“We’re just gonna lip sync the next 2 songs, because that’s what you want, right?”
Lip sync? And so that was Prince’s tease at the 1/3rd point of his blistering rock revival show on Saturday night at the Myth. What followed was a medley of Prince jams finding the man himself behind the keyboard and sampler – spitting out 2 minute tidbits of his greatest hits to the delight of the 3000+ crowd with a dozen pre-arranged dancers onstage. It was an oddly infectious 20-minute DJ stretch that found Prince reminding the crowd that for a portion of the 80’s he made music that still hasn’t escaped us. Songs like ‘Sign o the Times’, ‘Housequake’, ‘Hot Thing’ (all three from Prince’s masterpiece, Sign o the Times) and even 1982’s ‘Nasty Girl’ thrived off the great equalizer known as the live show. When the old tracks are played at home on our stereo they suffer from that 1980’s fidelity – too muddy when compared to this generations new mastering scheme for digital. But when played back to back onstage they smell like brand new and are dominant. For this 20 minutes Prince was the effortless puppet master – playing and singing large portions of other staples such as ‘A Love Bizarre’. It was a dazzling, heavily sampled medley that never saw Prince leave the keyboard and microphone. It was also the only time of the night Prince paid zero attention to his guitar.
For nearly a decade (2002-2012) Prince was lost into his Vegas mode, with every track from his catalog sounding like a horn-filled rendition of disappointment. Because of that his catalog has suffered greatly in the past 15 years. His last truly great album was 1995’s The Gold Experience. Since then he’s suffered from over-indulgence (the 3 CD set Emancipation) and he’s splattered the new millennium with the worst string of albums of his career, by far. This became easily apparent onstage on Saturday night where the only material lagging were the new tracks. This was no more obvious than with the back-to-back tracks of 1985’s ‘She’s Always in My Hair’ and his 2013 release ‘ScrewDriver’. The former (‘Hair’) is a former B-side and was nearly a throwaway for a decade until Prince woke up one day and reproduced it in his shows. It’s a dizzying simple song that is overtly compelling and perfect and obviously superior to the pedestrian new tracks Prince pulled out Saturday night (including ‘FixUrLifeUp’ and ‘Guitar’). His new studio material that past 15 years has been the only disappointing black mark on what is perhaps the most amazing solo career alongside Elvis and Springsteen for longevity and quality.
If you can ignore the 15 minutes of new material Saturday’s night show was scintillating. Prince prowess on guitar is nothing new, nor is his stage presence. Aside from Michael Jackson, Prince has been the most compelling solo act on stage since 1984. He’s now in legendary status and he’s widely known as the single greatest, living performer right now. It’s not a question, it’s a fact.
This show’s highlight was almost lost in the shadows. For the past 30 years Prince has found numerous ways to remake his landmark hit ‘When Doves Cry’. He’s added bass lines and every type of arrangement possible to make the original studio track almost forgotten. No more, and thank you Prince. On Saturday night Prince delivered a breathtaking, near-identical remake of the original, complete with no bass line and just the 3 original instruments; Prince’s voice, a drum and a keyboard. With the same precision as the original, Prince’s ability to vocalize this classic in the same exact manner of the 1984 version brought back the stunning simplicity and absolute brilliance of this former #1 track. On a night where tracks such as ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’ were dramatically different, Prince reminded us of his simple brilliance from 1982-87 when he released a series of landmark rock and soul albums that were reminiscent of the impression left by the Beatles from 1966-70. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.