PRINCE @ OGDEN THEATRE | 5/13/12 | EARLY SHOW In a bold move during his first show at the Ogden Theatre last night, Prince played "Purple Rain" three songs in. But instead of the version we all know and love, he played piano, and the band subtly backed him up. Even without the signature guitar solo, it had all the grace and passion that made the original version so iconic. And that was just one interesting and bold gesture of this show, which seemed to be made entirely of such moments.
The show began with the curtain drawn and the voice of one of the members of 3rd Eye Girl reminding the crowd not to take any pictures, urging them instead to just enjoy the show or risk being escorted out for the transgression. What might have come off as an admonishment from someone else came off in a friendly way. After a short pause, the band came on stage and went right into a syncopated, hard-funk reinterpretation of "Let's Go Crazy," and, naturally, most everybody knew the words and sang along, which seemed to please Prince immensely.
Prince himself looked like he had stepped through a time portal from early 1970 after taking some style tips from Jimi Hendrix, particularly his hair, which was closely coiffed in a kind of mini Afro, and he carried himself like the kind of rock star he is, only it's clear that he hasn't forgotten that music is supposed to be fun and imbued with passion and energy. Both Prince and the band maintained this vibe from the first song to the last.
There was a lot of playful interaction on stage, and near the end of "Screwdriver," Prince said, "Donna, play your guitar, sister." That ignited Grantis, who fired off guitar licks that wove in perfectly with Prince's own. At the beginning of the song, Prince joked as he has on much of the tour, asking if we minded if he and the band lip-synched. He chuckled a moment, then said, "You mean you like real music?"
For this set, Prince didn't dip back into his first five albums at all, but that was understandable, as much of his best material came with Purple Rain and after. For the later material, Prince offered heavier, hard-rock renditions of the songs.
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The version of "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" performed at this show, in fact, felt like what it must have been like to see Led Zeppelin circa 1972. The guitar work was flashy, fiery and vibrant and not excessive so much as exuberant, as Grantis and Prince strode the stage back to back and made their guitars cry out in a way you rarely see. It wasn't guitar wankery but rather an improvisational tour-de-force.
Continue on for more on the early show and a full review of the late show.
Most of the songs from the set came from that Prince era of 1984 through 1995, including "Endorphinmachine" from The Gold Experience, as well as a surprise performances of "The Max" from the New Power Generation period and the "Paisley Park" B-side, "She's Always In My Hair." But no matter the era, Prince and 3rd Eye Girl played the songs like they were just written a few months ago.
For his part, Prince seemed to be having so much fun playing with Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford and bassist Ida Nielsen that he gave into more flights of fancy than usual. Energized by the crowd, he mentioned that he might have to get a house in Colorado.
Another moment of levity came when Prince told us there was someone at the show who was going to come up as the band teased the instrumental bits of "Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6, only to inform us that she wasn't actually on hand. The main set proper ended with a cover of Wild Cherry's hit "Play That Funky Music" that didn't seem cheesy for a change -- it was as though Prince had seen the song used so shabbily in movies and commercials that he kind of reclaimed it.
The stage darkened momentarily and then everyone came back out and played "Guitar," and then followed that up with a new song, the largely instrumental "Plectrum Electrum," before ending the whole show with a medley of "Crimson and Clover" and "Wild Thing," juxtaposing the former in the verses and latter in the choruses. Closing with a cover was also an interesting choice but in a show where the band teased a bit of Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" and played the Popeye The Sailor theme at one point (among other sonic allusions), this was a show full of surprises for fans, casual or diehard.
-- Tom Murphy
Prince The Ogden Theatre - May 13, 2013 (early show) Denver, CO
Let's Go Crazy Endorphinmachine Screwdriver Purple Rain The Max I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man The Ride She's Always In My Hair When Doves Cry (w/"Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6 instrumental intro) A Love Bizarre Forever In My Life Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry cover)
Guitar Plectrum Electrum Crimson and Clover and Wild Thing medley
Personal Bias: Jimi Hendrix died the year I was born, and to me, the only real heir to his musical legacy who's still alive is Prince. His mastery of instrumentation, the breadth and depth of his musical vision and his ability to emote raw emotion in his singing is rarely matched.
