"There was no way Prince was getting more of my money. That was, until I read tickets were just Twenty Five Bucks!..." With his recent passing, we savor the memories of our time with The Purple One at his ridiculously cheap show in 2011.
When I first heard Prince was scheduled to play 21 nights worth of shows at The Forum, a run down 17,000 seat sports arena in Inglewood, California, I could have cared less. Even though I am a lifelong fan, there was no way he was getting any more of my money. The last time I bought tickets to a Prince show it was packed with dreadful jazz dreck from his failed album “Rainbow Children.” Painful. Even though he is my favorite artist of all time and his music serves as the soundtrack to my life I couldn’t see clear to give the recently self proclaimed “Purple Yoda” another shot. That was, until I read the one thing that an aging hipster with two kids (and very limited amount of disposable income) couldn’t resist–tickets were just Twenty Five Bucks! At that price it was gamble I was willing to take. Sure, they weren’t the best seats but I wasn’t so high up I developed altitude sickness.
The show started with a tiny, yet daunting, figure pacing around the dimly lit Prince-symbol-shaped stage, then a blast of blinding lights revealed Prince alongside his trademark purple piano. The crowd exploded as Prince sang along to a triggered sample from “When Doves Cry.” He then segued into the evening’s first medley which included pieces of “Nasty Girl, “Sign Of The Times”, “Hot Thing” and the intro to “Darling Nikki.” But right before it was time to sing the ultra-explicit lyric, Prince stopped and jokingly told the crowd, “I can’t play that song no more. I’m in rehab!” then segued snippets of “I Would Die For You” and “Forever In My Life.”
A blanket of fog coated the stage as his band, The New Power Generation, (comprised of 3 keyboardists, a drummer, bass player and a trio of female back up singers) joined in the funk. Prince strapped on his guitar and the show really got started as they unleashed a barrage of hits including “Let’s Go Crazy”, “1999”, “Delirious” and a slowed down sex-dripped version of “Little Red Corvette.” Then opening act Mary J Blige, who destroyed the crowd earlier in the night with her tight 30 minutes set of R&B greatness, joined Prince onstage for a hysteria causing duet on “Nothing Compares 2 U.” If that wasn’t enough, former James Brown sax player Maceo Parker was also on hand.
The show could have ended right there and I would have still ranked it in the top ten shows I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t. Prince continued to serve up a mix of album tracks (“DMSR”, “Pop Life”) covers: (“Break It On Down”) and more (“Musicology” complete with a blistering guitar solo) long into the night. After almost two hours Prince disappeared leaving his trio of female singers to show off their vocal prowess on Brenda Lee’s “Misty Blue.” He then returned for another hit packed medley of “Take Me With U”, “Raspberry Beret”, “Play That Funky Music”and “Cream” were followed by a bass heavy take on Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” and “C.O.O.L.” a song Prince wrote for The Time. As well as the vintage “Let’s Work.” “You Got The Look” (from “Sign Of The Times.”) which signaled what would be a slight break in the funk.
Encore #1 was a screaming 10 minute version of “Purple Rain” complete with Prince asking the audience to light up their cell phones and several blasts of confetti cannons that covered the sold out show in a rain of purple hearts. For his second encore he tore through old school nuggets “Kiss”, “Controversy” and a covers of “Which Way Is Up”( Barry White) and Kool & The Gang’s “Hollywood Swingin’.” Prince then smiled at the audience and thanked them for coming out to see “Real music by real musicians.” and left the stage for good and impressive Two hours and forty minutes after he arrived.
Was it worth it? Hell Yes! Prince played the hits, rocked it hard, skipped any new material and restored my faith in his genius. Worth ever penny. If he comes to your town do not miss this show, but try to get the twenty five dollar tickets. I know you’re on a budget too. Damn kids.