Prince gives Vancouver a clinic in how to be a pop icon

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      At Rogers Arena on Friday, December 16

      Quick, now: name Prince’s last Top 40 hit. No fair checking Wikipedia. Can't do it? Neither can I, but I’m pretty sure it was something from about 15 years ago. That Prince is still headlining arenas a decade and a half later isn’t surprising: it takes a building the size of a hockey rink to contain an ego that big.

      Anyone who can put on the kind of show the Purple One turned in at Rogers Arena on Friday night has earned the right to be a little cocky, though. At 53, Prince performed with the energy of a man at least 20 years younger, and only he could get away with wearing rhinestone-spangled gold pants and mascara while still somehow maintaining his dignity.

      Over the course of a show that started almost an hour late and went on for just over two hours, the Minneapolis-born artist formerly known as an unpronounceable glyph, leading his band the New Power Generation, delivered a refresher course in Prince 101, touching on most of the hits that made him an icon. And I say “touching on” because often he would give the crowd little more than a verse and a chorus before moving along to another song. While this was surely frustrating for anyone who had come hoping to hear “When Doves Cry” or “Sign o’ the Times” in their entirety, the truncation of some songs allowed for the expansion of others. “Let’s Go Crazy”, for example, was mashed up with “Delirious” and featured some fine saxophone work by long-time James Brown sideman Maceo Parker.

      Parker also lent a hand on a medley that somehow found common ground between Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People”, the Beatles’ “Come Together”, Prince’s own “Alphabet Street”, and the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin’”. That it all flowed together seamlessly is testament to both the band’s proficiency and to its frontman’s ability to take elements from funk, rock, soul, and pop and make them his own.

      Oh, and did I mention that he can play the guitar like a motherfucker? The dude pulls off fluid and technically jaw-dropping six-string leads with the amount of effort most of us put into flossing our teeth, but it never feels gratuitous. Prince does everything for a reason, and that includes his instrumental work. A searing guitar solo actually provided “Purple Rain” with its emotional payoff, its opening notes punctuated by fusillades of purple (of course) confetti. The effect was something like a simultaneous sonic and visual orgasm, after which everyone in the room would no doubt have gone home fully satiated. It was the second song of the night.

      Prince was so fully the focus of the concert that any momentary absence on his part left a palpable void. This was the case when his three backing singers, led by the vocal dynamo Shelby Johnson, gave the full gospel treatment to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”. There might have been some significance in the choice to perform that particular number in its author’s home town, but there’s a good chance it went deeper than that. McLachlan’s inspiration for the song was the death of Jonathan Melvoin, the brother of Prince’s former Revolution bandmates Susannah and Wendy Melvoin. (Mind you, most of the audience probably just knows “Angel” as that song from the SPCA commercial that always makes them weep like babies.)

      Johnson got another turn in the spotlight when she sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” as a ludicrously over-the-top (by which I mean totally awesome) duet with Prince. That was during the first encore, before which the diminutive pop legend insisted that the band couldn't possibly continue because they had no hits left to play—and then launched into “Kiss”.

      I could go on, but there’s not really much point listing every song Prince and the NPG played (or didn’t play; no “Little Red Corvette”!). Suffice it to say that no one left Rogers Arena thinking that Prince’s place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and Sly Stone isn’t well-earned.

      Comments

      13 Comments

      Lorne

      Dec 17, 2011 at 5:03am

      Great review! I haven't heard anything from Prince in years. I actually thought he had taken up management (of a lable, group or something related to music). Must have been quite a show. Sorry I missed that one.

      Willysnail

      Dec 17, 2011 at 8:53am

      Another great concert, Prince was incredible once again, did anyone go to the aftershow?

      0 0Rating: 0

      Gregory L. Robinson

      Dec 17, 2011 at 12:08pm

      If you missed last night's show, track down a DVD of his concert film "Sign O the Times" and see what kind of ultimate entertainer is Prince.

      Jamie Leighton

      Dec 17, 2011 at 12:46pm

      He Jammed at the after party at Bar none untill 4.30 in the morning it was the most incredible thing that I have ever seen done period... I was standing a foot away from him all night in a small bar and Prince and his band rocked the joint for hours it was beyond EPIC. my wife and I had the best time of our lives I still am not sure how to explain what this incredble man and his band does but it is way more then Music..... Needless to say I ate the Purple Pill and went on the adventure of my lifetime... If your watching the show in Victoria tonight make sure your going to the afterparty if you in vancouver right now get in your car and drive there right away..... pay what ever it is you have to pay and do not miss the after party....... He gave me his pick....

      Thinker

      Dec 17, 2011 at 2:40pm

      I missed the aftershow (sold out) but agree the concert was fantastic! My brother and his gal are going to both the concert and aftershow tonight in Victoria, looking forward to their reviews.

      Ani Lopez

      Dec 17, 2011 at 2:46pm

      Prince's show yesterday night was a shame
      Fantastic show, it is true but if you love the musical genious he is and adore his music not the glitter and confetti. It was a paiful waste of money.
      No more than a karaoke-medley of his 80's hits wasting the huge talented musicians he takes on tour.

      John Blackwell, drummer: just a single rythim all night to chain one hit after another
      Ida Kristine Nielsen, bass, have you hear her? he can play 110% more funk than that!
      Andy Allo, guitar. She barelly played and competely destroyed songs like Purple Rain with a persistent chord across all song
      Maceo, hard to hear
      Female keyboar player, yes, she did the hard work
      The guy playing keyboards and firing sounds from old Prince's recors, not a decent solo
      Three backing singers, probably the best of the night
      Not a real horns section? where was FUNK with capital letters? Not in Vancouver
      Can he play the guitar like a motherfucker? YES but again, not yesterday
      Lots of pre-recorded music. Are you kidding me?

      I saw Prince years ago in Barcelona. A simble stage all in black but they played their ass off like the real musician he can be.

      0 0Rating: 0

      Ani Lopez

      Dec 17, 2011 at 4:28pm

      Ok, I see, you say "Prince was incredible once again" with no further explanations why and you get positive votes.

      Anyone can explain me why was incredible?

      after show

      Dec 17, 2011 at 7:39pm

      I was at the after show at Bar None. Got in around 1230 a/m- 100bucks cover charge. Waited till 230 for the man to get on stage. Would like to know the set list as i left early in the show. I agree about the comment on the bassist- when the band came on Shelby was the MC and got the crowd going with a call and answer funk thingy. Each memeber had a turn in the spotlight to show off their chops and the bass player was like- whoa- is that all you got. No funky slap or pop, just straight ahead high school band scale runs. Ok maybe, not that bad but obviously the weak link. The rest of the band was totally in the pocket with a drunken dark and smoky groove. They know their shit.

      Ani Lopez

      Dec 18, 2011 at 8:00pm

      I understand, nobody paying $200 or more for a ticket is going to admit it was a waste of money

      John Lucas

      Dec 19, 2011 at 9:19am

      @Ani Lopez: I didn't pay anything for my ticket (one of the perks of the job), so I didn't have anything invested in having a good time.