Sep 24, 2012

Purple Pain

His royal music majesty, or the artist formally known as the artist formally known as Prince, took up a three-day residence in Chicago's United Center for his 'Welcome 2Chicago' tour. As we happen to have a big big fan of his shows in GABROEN's household, at least back in the days when his name was just Prince, we decided to check him out on the first night.

Boy, did that turn out to be odd, very odd. I'll sum up the whole thing up bullet-wise, so the bizarreness becomes a little more pallatable:
1. He started an hour late, and threw out a short apology. But hey, this is an eccentric genius, and eccentric does not necessarily mean punctual. Meanwhile, we were having a good time.

2. The sound at the United Center was bad, and most of what we heard was a wall of sound.

3. The person in charge of the camerawork for the huge video-screens was either drunk, stoned, sleeping, or very new to the job. Beautiful footage of the microphone stand with Prince just out of view, nice takes on the three backup singers (showing the elbow of the left, the full torso of the middle and the shoulder of the right singer), and artistic out-of-focus or shaky shots.

4. We were not seeing Prince the singer, nor Prince the multi-instrument player (supposedly he plays all instruments on his songs himself); he let most of the singing to his back up vocalists or to the audience, and the playing to his band The New Power Generation. He mostly conducted his band while hopping around the stage in the shape of "his" glyph, that morphed symbol of Mars/masculinity and Venus/femininity that he used as his artist name for years. Very nice stage, by the way, and the light effects on the stage were pretty good. Also, it must be said that a Prince who is merely hopping is still way more energetic than most performers ever aspire to be. In his 50s, this guy definitely preserves well..........

5. Even though he got the audience to their feet all the time, singing along cheerfully whenever he asked them to (which was pretty often), he did not play a lot of his own songs either. In stead, he conducted his band to play covers of Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Michael Jackson. I must admit, an excellent taste for choosing covers, but it didn't really match his repeated shouts "We have too many hits!" and "i can go on all night".

6. Even though the amount of purple confetti that was raining down on the stage during 'Purple Rain' was of almost epic proportions, the night's rendition of the song was far from that. He did actually pick up his guitar for that song, while shouting "do you want me to play this thing?", to start what is one of the most epic guitar solos in rock history, only to put it down within 30 seconds and never touch it again. There was also a fancy free-standing piano on stage, not touched once during the show except when he did a few dance moves on top of it. But there was a big role for the piano in the encore, so read on..........

7. The first encore started off weird, as Prince came back after a few minutes, without his band, and walked to the piano. Understandably, a much anticipated and much welcomed moment for the audience. But ever 30 seconds or so he turned around and left the stage claiming "They are not ready for me". Oh, we're so sorry, your royal highness. Not sure about what just happened, the audience was left confused but with the lights still off. And within a minute, out he came again, this time with his band, and again he walked back to his piano. The piano turned out to be a big music box, from which he played snippets of electronic versions of his songs, while his band stood silently. Weird. But it gets worse, way worse........

8. The first encore lasted a good half hour, so by now it's 11PM on a Monday night, and it looks like most of the people in the audience have to be at work early the next morning. However, the lights did not come on, a clear sign that a) there's more to come and b) it's not particularly safe to find your way in the dark to the exit in a steep stadium. Meanwhile, three guys with brooms and flash lights swept the glyph shaped stage clean, removing purple confetti and marks from Prince's high heeled white boots. So how long does that take? Well, you would be surprised. One of the three guys continued sweeping, in the dark, while the audience was getting very impatient, for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour! Dark or not dark, people started leaving, and at 11:35PM, the poor broom guy left as well. At 11:40 the lights came on. No kidding, the lights came on after the crowd had waited for 40 minutes!! So we left as well, disappointed and wondering what the hell just happened. But hold on to your seats, it's not over...........

9. We came home at 12:30, still wondering what the hell happened. Checking Twitter and Facebook, where a storm of rumbling fans had broken loose, we found out that at 11:50PM Prince and hos band came back out for a second encore of two songs, in a fully lighted, almost empty stadium. WEIRD. But it's still not over.......

10. The next morning, with the Social Media storm blowing full force, we found out that the Welcome 2Chicago Purple after-party at the House of Blues kicked off at 1AM, but without Prince. The New Power Generation played for a couple of hours, and the tickets to the event made no mention of Prince, so technically there was nothing wrong here. WEIRD. At 3:45AM, Prince did show up on stage, much to the delight of the people that had paid 75-100 dollars for this event. He got up to the microphone, to announce that unfortunately the House of Blues was under a police ordinance of closure at 4AM, so there was not enough time left for him to perform. And he left. Either this guy is purple vain, or he lost it, or his crew messed up big. Disgruntled customers could get a free ticket to next night's show at the Untied Center, last row. By the way, he apparently apologized the next show for the start up issues, and the second night was very good.

Bottom line: if you go see an eccentric, expect something eccentric. If you expect anything more, you might as well expect pain. Purple pain.


  1. Wow! How do people become this weird?!

    Ellen S.

    1. But you've inspired me to crank up some real, perfectly recorded and beautifully rendered Purple Rain!

      Ellen S.

  2. One more lesson to learn from this great story: never go on a first night! I hop we will be more lucky on October 20th, when we will be at a Doe Maar concert ( with the boys!).

  3. Wow- My sister saw him a few years ago and he refused to play any of his 'hits' only experimental music. She couldn't leave as she was a guest in a VIP so ended up putting her headphones on and listening to something else.
    Such a shame as I love his music but her review cured me of ever wanting to see him live.