Prince Invites 30,000 Friends to the World’s Funkiest Soundcheck: 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Along with the honor of headlining a festival show comes several unique challenges. You’ll probably be sharing the stage with a much larger number of opening acts than at a typical concert, often on a temporary stage at an outdoor venue that wasn’t specifically designed for rock music.
Oh, and your soundcheck – if you got one – was probably a long time ago. So there’s a higher than usual chance that your amps, monitors or microphones won’t be working exactly as you’d hope when you hit the stage.
Luckily, Prince has the perfect song for these occasions.
On July 3, 2011, he played a two-and-a-half hour headlining set in front of 30,000 fans at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent, England. He kicked off the show with an as-yet unreleased track entitled “We Live (2 Get Funky),” which as you can see above, allowed him to warm up the crowd, introduce them to his band, and steer whoever was behind the soundboard into raising the on-stage acoustics up to his royal standards.
“What’s happening? Sorry for the hang. We just gonna check this sound out right quick,” Prince announced after confidently striding out to the microphone. He then led his band into the raucous, bass-heavy and boastful track, which in the great tradition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” featured a shout-out and solo instrumental spotlight for several of his band members. (Including the mighty, and sadly recently departed John Blackwell, Jr.)
Throughout the first half of the performance, you can see Prince alternating between engaging the crowd and expertly evaluating the mix and levels. He started nearly every verse with the words “soundcheck,” and occasionally he’d offer hand gestures and verbal instructions to the sound team: “these wedges are too bright.. put some ooomph in em!” “Warm up these speakers, they’re still too bright!”
After a few minutes, he offers a final (and awesome) directive – “Turn my guitar up!” – before launching into an extended solo that includes a quote from the underrated title track to his 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. Seemingly satisfied, he announces: “I think we’re alright now,” and hands the spotlight over to Shelby J. for a rap interlude.
After closing out this soundcheck / opening song hybrid with some extended Vegas vamping, Prince started the show in a more formal fashion, as the lights went down and the familiar opening keyboard riff of “Let’s Go Crazy” washed over the crowd.
Actually, whoever was behind the sound board was lucky to have a shot at the job at all. Apparently unhappy with the results he was getting from his engineers on a 1995 tour of Europe, Prince actually had his sound board moved on stage, into a special “womb” he named the “Endorphinemachine.” That way, he himself could control the mix while also, you know, handling the other small details of actually performing a live concert.
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