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Prince @ United Center: A case of the Mondays

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As if answering some kind of Bat Signal -- perhaps there's a spotlight on top of the Hancock tower that throws a big purple Prince symbol into the sky -- pop megastar Prince swooped into to town this week, bringing the party -- and a few party fouls.

Near the end of his Monday night concert at United Center -- the first of three this week at the arena (plus three late-night shows at House of Blues, read on) in conjunction with the local Rebuild the Dream charity -- his crack NPG band started vamping into "Purple Rain." But Prince just had to explain his purple presence.

"Chicago, I don't want to preach," he lied, "but we need to love one another." He continued his homily, implicitly acknowledging the city's rough summer and his reason for being here, like some musical medicine man. "These are hard times, and they're gonna get harder. I don't need to be here; I want to be here." Earlier, as he was getting the party started, he instructed the sold-out crowd to "take your mind off all the problems outside."

Not hard to do when presented such extremes of showmanship and oddity. Throughout a two-hour show Monday night, Prince, his five-piece band, his three backup singers (who sang a lot more than backup), his 11-piece horn section and his in-the-round, Prince symbol-shaped stage jumped to a nearly nonstop beat. Multitasking as bandleader, singer and all too infrequent guitarist, Prince's divided attention resulted in an erratic show, one that eventually boiled over with energy and gusto -- and then went suddenly cool.

Wearing a half-white, half-black suit and high-heeled boots, Prince did his best James Brown (or Cab Calloway) -- that balancing act between singing and dancing at center stage while still controlling every heave and ho of the band, as if each player were a tightly stringed marionette. The slightest flick of his wrist brought the drummer down on his snare; a sharp, sidelong glance shifted them all into the next song. He ran crowd control, too, constantly shouting for the house lights to come up so he could see the crowd -- or, really, so the crowd could be seen, so we'd sing when he said to sing ("Raspberry Beret") and clap when he said to clap ("Musicology"). Audience participation was a high priority on this royal's agenda.

Because he wasn't doing much else. Starting off with some fancy footwork, Prince devolved into a cheerleader sashaying from side to side, ignoring his guitar and his piano. He finally strapped on the guitar for the third act and "Take Me With U," but he wasn't feeling it. The sound was muddy, it didn't last. He even ceded the instrumental solo in "Purple Rain" to one of the sax players.

Reminding us frequently of the breadth of his catalog -- "There's too many hits!" he boasted three times, and truthfully because he didn't get around to playing several chestnuts -- Prince's set ran the gamut from his own hits, those he wrote for others ("Nothing Compares 2 U," "Shhh") and at least one Chicago tip of the hat (Curtis Mayfield's "We're a Winner" was squeezed into one of the many medleys). Once started, the band didn't stop playing for the first 45 minutes, till Prince brought things down into a slower, bluesier, breath-catching second act (complete with his backup ladies, lead by the bald and bold Shelby J, taking lead on an overly long, gospel-infused version of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel").

For the first encore, Prince could be seen returning to the stage in the dark -- he seemed to always be in the dark during this haphazard production -- and striding to the piano. He then left the stage again after saying, "Y'all ain't ready for this." When sufficient cheering convinced him to return, he kicked through "Kiss" and then stationed himself at the piano and synth deck. He proceeded to play DJ, punching out sounds and samples from his hit parade, sometimes singing a verse and chorus, sometimes just teasing -- "When Doves Cry," "Darling Nikki," "Love Bazaar," "I Would Die 4 U," on and on like Madeon.

Then he was done. He said goodbye. People started leaving, and workers started sweeping confetti from the catwalks. But the house lights stayed down, so remaining fans kept cheering, expecting more. After nearly an hour, Prince reportedly returned and gamely ran through two more songs before taking off for his next expected gig: a midnight show at the House of Blues.

Although he was expected at the HOB show -- but not guaranteed -- he was a no-show. A no-performer, anyway. Fans, as you might guess, were purple with rage. Read Dave Hoekstra's report here.

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I saw Prince last night at the United Center in Chicago (9/24/12) I am a big concert goer and have seen many shows every year for over 30 years, but I have never left a show angry until NOW. Prince was the biggest disappointment I have ever seen! He played a lot of other peoples stuff and not enough of his own. Lousy stage show as well, that consisted pretty much of the sound of thunder and a smoke machine. Really? That's all you've got? The sound system sucked as well. The worst part was that he left most of the singing up to his backup singers and the audience. He did not sing ALL (not even most) of a single song himself!! Not a one!!! I paid good money to see HIM sing, not the backup singers and the audience! He may enjoy listening to the audience doing the singing, but I PAID to hear him sing, not watch him get is ego stroked. It was a really LAZY performance and he sure did NOT give it his all. Some songs he only did part of them! Every performer that I have ever seen come out on stage wearing a jacket has to take it off at some point during the show as they start to get too hot. Prince had his jacket on the whole time, as he never even broke a sweat! He also gave this really BS speach about how he "loves" us all and that he will be there for us and "take care" of us. Oh, PLEASE! If you love us so much, how about doing what we are paying you to do and showing some respect for your fans time? As far as "taking care of us" well, he can start with a refund! First, it was an 8:00 show and he didn't even have enough respect for his fans to come on stage until AFTER 9:00! Then, after the encore, the house lights were never turned up, so people waited more than a half hour thinking he was coming back on. I talked to one of the guys running a spot light and he said not even the roadies knew what was going on. What - does Prince get off on seeing how long he can keep a stadium full of people to stay after the show is over with the tease of a 2nd encore? How about some respect for your fans? I have never seen this rudeness with any other entertainer. He is an arrogant prima donna - and a has been. If Paul McCartney can give it all he's got at his age, what the hell is wrong with Prince?

