Saturday night, Almost exactly 30 years since the day my mom surprised me coming home from school one day with my first LP, Purple Rain, I finally got to see the man who more than anyone else is responsible for beginning my music obsession. Prince set the house on fire last night at the Louisville Palace. With him was his most recent band, 3RDEYEGIRL. Three very talented women who have brought out a side of Prince that I’ve thought had been lacking in recent years, his primal rock & roll side. The Palace is a gorgeous ornate building with very detailed architecture and lighting. The sound was very clear. I overheard that the place only seats about 3,000 people. No wonder he sold out four back to back shows in minutes. The excitement was peaked for me and my partner Terry. Both of us have been lifelong fans and have followed him even when some had written him off. I knew this show would have a special vibe because Hannah, the drummer, is from Louisville. A few minutes before the show, Hannah’s voice came over the speakers to a massive roar. She thanked everyone sincerely on behalf of Prince and the band and asked that phones be put away. This was much nicer than the signs in the bar area that said something like “NO – Cellphones, Picture/Video Taking, Heckling, Yelling Out Anything, Texting, Talking During The Show- Violators Will Be Ejected”. Yelling Out Anything? Oh Lord.
A couple minutes later the lights cut off and a mix of Prince Intros hyped the crowd up, starting with the beginning of For You, 1999, and somewhere in there a couple new songs I believe. What would the night hold? As I had predicted, the opening note of “Let’s Go Crazy”… as Prince steps up and announces “Dearly Beloved… We have gathered today to get through this thing called life!”. This kicked off the new “reloaded” version of “Let’s Go Crazy” that had a lot on common with Led Zeppelin. The girls rocked out awful damn hard and breathing some new life into a song that’s been played so many times. After a lot of soloing, especially by Donna, they launched into “Take Me With U”. Now I’ve already read a few reviews critical of this being a “greatest hits” show so to speak. But I can tell you the energy and excitement level was so high in that place and so many smiles and people singing along. Myself included. I’ve never been able to enjoy the experience of hearing some of my favorite songs of all time played live by the man himself. Tonight was all about the throwback.
Seamlessly Prince and 3EG launched into “U Got The Look”. He has a couple more members on stage, namely Liv Warfield up top of the stage, and Josh Welton, Hannah’s husband, who produced some of Art Official Age on keyboards and also sonetimes at the top of the stage as well. The band brought a harder rock edge to the favorites, but it sounded great. Next up was the first new jam of the night, one of my favorites from Plectrumelectrum “FunkNRoll”. The band was hot on this one. Not everyone in the crowd knew it, but it still moved butts. Then there was an extended rave up that became the funk classic “Controversy”. This one got the crowd movin’ and singin’ along quite a bit as Prince asked “who here was born in the 80s?”. Ida really brought her bass playing on this one.
“1999” followed… Prince with his jokester face “what year is it??”. Prince really seemed more than happy this particular night to get lost in the hits and help people get to that good time they were hoping to have. One thing 3EG brings to Prince that to me is a major improvement is he has slowed some of the songs down to the speed he recorded them at. I am not really a fan of when musicians speed the songs up in concert. Especially on a song with an exceptional groove, you loose the detail and ultimately loose some of the funk. “1999” was played all the way through, with the crowd screaming the “paaaaaartaaaaaaaay”. This went into, just like the album “Little Red Corvette”. Only now, he has changed it up a bit, making the verses more steamy something like “Do Me Baby”, then kicking it up on the choruses. Prince was happy tonight to let the girls take the spotlight several times, and letting Donna Grantis rip it up on the guitar. This may have been the point where he half-joked about “security… that woman right there… you need to cut her off!” and something about Hannah warning him about Kentucky and what to put in his mouth. Ha! He then launched into a beautiful performance of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, once again joined by crowd singalong. “How many hits we got?”, he teased. Then the band launched into a really hot version of “Kiss”. Now I know this song is one of his biggest and most played. But I’ve rarely liked the way any band since the Revolution ever played this song live. There were too many instruments. This was stripped down, but still had the girls, and the sparse funky guitar from the 12″ version too.
“That’s it we don’t have any more hits”… and then the opening guitar burst of “When Doves Cry”. This started what is now known as the “sampler set”. Prince has a keyboard programmed with the really intricate drum beats that were electronic on the recordings. Unfortunately though this has become a big teaser medley. We still sang along to every one. It started with “Doves” for about a verse or so. I may get the order wrong but I think “Housequake” was next. HOUSEQUAKE! If I were to name the five funkiest Prince songs ever this one would be on that list. Great job on this and they played a fair amount of the song. No, he still doesn’t curse. He just says other stuff like “wait a minute!”. Who cares… Housequake! Then there was a quick tease of “Nasty Girl” (the 1982 Vanity 6 hit), then about half of “Sign “O” The Times”. Great to hear that one. He then broke into “Hot Thing”! That might also make that list. He was really feeling Sign ‘O’ The Times this night. The band joined in and stayed on “Hot Thing” for a while. I will *never* tire of this one. Then awkwardly, he cut into “I Would Die 4 U.. not an easy transition… nice to hear but only got about a verse. I kind of wish he’d do a full jam version of this one. Then he started an unfamiliar song. This one was “The Ex’s Face”, a song premiered on a New York radio broadcast one day before, and sent out along with another new song “What If” to ticketholders by email about an hour before the show. Nobody really seemed familiar but the song has one hell of a groove so it worked. He played through a verse of two of that. Then another massive highlight “Forever In My Life”. This has always been a special song for me, and one I doubted I’d hear. And a great version!
The band left the stage and the lights stayed out. After massive cheering, they returned and broke into the newer song “PretzelBodyLogic”. On the album this is a short song but live… oh my goodness. They rocked this song for a while! This is where the girls got in some jam-time and Hannah was given some time to shine and solo. No doubt so she could really be seen by friends and family from her hometown. She definitely did them proud.
After another pause, there it was in all its glory, the opening strums of “Purple Rain”. Yes I’ve heard this song countless times. But the chill of hearing it played to a live audience, singing along is something to experience. This was about the time the couple massively drunken idiots in front of us started to interfere… with one getting up on his seat and air guitaring at the crowd. A little evil part of me was hoping he’d fall. But that subsided and “Purple Rain” continued. Full song, tons and tons of inspired, O-Face soloing by Prince that sent chills, and that moment we never wanted to end.
And then it was over. About an hour and a half of purple magic. Because of the way the shows were planned back to back, we got the shorter show. I read complaints that there weren’t many surprises. But for me, who has never been able to see him, this was an excellent first show Maybe next time around there will be more rarities and a longer set. But complaining that one of my musical heroes just played me the songs that are a massive part of my entire life and still gave me goosebumps… well that makes no sense to me to have anything bad to say. As much as I love the new albums though, I’m glad I was at the show where he played all those Sign ‘O’ The Times songs. It appears looking that this wasn’t the case on the Sunday shows. But even though this was a mostly hits show, the energy of this show was absolutely electric. The entire experience, along with the sudden getaway road trip on the first nice warm weekend of the year is something I will never forget.
Setlist 8:00pm show (in rough order – please feel free to correct me):
Let’s Go Crazy (Reloaded)
Take Me With U
U Got The Look
Little Red Corvette
Nothing Compares 2 U
When Doves Cry (partial)
Nasty Girl (tease)
Sign ‘O’ The Times (partial)
I Would Die 4 U (partial)
Forever In My Life
(Picture at top taken by purplethunder3121 from Prince.org)