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Concert Tue Sep 25 2012

Review: Prince @ United Center, 9/24/12


There is an elephant in the room that will be addressed, but let's start with something positive in regards to the strange set Monday night from Prince at United Center. His performance of "Purple Rain" was hands down one of the best musical performances I've ever seen live. And there is no denying that in that moment, the crowd saw truly how amazing of a performer, writer, and artist Prince truly is. I sung along with everyone, was moved to tears, and it was an incredible moment. But, it was a bittersweet reminder of what I missed out on by not seeing Prince years ago, as his set Monday night was full of tease and confusion, and a poor example of what the artist really is about.

Now, back to that elephant in the room, which is the now infamous third encore situation Monday night. After playing a second encore of snippets of hits ("Girlfriend," "When Doves Cry," "Kiss") Prince said goodnight, exited the stage, and the house lights stayed off as crew members swept purple confetti off the stage. The stage still lit and lights off, fans sat for 40 minutes anticipating a return, when suddenly the house lights went up. The crowd erupted, booing and shaking heads abound, as we waited about 10 more minutes before the staff at the United Center started asking us to leave the building. After a 40-minute tease, the show was over. Or so everyone thought. As I sat on the #20 bus reflecting on my conflicted feelings of the show, I saw on Twitter that about an hour after leaving the stage, Prince returned to the small crowd still left and performed "1999" and "Red Corvette." I was stunned, an artist usually so dedicated to his craft and fans totally dropped the ball and simply fell flat as he ended an already mixed show.

A diehard fan on my ride home, who told me she'd seen every tour since 1984, stated that it was the worst show she'd seen of his, and that something must be wrong behind the scenes because it just wasn't like the Prince she knew. And I agree, it was not what anyone expects of a Prince show, with an artist relying on his backing band too much, near to none guitar playing, and little dancing from one of the greatest performers around. The night kicked off with a mix of funk and soul original and covers -- not a bad thing, but honestly I was expecting the show to start with at least one big hit before transitioning into the jam portion of the evening. The night slowed down with a sultry and powerful duet between vocalist Shelby Johnson and Prince on "Nothing Compares 2 U," before moving into a bizarro cover of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" performed by his backup singers as Prince left the stage. Surely for an outfit change, one would think, during this sappy gospel-infused rendition. But when he returned dressed in the same impeccable black and white getup the jig was up. Was Prince pranking us? It seemed like a cruel joke, almost as cruel as the moment later in the show when he played the opening bars to "Darling Nikki" a giant tease of the music he now refuses to play. Word of the wise if you are attending a Prince concert these days; he no longer plays the dirty stuff because of his religion, which he has been devoted to the past 10 years. So to the girls behind us screaming for "Erotic City," sorry to burst your bubble but that isn't happening anymore.

Thankfully the set picked back up as Prince and his latest protegé Andy Allo knocked out a spot on version of "Take Me With You," which also marked the first time in the set that Prince actually picked up an instrument and played. He continued the upswing with a soaring (albeit quick) version of "Raspberry Beret," building tension as he launched into "Cream" and a cover of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" that had the entire arena screaming and dancing along. This was the set people were yearning for during the past hour, as he ended on "Purple Rain," a mesmerizing and moving performance and everything I hoped the entire night would, and should, have been.

So, what we're left with is a big pile of conflicted emotions as a fan. I know the Prince of long ago is gone, and I realize that he's made it enough as an artist to not have to prove himself anymore. He's at the point where he's doing what he wants to do and performing the songs that make him happy, and that is fine. But it's indulgent, and a bit cruel to the fans who weren't able to see him until now (and, to be frank, paid good money in exchange for seeing what they expect to be a great show). And it hurts even more when I know that last night wasn't typical of this artist. I've read reviews of his LA shows last year and they sounded incredible, so what went wrong that made Monday night pale in comparison to what I've come to expect of a Prince show?

I doubt we'll ever know, but I truly hope the rest of his run in Chicago doesn't fade away like Monday night. I'm glad I went, but as a fan part of me is really hurt with the way the encore was dealt with and the overall relaxed performance. Maybe we expect too much of our idols, but when you know someones full potential, and they trip and stumble, it feels like an even greater and more personal blow as a fan. I hope one day to see another Prince concert that will make up for the roller coaster ride of a set last night, but until then we'll have to settle for listening to records that recall a better day and age of Prince.

