April 30, 2013
His Royal Purpleness reigned supreme at Marquee Theatre last night, and like most of the people who saw him there, I'm still taking it all in. We just saw a legend perform at a mid-sized venue and we were close enough to actually see his face (when he wasn't hiding in the shadows.) The ticket prices were a steep $277, but how often are you going to have an opportunity to see Prince perform outside an arena or a music festival?
Money was the question on everyone's minds at the show. I heard a few people grumbling about the cost on the way back to the car, but if you're a huge Prince fan -- like the lady behind me, showing off her tattoo -- the intimate setting and large selection of non-hit songs was absolutely worth it.
Uber-Prince-fans made up a significant part of the audience; the rest were just people like me. who wanted to have the experience of seeing Prince live. It's easy to get obsessed by the idea of seeing him when you have the chance; my dad's family is from St. Paul, and I've already been told multiple times how lucky I am to have had this opportunity.
I went in with high hopes--it's freakin' Prince, after all. Marquee security was very strict on cell phone usage; there were signs everywhere threatening ejection if anyone was seen with a phone or camera in their hand. Having Prince do without professional photographers throughout the tour was one thing, but the no-cell-phone thing drove me crazy--especially when Prince climbed an amp and belted out his falsetto five rows in front of me. Such good lighting wasted.
My cell phone withdrawals were even worse while Prince was running late. These things rarely start on time, so going on 30 minutes late seemed perfectly reasonable. That was when one of the gals from his rocking female backing band, 3rd Eye Girl, popped out to say that fans were welcome to take pictures of her, but not Prince. "Prince isn't a fan of seeing cameras in front of your faces," she said with a grin.
Then Prince was 40 minutes late. The show would have been halfway over by then, if it started on time. I overhear the following conversation:
"It's Prince, he can start when he wants."
"You already paid a lot of money to see Prince. He knows you aren't going to leave."
Then it's 8:50. People started chanting Prince's name, to no avail.
8:52: The humdrum jazz music we'd been listening to for almost an hour was cut short. After a pregnant pause, the crowd was a mix of booinga and cheering.
8:53: the lights dimmed and the red curtain opened. Showtime.
And the second 3rd Eye Girl started playing, the audience didn't seem to mind the wait. The cheers grew even louder when the lights fell on Prince, who sang a rocking version of "Let's Go Crazy" with a wry grin.
The first half of the set was full of songs the casual fan may not be familiar with, and Prince spent the time channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix; during "Prettyman" he performed an effortless guitar solo behind his head.
"I have a question, do y'all like rock 'n roll as much as I like you? Do you like your rock 'n roll funky?" he asked during "Endorphinmachine," warming the crowd up for a funky solo.
Ladies screamed as Prince sang about girls getting tangled up in his curly hair during a guitar-driven, "She's Always in my Hair." Prince's sex appeal was a little too much for some folks to handle; at this point an older couple began grinding and grabbing each other's asses.
Prince and 3rd Eye Girl closed out their first set with the call-and-response of "Compassion." The singer said, "thank you and good night" as the lights went dark. The band had been playing for about an hour.
The second set showed off Prince's funk and songwriting chops. Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station made a surprising appearance, joining Prince for a few jam sessions on bass. Watching Graham's slap bass skills was another benefit of seeing Prince in such a small venue.
Prince performed an extended, funky cover of Tommy James & the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover," dragging out the bridge, giving the crowd a fun opportunity to sing and clap along.
At 10:20, the band left the stage for its second encore. Then came the songs everyoone had been waiting for.
Prince played keyboard on the instantly recognizable "Purple Rain," which seemed to be the song everyone was waiting for. The crowd triumphantly sang along, especially in the chorus. As the song roared to a close, some fans made their way to the exit. The show was now at the hour-and-a-half mark and "Purple Rain" would have made one hell of a closer, so it seemed like the show was coming to an end. The stage went dark, but the house lights didn't go up just yet.
The delay bought the band time to invite a bunch of girls on stage for its third encore, and the song it seemed like everyone else was waiting for--"When Doves Cry."
"I bet you want hits. I've got hits," Prince said, opening a 30-minute, rapid-fire sequence of his hits and some dance beats. "I Would Die 4 U" was sprinkled in, prompting most of the crowd to dance.
"I would like to get Larry Graham in here to get a little more funk in here," Prince said, referring to the bassist as his teacher for "Alphabet St.," the final closer.
Prince was always Prince, last night, but across the set he assumed many roles. Songs like "Let's Go Crazy" and "Prettyman" saw him indulge his rock-hero side. Graham accompanied him when he brought the funk -- which was often -- and at the keyboard he looked like a soul-bearing R&B songwriter. As he tore through his hits at the end of the set he seemed almost like a club DJ.
Prince is a must-see artist for anyone who's ever hummed along to "When Doves Cry," but if you aren't familiar with most of his setlist, bone up for it in time for his next tour.
Setlist: Let's Go Crazy
She's Always in my Hair
The Love We Make
Sing a Simple Song
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
Cause & Effect
Crimson and Clover (Tommy James & the Shondells cover)
When Doves Cry
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
I Would Die 4 U
Dance 4 Me
[Ed. Note: Our setlist-gathering operation is pretty dependent on typing notes into a cell phone, so let us know if we missed anything.]
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Prince at Marquee Theatre. Overheard in the Crowd: "Are those your enemies from the front on stage?"
I moved to the back during "When Doves Cry," along with quite a few others, because a group of 15-or-so super-drunk people kept pushing their way to the front. I got yelled at for refusing to move as I almost got knocked over. And yes, this was the group in question. Please learn some etiquette. Personal Bias: I was holding out for "1999." The Crowd: Mixed, but full of overdressed ladies. You know, clothes that suggest you have no issue spending almost $300 to see Prince.
Read More: - Twitter reviews Prince's first show at the Marquee.
- Six songs Prince probably won't play at Tempe (even though we wish he would.)
- 20 Prince albums you still can't buy on iTunes (or anywhere else.)
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.