To promote The Gold Experience album, Prince embarked on The Ultimate Live Experience tour from 1995 to 1996. Like the Act I and Act II tours in 1993, this outing had two legs with different vibes. That's because, both times, a milestone took place in the middle of the tour.
Prince changed his name to the Love Symbol between Act I and Act II. His relationship with Warner Bros. was also becoming strained, and you can see the impact of his frustration--and boredom--on the second leg, which made it an inferior show. The opposite occurs with The Ultimate Live Experience. Prince had been pressuring the record label to release The Gold Experience, and he finally got his wish between the two phases of the tour. Additionally, by the second leg, he was much closer to being emancipated from his contract. That show takes on a more loose, creative vibe than the previous iteration.
But both legs are enjoyable. In fact, I think it's slowly becoming one of my favorite Prince tours! Though the set looks like it took a while to construct, the concert is relatively stripped down. The NPG is smaller; the horns are gone and Mayte Garcia is the lone dancer. If you catch the right footage, you can see how Prince responds to a band member's error (not a pretty sight). Otherwise, he appears to be in good spirits, and even relaxed on some songs. You see him let his guard down and even sing in his lower register on tracks like "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and "Letitgo." Overall, this is some of his best dancing, singing and playing. Seriously.
Here are the performances that stood out to me.
Confession: I often skip this track when I'm playing The Gold Experience. To me, "Eye Hate U" is the better ballad on the album. While Michael Bland's drumming is spectacular, the lyrics are rather bland to me. But live, Prince's guitar sings.
"Days of Wild"
This..,might be my favorite of the very few Prince raps I enjoy. However, it's all about that bass guitar, especially on the second leg of the tour.
This song seems silly at first, but it is a really well-done production (love that baritone sax). I let it play because it's fun, and I enjoy hearing Prince's singing get more frantic with each verse ("This about the freaks doing everything they wanna do now!"). But when you hear it live...whew! Prince isolates the background vocals, which are a treasure trove of harmony and arrangement. He is a master! (The rapping is a little...less precise.)
This is here only because of the choreography. His double turn is clean.
Prince has some pretty intriguing arrangements on this tour and "Pink Cashmere" doesn't disappoint. He finds a way to swing this song, and I love the dramatic ending. He's got some soulful vocal runs in there, and Tommy Barbarella's hair flips are on 10.
"(Lemme See Your Body) Get Loose!"
This is when I woke up during the show. I am not a fan of the original version of this song, but after viewing Prince's wild, ridiculous and mesmerizing dance solo, I am now hooked on this remix. I've stopped skipping the version on the Crystal Ball album now, which I never thought would happen. ("Motherf*$%#@s!")
"I Love U in Me"
This isn't a song I revisit often, but there's something about hearing it live on guitar instead of on piano on the record. It's captivating.
"Starfish and Coffee"
Here's what I tweeted after I saw this for the first time.
"Man, the NPG was getting even tighter at the beginning of ‘96 before #Prince switched up the band. Watching them perform this Latin jazz rendition of “Starfish and Coffee.” Good lord, Michael, Sonny and Tommy!"
Man, the NPG was getting even tighter at the beginning of ‘96 before #Prince switched up the band. Watching them perform this Latin jazz rendition of “Starfish and Coffee.” Good lord, Michael, Sonny and Tommy!— Erica Thompson (@Miss_EThompson) July 22, 2020
The guitar solo is a must-hear.
I'm biased because this is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs. He takes it to church live. Mayte Garcia and the props are a little distracting here. Just try your best to enjoy the organ.
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