Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Photography by Tricia Jamanila For Chicharon Adventures
“Ya’ll not ready for me.” Those were the introductory words spoken to a Los Angeles Forum maximum capacity crowd of 18,000 after a lengthy yet memorizing entrance from the living legend born Prince Rodgers Nelson. Quite frankly, I don’t think the world was ready from the beginning. But he made us get ready. From the very infant stages of his career in the late 1970s, Prince has continually held court in the entertainment world as groundbreaking and a trendsetter, both artistically and economically.
The man once referred to as “The Artist,” has maintained full creative control and publishing rights to his influential catalog over the course of a well documented battle with longtime label Warner Brothers throughout the first half of the 1990s, was one of the first artist to embrace the internet as an independent artist, and continues to this day to explore alternative methods to release new material. Notably in 2007, upon the release of his Planet Earth LP, Prince to the dismay of distributor Columbia Records, struck a deal with British newspaper The Mail On Sunday to package the album in one of its issues; thus covering distribution throughout the United Kingdom.
For nearly three and a half hours, Prince, along with the current incarnation of his band The New Power Generation, refused the let the audience rest; playing one electrifying rendition after another of fan favorites (“Take Me With You”, “Raspberry Beret,” “Guitar,” “Nothing Compares 2 U,” even collaborators The Time’s “Cool.”) and new material played for the first time on this tour. Long-time friend and collaborator Sheila E, who opened earlier that night with her family assemble, The E Family, returned to the stage multiple times throughout the night to assist N.P.G. on percussion and even launched into an exhilarating performance of her 1984 smash single, “The Glamorous Life.”
Even more entertaining to watch was Prince’s on-stage dramatics: crawling yet simultaneously gilding across “The Symbol” designed stage, hoping on top of his piano to lead the audience in soul claps and call & response, launching into aggressive yet gorgeous guitar solos, teasing the crowd with extended instrumental interludes before beginning to sing, throwing his guitar off the stage down below; it was clear from the time he emerged on the stage that Prince was in complete control and had the crowd in the palm of his hands. It was a textbook example of a veteran performer in his prime element.
At one point during the show, Prince proclaimed to crowd “If you don’t love what you are doing, then you have no business in doing it.” It was clear as a Los Angeles afternoon in July that this man not only truly loved what he was doing, but he was born to do it. Of course the talk of the night and anticipation going into these shows has been the encores. Once word spread that on the opening night, The Purple One treated spectators to an UNHEARD OF six encores, the Welcome 2 America tour became the most sought out ticket in town.
After his first sign off, the opening chords of “Let’s Go Crazy” rang for nearly 4 minutes until the full band re-emerged and Prince began to speak the now unmistakable sermon found in the beginning of the Purple Rain opening cut. From here, it was clear that initial set was the jab, and the encores were the finishing left hook and uppercut. “1999”, “Little Red Corvette,” “Housequake,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Hot Thing,” “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss,” side project Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl,” and of course an heart -wrenching, soul barring performance of “Purple Rain,” in which The Forum was lit up with waving cell phones and the crowd singing the outro “ooh” adlibs for nearly 10 minutes before Prince even uttered the opening lyrics.
As Prince himself humorously suggested to the enthusiastic delight of the sold out Forum, “We could be here all night.” And he was right, his work had spanned multiple decades and generations to where the most mind blowing epiphany of the night for me was the idea of partying to music that is identified with my parents’ generation, like it just came out. Which was ironically somewhat a case of Déjà Vu because my father disclosed to me before going to the show that he, my mother, and two of their friends had saw Prince together during the Purple Rain tour in 1985 at The Forum as well. Goes to the show you that music made from the heart and the soul is absolutely timeless.
Even more of an incredible sight to witness was after the 2rd encore (there were four in total that night), more than half the building stayed for over 30 minutes, even after the house lights came on, chanting “We Want Prince” for another encore. In the 23 years I was walked this earth, and the countless of concerts I have attended, I have NEVER… EVER seen or experienced a sight like that before. Ladies and gentlemen, as a musician and performer myself, for me, class was in session and I had my notebook out taking notes.
The opportunity to see a musician still in his prime even in his later years, for that price ($25… with no service charges!?!?), was the chance of a lifetime. And I am incredibly grateful that I was able to attended one of these historic shows. Raphael Saadiq once said that “it never rained in Southern California,” but for that night, as well as those other 20 nights, the City of Angels was “laughing underneath the Purple Rain.”
To purchase tickets to this weekend’s shows (May 5th-7th), visit Livenation.com.