PRINCE: Around L.A. in a Day
Concert and CD review
The prodigy from Minnesota is known for his cleverness, both onstage and off. In terms of tweaking the standard process of the record business, he may be more King than Prince. After Warner Music launched and sustained his meteoric career, Prince went about with ‘slave’ on his cheek in protest. He tried to change his name to get out of his recording contract (even though part of his deal made him a VP of the company). He was one of the first artists to capture fan information via an online fan club, charging for membership and promising exclusive access to music, tickets, etc. In the UK he upset the distribution apple cart by giving away copies of his album with copies of the Sunday newspaper. To celebrate the release of his new album (a triple disc set exclusively available at Target for the Princely sum of $11.98 and at his website), he played three gigs in one night across three venues at LA Live.
In the days leading up to the gig, he hosted a few invitation-only listening parties to premiere the new album entitled “LotusFlow3r.” One disc (“Elixer”) highlights his latest femme fatale protégé Bria Valente. Inevitably a Prince affair (he wrote, produced, performed all three discs), the best tracks with Valente are the opener “Here Eye Come” and “Something U Already Know.” Invariably, the nods and winks of the lyrics raise more than eyebrows:
WOKE UP THIS MORNING WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE
AND THE SWEET AFTERTASTE OF LOVING U
WITHOUT A WARNING
EYE FELT THE WHOLE EARTH SHAKE
THINKING 'BOUT THE LOVE WE MAKE
The smooth grooves work well with the intertwining vocals. Things pump up on the “MPLSoUND” disc. Prince jumps out with the opener “(There ‘ll Never B) Another Like Me.” The sinewy lead guitar lines weave through the chorus. “Ol’ Skool Company” was a set opener in concert, and pops with authority. Prince has shown his pluck by dipping into classic rock songs, and his version of Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover” features both the quavery vocals of the original plus chunks of the Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” The pleasant “77 Beverly Park” is an instrumental homage to Prince’s current recording studio in LA.
Overall, the collection shows Prince’s sprawling talent. Although some of the arrangements wear thin, he does not tread much old ground.
The live shows maintained the ‘3’ motif, and each gig featured unique set lists, supporting bands and moods. Sound problems were apparently a recurrent theme at each venue. He opened in Nokia Theatre, the largest venue. The set list reportedly included a healthy dose of classics, including his first big hit “Controversy” and later classics “Kiss” and “1999.” Punters were invited onstage to sing and dance.
The Conga Room was the smallest venue of the evening, and Prince apparently rocked the hardest. He reportedly ranged through tracks from Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. His axe was given a full workout, and the crowd was left in a sweat.
The problems continued on his final stop of the evening, at Club Nokia. He was already playing by the time the crowd was allowed through security an hour after the posted start time of midnight. Prince took a more laid back, jazzy approach to the evening. He often turned the spotlight over to his band, which left many in the crowd puzzled. Perhaps he was worn out from the prior two gigs. One attendee summed it up “great musicians playing very little of what the audience expected to hear.” The song selection was more obscure and downtempo. He talked about loving the light show, but complained about the sound quality. He vowed to return and play for free if the AEG promoters fix the sound. So hang on to those ticket stubs.
Almost a year ago Prince played Coachella in a sterling gig. In the interim he completed his triple disc set, and debuted it across three gigs in one evening. After nearly three decades spent tweaking the record business, Prince remains firmly ensconced in the music business.