(The 11pm Show)
Review by Mike Bax
Photos by Cindy Ord / NPG Records
“I have to warn you Toronto, I’ve been known to break a few curfews!”
Think of the best concert you’ve ever seen, be it for the musical prowess of a bandmember(s), sheer musical chemistry and overall live stage presence. Put that musician or band at the forefront of your mind and then go and see Prince, and your understanding of live presence and moxy will be shattered after only a few songs. I’ve seen A LOT of shows, and I’ve never seen anything quite like last night’s intimate 2nd show at the Sony Centre (a venue that holds approximately 3200 people).
Prince is a total virtuoso. The guy can play wicked guitar. He can still sing every damn one of his high notes from his extensive back-catalogue. He can somehow channel more funk than James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Little Richard combined, without utterly ripping them off – he just does it his way in a fashion that suggests he’s hardly even put a thought into it at all. And the man can get an entire crowd moving along with him.
You NEED to see a show like this every once in a while; something that reaffirms a belief in the magic of seeing a live performance. I’m not what you’d describe as an avid Prince fan. I like the 1982-1986 stuff, when he was all over the radio and you couldn’t really help hearing his material, but I couldn’t really tell you what he’s been doing for the past twenty years. This didn’t matter one bit last night, as the setlist below will easily confirm. This was a live show designed to pack a punch. Men and women gyrated with wild abandon to Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL for two full hours last night. If Prince wanted a portion of a song sung, the audience delivered. Even the super high pitched “Oo-Oo-Oo-Oo” stuff from ‘Purple Rain’, sung back to the stage by EVERYONE in the room with surprisingly decent effect.
Backed by the three girls in 3RDEYEGIRL (Mississauga native guitarist Donna Grantis, Hannah Welton and Ida Kristine) and an assortment of back-up vocalists (and an extra guitarist for a few songs), 3200 wide-eyed Torontonians stayed up well past 1am on a school night basking in the glory of Prince’s utterly amazing back-catalogue. This could easily have been a showcase for material for the two albums worth of material that saw release late last year (ART OFFICIAL AGE and PLECTRUMELECTRUM) and a handful of ‘the hits’. And fans would have been quite content with a show of this nature. But what Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL delivered could be described as nothing less than a celebration of everything that is great about Prince’s music.
After performing 9 songs culminating with a stellar performance of ‘When Doves Cry’, the band walked off stage for a short break. Prince returned to the keyboard station at the right side of the stage (where he wrapped up ‘When Doves Cry’, mentioned something about the band servicing 17 hit singles, and broke into a keyboard/DJ mix of some of the finest tracks from his archives. Some of the songs (like ‘Darling Nikki’) merely got a little tease, but it didn’t deter fans from screaming at every new facet of this mix of music the band was replicating real-time for the Toronto audience.
Here’s how I thought the night would go down: I wanted to see this show to check Prince off my bucket list. I had hoped to see some of his guitar talent live, and hear a bunch of new songs completely out of context (for me), watch the crowd get off on him, and call it a done deal. How foolish!! You forget how kick-ass ‘Kiss’ is as a song. Same with ‘Nothing Compares to You’, a track that serviced Sinead O’Conner way better than it did Prince back in the day. Smashing out ‘Raspberry Beret’, ‘1999’ and ‘Little Red Corvette’ one after another that early into a live set, and then following up those songs with even more exciting stuff, well that’s something that ONLY Prince can do. His solo take on ‘Love Me Tender’ to start off his second encore of the evening – just him and a piano under a single spotlight – was so utterly stellar it left me speechless. And the epic ten minute long live rendition of ‘Purple Rain’ to close off the show threw a shiver up my spine as it reached its apex.
First timers in the room like me can now check Prince off their bucket lists. Here’s the rub: I don’t think I can ever go back and see him again because I doubt he’ll ever play a loaded set of amazing songs like that again. And I’m ok with that.
Note: Before walking on stage one of the girls in 3RDEYEGIRL asked that everyone put their phones away for the show, and just enjoy the evening by building some memories together. I can’t remember the last show I went to where nobody had a cell phone out. As a photographer, I’m totally guilty of this, always putzing around with some piece of gear that has my face buried in LED lighting while a band is playing. I quite enjoyed not having to watch a portion of a concert through the screen of either my camera or someone’s phone tonight. Maybe Prince is onto something here.
Let’s Go Crazy (incl. Frankenstein)(The Edgar Winter Group)
Take Me With U w/ Liv Warfield (co-lead vox)
U Got The Look w/ Liv Warfield
The Question Of U / The One / Electric Man
Little Red Corvette
Nothing Compares 2 U
When Doves Cry
Sign O’ The Times
Forever In My Life (Partial)
Nasty Girl (Sample)
Darling Nikki (Sample)
A Love Bizarre (Partial)
17 Days (Sample)
Pop Life (Partial)
U Know (Sample)
I Would Die 4 U
Cool (incl. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough) w/ Liv Warfield (lead vox on) Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Diamonds And Pearls
Love Me Tender (Elvis Presley)
The Beautiful Ones
*I believe is accurate. If I’m amiss, let me know and I’ll tweak this list. Thnx.