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Eternal_Fields / September 25, 2012 12:14 PM

"His performance of "Purple Rain" was hands down one of the best musical performances I've ever seen live. And there is no denying that in that moment, the crowd saw truly how amazing of a performer, writer, and artist Prince truly is. I sung along with everyone, was moved to tears, and it was an incredible moment."

So it was one of the best musical performances this reviewer has ever seen, yet not one word is written explaining why this was so. The crowd could "see" how amazing Prince was, but again, the writer doesn't bother mentioning in her review just what was so revelatory or transcendent about this particular performance. This reads more like a diary entry than a concert review.

mottdeterre / September 25, 2012 12:51 PM

Last night was the third time over three decades that I've seen Prince live, and each time he did "bizarre" things like this. The craziest was the night when he started the show four hours (!) late -- the story circulating through the crowd was that he decided on the spur of the moment to fly in Larry Graham and Chaka Khan and was waiting for their planes to land. Sure enough, when he did finally come on at midnight, he had Larry and Chaka with him, although she wasn’t on stage for very long before he dismissed her for not being able to "find the one." He played until dawn -- quite literally -- I think the few hundred of us who waited the four hours for the show to begin ended the experience by walking out dazed, satisfied and funked-up to the hilt at 5 a.m. That performance was mind-blowing – the guitar playing, the dancing, the singing, all absolutely incredible. Last night was long on spectacle and shockingly short on prowess and finesse. Something tells me he'll pull it together for the remaining shows. What I do know is that Prince has always been a hugely mercurial, demanding artist, and attending one of his shows is always a crap shoot. As he said himself several times last night, "Call the babysitter y'all."

MB / September 25, 2012 1:24 PM

I've seen Prince on every tour since Purple Rain, and this was not the best show, nor was it the worst. It was great to hear him perform Time and Sheila E. songs. I think the bigger elephant in the room was how terrible the sound was at UC. Allstate Arena, formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon, is just one of the reasons he was so much better in 84 and 04.

randy watson / September 25, 2012 1:39 PM

what time did he go on.....going tonight and hope to be blown away after last nights mess

Lisa White / September 25, 2012 1:41 PM

@ Randy Watson

He went on around 9:15. It's billed as 8 though, and he did apologize for being a bit late, so I wouldn't be surprised if he starts earlier tonight after last nights encore issues.

pg / September 25, 2012 3:19 PM

He was totally pissed with the sound..he tried to play guitar multiple times and the sound sucked…I observed him barking on many occasion to the sound board team…about everything from the horn section to the drummer…at one point after trying a few licks on the guitar he tossed it…not for show i surmise…but from disgust with the sound…I agreed with him too…I'm a lifelong fan..but yes…UC sound sucked it up…no doubt..

Purple Pain / September 25, 2012 3:42 PM

From the bad sound and lame performance at the United Center to the late-night non-show at House Of Blues, Prince’s first night in Chicago showed an utter contempt for his audience. Let’s return the favor. Prince is supposedly in town to support the Rebuild The Dream charity. Please DO NOT DONATE to this cause. If Prince thinks his behavior towards his fans last night was acceptable, then his judgment is clearly suspect about Rebuild The Dream, as well. Welcome2Chicago? Sorry, Prince, but U R no longer welcome here.

tonysounds / September 25, 2012 4:27 PM

9:08pm start, with 5 minutes of Thunder sound fx before the band played one note; then another 8 minutes of thunder half way through the show before Purple Rain. A 10 minute medley of his hits played by him and the sequencer on his keyboard as he pressed PLAY for a few seconds of various songs. He wrapped up the show at 11:00pm sharp. We stayed, thanks to the house lights remaining dim until 11:45pm, at which point the house lights came on and we were ushered out. To find out he decided to play for the last 50 diehard disciples is just an indicator of his narcissm. He could have ended the show at 11pm, and just left people wanting more. And the "after party" ploy is something I fell for on the Rainbow Children tour. He never even bothered to show up for that one after charging $45 each to get in. "I don't NEED to be here, I want to be here." Well that's great: I didn't WANT to be at work today, but I NEEDED to. It would have been nice to have been in bed at 1am instead of trying to get away from the United Center at 1am. Thank you lil bro!

