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20 April 2013

Rock and Roll Love Affair: Prince Slays Seattle at the Showbox

  Prince treated fans to some funky rock and roll last night.
  That was how The Purple One described the musical theme for his second, and closing, show April 19 at Showbox at the Market in Seattle. It was the second stop on his "Live Out Loud Tour" with his band 3rd Eye Girl, which includes Hannah Ford on drums, Donna Grantis on guitar and Ida Nielsen on bass.
  The show I attended wasn't scheduled to start until 11:30 p.m., but, I was there promptly at 4:45 p.m., as I only live two blocks away from the venue and this was a general admission event. This was after working the graveyard shift Thursday night and sleeping for approximately three hours. Alas, two people were already in line when I arrived. I guess they were just as serious about it as I was.
  The Green Room, the house bar for the venue, is a place where all the early birds can sit, eat or have a drink and wait to be let in for the show. I got a card for group 1, with first priority  to be let into the venue as a reward for my eagerness (although, I do believe that people were also handpicked from the lines outside to enter early, too). Prince's influence even extended down to the bar, as the bartender informed several patrons that there was a strictly vegetarian food menu at the artist's request.
  I could hear most of the 8:30 p.m. show going on upstairs while sipping on my Negra Modelo with three limes (that's what's up). I recognized familiar guitar strains from "Colonized Mind" and "Dolphin," the latter of which he sadly did not play for the second set. I would've slapped my mama to actually see him play that song live (figuratively speaking, of course, because, I don't think she would be down for that). But, such is life.
  The sounds of excited fans and slamming guitar licks made the three-plus hours waiting in The Green Room go by very fast. I could hardly contain my anticipation.
  But, enough about me: I know you want to hear a little less about Kristi and more about Prince.
  The staff let us in about 10:45 p.m. or so. By the time I got to the main floor, there was already a small group of people gathered in front of the stage. I was still able to claim a great spot at stage right near the lights. It was nice, because, there was a good-sized crowd, but, people were respectful. Unlike most general admission shows, nobody was trying to aggressively push their way to the front or standing so close to you that you feel them breathing down your neck (or back, in my case, since I'm 6'2").
  The concert started on time— in fact, I'm pretty sure that it started a few minutes early—with the new "Let's Go Crazy (Reloaded)." 
  The show literally started with a bang and blinding flashes of strobe lights. When Prince's figure became visible out of the darkness, he had on what looked like a Nehru jacket (but, I could be wrong) with extra long fringes, yellow bell bottoms, gold boots and a yellow scarf to accent his afro, a la Jimi Hendrix. I literally felt like I had been transported in time. Prince and 3rd Eye Girl was taking the audience on a non-stop rock-and-roll journey and he had  channeled the legendary Seattle rocker as an unofficial guide.
"We're not in the real universe, we're in the Prince universe. It's pretty scary...and kind of cool. - A bartender at The Green Room
 The next song was Endorphinmachine, a pulsating, guitar-driven jam that I have been DYING to hear live since the first time I heard The Gold Experience album in 1999. He changed a few of the lyrics (referring to his 'fro instead of the dippy, dippy waves of his 'do in the album version), but that guitar break in the middle of the song was even more killer than I'm used to.
  Next up was "Screwdriver," which Prince recently recorded with 3rd Eye Girl, an always fun and bouncy pop-rock cut. The official lyric video, with Prince's pre-recorded vocals, came up on the screen behind the band. He jokingly asked the crowd if it was okay if the band did some lip syncing during the show, before, they all promptly kicked in on the second verse.
  Fan favorite "She's Always in My Hair" quickly followed, which, in my humble opinion, is the best B-Side he's ever produced. I caught wind of reports that the band played this song at earlier shows and I was hoping to hear it. I was not disappointed.
  This one of those songs that every time the guitar solos kick in on the recorded version, you just don't want them to stop. They didn't last night. The song turned into an extended jam where Prince just let all the emotions flow from his fingers and through his guitar.
  At some point I started to feel flashes of heat, which could have come from the hot-ass lights that I was standing by or the truly electric energy that was emanating from the stage as the band executed hit after guitar-shredding hit. I'm convinced it was the latter.
