever. That said, “Man ‘O’ War” is a solid track that stands out because it doesn’t sound like late-90’s R&B. If anything, it sounds like an 80’s adult contemporary R&B song about heartbreak. The songwriting is solid and Prince’s vocal performance is pristine, as always. It’s not his best work, but it’s an above average Prince ballad.
In 2001 Prince released Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic full of remixes or alternate versions of most of the songs from Rave Un2 including a remix of “Man ‘O’ War.” The remix strips the originality out of the first version and leaves us with a song that sounds like every other R&B song from that era. I much prefer the 1999 version.
That’s all I have to say about “Man ‘O’ War” tonight. It’s not essential Prince by any stretch, but it’s a good song. I would skip the remix. Better yet, skip all of it and just watch the damned NYE 1987 concert on YouTube right now and thank me later. Good night now!