Monday, December 20, 2010

Prince Takes Manhattan (and New Jersey) to Kick Off East Coast Tour

Prince emerges from his glyph-shaped stage at the Izod Center Friday.
For a 52-year-old performer who hasn't been touring much lately and has had hip problems, Prince sure hasn't missed a beat so far on his" Welcome 2 America" tour. I got to see him twice last week, on Friday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ and the next night at Madison Square Garden. Both were very entertaining, high-energy shows with plenty of great tunes and a lot of funk.

The multitalented Prince displayed a wide assortment of musical styles, dance moves, and costumes while performing on a stage shaped like the glyph/symbol that he used to call himself. The Purple One ripped through songs from throughout his career, with a heavy emphasis on the hits.

On Friday, Prince started off his own set with an extended version of "Let's Go Crazy," then followed that up with three of his other best-known tunes: "Delirious," "1999," and "Little Red Corvette." Though the setlists for Friday and Saturday were similar, there were some differences: no "Little Red Corvette" on Saturday, though the MSG show did include couple of my Prince favs: "U Got the Look" and "Raspberry Beret," as well as "Nothing Compares 2 U."

I had hoped to here "When Doves Cry" at at least one of the shows, but it was not to be.

Prince making his guitar wail at the Izod Center.
"So many hits," Prince said during both shows, as if to recognize that there wasn't enough time in any one show to play them all. So in some cases he played medleys that combined two or more songs, similar to his Super Bowl halftime performance a few years back. It was good to hear so many tunes, but having some of them shortened and squeezed into medleys wasn't always satisfying.

Prince's protege Sheila E. was a guest at the Friday and Saturday shows. She came on stage and performed an energetic version of her hit "The Glamorous Life," to the delight of the fans, most of whom knew the words. She looked great and still had her chops on the drums, and she played along on a couple more songs with Prince and the band.

Prince as seen on an Izod Center video screen.
During both shows Prince had audience members come on stage to dance, but at the Madison Square Garden show the guests weren't just any fans. Prince called out a number of A-listers to join him on stage: Jamie Foxx, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Sheppard, and even professor/philosopher/author Cornell West.

Prince was in fine form, as was his band (New Power Generation, from what I've read) and his three female backup singers, Elisa Dease, Liv Warfield and Shelby J. All told, Prince played for nearly two hours, which included several encores. (This included a few brief sessions of downtime for Prince to change costumes.) And yes, he did briefly play that gold-plated Stratocaster than he will later auction off for charity.

Prince's own sets were preceded by those of several veteran performers as opening acts (and sometimes performing with Prince). Cassandra Wilson opened the show on Friday night, followed by a set by legendary soul and funk saxophonist Maceo Parker. I missed Saturday's opening act by Sinbad, but caught the tail end of the set by the other opener, Larry Graham of Graham Central Station.

Prince plays Madison Square Garden again on December 29th and on January 18th. You can check for tickets at the Garden's official Prince ticket page here, or try StubHub if the shows are sold out. (There were several hundred tickets for both the Dec. 17th and 18th shows on StubHub, some listed for below face value.)

Prince hasn't toured the East Coast for six years, so if you've ever liked him music, my advice would be to get to one of his shows. They are fun and funky, and you'll definitely get your money's worth.

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