Here at Paste, we’re still reeling from the awful news of Prince’s death and poring through our archives to pay tribute to the Purple One. Listen to Paste’s Prince radio station here, and check out two incredible sets from 1993 at the DNA Lounge in the players above and below.
1993 would prove to be a most confusing and controversial year in Prince’s career. After establishing himself as one of the most talented, influential, and flamboyant live acts in the music business and at the absolute peak of his success, Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph, which the press soon translated as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (or TAFKAP). In an effort to assert his independence from contractual obligations and the tyranny of record companies unable to cope with his prolific output and eccentric nature, Prince would engage in a public battle with Warner Brothers that would escalate to massive proportions, as he took steps to eliminate all restrictions on his creative output.
His 12th album, released the previous year, which was the first under the new moniker (since known as the “Love Symbol” album), marked the debut of Prince’s hot new band, the New Power Generation. Prince and this new funk-fortified outfit was arguably the most exciting live act on the planet in 1993 and the tour, known as the Act 1 Tour, captivated the attention of nearly everyone that experienced it, selling out large venues at nearly every stop on the tour. In select cities, Prince and his band would occasionally play unannounced aftershow parties at local nightclubs, often into the wee hours of the night. These aftershows were the hippest place to be and provided Prince and the New Power Generation musicians had the ability to intimately connect with a small audience of hardcore fans. These performances also allowed Prince to experiment with his music, performing new, unreleased and cover material as suited his spontaneous whims. These performances often took on an even wilder abandon than the official concert dates and those lucky enough to attend experienced something not soon forgotten.
The Act 1 Tour hit San Francisco on April 10, 1993 and San Jose the following night. One of the most memorable aftershows occurred after the San Jose date, when Prince and the New Power Generation returned to San Francisco and partied into the wee hours at San Francisco’s DNA Lounge. Taking the stage at 3:30am, they proceed to tear it up for another two sets before a highly enthusiastic small club audience. Taped by the Bill Graham Presents crew, who provided sound reinforcement for this late night appearance, this remarkable recording faithfully captures Prince and the New Power Generation in high spirits, laughing and joking their way through two sets jam packed with the undeniably danceable, sex-fueled style of music that made Prince such a phenomenon. During this week, Prince was experiencing a case of bronchitis, but he actually embraces this and even uses it to his advantage. With his voice a little deeper and more nasal-sounding than usual, he often sounds incredibly similar to There’s A Riot Going On-era Sly Stone, one of his biggest influences.
After the wild first set (also available here in the Concert Vault), Prince and The New Power Generation take an intermission to rejuvenate. When they return for the second set, it is well past 4am, but despite the time, they show no signs of fatigue and are prepared to crank things up another notch. Vintage material, several choice covers, a yet-to-be released number, and closing with another taste of the “love symbol” album, this unusual set has it all.
It all starts with one of the slinkiest laidback grooves ever written, the Staples Singers’ classic, “I’ll Take You There.” In a deeper than usual voice that has further deteriorated from his bout with bronchitis, Prince sounds remarkably similar to Sly Stone, which only further enhances a terrific performance. For the next number Prince dips way back in his catalogue to “Sexy Dancer” from his 1980 self-titled second album, pairing it up with George Clinton’s infectious “Let’s Get Satisfied.” The former is synth-fueled Minneapolis-styled dance music of the highest caliber and includes Sonny T delivering an extraordinary finger-popping bass solo complete with unison scat singing. While vamping on “Let’s Get Started,” a band member can be heard calling out for George Clinton’s “Flashlight,” but Prince opts for Clinton’s equally intoxicating “Let’s Get Satisfied” instead. Containing super punchy horns and smoking hot lead guitar fills from Prince, this is a great example of the various facets of the band and how they interlock. It also contains a humorous country & western flavored tease during a call-and-response jam with the audience, before dropping back into the original groove to hammer it home.
The humorous exchange with the audience, which is now going nuts, continues into the intro of the next number, but then gets a bit more serious as the group dives into the bluesy “Papa,” a song about domestic child abuse that would surface the following year on the Come album. At this point, Prince switches over to bass and delivers the incredible Larry Graham-influenced bass solo from “777-9311.” This segues back into humorous territory with “Hair.”
The remainder of the set is astonishingly hot and makes a strong case for Prince & The New Power Generation being the greatest band on the planet during this time. Performed instrumentally, this begins with a truly ferocious take on Tower Of Power’s “What Is Hip?” With its sizzling guitar work, fiery horn charts, and one of the hottest percolating grooves ever, it simply doesn’t get more incendiary that this, and indeed, this version of “What Is Hip?” is a strong contender as performance of the night.
With the morning sunrise approaching, they head into the home stretch with one more vintage number, followed by a final helping from the “love symbol” album. Dipping way back into his catalogue, Prince and the group first deliver the romantic rocker from the 1980 Dirty Mind album, “When You Were Mine,” before wrapping it up with the first single off the newest album, “Sexy MF.” On this final propulsive jam, the rhythm guitar initially sets the pace and the horn section establishes the groove. When the entire band kicks in, the momentum is powerful, no doubt turning the DNA Lounge into a seething mass of dancing bodies. Utilizing lyrics from “Love To The 9s” as well as “Sexy MF,” they spontaneously morph both songs together. With soulful rapping that gets the audience involved in one last call-and-response, a wonderfully jazzy guitar solo from Levi Seacer, and a bass and drum break that showcases just how tight and propulsive Prince’s new rhythm section is, this is another fine example of how gracefully he blends divergent styles of music into new forms all his own.