Random Detail: Ran into Brian Kauffman former drummer of the Fourth Republic, Anne Frank on Crank and Supply Boy and current drummer of Hey Lady, a B-52s cover band, at the show.
By the Way: There were way too many side conversations going on at this show. Paying a healthy sum to see Prince at a place as small as the Ogden deserves focus -- or so you'd think.
Continue on for a review of the final set.
Near the end of Prince's hour-and-a-half late-night set, he sat at his keyboard while laying down the opening chords to "Purple Rain," he said, "Colorado, listen to me. Strange times in America now, huh? We gotta try to get along. You've heard before, but now more than ever, that's what we need. We also need your voice. You can sing if you want to." Then Prince ran through a few verses of the song and nearly everyone in the Ogden Theatre chimed in the chorus. "Does that feel good?" Prince asked. "It's like medicine."
While singing along to one of handful of hits Prince played during the second show might have been medicine for some, the whole show could also be considered an insanely heady elixir. "I can't argue with anybody any more," Prince said, talking over the changes of "Purple Rain," adding, "I'm too happy. I'm too blessed. Aren't we all? You know times are changing. They're not the same any more. It's time we all reach out for something. Something new. Something different."
And that's essentially what he gave us -- something new and something different. Flanked by guitarist Donna Grantis, bassist Ida Nielsen and drummer Hannah Ford -- known collectively as the bad-ass force 3rd Eye Girl -- Prince opened with a reworked take on "Let's Go Crazy" that was slowed down into a thick, dirty groove.
And those heavy grooves prevailed throughout a good part of the set. During the second cut, "Endorphinmachine," Prince asked, "Do you like your rock and roll funky? So do I." Taking a few cues from Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys, Prince and 3rd Eye Girl injected some funk into the rock while laying down some almighty grooves, especially on "Plectrum Electrum," which felt like Band of Gypsys playing Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean."
During "Stratus," a cover from jazz drummer Billy Cobham's 1973 album Spectrum, the gals locked in while Prince dug into jazzy playing on the keys. He also added a bit of jazz to "The Love We Make," which he played solo while the stage was fairly dark. Early in the set, Prince said, "It's going to be hard to play with anybody else other than these three up here," and it was easy to see why. Grantis went head to head with Prince on a few solos. On "Bambi" the two soloed while hanging their left legs over their guitar necks.
While Prince and company took "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man," from 1987's Sign "O" the Times, and slowed it down considerably, he was more faithful to some of his other hits during a fifteen-minute medley of tunes that included parts of "When Doves Cry," Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl," "Sign 'O' the Times," "Housequake," "I Would Die 4 You," "A Love Bizarre" and "Hot Thing," among others.
Continue on for the rest of the late show review.
After the "Nasty Girl" section of the medley, Prince invited some women from the crowd to dance on stage. While about fifteen gals danced on stage, Prince said, "Ain't no party like a purple party. Purple party don't stop." Indeed. If anything, the set felt more like a party than concert -- and that's exactly what made this series of shows so special. It's the kind of experience you're obviously not going to get at an 18,000-seat area.
-- Jon Solomon
Prince The Ogden Theatre - May 13, 2013 (late show) Denver, CO
Let's Go Crazy Endorphinmachine Screwdriver Stratus The Love We Make How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore? I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man Guitar Plectrum Electrum FixUrLifeUp
When Doves Cry Nasty Girl Sign O the Times The Most Beautiful Girl in the World Housequake I Would Die 4 You A Love Bizarre Hot Thing (with a few other snippets of songs included) Purple Rain Bambi
She's Always in My Hair U Got the Look
Personal Bias: Prince is clearly a gifted singer, but the man is also a hell of a guitarist and keyboardist, among other things, and 3rd Eye Girl is equally fierce.
Random Detail: While the show was about ninety minutes, it seemed a hell of a lot longer.
By the way: Before the show, drummer Hannah Ford made an announcement from the soundboard area that no photos or videos were allowed and that if you were caught doing so you'd be kicked out of the venue.
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