Many years ago, Prince's classic performance at the Tokyodome from August 31st, 1990 would be my first ever Prince bootleg DVD. Sure, I'd had a copy on video cassette for over a decade, but the thought that fans were converting their old tapes to DVDs hadn't even occurred to me until I stumbled across the disc. To make matters worse, I was still stuck on dial-up and I had to beg a friend who isn't even a Prince fan to download and burn it for me (which he graciously did).
Shortly after, I finally upgraded to high speed internet and a whole new world of bootlegs seemed opened up. In a few weeks, I'd connected to the now defunct Prince Hub and downloaded dozens more DVDs from the Prince newsgroups, which are now a ghost town.
It seems fitting that the first bootleg DVD review I'd publish would be for the first show I got on DVD, albeit a new version. After a questionable and highly overrated reissue by Fullasoul's Digital Archives (FDA), video wizard Uci has teamed up with Confusion Records to make a visually and aurally enhanced release of this brilliant broadcast that is now the definitive version.
Dubbed "a Love or Money" release, this is apparently sourced from Uci's own tape, which is either an earlier generation, or he did some superb cleanup work on it. It's not a giant leap past the Brave Records release, but is much improved compared to the overly soft FDA version. A side-by-side-by-side comparison of my three copies of this show reveals considerably less noise and pixelation, an overall sharper image, beautiful and natural colors and fleshtones, and nearly perfect sound quality.
As you can see from the three screens (captured with VLC Media Player), the Brave records release clearly has a sharper image than the FDA release, but the colors are also more washed out. The Love or Money release corrects both problems, with the sharpest image yet and incredibly natural skin tones.
You can see here the color variance between the three releases. The Brave release is again considerably sharper, with finer detail on the stage (look at the stairs, for example), but the FDA release has a wider color range. Notice how the yellow light to the left of the stage appears green in the Brave release. Comparing both to the new Love or Money release, you get the best of both worlds with increased defintion, and an even wider color range than FDA's release!
This is perhaps the most interesting comparison shot. Check out the jagged crossbeams on the stage behind Prince and you can see the Brave release seems artificially sharpened. Contrarilty, in their efforts to reduce grain, FDA was clearly overzealous with softening the image, not taking into account that grain is natural and inherent in film. The other side effect of this is it gives the entire concert a film-like appearance, unlike the original broadcast. The Love or Money release retains the grain, doesn't sacrifice sharpness, and is the most faithful to the look of a live telecast in motion.
Finally, we can see once again not only the color variances between the three releases, all of which are different with Brave being the brightest, but most washed out, and the difference in clarity. One look at Prince's hair reveals the Love or Money release is vastly superior to both of the prior releases - particularly the strand hanging over his face, which is a nearly invisible blob on the FDA release.
Aurally, the Love or Money release also comes out on top. I always thought Fullasoul's release sounded quieter than the Brave release, but Love or Money bests them both. The depth of the sound is stunning, with great echoes, excellent bass, and very little hiss. There seems to be one minor hiccup during the moment where Prince addresses the crowd prior to "Take Me With U", but it's negligible.
The concert itself is the same content we've all seen before, including those killer arrangements of "Housequake" (using the backbeat of "The Future"), "When Doves Cry", and a scintillating performance of "The Question of U". It has been reorganized from the original broadcast, which showed the songs out of sequence, but there's one tiny little thing missing: the credits.
I know, who cares, right? Well, in this case, the credits featured a snippet of Rosie Gaines performing "Ain't No Way". It's not complete, but it was part of the original broadcast, and should be included as a result. Brave edited this performance into the middle of the show, where it would have taken place, with a montage of images, while FDA left the credits intact. This release does neither, nixing the credits and the song entirely.
Also missing is the additional footage on the Fullasoul release. This is less bothersome, even though it's cool to see Prince backstage, however briefly, but I can understand not wanting to edit footage from a separate source into this release. Thankfully, the other thing missing from the FDA release is their stupid, ill-advised "anti-piracy" crawl which warns against viewers being scammed for purchasing the DVD.
Forgetting for a moment that bootlegs, by nature, are piracy, I was never quite sure who this message's target audience was. It was nothing more than an irritant to people who downloaded it for free, and if someone had already bought it, it's unlikely they'd seek a refund from the shady seller, and even less likely they'd get it. It's my belief that this was nothing more than ego-stroking on Fullasoul's part, believing the release to be so superior that it required the crawl to prevent bootleg labels from pressing their work and selling it.
Why was Fullasoul's release so highly praised? Politics. FDA was a closed and gated community, open only to "elite" fans whom they deemed worthy. Rather than objectively critique their work, people blindly praised it as the best for fear they'd be kicked out of the inner circle. In most cases they were right - Fulasoul's releases are typically the best and a lot of hard work went into them - but in this particular instance, Brave's earlier release was the better version.
No matter; we have an undisputed new champion now. The minor gripes are easily overlooked when the rest of the footage is so spectacular. This is undoubtedly the best version of one of my favorite Prince shows, eclipsing both prior versions pretty handily. If this is any indication of what to expect, hopefully this is the first of many enhanced re-releases from Uci.