After sound problems frustrated Prince during the early show at The Myth (my review can be found here), hopes were high he would channel that frustration into the late show at 11:30. For me, after an obstructed view in the balcony for that first show, I was just as excited to be headed to the main floor and a good vantage point for the second one. The club allowed everyone who had tickets to both shows to enter before the rest of the crowd, giving us first dibs at the best spots to watch the next concert.
Unhappy about the technical problems, specifically issues with his guitar, Prince asked for us to be cleared out so the band could soundcheck again to make sure things were fixed. We were then all escorted along the side of the building for about a half hour. Once we were let back in, we headed right for the front of the main floor, to the right of the stage. I've only been closer for a Prince show once, for the opening of the One Nite Alone Tour in Saginaw when we literally were right at the foot of the stage, in arm's length of the band in a tiny auditorium. The only reason we weren't right up at the stage for The Myth show was the small area they had sectioned off for VIP's apparently, which ended up being half empty all night and filled with a lot of youngsters who seemed more excited about the free drinks offered with main floor tickets than the music. But I ignored that buffoonery and concentrated on the show.
The second show started exactly as the first had for the first four songs. They opened with "Let's Go Crazy", followed by "Endorphinmachine", "Screwdriver" and "She's Always In My Hair". But there was a different feeling and mood to this set. Prince had 'that look' on his face. The one that says "I know I'm still a bad MF'er, and I am about to kick your ass for the next couple hours." It was obvious he felt he had to make up for the issues with the first show, and when Prince is in this mind-set, forget it. No one can touch him onstage. His guitar work was fierce the entire night, you could feel it in every solo, this was a special show. And speaking of "She's Always In My Hair", this song absolutely sizzles live with 3rd Eye Girl. Especially the second half when it breaks down into a funky groove with Ida Nielsen laying down a bassline that is tough to stop.
The set veered in a different direction for the first time when Prince headed to the keyboards for a surprise version of "Free". I believe this was the only time the song was performed on the Live Out Loud Tour and it was cool to hear even though Prince completely forgot the lyrics to the second verse. I have heard and seen Prince flub lyrics many times, especially in more recent years, but he always has a way of recovering to try to make it look intentional with an ad lib. He appeared legitimately lost this time, unable to come up with something on the fly and let the song play out until the chorus when he picked it up again.
It was then back to the guitar for Prince for "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man". He stuck to the keyboards for this song during the first show due to the technical issues so it was nice to see him trading licks with Donna Grantis up close this time. "Guitar", "Plectrum Electrum" and "Fixurlifeup" followed, with Prince again showcasing some monster guitar work. The set then changed up again with "I Like It There" and another song rarely played on the tour, "So Far, So Pleased". I always thought this should have been the lead single from the ill-fated 1999 Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic album, so it was nice to see him pull it out a couple times on this tour. I still much prefer hearing material that is not played often live over the same old hits so this was a welcome addition. The main set then closed with a fantastic version of "Stratus", showcasing the talents of everyone onstage.
The encore was simply 30 minutes of Prince at his best. Things started with "Purple Rain", again with The Revolution's Bobby Z guesting on drums. Much like the first show, Prince broke the song down and used the occasion to say some nice things regarding Bobby. But this time he seemed to go to a deeper, personal place with his comments. "Who is that on the drums? His name is my brother, understand? No matter what happens, Bobby has always been a source of encouragement. It's what all of us need sometime. I can find many people to put me down. I'm just trying to figure out, how long do I have to walk through this apocalypse of pain? I hear you laugh at me when all I wanted to do was see you laugh in the Purple Rain."
After Bobby Z left the stage to thunderous applause, Prince started the piano line from "The Max" and I about lost my mind. I knew this had been played previously on the tour, but was not expecting to hear it during these shows. This performance proved Prince can re-work some of his funkier material to fit this current, rock oriented lineup. He then further proved it by calling for "Laydown", one of his better funk tunes of recent years. Prince stayed on the keyboards for this one as well, with Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen killing it on guitar and bass. By this time, Prince's voice was clearly hoarse and it actually added to the overall funkiness of the performance. "Ain't no party like a purple party cuz a purple party don't stop" Prince chanted as the song closed the first encore out.
After a few minutes of the audience screaming for more with the curtains now closed, Prince and 3rd Eye Girl returned to take bows and he pretended to whisper something down the line to Hannah Ford who announced "Prince wants me to tell you that he doesn't have a voice... but he has fingers" and the roar from the crowd had them heading back to their instruments for an instrumental cover of Pearl Jam's "Even Flow". Normally this would not excite me that much, but Prince absolutely tore shit up on the guitar for this one, there is no other way to put it. It was one final reminder of his greatness on the instrument and of the special nature of this late show. I have seen some speculation the vocal issue was an act, but there is no question Prince's voice was fairly shredded by the end of the first encore.
The trip to Minnesota was absolutely worth it. I think the last second nature of the whole thing made it even more memorable. I had resigned myself to not going, then to have it all fall into place just days before the show made it an unforgettable weekend. It was truly a perfect storm the way it all came together. Prince seems refreshed and challenged again instead of riding on the auto-pilot, greatest hits revue he has been on for years now. I have not been this excited over Prince concerts since probably the 94-95 shows at Paisley Park. This lineup feels like a BAND, not backing musicians, a big difference and I haven't had this feeling with Prince since the original NPG. Donna Grantis especially impressed me as someone who has grown tremendously as a player during this tour. 3rd Eye Girl was definitely rough around the edges when they debuted earlier this year at The Dakota, none more so than Grantis, but no longer. It was fascinating to watch Prince direct the action onstage as well, pointing to who should solo during songs, always in complete control of his stage.
I love to watch Prince play the guitar so these shows were right in my sweet spot and to see the second show that close will be something I will never forget. The second show was clearly mostly diehards in attendance and the vibe of that combined with what Prince was bringing from the stage made for a legendary performance. I'm so glad we made the decision to go and I hope Prince makes the decision to stick with this direction and band for awhile.