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Sanaa Hamri

Prince's 1st Official NPG Music Club Concert DVD!

Brilliant musician and charismatic performer, Prince has, remarkably, transfixed the pop-music world for over 20 years. Not since the Beatles has an artist's music so gracefully crossed the boundaries of nearly every musical genre, earning the universal admiration of musicians, the critical establishment and record-buying public.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English PCM Stereo
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 72 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 8/19/2003

• Bonus Clip: “The Ride”

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Prince: Live at the Aladdin, Las Vegas (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 14, 2004)

Since I’ve detailed my feelings about Prince’s sad musical decline in detail elsewhere, I’ll not delve into the topic too heavily here. Suffice it to say that a decade ago, I was an enormous Prince fan, but all of the dreck he’s produced since then has seriously taxed my patience and left me in serious danger of not bothering with his future work.

Actually, that’s not just a danger. I didn’t pick up his 3-CD release One Nite Alone – Live, and I also skipped his most recent studio album, NEWS. I saw the tour from which Nite came and didn’t like it, so why relive that? I was more open to NEWS, but based on all the comments I’ve heard about it, I thought there was a very slim chance at best that I’d even be able to make it through one listening.

But I’m not totally closed off to Prince, so I decided to give his new DVD a look. Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas comes from the end of the “One Nite Alone” tour. Staged on December 15, 2002, the DVD features an abbreviated version of the show. Technically, it includes 15 songs, though that’s not truly accurate. We only get half of a verse of “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” before Prince audibles and launches into “The Work” instead. In addition, “Strollin’” and “U Want Me” come together as one tune, which slightly abbreviates both.

The setlist for Aladdin spans a mix of releases. Four songs from Prince’s abysmal then-current The Rainbow Children appear: “1+1+1=3”, “The Work”, “Family Name” and “The Everlasting Now”. Not counting the aborted “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night”, the only excursion into the Nineties features “Strollin’” from 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls.

Heading into the Eighties, we one track from 1987’s Sign O the Times: “Strange Relationship”. Another single tune emanates from 1986’s Parade via “Sometimes It Snows In April”, while 1985’s Around the World In One Day produces “Pop Life”. The smash hit Purple Rain from 1984 adds “Take Me With U”, while we find “Gotta Broken Heart Again” from 1980’s seminal Dirty Mind. A previously unreleased song shows up as well via “U Want Me”. “Push & Pull” comes from guest star Nikki Costa, and Prince does covers of James Brown’s “Pass the Peas” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.

Overall, that sounds like a good mix of tracks, but unfortunately, Prince bludgeons them into mediocrity. My main complaint over the last few Prince tours is that he wants to turn everything into a jam. Sometimes he decides to go the James Brown route, while other times he thinks he’s Miles Davis. Whether funk or jazz, Prince loves his interminable jams. Timewise, the numbers on Aladdin don’t actually last all that long, but they sure feel like it.

Prince starts to harm songs right off the bat with “Pop Life”. A quality tune as originally performed, it starts well, but once he heads into freeform territory, matters go downhill considerably.

That tells the story of much of Aladdin. Making the punchy “Broken Heart” into a light jazz number doesn’t work, and even when the songs fit the format better – like “Strollin’”, which was always a rinky-dink tune – the results remain flat and unengaging. “Strange Relationship” begins as a nice variant on the album version, but inevitably it devolves into a pointless jam that causes me to lose interest. “1+1+1=3” seems to go on forever.

“Whole Lotta Love” at least offers an intriguing failure. Given my desire to hear Prince embrace his rock side and ignore the frigging jazz, I hoped to dig this take. Unfortunately, since his band is so heavily in tune with the jazz and funk elements, they can’t get their hands around a heavy rock song. Prince’s guitar playing adds some spark to the number, but the meandering backup neuters the number and leaves it without the appropriate punch and bite.

The core tune of “Push & Pull” does little for me, and Nikka Costa feels too much like a Janis Joplin wannabe for my liking. At least Prince whips out his guitar for some satisfying leads, which makes it one of the DVD’s more interesting numbers in the end. The same goes for “Family Name” to a lesser degree.

I still count Prince as one of the all-time great guitarists, which makes his reluctance to display his real talent all the more frustrating. Back in the mid-Nineties, he briefly explored the concept of playing in a power trio, and the results were fairly exhilarating. Too bad he doesn’t recognize that less can be more and go back that format.

Unfortunately, Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas displays too many of Prince’s faults and not enough of his strengths. At least with a running time of only 72 minutes, he doesn’t wear out his welcome; the actual “One Nite Alone” concerts pushed the three-hour mark, which made them a real endurance test. Aladdin occasionally shows sparks of Prince’s skills, but only in maddening spurts.

The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio A-/ Bonus D+

Prince: Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Initially I regarded the lack of anamorphic enhancement as a problem, but given the crappy quality of the picture, I don’t think 16X9 would have helped much.

Sharpness caused many problems. The majority of the image came across as fuzzy and indistinct. Some close-ups looked reasonably detailed, but most of the show was ill defined. Jagged edges created immense problems throughout the program. Any shots that went beyond close-ups demonstrated tons of jaggies; the farther we went, the more prominent they became. Some shimmering occurred, but the jags were the main issue; they created enormous distractions. Given the murkiness of the rest of the picture, I honestly couldn’t tell if any edge enhancement appeared. Source flaws seemed absent, at least; a little video artifacting occurred, but that didn’t appear to cause much of a problem.

Colors came mainly from lights, and those looked fairly weak. All these hues came across as heavy and runny. The tones were overly thick and lacked any vivacity or liveliness. They blanketed the image and made it even tougher to discern. Blacks seemed decent, but shadows were fairly opaque. Some of this occurred due to the heavy colors, as those rendered low-light shots as difficult to discern. Ultimately, Aladdin looked pretty terrible.

At least the PCM stereo soundtrack of Aladdin helped redeem the set. It displayed good imaging that created a nice sense of delineation among the instruments. Vocals occasionally floated a little and didn’t always seem as distinctly placed as I’d like, but they maintained a reasonably solid feeling of localization. Instruments were spread well across the spectrum and enjoyed good definition.

Audio quality also appeared pretty positive. Most of the vocals sounded natural and tight. Once or twice I noticed a smidgen of edginess, but usually the singing was concise and clear. Instruments came across as clean and crisp. High-end elements were bright and lively, and bass response seemed deep and rich. Overall, Aladdin presented a fine stereo mix that merited an “A-“.

Only one extra appears on Aladdin. We get a bonus track that features an old live staple, “The Ride”. Usually a showcase for Prince’s guitar-playing skills, the seven-minute and 35-second track indeed features much of the man’s ax-work. Unfortunately, the band lets him down again and lacks the requisite ferocity to make the song fly. It’s a decent addition nonetheless.

As with most Prince releases over the last decade, Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas presents a frustrating hodgepodge. It taunts us with hints of his talents but undermines those positives with the meandering self-indulgence that mars most of his modern work. The DVD presents terrible picture quality with very good audio and only one notable supplement. Leave Aladdin for the Prince die-hards, though even they – we? – probably won’t get much out of it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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