Debra / September 25, 2012 6:09 PM

We agree!! I will never see him again in concert. I also have been to every concert since 1984 so this was a major disappointment!! Now I feel ripped off and taken for a ride.

Christy / September 25, 2012 7:16 PM

I too have been a longtime fan. I had been looking forward to and talking up the concert for weeks. I actually bit the bullet and purchased VIP seats thinking he may not return to Chicago again for years and wanted to make sure I had the best possible Prince concert experience. I have seen him everytime he comes to Chicago and have NEVER been disappointed. On another note, he has a teleprompter with the word of the songs. I too feel taken for a ride, and not a pleasant one at that. This experience cost more than 1500.00. What happened.....I feel like he may be into mentoring other musicians which is fine, but not on my dime. I paid to see PRINCE, instead I paid to see a stranger.

Courtney / September 25, 2012 10:37 PM

I saw him twice this past year on the Welcome2America tour. Opening night in NYC and also in London Ontario. Both shows were AMAZING. 3 solid hours of hits and funk jams. I truly believe last night was a hundred percent sound issues. The techs were still testing smoke and lights at 8:30! The sound at United was atrocious. The fans knew it, the band knew it, and Prince sure the heck knew it. I think his frustration showed throughout the show, but there was nothing he could do. I watched him skip past several songs on the prompter, wondering if it was because he didn't want his guitar riffs to sound like crap for them. I had $750 seats in the VIP tables, so for me - just seeing him dance and sing right there was unbelievable every time. I can see how other fans might be disappointed though. United sucks.

George / September 26, 2012 12:47 PM

I agree with everyone here. I have followed Prince for over three decades. I actually still have albums. This was my 5th time seeing him live in concert and I can say with a heavy heart it will be my last. He sand little, danced less and played instruments even less than that. What a sham. I will never spend another dime on him, his music or any cause he promotes. I found it humorous that two of the loudest cheers of the night were for The Time songs. I saw Morris Day the last two years at Summerfest and his show was not spectacular but it was 10 times better than the garbage I saw on Monday night.

MISTY NELSON / September 26, 2012 1:22 PM

I heard last nights concert got 4 encors & tonights show dropped ticket prices to $29 for Prince feeling bad about Mondays show. I was at Mondays show & it was the worst concert of my life..any ideas if us MONDAY concert goers are entitled to anything?? Afterall, WE are the ones who suffered through this & not yesterdays or tonights concert goers.!!!

J. Harris / September 26, 2012 3:12 PM

I also feel cheated. These tickets were an Anniversary gift from my brother, and all of us were looking forward to this day. My ticket was also for Monday the 24th of September. I feel Prince should add another show for those still holding their tickets for the Monday show. Even if the show is 2-3 hours long. I saw Prince the very first time when he had the big Afro. He was with Rick James and the Time then. So, I have been an advent follower of Prince since that time. I was very, very disappointed.

Dark Rain / September 26, 2012 3:25 PM

I overheard a woman in the ladies room saying that Prince feels since he is so big now that he had gotten besides himself and feels he can do just enough to get by these days to please his fans. Well people took their hard earned money trying to enjoy themselves for a change, especially since times are harder now. He definitely should have thought about others feelings and his fans who paid good money for their tickets. Yes, Prince is a big star, but there is a higher power bigger than you. Love you man, but disappointed on Monday night. Since you have been in the business for years, being late for a show was something you surely should know by now???

Zandra / September 26, 2012 6:53 PM

Tuesday's show was excellent. I have seen Prince each time he performed in Chicago. I first saw him when he performed at the Uptown Theater and saw him several times at the Park West before he began playing at the larger arenas. Tuesday we saw an older, more mature Prince who has a huge library and wanted to make up for Monday's show.

He may be a bit temperamental, but he is a musical genius and as long as he chooses to perform I will be in the audience - dancing, singing and losing my voice just as I did last night.

The Purple one reigns!!!

jason / September 26, 2012 11:31 PM

I always wonder how Prince could put on a show every in Las Vegas and add a show in on tour after that. Now I know why! I was at the show on the 24th. It took him over an hour to pick up the guitar, and hardly danced. Why does he have a guitar player in his band, I thought he was the guitar player, that's what I paid big money to see him. Prince you need to take lessons from other big names don't try like Billy Idol, Mick Jagger, etc. only perform when your ready. You don't see any pro perform every night. GET IT!

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