Prince & the New Power Generation: Flawlessly Flamboyant at the Tacoma Dome Last Night"/>
Monday, December 19
I spotted my first raspberry beret last night while out to an early dinner in downtown Tacoma. A few>"/>
I spotted my first raspberry beret last night while out to an early dinner in downtown Tacoma. A few hours later I got to the Tacoma Dome and saw a lot more of those pink hats, along with people dressed in a whole lot of purple and glitter, all out to see Prince play his first Northwest show in seven years. The Purple One rose up from inside the Love Symbol-shaped stage flanked by the current incarnation of the New Power Generation, which included legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker, the nimble pianist Cassandra O'Neal, and a bevy of beautiful backup singers. None were as pretty as Prince himself, though, who, at age 53, has still retained his delicate, spritely beauty. And if Prince can be said to possess four main qualities as a performer--style, moves, guitar, and voice--all four components were fully and flamboyantly on display last night. The years, it seems, haven't gotten to Prince.
Dressed in a silvery vest, heavy jewelry, a black headscarf and higher heels than those I wear on a regular basis, Prince opened the evening with a galvanizing mash-up of "Let's Go Crazy" and "Delirious." How does an artist with 30-plus years of popular hits fit it all into one evening? Prince's solution was to format a few mash-ups and medleys into his setlist--"You know how many hits we got?" he asked before a medley that included "When Doves Cry," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," and "I Would Die 4 U." "We'll be here all night!" The medley method means some songs were abridged versions--at one point he teased the opening riff of "Darling Nikki" and then quit the song altogether--but he made up for it with some added flourishes--"Doves" was played in a edgier electronic-vibe version, a few lines of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" were dropped in on top of The Time's "Cool."
Nothing's changed about Prince's vocal range--he sounded like a songbird crooning through "Nothing Compares 2 U," as steady and seductive as ever on "Little Red Corvette," as fluttery and coy on "Kiss." A highlight came at the end of "Kiss," when the spotlight shone on him at center stage and he broke into an extended dance break that included an impressive amount of knee-popping and booty-dropping. If you're around my age, then Prince might be around your dad's age, and imagining your dad pulling off these kinds of moves is a little mind-blowing. But Prince works the stage like he never left his twenties. He equitably worked every angle of the stage, he crawled on top of his piano, he slung his guitar around and flung his body into sudden spins on his heels. "I wish I had a bigger booty!" he shouted in the middle of "Cream," and then stuck his rear out to the crowd and slapped it. Crazy stage movements like these are like walking down the street to Prince; it's all dramatics without the mechanics.
Prince's comment about his plethora of career hits was more sass than brag, and it was the one moment in the evening that he displayed any hint of self-flattery. He seems to still enjoy the part of his job that requires him to entertain and endear himself to a crowd--several times throughout the show, he asked for the house lights to be turned up so that he could see the audience. The part of him that wants to be a gracious crowd-pleaser must also be the impetus behind assembling a setlist of mostly tried-and-true hits rather than his newer, lesser known material.
I remember seeing Weezer earlier this year and walking away with the distinct feeling that they hated playing all of their old material for us. I don't think pop musicians can be blamed for getting sick of playing the same songs hundreds of times over. But it seems like if Radiohead is tired of playing "Creep" and Britney Spears is bored of doing "...Baby One More Time," it's because they've lost hold of the soul of those songs. Prince played his hits like "1999" and "Corvette" like he never forgot their original spark, like they're still just as precious and exciting to him as if he'd written them the night before. I know a lot of people in the audience last night were upset that he played a shorter set than they expected, but for me, the way he and his incredible band put their all into that hour and a half more than made up for it. I've never witnessed a more beautiful concert moment than seeing glitter and smoke shoot into the air as Prince, dressed in gold silk and sparkles, ripped through the "Purple Rain" guitar solo with a dazzling smile on his face. "I'm a work in progress," he solemnly said at one point in the show--but I couldn't name a single area for improvement.
P.S. I wasn't the only SW staffer at the show. Read on to find out Daily Weekly hotties Curtis Cartier and Keegan Hamilton's favorite moments!
CC: "When Prince impregnated the piano during 'Slow It Down.' Also the 30-minute (?) guitar solo in 'Purple Rain.'"
KH: "When Prince was like, 'You ever seen a saxophone? They new school, Maceo, they ain't never heard a saxophone. Show 'em what it do!' and Maceo Parker unleashed a lung-melting sax solo. Also liked whenever Prince summoned his guitar-fetching assistant by kneeling, looking at the ground, and sticking his arm in the air. And when he came out looking like a glam rock Buddhist monk in that robe and gold sequined pants combo."
P.P.S. Someone sent me a cell phone pic!