March 30, 2004
Prince Live in LA 3/29/04 - Union Square Simulcast
This is going to be very long and probably not well written or interesting to non-fanatics.
In a word, superb. All fun and sexiness, no more weird vibes or creepy religiosity. Gotta be the best show he's done in years, except maybe (maybe) his Paisley Park birthday celebrations.
Same band we've been seeing, minus Maceo. Set was fairly similar to his NY aftershow at Club Black on March 15th, and like that show it started off kinda slow, magnified by some spotty sound and lighting. At the aftershow he introduced the band with a bluesy rendition of Miles Davis/Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," but tonight they jumped right into "Musicology", which was aiite but seemed a lot funkier in person (where he stretched it out more and sang "I Like the Way You Move" over it).
Next (going from memory) came Let's Go Crazy and a weirdly disjointed When Doves Cry followed by I Would Die 4 U. Prince looking real happy and playful, doing lots of dancing. In general he seems to shine more on slow songs than uptempo joints these days, and the highlight of this early section was "Shhh." Voice and guitar in top form, as they were throughout the night, steady giving me chills. John Blackwell dropped a drumstick during his patented catch-the-sticks-in-my-teeth drum solo, that's what you get for being such a showoff all the time!
Somewhere in there was a so-so "I Feel For You", pretty funky "DMSR", even funkier "Controversy". He seems to shy away from doing the falsetto parts on these uptempo joints and stays in a lower register, which worked much better on "Controversy" than "I Feel 4 U". Then the band went into an instrumental version of "God," showcasing Renato Neto's keys and Candi Dulfer's sax while Prince went to change outfits. And just like at Club Black this was when things really heated up, as he returned to rip the shit out of the The Beautiful Ones. I guess he saves his falsetto for this part, cuz all of a sudden he's killing all the screams and high notes.
This kicks off a set of slow songs (all complete, no medley crap) that showcase Prince at his absolute best.. there is nobody, nobody who can come close to the charisma, the musicianship and showmanship, the total command of the stage that Prince displays when he's in the zone like this. Even after having seen him 10+ times, it is stunning. After "Nothing Compares to U" the band started another groove and jaws dropped thoughout the theater, just like they did at Club Black, as the crowd buzzed with murmurs of "I know he's not doing Insatiable???" Oh, but he was.
Then came a nicely funked-up new arrangement of Sign of The Times, then Question of U, worked seamlessly into a merciless asswhooping of "The One," with some Alicia Keys "Fallin" thrown in for good measure. Ridiculously intense vocals and guitar throughout.. at this point he'd done about 57 mind-blowing solos already, with another 58 yet to come (so I'll forgive him for not touching the bass all night).
Now without letting us catch a breath they start another uptempo set with Let's Work and U Got the Look, followed by an admirably funky cover of Hot Pants, with vocals from his new track "Life of the Party." This groove is the funkiest he's gotten onstage in years, finally not funk-lite but some actual fonk. Prince invited fans to come onstage and dance with him and pretty soon the stage was packed.
And not filled with a bunch of Plastic Beautiful People either, but just regular folks, which is what I love about Prince's shows. I've always hated how at MTV's award shows and most events of that ilk they pad the front of the crowd with models and such, to make sure everyone on camera is pretty. Prince has never been on that tip, his shows always bring such a diverse audience cuz he creates an atmosphere that is welcoming to everybody, just like his music has always provided a space where all us nerds and freaks can feel at home. Prince was having so much fun joking around and dancing with everybody.. His rep for being a jerky egomaniac is probably well-deserved but there's also a side to him that's so sweet and gracious, that comes out at times like this when he interacts with the fans.
After Take me With U and Kiss he said goodnight, but a message immediately flashed on the screen warning us "Don't go anywhere, Prince will be right back!" followed by 5 or 10 minutes of goofy messages like "Prince has had 19 pop hits in the last 20 years... Prince recently gave a Grammy performance that has never been equalled.." Uhh the grammy thing was cool but let's not get crazy.
Then he came out for the encore that was missing from NY's aftershow (dammit), which turned out to a spellbinding solo acoustic set, this time on acoustic guitar instead of the piano from past tours, with Mike Scott backing him up here and there. All complete songs this time, no bits and pieces like the old piano medleys. Forever in My Life, a little rap about "Real Playas," the hilarious blues number he did in NY about "something's funky baby, is that your breath or mine?" and a delicious blues version of his new track "On the Couch." Then Little Red Corvette (solo acoustic Little Red Corvette!) and Sometimes It Snows in April (!!!), which really got to me. Good thing the lights were down. The band came back in halfway through "Seven", then we came to the finale, which you can probably guess was Purple Rain. Normally me and my crew's cue for a bathroom break, but it hit the spot here, wrapped things up nicely.
Let me reiterate, this will be the best tour he's done in years. Don't miss it. Forty-eleven times better than that "Live at the Alladin" DVD, and utterly annihilates the New Years Eve pay-per-view a few years back, and whichever tour I saw at Jones beach (Hit and Run?), and so on. If you haven't seen Prince live yet, or know someone you want to turn into a believer, this tour is the one to catch.