I’ve been a Prince fan ever since I saw him on American Bandstand in 1980 singing “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting the man, at an autograph signing in 1994, back when 1-800-NEW-FUNK came out. But until now, I’d never gotten the opportunity to see the man live in concert. Truthfully, I almost missed out on this chance as well. Too lazy (and probably too cheap) to trek into New York, I missed out on the first round of shows he scheduled for the Welcome 2 America tour. It was only after a phone call from a friend asking if I wanted his extra ticket that I committed to seeing the legend, and I even hesitated for a bit on that.

What the HELL was I thinking?

I’m probably still on an adrenaline rush, but believe me when I tell you this: I have been to hundreds of concerts in my life dating back sixteen years. Prince’s show at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ was easily one of the ten if not five best shows I have ever attended in my life. This 52-year old put on a show that would have put any artist half his age to shame. Armed with a band tighter than one of his outfits and thirty-two years of hits (although, he only played one song that dated past 1995), Prince-to put it mildly-turned the motherfucker out). By the end of the show, my body hurt, my voice was shot, and I was sweaty…and I quite obviously wasn’t the one on stage.

After impressive opening sets by bassist/vocalist/Best New Artist Grammy nominee Esperanza Spalding (must get her album) and Lalah Hathaway, the crowd was amped for Prince’s arrival. Once he popped up, singing and playing guitar to 20 Ten‘s “Laydown”, it was obvious that he had his game face on. Emphatically touting his old-school (as in: real musicianship, no gimmicks) status, Prince then led his band through a series of hits and fan favorites dating back to 1980’s “Uptown” and even threw in “Cool”-a 1982 hit he wrote and produced (and played and sang on) for The Time. Obviously in good spirits, Prince busted out a few of his signature moves, jumped on top of his piano, and was essentially the consummate showman.

Highlights included a lengthy medley of classic slow jams that practically left me gasping for breath. I can only imagine what the women in the audience were feeling. I’m not the least bit attracted to Prince, and after a run through “Insatiable”, “Scandalous” and “Adore”, even I would have let him have his way with me. His striking support vocalists (including the amazing Shelby J.) turned Sarah McLachlan’s saccharine “Angel” into a riveting gospel workout. The man moved effortlessly between guitar and piano, turning on the rock god heroics  during “Purple Rain” and offering up some beautiful piano during his rendition of “Diamonds & Pearls” with Hathaway (even though sound problems plagued that particular song).

Always regarded as an amazing live performer, I couldn’t have been any more pleased with Prince’s show unless he had pulled me aside and sang to me himself. It’s not often that you get to witness one of the masters of modern-day pop music at work, and seeing Prince live is an absolutely unforgettable experience that I hope you all get the chance to witness.

Prince’s Setlist:

Laydown

Black Muse

The Beautiful Ones

Uptown

Raspberry Beret

Cream

Cool

Let’s Work

U Got the Look

Shhh

Angel

Nothing Compares 2 U

She’s Always in My Hair

If I Was Your Girlfriend (w/Esperanza Spalding)

Insatiable

Scandalous

Adore

Purple Rain

Kiss

Sometimes it Snows in April (w/Lalah Hathaway)

Diamonds and Pearls (w/Lalah Hathaway)

All the Critics Love U in New York

Controversy

Sexy Dancer

Le Freak

Housequake

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