Tokyo Dome 1990
In 1990, Prince’s Nude Tour was an interesting culmination of the various live experiences he had offered to date; it wasn’t quite a pivot, but then it wasn’t really ever in celebration of either of his recently released studio albums. Yeah, you could hear a track or two from both his Batman “soundtrack” and Graffiti Bridge, but you weren’t getting layers of new songs and just a hit or two. At the same time, it wasn’t quite a greatest hits set – because some of the hits were reworked anew (Little Red Corvette) and some of the new songs were treated like giant hits (Partyman).
But the Tokyo Dome show of 1990 was incredible for its energy – and went some way towards reminding people of the power of Prince as a live act. Sure, every tour from 1982 through 1988 had done that, but they were all in service of albums. In the 1990s Prince would just flourish as a live act regardless of the product to pimp. In fact this is how it was for him from Tokyo Dome onwards.
But the most important thing about the show – for me, anyway, and for a generation of Prince fans – was that we got to see it. A live document existed on VHS. In my case, it was late night music TV. I made my own video. Watching it hundreds of times. Okay, so it didn’t have every song on it – but that finite piece of magic was, for a time, the only thing that mattered.
I arrived at it already a fan, I not only knew the albums from across the decade before – that amazing decade – but I knew the concert films, the footage that made up Purple Rain, that kick-ass show from a couple of years earlier when the superstar started to emerge (the 1999 tour) and the Sign O’ The Times masterclass live-for-show concert film, as well as the brilliant follow-up Lovesexy tour. Prince was already well on a roll. But my fandom had fully kicked in by the time of the Nude Tour. As a just teen growing up in Hawke’s Bay, you had to couch your Prince fanaticism. You were probably going to present as something ‘weird’ (like that mattered – oh but it did back then) for merely liking a genius-level pop star. It was a funny old time.
So, alone, you could watch and learn and marvel as Prince played guitars and pianos and sang high and low and went from balladry to rock and back, via R’n’B.
I’ve no doubt that what cemented my fandom was Prince’s 1990 Nude Tour. After that I was just all in. That and the Batman soundtrack. And after that everything for a while. And back to collect up anything I’d missed. And staying on to taste through the works.
So, sure, I’ve had bootleg versions of this – but it’s now out and about for everyone – and there to own as a double-CD or have in your streaming channels. And I just wanted to help spread the word on that. I’ve been listening to this again and feeling like it’s brand new. And this is a time when I’m very selective around my Prince listening. It’s hard for me to just dial straight back in and turn it up. Some of those albums are heartbreakingly hard to listen to now. Sometimes it snows right through April. And sometimes it feels like April for every single month of the year. But Tokyo Dome 1990 is just a good-time party. A showcase that shows off every angle.
When Doves Cry might not have seemed like the easiest song to pull off live – something so brilliant about that definitive studio take – but here it is. And when the bass is added, it’s affected and as an effect, not as an actual bassline. But then something even more amazing happens in the dying minute. The piano playing feels like a jazz/soul masterclass, something many musicians would want to work a lifetime for – and it’s just one single minute. That’s true of Partyman too. It’s true of the vocalisations that take Alphabet Street to strange and weird, new places. It’s true of the crunchy-funk takes on The Future and Housequake, the confidence to rock through Bambi, forever a lost classic in my view; that same confidence that makes Batdance more than just a gimmick, has Take Me With U as bigger than it’s ever been – or will ever be again – and that knows to just stand and deliver the big ones: 1999, Purple Rain, Kiss, these are monumental pop hits, written to stand alongside the greats by anyone else.
I want everyone that’s never been sure about Prince’s magic to hear the Tokyo Dome 1990 live album. I want any lapsed fan to be back on track with this. I want this to be the new Prince classic for you. Or a welcome reminder of what was once your favourite, now back in the rotation.
These days when I listen to Prince I get a bit choked up.
When I found this version of Tokyo Dome 1990 I was elated, thrilled, so as much as I wanted to cry, my soul wanted to dance. And that’s the twin experiences I feel for this music now. Just as Prince’s merging of the profound and profane was both a clever gimmick and a lifetime of rich rewards, I’m struck by that lifetime being cut short and I guess I feel like there are new answers even as we feel like we posed all of the questions. I already knew he was almost never better than when he hit out that night in the Tokyo Dome. But this feels like a whole new set of exclamation marks.
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