Review: Prince lets his guitar do the talking in Vancouver
Robert Collins, CTV British Columbia
Published Tuesday, April 16, 2013 8:27AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:46PM PDT
It’s practically impossible to guess what’s going through Prince’s mind at any given moment. But if he’s selling tickets to his Vancouver club tour dates for $275 a pop, he perhaps figures that either he’s playing for the 1%, in which case they can afford to get what their given, or that normal people willing to hand over that kind of money for a single performance are big enough fans to love the lesser-known corners of his back catalogue.
Either way, it turned out there isn’t a surfeit of millionaires or Prince obsessives in Vancouver, forcing half price ticket deals to emerge over the weekend. Late yesterday afternoon you could even pick up tickets in exchange for $50 donations to charity.
However much fans paid for entry into last night’s early concert at The Vogue Theatre (the first of two, which will be followed by another two tonight), if they’d arrived hoping to hear the hits, they would have left sorely disappointed.
“I Would Never Take The Place of Your Man” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” the former reworked as an R Kelly slow jam, the latter a Rage Against The Machine funk metal blast that comprised the first of two encores, were the sum total of genuine Prince classics. The rest of the show was spent peering into the unreleased future and digging in the crates of his own back catalogue, with predictably weird results.
The signs were there even before kick off, the unfortunate security team instructed to leap on anyone innocently checking their text messages, lest they might be tempted to take a photo once Prince actually came on stage. When the music did start the star performed gently grooved opening track “Ain’t Gon’ Miss U” on the piano, silhouetted behind a screen.
“Y’all ready for some lip-synching?” he asked soon after he emerged. “Everybody else does it!”
The cryptic message eventually became clear. In Prince’s mind at least, the current crop of pop superstars are nothing but pretenders. This concert, the first of a Club Tour stretching down the West Coast, would be all about getting back to the roots of rocking the house. Just Prince and his scalpel-sharp three-piece band, 3rd Eye Girl, ripping new rectums; the closest thing anyone could expect to actually being in the First Avenue nightclub in the movie Purple Rain.
In Prince’s mind, it couldn’t go wrong.
In the real world, there are only so many guitar histrionics a crowd can take.
In terms of musicianship, Prince, guitarist Donna Grantis, bass player Ida Nielson and drummer Hannah Ford could not be faulted; Grantis actually out-duelling the Purple One on at least one occasion (he couldn’t match the solo-under-the-leg move).
It’s just that if you asked fans for their favourite Prince songs, it’s unlikely you’d hear “Screwdriver” (sample lyric: “I’m your driver, you’re my screw”), “She’s Always In My Hair” (this particular rendition stretching far beyond the ten-minute mark), candlelit vintage sex jam “When We’re Dancing Slow and Close” or the nameless instrumental seemingly taken from the final scene of a 1980’s Barbra Streisand movie.
“Everybody on your feet!” announced Prince by way of introducing “FixUrLifeUp”. Everyone did, but plenty were back in their seats by the time “I Like It There” had descended from its tight, heavy groove into an endless series of solos.
On paper, two hours with a searing-hot funk rock band (in a different class to, for example, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) would sound like fun. Only, this is Prince, who only 16 months ago delivered a show for the ages in this very town.
He’s set his bar high. And though everyone present would respect Prince’s artistic decisions, that doesn’t mean his taste for masturbatory guitar is above reproach.
After “Let’s Go Crazy” ended in a wall of feedback the houselights came on. Just like they did at Rogers Arena in December 2011 the crowd stuck around, clapping and cheering for more. Only this time, it felt like they were looking for value for money. One last hit to sing along to. 15 minutes later, Prince leapt through the curtains for one final track. Purple Rain? Sign O’ The Times? 1999? Sorry, just more solos.
Prince plays an early and late show at The Vogue Theatre tonight.