I want to start this out by saying I was a Prince-concert virgin up until last night. This was the first time I had every seen him perform live. Sometimes dreams comes true.
I walked up to the Vogue Theatre, about thirty minutes before doors were to open. I was caught off guard by, the approximately, six-hundred-person-deep line-up. Then I remembered that this was Prince, and this was a small twelve-hundred person venue.
After about forty-five minutes, I was finally through the glass doors, and inside. I wanted to make a b-line to the merchandise booth and grab myself a memento of the night, but, alas, there was no merchandise available. So instead I went down into the lower portion of the venue, to stake my claim and plant myself there until show time.
The venue had removed the first ten (or so) rows of seating, and turned the front of the house into a general admission pit. This area was broken up by a fence, creating an inner floor and outer floor. I staked my claim at the centre of the outer floor area, and there I waited.
For a little over an hour I stood patiently and listened to those around me telling stories about their Prince experiences. Then the lights went out, and the crowd screamed with excitement, but then the lights came back on. The audience laughed.
Once again the lights went out, and again those in attendance erupted with eagerness, and again the lights came back on. This time the audience laughed much louder.
Then, the lights went out one last time, and some drums started to play on stage. The flock of fans near the front flew into a frenzy and pressed forward towards the stage.
The curtain pulled open to reveal Prince on his piano, and his all-female supporting band, 3rdEyeGirl, lined across the stage.
I looked around and saw both men and women screaming with such intensity that I was sure some of them may pass out. To say Prince Rogers Nelson’s fans were hysterical would be an understatement, this was the most intense I have ever seen a crowd react to a performer.
I watched as Mr. Nelson finished on his piano and walked to center stage. He is a quite petite man, but has this larger-than-life charisma emanating from his aura. He picked up his guitar and started into Endorphinmachine, the second song of the night. I have admired Prince’s guitar abilities for some time, but seeing him live took my love to another level. He works the guitar with attitude and sexuality and fluidity and it also, some how, looks completely effortless, it was a hypnotic event to watch.
The stage was adorned with a bevvy of lighting equipment, and backed by a large video screen. Each song was accompanied by a video feed, adding greatly to the ambiance of each song. The lights around the stage bathed the artists in deep, rich colors and textures, adding yet another level of intensity to the visual extravaganza.
As I watched the show unfold, I was mesmerized by Prince. He has a truly unique stage presence; a mixture of quirky and sexy. I noticed two of his signature moves, one being a guitar toss, where he throws his guitar down and the strap causes it to swing around his body and end up behind him. The other is his deep, distant gaze, where he stares off into the nothingness with a committed intensity.
Many of the songs extended into jam sessions, showcasing not only Prince’s guitar godliness but Donna Grantis’ as well. They both threw down some massive solos; a complete showcase of fret fanstickery, a new word I just made up, at its finest. Donna can definitely hold her own, and she tops it with an ability to absolutely lose herself in the moment. Hannah Ford on drums and Ida Nielsen on bass rounded out the band nicely, as they played with passion and poured forth raw emotion.
My favourite song of the night was I Like It There, which built into an eleven minute compilation once all the extra jamming was tallied up. This ditty took a dirty, raw turn mid way through, it was almost a punk twist. The audience loved it, made evident with the anthemic pumping of their fists and jumping around in unison.
The set list of the night was all over the map, jumping between hyper-sexuality, rock mastery, R&B intensity, and vulnerability. Not that it was bad, it just seemed like the songs were a la carte, and not selected to reflect off one another . The night would be building, and the crowd would be filling with excitement and ferocity, and then the next song in the chain would be a slower piece, pulling the energy down a bit. One specific song that caused a some of deflating was When We’re Dancing Slow And Close. While it is a great song on its own, the placement just caught the eager mob by surprise. People were talking so much, that Prince actually shushed people a few times.
But don’t let that make it seem like the show was not impressive, as it was transcendentally beautiful. Prince puts on one hell of a performance, perhaps some adjustments will be made in the track selection, later in the tour. as this was only the first night out.
My only advise for anyone that may be heading out to any of the remaining shows on this Live Out Loud tour; show up early. Being that close to a star of this magnitude, allows you to see some intricacies you may miss in a larger venue. For me the thing I really noticed was the facial expression Prince made on stage. His face seemed to be a direct reflection of his guitar, as he worked the frets his face contorted with each note. He would make a little snear after powering out a technically perfect solo; a little pat on the back for a job well done.
Prince’s music used to be a guilty pleasure for me in high school. His voice and guitar work really struck a chord with me. As I got older I embraced my love for him, and for his musical abilities. Finally being able to see him live was an amazing moment.
I would like to thank Prince, Donna, Hannah and Ida, for such an amazing experience. I hope the rest of their tour goes off without a hitch.