Sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet. Let's see… pay off my student-loans, have groceries for a month, or buy 2 face-value tickets for Prince in a 1,400 person venue five minutes from my house? Well as long as they still sell Maruchan Ramen Noodles by the 36-pack, I'm gonna blow my load on music every time. And it's not like I had any doubts in the first place, but The Purple One surely did not disappoint. Opening up with the new slow-funk remix version of "Let's Go Crazy," the room quite simply went bonkers. I was initially in slight shock for two reasons. Firstly because I was standing 10 feet away from one of the modern immortals, and secondly because he was wearing a bright white drug-rug. If you want to be the one to tell Prince that bajas went out of style in 1993, go right ahead, but I for one thought it was an audacious fashion statement that only he could pull off. Whatever, he's fuckin' Prince.
Now as I've only seen the man perform at the Superbowl or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I was expecting to see a justifiably smug look on his face all night. But the greatest part of the whole show was seeing how much fun he was having, and how actually human he was. He was making direct eye contact and head nods with every corner of the room throughout the set, and the direct eyeball-to-eyeball moment I had with him during the "Bambi" closer was one of the musical peaks of my concert-attending life. But more on that later. He big-upped his band constantly like they were the real stars of the show, and while nobody can out-star Prince, these three ladies were a collective beast of sound. Hannah Ford is a monster on the drums, and possibly hits the snare harder than anyone I've ever seen. Ida Neilsen is straight money on the bass, and the whole night she had a grin on her face like she was standing front row. And then there's Donna Grantis. Being able to stand toe-to-toe with one of the greatest guitar players of all time is no easy feat, but Grantis held nothing back. Ferocious yet graceful, I'd have to easily put her in my current top 10 list of most bad-ass women on the planet.
The set itself touched on all angles of the vast Prince catalog, but intentionally strayed from the common radio hits. I don't think I had ever listened to 1994's The Gold Experience, but after "Endorphinmachine" shredded my face off I felt guilty for shrugging off his years as "The Artist Formerly Known As." The old Revolution rocker "She's Always in My Hair" was massively soul-crushing, and when the ending guitar solo was turned over to Grantis she made sure to take no prisoners. Still, there's no doubt that it was a whole other life force when the little guy with the afro took his licks. As I started to say before, "Bambi" was absolutely ridiculous. Already hyped from the eye-lock I had made with him between verses, the guitar solo made me laugh/scream like I was The Joker on a murder spree. It kept building, and building, and erupting, and erupting more, and just when it was at its peak and the double-bass drum was in full attack, it managed to erupt even more. It was one of the hugest goddamn things I've every witnessed -- the kind of guitar solo that you throw your underwear away after. The encore was two newer ones that nobody seemed too familiar with. They were great, but not necessarily the showstoppers I was expecting. But then… the houselights stayed off, the curtain opened back up, Prince was seated at the piano, and he was starting up "Purple Rain." I don't care how over-the-top you've heard a friend sing this at Karaoke, or how great a version you think you've seen Phish do of it, you have no idea what this "Purple Rain" was like. I'd estimate it had about 9 false endings -- just as you thought it was over he'd kick back in, and the crowd sang the "Oooh Ooohs" louder and louder as he urged them us to sing so loud that the folks waiting outside for the late show could hear what they were missing. (He didn't play it for the late-night crowd.) It was enormous, and beautiful, and one of those moments I'm sure to reminisce about when I'm drooling on myself in a nursing home.