On the day of Prince’s second show at the L.A. Forum, some stray thoughts and observations from the amazing first show that I didn’t have room for in my review last week:
1. Los Angelenos show up late and leave early. Although the ticket said 7:30 and there was no opening act, at around 8:45, the arena was still half-full and people were milling around aimlessly. They started flashing the lights in an effort to get people in their seats: every five minutes or so, they’d bring down the house lights, the crowd would roar, and then there’d be some boos when they came back on. After 9 p.m., the place still wasn’t full, but the show started anyway. George Lopez did the introduction.
2. “Purple Rain” was performed in epic set-closer mode: fifteen minutes, extended guitar solo, confetti cannon, and all. Looking at some other recent set lists, it often does end the main set: Prince didn’t bother to scale it back, even though he popped it into the concert less than an hour into the show. Which was cool, but did leave the crowd with a “what next?” feeling.
3. Prince did six of the nine songs on Purple Rain: admittedly, two of them (“When Doves Cry” and “Darling Nikki”) were in truncated versions.
4. I have no problem with a singalong or two at a concert, but Prince did it often enough that it started to feel lazy. No, I want to hear you sing your most famous songs, not the crowd.
5. The performance was in the round, on top of a stage in the shape of the Prince symbol. Lots of teleprompters everywhere scrolling lyrics.
6. Many costume changes–that hydraulic lift in the middle of the stage got used every third song or so. There was one set of footwear that I originally thought were sparkling gold high-heel shoes, but turned out to be wedges with a clear Lucite heel. The weird thing: when he took a step, they also had a little red light flash in the heel, like with the sneakers that elementary-school kids wear sometimes. Maybe Prince does his shoe shopping in the kids’ section of the stripper-wear store?
7. It was hugely gratifying to hear some of my favorite non-hits played that I never expected: “The Beautiful Ones,” “Adore,” “She’s Always in My Hair.” Apparently, Prince indicated that last one to his drummer by pointing at his hair.
8. Sheila E. was onstage for most of the encores, singing backing vocals, jamming out on her stand-up drum kit, having a good time. She was the only other performer allowed to ride the hydraulic lift with Prince.
9. Prince spent a lot of time exhorting the audience to tell their friends about the show, even instructing them to pull out their cell phones and call somebody. It looked like he was working overtime to make sure that all 21 L.A. shows sell out–no better way to start buzz than play for an extra hour on opening night. “You going to get the Saturday night show now!” he announced.
10. He made minor tweaks to lyrics throughout, emphasizing godliness over sex. But it didn’t feel preachy, and he seemed to have a good sense of humor about it: e.g., playing the opening of “Darling Nikki” and then saying, “I’m in rehab.”
11. The “Single Ladies” on the set list was more of a Beyonce sample than an actual performance. Although a lot of the songs were truncated, some were played at glorious full length: “1999” made it all the way to “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?”
12. By the end, my notebook had notations like “ANOTHER ENCORE” and “STILL MORE.” I told my wife, “If I run out of pages, we’re going home.”