PRINCE WELCOME 2 CANADA TOUR
Air Canada Centre, November 25th 2011, Toronto.
Arguably, Prince is 1 of the greatest musicians alive. Some of you might wonder what does Prince have to do with raving? The fact that he wrote “Rave unto the Joy Fantastic” qualifies him as rave material in my opinion. Purple Rain was the quintessential soundtrack of my angst filled adolescence, stealthily sowing the seeds of youthful rebellion. So when world renowned Prince fanatic Ed informed me that His Royal Badness was coming to town, I got my Prince disciple pal Monty to snag tickets.
Welcome 2 Canada was Prince’s first Canadian tour since 2002. Despite the many thousands of mostly middle-aged fans in attendance, hundreds of empty seats remained compared to the full house of the Musicology concert in 2004. Monty and I were almost banished to Bleacherville, which was a disappointing deal for $117.75. A giant, luminous rendition of Prince’s unpronounceable symbol served as the stage with a piano poised daintily on the coiled arm. The band was strategically positioned in a recessed pit located on the glyph’s head. Prince’s background singers kicked things off at 9 p.m., shortly before the Purple One emerged on a hidden platform which arose from the centre of the stage amidst enthusiastic screams and rapturous applause, while the perimeter pulsed with multi-coloured light. The Maestro from Minneapolis looked somewhat conservative in black pants and loose fitting tunic surmounted by a metallic necklace, but his slick, James Brown inspired footwork soon put all those rumours of gimpy hips to rest. NPG’s line-up had changed yet again, with mature female singers and musicians such as Ida Nielsen comprising the majority. John Blackwell (drums) was the only face I recognized. It seemed Prince had modified his band to reflect his aging demographic, which I found refreshingly down to earth though the man himself did not look a day over 35. Indeed, the band was tight as Prince proudly proclaimed, yet some essential spark seemed to be missing as the overall tone of the show seemed rather subdued compared 2 the flashy, raunchy antics and energetic dance numbers of Prince’s semi-scandalous past.
“Gimme a light – let me bask inToronto’s love!” the diminutive diva stated as he swaggered, playfully slicking his coiffed hair. Those cocky, I’m-2-good-for-this-show facial expressions proved priceless. Legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker thrilled the audience with effortless skill during a lively version of Musicology. Prince blazed a mean guitar streak on A Million Days and surprised me with a cover of Let’s Go! by The Cars. By now, I was being suffused with happy vibes courtesy of the vitamin e I’d popped earlier, unlike some of the semi-retired fans sitting idly in their seats.
Halfway through his set, Prince changed into a gold satin shirt and performed a medley of greatest hits such as Nothing Compares 2 u, Let’s go Crazy (which had the crowd going wild), 1999 and Yesterday by The Beatles. After a scorching guitar solo on Purple Rain accentuated by bursts of purple confetti, Prince disappeared beneath the stage, his upraised hand grasping a glittery plectrum which closed into a fist as the classic, violin heavy ending went on like a funerary dirge amidst tumultuous applause. Assuming the show was over, some people shuffled out but us diehards remained, expecting the musical monarch to bestow more jewels upon us. Skipper lived up to our expectations as he returned in yet another wardrobe change, his heels lighting up as he strutted around the darkened stage. “What’s my name!” the artist proclaimed as the lights came up to reveal him swaying seductively behind a sampler featuring a LED display. When Doves Cry heralded the start of yet another medley of the Prince Hit Parade, which segued into Nasty Girl, Sign O’ the Times, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Hot Thing, I would Die 4 u and Housequake while the intro to Darling Nikki was briefly glossed over. I was really hoping to hear him sing that classic line about “masturbating with a magazine” – no such luck. Drat!
Despite keeping the lyrical content chaste, Prince’s deeply sensuous persona was especially prominent during this part of the show. A white sleeveless vest displayed well-defined arms, rounded off with two-toned black and white trousers and glittery gold platform wedges. Those who got fooled into walking out truly missed out. After 2 hours and 30 minutes, it seemed as if Prince was just getting warmed up. “If I was your Girlfriend” certainly proved my suspicions right. The Prince of Funk outlasted even his audience as he returned, encore after encore like an unstoppable Terminator. The smaller the crowd got, the more animated Prince became. It was obvious that he loved to jam and thrived on working with an intimate audience. Some lucky people were invited up onstage for Fly and Jungle Love, and the band rocked the house with a rambunctious interpretation of Play that Funky Music.
“Ain’t nobody tryin 2 go home!” Symbolina asserted as he stunned us with yet another encore. A brilliant slice of Disco Beat by Sylvester was served up in style, but it was the tribute to Michael Jackson that took everyone by storm. Don’t Stop til you Get Enough brought the crowd to its feet as Prince exhorted the audience to get up and clap for Michael. This gesture of reverence towards an artist long considered to be his rival was truly touching, and demonstrated how much The High Priest of Pop has matured over the years.
“Toronto, I got 2 many hits 4 me 2 go away. I don’t think u understand how many hits we got!” Prince proclaimed with encore number 5. The band launched into 80’s ol skool joints, which managed to coax some of the older heads out of their chairs. This was turning out to be some kind of endurance contest between Prince and his fans. It was an inspiration to see this musical genius, still in fine form at 53, pouring his heart and soul into his music. Indeed, Prince made a point of proclaiming throughout the night that this was “real music” and “You didn’t come here to hear a record being played,” in what could be interpreted as a rebuttal to Jay-Z and Kanye West who’d performed at the A.C.C. the night before. The man also known as Alexander Nevermind closed things off with “Baby I’m a Star” before disappearing triumphantly into the stage cavity, nodding confidently with a smirk of satisfaction on his face as his acolytes screamed their approval. The house lights came on, indicating the musical marathon was officially over. The funk locomotive had finally puffed out after 3 hours and 15 minutes. Prince certainly proved that he’s got staying power and he ain’t going away anytime soon. If His Royal Badness is coming to your town, I highly recommend that you get on board and see this gifted luminary while you still can. Despite the understated nature of his latest offering, Prince is most definitely worth seeing. A hardcore raver indeed.
Copyright © 2011 Frankie Diamond. This article may not be copied in part or whole and posted to another site or reproduced without the express permission of the author.