Sunday, July 8, 2007

"Is this my hometown?"

What a weekend! I'm back from a road trip to Minneapolis for Prince's homecoming show. As always, it was a great time and well worth the time and toil it took to get there.

First, the show at the Target Center:
I never got final word on what the cause was, but we were lined up outside of the venue until between 9 and 9:30, and the show was to start at 8:30. Prince finally took the stage at 10pm. We couldn't quite make out what they were playing over the PA, but my guess is that it was the upcoming Planet Earth album. From what I heard it sounded good, but clearly I can't make an accurate assessment. We were initially to get copies of the album at the show (a la Musicology), but for whatever reason, that didn't happen.

I didn't know what to expect from the setlist, given that he isn't touring, but has been doing the Vegas thing and had some shows in LA recently. I was a little surprised that his setlist was so hits heavy. In fact, it was fairly similar to a Musicology tour setlist (you know, the tour which was the last time he would play the hits - how soon we forget!). That was a bit of a letdown for me. But that might be simply because this was my 5th Prince show in the last 10 years, and I'm a geek. Still, some of the hits sounded really good in terms of arrangement - particularly U Got the Look and Kiss.

More importantly, Wendy Melvoin was on board, as we'd hoped. She didn't play on every song, but came and went as needed. One particular treat here was a set of just Prince, Wendy and their guitars. The version of "Sometimes it Snows in April" here was a big highlight for me.

The selist was littered with a few covers as well. The version of Gnarls Barlkey's "Crazy" was good, but one thing that always annoys me about Prince concerts is the excessive showcasing of his band members. I would much rather have heard Prince singing this tune. And I could have done without the extended Renato Neto/Mike Phillips instrumental take of What a Wonderful World. I always feel like these little excursions kill the energy of the show. At any rate, I was floored when he launched into the Cars' hit "Let's Go." First of all, this seemed an unlikely song for him to cover; secondly, The Cars are one of my favorite bands of the late 1970s/early 1980s; thirdly, it ROCKED. A great surprise, to be sure.

The other huge highlight (potentially 'the' highlight) for me was when I saw a set of timbales carted out onto the stage. Shelia E. joined Prince for a brief runthrough of Let's Go Crazy, before launching into A Love Bizarre. This is one of my very favorite Prince compositions, and my first thought was "they'll play about a verse of this." Fortunately, they ran through the entire song, and jammed out after the verses were through. This was followed up by a full version of The Glamorous Life, which was also great to hear live.

Final comments: Although the setlist was hugely predictable, the aforementioned special moments made it all worthwhile. Not the best Prince show I've seen, and not the worst.


Purple Rain
Take Me With U
Musicology/Prince & the Band
Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry)
Let’s Go (the Cars)
What a Wonderful World (inst.)

Just Prince & Wendy:
Little Red Corvette
Raspberry Beret
The One U Wanna C (new song - liked it a lot)
Sometimes It Snows in April

Come Together (Beatles)
Do Me Baby (Prince on piano next for songs)
I Wanna Be Your Lover
How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?
Diamonds & Pearls (just a snippet)
Cream (back on guitar)
U Got the Look
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Black Sweat
Let’s Go Crazy (minus all the verses, plus Sheila E.)

A Love Bizarre (Sheila E.)
Crazy (Shelby Johnson on vocals)
Nothing Compares 2 U
Glamorous Life (Sheila E.)


Then it was on to the aftershow at First Avenue, Prince's first appearance there since the warmup gig for the Sign 'O' the Times tour in March 1987. As soon as this was announced, I knew I had to do everything I could to be there. We left Iowa City at 4am on Saturday morning to get in line for tickets at First Ave, which went on sale at 3. We arrived around 8am, and there were somewhere between 250-300 people wrapped around the building. After a long, hot day on the sidewalk, we secured tickets.

I'll preface this by saying that I've never been to First Avenue, Paisley Park, or any form of an aftershow by Prince. So this was even more exciting for me.
The aftershow was absolutely the highlight of the weekend. I was excited about this for days, but when Prince took the stage at 2:45am at First Avenue, I was dumbfounded. I kept thinking (to myself) and saying (out loud) "Holy shit, I can't believe that this is happening." I was about 8-10 people back from the stage, and we were PACKED onto that dancefloor. To utilize a relevant quote, the Kid was in rare form. Wendy and Sheila played with him for the entire set, and Larry Graham showed up as well.

I'm trying to recall a show that had the amount of energy that the crowd at First Avenue projected, myself included. Despite being tightly packed in, we were all dancing, singing, doing whatever motions Prince dictated, etc. It was really something.

"3121" sounded incredible live, and the crowd was very amped. They jammed on this for a while before going into "Girls and Boys," which was both unexpected, and probably my favorite part of the aftershow. Vous et tres belles, mama. Once Larry Graham showed up, it was obvious that there would be a string of Sly and GCS tunes. While not a fan of Graham's persona, he is an amazing bass player, and these songs sounded great (especially when Prince took the mic).

My only complaint is once again too much showcasing of band members. The brass excursion of "Down By the Riverside" was great, but the Shelby J songs were a bit of a buzzkill.

Actually, that's a lie. My biggest complaint is that it was shut down by the cops. At one point, I noticed a suit at the side of the stage signaling to Prince. After "Alphabet Street," the band left the stage. A minute or so later, Prince came out to thanks us and to say that unfortunately, the cops were making them stop. Apparently there is an ordinance which requires such establishments to close at 3, even if they've ceased serving alcohol. So that was unfortunate, especially looking at the rest of the setlist. But he got in a solid 70 minutes or so, and I have absolutely no regrets about the trip, the money or the time. And of course, it was also special seeing him in First Avenue given the history of the venue, as well as its relationship with Prince. If only everything hadn't been pushed up by the late start at the Target Center. Ah well. Hopefully there will be other opportunities in the future.

Aftershow setlist:

Girls & Boys
I Feel 4 U
"Cockeyed Woman"
Down by the Riverside (instrumental featuring horn section)
Gotta Broken Heart Again
Love Is a Losing Game (Amy Winehouse tune sung by Shelby J)
Love Changes (Mother’s Finest tune, by Shelby again)
Thank You (w/ Larry Graham on bass)
Hair (w/Larry Graham)
Sing a Simple Song (w/ Larry Graham)
Everyday People (w/Larry Graham)
Alphabet Street

What was left on the setlist, according to the Star Tribune:
Baby Love
The Dance
Let’s Go
The Question of U
Black Sweat Kiss


pete said...

You lucky lucky man... and Prince covering a Cars classic?? Awesome! You never know what to expect with this guy (other than the fact that he insists that Shelby ham it up for a few songs. "Buzzkill" is a good way to put it, imho.

Kevin Sartori said...

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