Photos by G.
In case you didn’t know, I am a die-hard Prince fan. I’ve seen him in concert in excess of 50 times in multiple cities across the United States. In recent years, I have started to fall out of love with him primarily because of his religious beliefs. In the late 1990s, he became a Jehovah’s Witness. His music which had formerly been so open-minded became preachy and intolerant of any belief system that varied from his own, which is contrary to some of the core reasons I became a fan. In my personal opinion, he also stopped taking artistic chances. Whereas you would never know what to expect when you saw him in concert, he seemed to have settled and has become a “greatest hits” artist appeasing not the people who stuck by him through embarrassing name changes (from Prince to an unpronounceable symbol and back again) to record label disputes and instead plays for casual fans who don’t realize that Prince has continued to make albums consistently since “Diamonds and Pearls” in 1991. Of course I was sad to see songs with “dirty” words get dropped permanently from his setlists (because let me tell you that it was an amazing experience for 20,000 people to shout out “you sexy motherfucker” in unison), but I respected his need to do things his way.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Prince in concert and the last time I saw him, I was at a very exclusive one-off gig where I stood less than arm’s length from him for over 3 hours while he played guitar like it was everybody’s last night on earth. For the reasons above I decided I should probably stop seeing him live so as not to ruin all the life-changing moments we’ve shared together. It just so happened that as I booked my vacation to Los Angeles, Prince was in the middle of playing 21 concerts in LA. Getting the opportunity to see Prince live with my brother and my best friend, who are as big of fans as I am, was such a rare thing, I decided to go see Prince on May 27, 2011 at the Los Angeles Forum.
One thing that can be said about Prince – he has some very cool fans. At a Prince concert, you should definitely expect to see every ethnic and socio-economic background represented and everybody there is ready to party! You’ll see people decked out in their finest threads, colorful suits and a lot of women in lingerie. My good fortune would have it that Nikka Costa opened the show with a brief set that included “Like A Feather,” “Keep Pushin,” “Everybody Got Their Something,” “Can’t Please Everybody” as well as a new song from Nikka’s upcoming EP (which will be released in the summer of 2011). As always, they don’t call her the “funky white bitch” for nothing! She had the Forum up out of their seats and dancing. When Prince hit the stage around 9:30, he started off the show with a medley of snippets of songs which included “When Doves Cry,” “Nasty Girl” (by Vanity 6 – which Prince penned), “Forever in My Life,” “Hot Thing” and a lyric free tease of “Darling Nikki,” one of Prince’s “nastier” songs. I felt this was progress as years ago, he publicly announced he’d no longer play that song live. At one point early on in the concert, Prince even opened his shirt, suggesting that “dirty Prince” is slowly coming back to us (you can see a picture, after the jump). I was getting pretty excited.
Things started to go downhill from there as he went straight into a very “safe” set list. Now, let me also say that Prince sounds great, he looks amazing and his band is tight. You certainly get your moneys’ worth when you go see him and he still remains one of the best live performers out there. It looks like Prince. It sounds like Prince. But it’s not the Prince that used to pull random songs out of thin air and reward all the people that have stuck by his side through thick and thin. It’s the equivalent of seeing new works by Salvador Dali, only to find they are stick figures instead of the amazing paintings the world knows he is capable of making. Aside from a rant about Facebook and Twitter and telling the audience to “be present at the concert instead of texting,” gone were the overly preachy Jehovah’s Witness propaganda that Prince has been trying to shove down people’s throats for years. To my disgust, however, he is still singing “Open up your Bibles and let God guide you to the Purple Rain,” but for die-hards like myself, “Purple Rain” has become one of the songs where you take a bathroom break because he’s played the song nearly at every show since its release in 1984.
The fact that he obviously had hip surgery (as he dances all over the stage – though does not do the splits anymore) and is using “the Prince symbol” as his stage design (when JWs are against symbolism) suggests that Prince has either been disfellowed or is on his way out of the religious cult. He recently publicly stated that it should be illegal to perform cover songs and a show staple is a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” which morphs into “Cool,” a cover version of a track he wrote for The Time. It’s hard to say what’s going on in his Gemini mind, because he is one of the most contradictory artists I’ve ever encountered. One thing is certain (from my 50+ concert experiences of seeing Prince), you can clearly see the dollar signs in his eyes. I refuse to believe that a person who allegedly has written a new song a day since 1978 enjoys playing “Kiss” and “Purple Rain” night after night at the expense of his artist integrity. Security guards were extremely strict about the taking of photographs which makes no sense in an age where picture taking has become part of the concert experience (for better or for worse). It was actually very intrusive to the show and as someone who goes to as many shows as I do, I certainly think I have a lot of experiences to compare and contrast this to. I still have hopes that one day Prince will stop being such a douche bag about his image (especially since he can still pull off his unique look and sound like nobody else can) and focus on setting trends instead of following them. I know that somewhere deep down, that this Prince I speak of is still alive, and on behalf of all the die-hards – we want that Prince back! I don’t think that’s too much to ask!
See the set list and a photo of Prince with his shirt open after the jump.