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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 51
Prince at Tacoma Dome gives fleeting performance
Arts & Entertainment
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Prince at Tacoma Dome gives fleeting performance

by Jessica Price - SGN Contributing Writer

Prince
Tacoma Dome
December 19


'You know how many hits we got?' Prince asked the crowd at the Tacoma Dome on Monday night during the final stop of the Welcome 2 America tour. 'We'll be here all night!'

But take heed; the man, the artist, the genius that was born Prince Rogers Nelson is nothing if not a highly skilled tease. Starting out around 8:30, Prince and his current touring band (including legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker) launched into what could be the longest nonstop Prince hit medley ever. Not all the songs were medleys per se; some songs were edited or expanded, giving the set an impulsive feel. Most apparent through the unrelenting string of hits was that when you go see Prince, you've got to follow where he feels like leading, and on Monday, there were tons of hits to plow through: 'Let's Go Crazy,' 'Delirious,' '1999,' 'Little Red Corvette,' 'Take Me With U,' 'Raspberry Beret,' and 'Cream' - and he was just getting started.

The Tacoma Dome, truth be told, is a terrible place to see a show. Traffic and parking fees are ridiculous and unavoidable. Worse yet are the Dome's acoustics, which one would be hard-pressed to overcome, even with the budget of Prince. The sound in the mid to high seating levels had a distorted, tinny quality that made the spectacular musicianship of the band bounce off the walls as if the concert were taking place in a metal shipping container. But this handicap was easily overlooked in the presence of Prince's greatness.

Dressed in typical debonair fashion - black and white pants, ruffled shirt, stacked heels, and a silk headscarf - Prince still commands an air of rock royalty though he has been out of mainstream radio's spotlight for years. He may not be dropping into splits the way he used to, but the moves are still intact, as well as his phenomenal guitar work and that unmistakable voice. Prince's mad genius lies in his constant (albeit eclectic) output. He is always composing, arranging, and playing (he's released 28 albums since 1978, a fact complicated by Prince's fiercely independent theories of distribution). Real musicianship is rare on the radio these days, a point Prince lamented in much of his audience banter.

Though the party atmosphere continued (briefly detouring into Michael Jackson's 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough'), the second distinct portion of the set took on a darker feel. Moving to one side of the giant love sign (aka 'the Prince symbol') that served as a stage in the round, he delivered a passionate 'Nothing Compares 2 U' (the song was written by Prince, but became a worldwide hit for Sinéad O'Connor). Then he moved to the piano, and the lights went out. 'When Doves Cry' never sounded more deep and dangerous. The sounds triggered lights on the electrified piano, with Prince's outline barely visible. From there, he began a flirtatious sampler set consisting of the greater parts of 'Nasty Girl,' 'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,' and 'Alphabet Street' intermingled with the ominous backbone of 'Sign o' the Times' and 'Darling Nikki.' 'I Would Die 4 U' and part of 'Kiss' followed - the audience, predictably, went crazy. 'Purple Rain' closed the set, with explosions of gold and purple confetti raining down on the audience while Prince poured his heart and soul into his guitar solo. After a pause, 'Controversy' was the one and only encore - and then, abruptly, Prince was gone.

Perhaps Tacoma didn't give it up the way Vancouver had just a few nights before - but 'Controversy' seemed like an odd choice for a curtain call (Vancouver reportedly was treated to four encores). The sudden departure after only an hour and a half of stage time was a disappointment to many - not to mention that tickets weren't cheap. Surprising also was the conspicuous absence of funkier later-period material. It has been fairly common on recent tours for Prince & The New Power Generation to continue for several hours into the night, indulging in outtakes and jam sessions.

Perhaps after the concession of an extremely hit-laden set, Prince's headstrong nature secretly triumphed with the unceremonious departure. As it turned out, the band was headed to the trendy club Republiq in SODO for an exclusive after-show jam. From all reports, this was where the 'other' Prince played on, unbridled, for several hours. And even though it seems a little flippant, it's Prince. He's been living in a reclusive universe for so long that you can't really fault him for doing what he probably does every night at home in Minnesota - staying up to the early hours of the morning, lost in his musical experiments. It's just too bad we weren't invited.

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