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Prince at the ACC

Forest National - Brussels - Belgium - 1986

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I’ve mentioned before in this space that I don’t often go to big arena shows. Most of the music I like best is featured in smaller venues, from smaller halls like Massey Hall to even more intimate spaces like Hugh’s Room. As I often say, I like that folky-dolky music. Prince is one of the few stadium performers I would make an exception for at this point.

Now I don’t listen to Prince’s music all the time. I don’t have a lot of his music on CD or on my computer or even on old records. Of course I know his songs and when I hear one I realize quickly that I know most of the lyrics to it. Last night was the second Prince show I’ve been to. The other was at the same venue several years ago. Both times, he put on an elaborate over-the-top performance.

So what makes a Prince show so good?

First, as Prince boasts, it’s real music made by real musicians. I suppose when he proclaims this during the show, he’s taking a shot at all kinds of acts who use taped music and even lip-syncing for parts of their shows. Prince’s band, New Power Generation is a top-rate outfit. As well, he surrounds himself with singers who are an integral part of the show, not just a doo-wap-a-doo backdrop to the main action. Prince gives the band a number of opportunities to work out with several lengthy instrumental breaks throughout the show.

Part of the magic of a Prince performance is his ability to turn a huge arena into what seems an intimate space. To start with, his stage is what you might call “in the round” although it is in reality “in the symbol” in that it is in the shape of the Prince symbol. That helps make all the seats good. I think the fact that a couple times during the show he invites people from the audience up on the stage to dance also helps make the show more intimate. And then there are the screens. There are huge screens all around the stage and the show is projected live on them in such a way that the film seems to be integrated into the performance, complete with all kinds of beautiful effects. Last night’s show was visually gorgeous and very dramatic, full of a variety of lighting, glitter, fog and film effects. It began with thunder and giant Prince symbols high in the arena illuminated by lightning.

Most of the live music I see is about a performer or small group of performers playing music they love for small crowds. The music is primarily the thing. The Prince show, on the other hand, was a dramatic, theatrical, well-planned, carefully paced extravaganza. And, it was a very generous show. As Mr. Prince proclaimed at one point, “Call the baby-sitter, because I got too many hits.”

Prince seems to be pretty impressed with himself, and I suppose he should be. He’s a remarkably talented musician and singer, who has written loads of great songs along the way. He’s got a helluva lot of soul, and when he gets funky, he can be very, very funky. That reminds me, Prince played the Wild Cherry tune, Play that Funky Music last night. Nice touch and great performance. His music ranges from funk to pop to rock and last night Prince even covered Crimson and Clover, the Tommy James and the Shondells tune. But mostly, Prince played Prince songs and he surprised with with how many of them I knew.

Criticisms? Just minor ones. I would rather a performer take an intermission break and do two long sets than do one long show with several encores. I also like shows to start on time. If the show starts at 9:00, put that on the ticket. We all know Prince used to live in Toronto, but no need to constantly call out Toronto, Toronto Toronto. We know where we live.

Prince had the crowd dancing and singing along all night, and at the end, invited everyone to an after-party at a local club.  The Prince show was an expensive ticket, but it was a really great show and a super-fun dance party!


  1. Pingback: Baby Sitter Glen Huntly | Baby Sitter Melbourne

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