  I have to give it up for Ford, Grantis and Nielsen, who I believe, compliment Prince's current sound very well. Each lady had their chance to shine, as they all had several solos throughout the evening. Also, one cool thing of note was that the way the lights were positioned on the stage, moving from side to side, behind them--especially Nielsen-- it looked light was actually radiating from them and their instruments while they were playing. They looked like ethereal rock-and-roll divas.
   We got to hear some funky riffs on "Play That Funky Music White Boy," by Wild Cherry and "Alphabet St." Then there was "Dreamer." He slowed it way down on the third verse of this song, to the point where he almost talking, not singing. It was like he was having an intimate conservation with the entire audience. This added even more weight to the lyrics and gave the social commentary at the heart of the song an even deeper meaning. It made me think of this rock and roll anthem, which I've heard hundreds of times, in a different way.
It was the perfect segue into "Purple Rain," where Prince switched to the keyboards. This closed out the first part of the set.
  The band left stage for a brief interlude, where I just stood in the darkness and quietly reflected on what I just saw. Oddly, I was able to do this in the middle of a sea of screaming fans who demanded more.
  The band obliged and came back, picking up right where they left off by launching into "Guitar." Prince had, by now, swapped the jacket for a sleeveless yellow tunic. We also got to hear two more numbers from his upcoming album: "Plectrum Electrum" and "Fixurlifeup."
  Later, they launched into "I Like it There" and "Bambi," two older songs from Prince's more overtly risque songwriting days. Honestly, I was surprised to hear him recite lyrics like "My emotional ejaculate all over the floor," from "I Like it There" (which could be considered sexual...or not. That's up for debate). Or the more blatant "Baby, you need to bleed" and "It's better with a man" from "Bambi," where the meaning is impossible to miss. But, I would be lying if I didn't say I loved every minute of it.
  In addition, a gentleman referred to simply as "Joshua" in the set lists posted on the 3rd Eye Boy Facebook page, joined them for some enthusiastic cowbell playing during "Bambi." (Insert the Christopher Walken's "more cowbell" line from the infamous SNL skit here).
  The band left the stage once more before returning for their second, and final, encore. This is where it really got interesting. First, there was  "Sign o' the Times," where he and the band played along to a pre-recorded track, (I think it would be hard to replicate the specific sound of that song live without a full band, but, that is purely conjecture). The next few songs, however, were presented as if they were part a DJ set. That was totally unexpected.
  I was thrilled to be treated to instrumental snippets of "777-9311," (which he actually sang over the track, dear Lord); "Nasty Girl;" "I Would Die 4 U;" "Housequake;" "17 Days;" "Alphabet St.;" "Shockadelica" and "Mr. Goodnight." I screamed very loudly when I heard the last two cuts and the girl standing next to me looked perplexed as to why I was doing this.
  Finally, Prince sang "When Doves Cry" and finished up with "Hot Thing," another one of those very sexy tracks not often heard in Prince's live performance cannon as of late. Not only did he sing over the instrumental track, he also closed out the show with an amazing solo on Nielsen's bass. I think that alone was worth the ticket price.
  Just to put into perspective how truly impressive that bass solo was, when I called my friend Natasha White-Smallwood, who has been a Prince fan since 1978, this morning to recap the concert, I told her about it. She has seen The Purple One live dozens of times and she said, almost ruefully, that she had never seen him play the bass in concert.
 Toward the end of his solo, Prince fondly bid Seattle adieu and then wrapped it up with some of the funkiest bass licks I've ever heard.  He and 3rd Eye Girl left the stage-- the ladies waving as they went off-- and the curtains closed. Our trip was over. We were back. Prince had taken us on a musical journey and no one had even left the venue.
  The crowd lingered long after the house lights came up, not wanting to believe that it was over. But, once I saw the road crew packing up the instruments not very far from where I was standing, I knew it was time to go.
  I left the building in a daze, along with pleasantly ringing ears, and I was home within five minutes. I am happy to have witnessed a show on what promises to be an epic tour.

Stay beautiful, Kristi 



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