I too was at the Prince concert last night, and am in complete agreement with "Sandrucimo". Seeing Prince in concert had been on my bucket list for a long time, and I was thrilled to get tickets for this show, even though they were $165 each! I definitely thought it would be worth it, but I paid to see Prince and hear him sing his hits, not somebody elses. His musicians and back-up singers were excellent, BUT I PAID TO SEE PRINCE PERFORM, not them! He kept saying that he had too many hits and couldn't cover them all in one night, but it seems like he couldn't decide which of his songs he wanted to do, so he did covers of other artist's songs instead. He started the show and hour late, spent most of the first half walking around while others sang, and kept us waiting in the dark while stage hands swept the stage while holding flashlights, only to turn up the lights when they were finished and make everyone think the show was over. We were "lucky", as we were in such shock at that treatment that we didn't run out the the stadium and were still there when he came back onstage to sing the last 2 songs at 11:45. He seems to get off on hearing his fans scream his name, as he asked us to do many times during the evening. He won't be hearing this "fan" scream his name at a concert ever again.

I've seen 250 concerts and this tops the worst concert I've ever witnessed. Literally too many poor parts of the show to cover. I am still in shock of what happened last night.

All I can say is "ditto." I was SO looking forward to this show, and left extremely disappointed. There's not a single exaggeration here. I would add that the lighting and the sound were *TERRIBLE* for the duration of the show - what was up with that blinking light at the end of the stage?! - and the few times Prince DID sing, you couldn't hear because the backing vocals and horns were turned way too far up in volume. And the shoddy camera work didn't help either. Completely unimpressed. Thank GOD I only bought the cheap nosebleed seats.

Probably a good idea that Prince cancel the rest of the tour (I saw 9/24/12 show). He had similar issues in 2011 and now in 2012. Prince should regroup and reorganize the entire show. Everything was bad; lighting, terrible sound, music arrangement, connection with the crowd, timing, the band, the backup singers, it was everything. Prince can do a unbelievable show, he did it back in 2004 at the All State Arena (best show I ever saw) he'll have to do some soul searching first.
I don't think he's lazy, I think he tried to do too much and their is obviously some poor planning/management happening right now.

I saw him last night as well. In fact this was my 4th time seeing him and I must admit it was NOT his best performance but I love the man nontheless. I was one of the few that did stick around for his second encore and even though it was crappy how he did it, I enjoyed myself anyway.

We still love you in Chicago Prince! Come back soon!

Two thumbs down for Prince's performance Monday night. I was robbed, police!!!! I got two words for you...AXL ROSE. And we all know he's an a**hole. Enough said.

Didn't see the show....haven't seen prince since his Purple Rain days but followed his music and concerts. And he is indeed an enigma. I wonder why it's so hard for him to release his music to commercialization? He could get filthy rich with Little Red Corvette and songs like How come you don't call me anymore. American Idol always has to struggle with him to get permission to sing his songs.

As for the show, what I read -- this was ill-planned. If Prince did this hmself (which he probly did), then he needs to pay people to do it right.

And reading about all his tax problems, he probably needs the $$$.

"Although he was expected at the HOB show -- but not guaranteed -- he was a no-show" - Thomas Conner

Funny, the Sun Times claimed that Prince was going to play 3 HOB afterparty shows on Friday.

Claiming otherwise after the fact only makes it worse! Last time I trust the Sun Times Music Department...

I was at the concert on Monday and I truly enjoyed it. I love Prince and
it was my first time seeing him and will do it again. Yes, the show did start
an hour late but he did apologies for it. He also did sing other people
song who he was paying tribute to James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Michael
Jackson and it didn't take from the show. Also, I was told the reason why
he took long to come back for the 3rd encore was because they had to
clean the stage and they had to check w/the sound, it was off a little.
Prince is a perfectionist and he he's not the young Prince from his
Purple rain days, he is a little older. But over all except having us wait,
the show to me was great, it was a party and glad I got a chance to
see my favorite artist :)

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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on September 25, 2012 2:19 AM.

Spitting distance: Warren Ellis and Dirty Three was the previous entry in this blog.

This is what it sounds like when fans cry foul: Prince jams Monday after-show; HOB offers ticket trade-off is the next entry in this blog.

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