Label : “Eye” Records / Purple Underground
Catalogue : #24-25-26-27-28
5Disc Length : 77:07 / 78:44 / 78:50 / 79:05 / 78:27
Source : Audience Recordings
Date/Venue : O2 Arena, London 7,11, August 2007
Sound Quality : VG+ / EX
Year Of Release : 2007
Fink's Comments (rates this release 4.75/5.0)
The second instalment of the "Eye" Records / Purple Underground releases documenting the London summer 2007 shows, and in terms of sound quality the majority of the content is as excellent as the previous release 'Down By The River Thames' with some very impressive source recordings for the most part. This particular release concentrates on the 2nd week with Discs 1 and 2 featuring the 7th August 2007 main concert and it's undoubtedly the best quality audio currently circulating from this show.
The sound is superb with very minimal crowd noise outside of a few moments of handclapping, and even then it's hardly intrusive. The show is upfront and clear, and if I were to allow myself one tiny criticism (and it is a tiny one), it would be that the sound is a little too sterile - but it all boils down to personal taste. That said, I am in no way criticising the recording as it warrants great praise. The show itself is slightly erratic and begins with a 10 minute, 5 song solo(ish) guitar medley which in all fairness is better suited towards the end of the show. Because of the slow start, the show takes a while to warm-up and it isn't until the aborted 'Give It To Me Baby' that Prince seems to find his groove, followed in quick succession by the more familiar 'Play That Funky Music'. The 7 song piano medley is a real highlight and includes a rare performance of 'Do Me, Baby' followed by a very funky 'I Wanna Be Your Lover' which Prince begins at the piano before being joined by the band. We tread familiar - but enjoyably familiar - ground for the remainder of the show until the 10 minute encore of 'Get On The Boat' which features an appearance by Grupo Fantasma. Not a bad main show, but hardly adventurous and the excellent recording certainly makes it far more enjoyable than it perhaps may otherwise be.
Disc 2 moves on with 18 minutes from the 11th August main concert, and whilst the recording is still of a very high standard, the audience are far more audible. The usual solo guitar trio of 'Little Red Corvette / Raspberry Beret / Sometimes It Snows In April' has been slightly altered for this concert to include the band joining Prince for 'Raspberry Beret', however it is rather short and the crowd take over the vocals with Prince merely strumming along. Disc 2 ends with the opening portion of the 3121 Aftershow with Grupo Fantasma acting as an aftershow support act (with Prince joining on guitar for a few tracks) before Prince and the NPG join for their set, and it's at this point the release really rises to another level. The quality of the recording used for Prince's aftershow is of stunning clarity, sharpness and depth. If I had to find fault with it, it would be a few audience members during both the opening 'I Like It There' and 'Stratus' who are slightly audible, and Prince's shrieking (in a good way) guitar on 'Stratus' is a little piercing - other than that, I have zero complaints and it's a beauty. From the opening guitar-thrashing 'I Like It There' through the short burst of 'Outa-Space' on to 'Superstition' - each one better and funkier than the last. Unfortunately Mike Phillips takes over vocals for one too many songs, namely 'Superstition' and adds pointless add-libbing which begins to grate after a while - 'Stratus' really doesn't need it. Clocking in at a little over 45 minutes minutes long (Prince & The NPG's set including the closing 'Oye Mi Rumba') this is a short, but very sweet aftershow.
Discs 4 & 5 contain the 11th August (am) aftershow also featuring Beverley Knight's support set. Previously circulating on the '...For Your Memories - 21 Nights In London Vol. O5' release in poor quality, anything better would have been welcome, and "Eye" Records have given us a vastly superior recording here, but it's VG+ rating at best. It's overall very heavy, and Beverley Knights set in particular suffers from bizarrely overpowering backing vocals which on occasion drown out the entire band and Beverley Knight herself. Unfortunately they don't manage to drown out the ignorant cunts shouting "Get off", "We want Prince" or "No more" - worth pointing out the accents are not all British too. For the most part Beverley Knight's set is good, but understandably not too interesting for anyone after this release. An added chant borrowed from 'My Name Is Prince' of "His name is Prince, and he is funky..." along with a short burst of the 'Housequake' drums and the tiniest of tiny snippets of 'Sexy MF' being the only Prince-related happenings. The NPG join onstage during 'Keep This Fire Burning' before Prince appears during both 'Keep This Fire Burning' and 'Piece Of My Heart' - the latter guitar solo performance, alas, being almost inaudible due to technical issues. Prince's short aftershow follows and thankfully the recording improves and it's a solid VG+ recording bordering on EX- in places.
There is some movement during the early stages of the show, presumably the person recording moving position, and the recording benefits greatly from the change. The vocals are harsh throughout, but it's a vast improvement from Beverley Knight's set with vastly reduced audience noise and is a far clearer, cleaner recording. The 70 minute Prince & the NPG set is enjoyable, but unremarkable due in part to a large portion given over to Shelby with Prince blending into the background for the majority of the mid-section. Things pick up immensely for the 'Controversy / A Love Bizarre' jam and the performance of 'Sweet Thing' is noteworthy for each of the females (Marva, Shelby and Beverley Knight) each taking a verse. The closing section of the show is probably the most enjoyable with a frenetic '3121' including a vast array of snippets, horn-lines and added lyrics.
Certainly a vastly superior recording to the previous version, and even with it's fair share of problems, they mainly only plague the Beverley Knight set. The release includes an impressive 14 page booklet following along the same lines of the 'Down By The Riverside' booklet with the tracklistings made to resemble the London Underground and various 3121.com "Spy Reports" for the corresponding shows included in the set. Overall a very high quality release.