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Review Wed Sep 26 2012

Review: Prince @ United Center, 9/25

The complex nature of an eccentric personality rarely ceases to amaze, for better or worse. By all reports, Monday's Welcome 2 Chicago show was a debacle for Prince, his band, and anyone in attendance. But Prince is a known commodity. A performer doesn't reach his stature by regularly disappointing 20,000 people. Unfortunately, Monday was one of those nights. Fortunately (for me and many others), Tuesday was not; and Prince delivered on expectations.

At 8:30pm, the house lights dimmed, smoke rose from around the love symbol stage and the sounds of rolling thunder filled the United Center. From the center of the stage, Prince elevated with a guitar strapped to his back. He walked to each cardinal direction, received requisite cheers and then pulled his Telecaster around to launch into "Let's Go Crazy." In the middle of it, he dropped in "Delirious" before returning to "Let's Go Crazy," and followed up with "1999." Start a show with three monsters like that and a crowd's going to be energized immediately. Add Prince's flair when he knows he's bringing heat and it was clear the night was well on its way to not disappointing.

A half-hour in, Prince took a break from leading and handed off "People Pleaser" to guitarist Andy Allo; he handled keyboards and she ran the show. It was one of few missteps since most of the crowd took it as a chance to sit down. But on the heels of it, Prince wowed all corners of the arena with epic guitar solos on "She's Always In My Hair" and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man." It seemed obvious that he was making up for Monday's fiasco by showcasing his musicianship instead of letting the band be in the spotlight. It's no disrespect to his perfectly capable band; just more indicative of people wanting to see and hear Prince's talent. An apology about Monday led into dazzling versions of "Raspberry Beret" and "Cream" that got some of the biggest applauses and sing-alongs of the night.

After a cover-heavy Monday, it was fairly late until one made it into the set. To introduce it, Prince said it's a song that gets people out of their cars when it's on the radio and pushing their grandmothers out of the way to dance, which made me wonder how he can advocate violence against the elderly but can't play "Erotic City." In fairness, "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" is a straight-up banger and he performed it terrifically while mixing in the Time's "Cool." (It wouldn't be the last time he'd play a song from the Jackson family.) But it was "Nothing Compares 2 U" that really got the crowd moving, especially when Jennifer Hudson appeared for the duet. Towering over Prince, Hudson belted it out as the crowd roared. Even when she left the stage, momentum carried over into a confetti-loaded "Purple Rain" and "Controversy."

The medley encore began with Prince taking to the piano for the first time and rolling through abbreviated versions of notables "When Doves Cry," "Sign 'O' the Times," "Hot Thing" and "Kiss." Spontaneous cheers at the first moment of a recognizable note emanated from all over the United Center. At the end of "Kiss," he put on a dance clinic to manic cheers before going back underneath the stage. The house lights came up and many people began to leave. But the same thing happened Monday and Prince eventually returned, so the crowd whooped and hollered until Prince re-emerged for a scintillating "Little Red Corvette." And back underneath the stage for a few minutes before... coming back out for another encore. At this point, some VIPs bounded on stage to dance as the band ripped through "Act of God," Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" and "Partyman." Clearly in the finale, Prince made sure to spend time at every edge of the stage to amp up the crowd as the night ticked away. Great talent comes with risk that not every move is going to work out. Prince isn't perfect (as evidenced on Monday, apparently), but above all he's a showman and he took full advantage of the opportunity to make up for a miss with a lot of hits.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

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Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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