I was wishing I was back in Columbia in March as I read the tweets from all my friends who were at the Prince concert at the Colonial Life Arena.
About a month later, I heard that Prince would be doing a 21-night stand in L.A. and that most tickets would be $25, including taxes and fees. Sweet! Kenley and I were there!
On the way to the Forum in Inglewood (former home of the Lakers), we stopped at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, where, for $12.95, I got baked chicken (Kenley, of course, got fried), three sides (the cheesiest mac and cheese, green beans with fatback, and corn and okra), plus two pieces of corn bread. You could eat on this for days! Definitely one of the cheapest meals so far in L.A., and it felt a lot like the South.
At the Forum, we paid just as much to park as we did for each concert ticket, as well as $10 each for beers, so we resisted the urge to buy a raspberry beret for $40.
We hoped for a legendary special guest (earlier during his Purple reign at the Forum, Prince was joined by Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys). Instead, R&B singer and founding member of Groove Theory, Amel Larrieux, opened up the show, with her 16-year-old daughter backing her on keys.
Decent, but by no means legendary.
But any disappointment melted away as soon as the purple lights illuminated The Artist Once Again Known as Prince, who lay flat on the symbol-shaped stage as he crooned the opening notes to “When Eye Lay My Hands on U.”
The ladies went crazy, and I think even my husband briefly considered leaving me for Prince during that song.
Kenley said watching him perform was like watching a master at work, and he called it one of the best live shows he’s ever been to. It definitely ranks up there.
The petite man has a huge stage presence. I’m still not sure how a 52-year-old elf wearing platform heels and sequined pants can be so sexy, but it works.
We can’t think of another entertainer who can own the stage with his presence, dress, dancing, singing, instrumental talent and, did we mention, sexiness?
Kenley wondered why he isn’t headlining in Vegas.
You know a performer is good when even his band rocks, and The New Power Generation did. I love a good saxophone player, the backup singers had stronger vocals than his opening act, plus his drummer is a Columbia native.
Still, you got the feeling that Prince could take over for any of them at any moment and be just as good, if not better.
I don’t know if it was because the show we caught was around the midpoint of Prince’s 21-night run, or whether many of the people there were familiar only with Prince’s ’80s hits, but the crowd was more subdued than I expected.
Having been to a Prince concert before, I know he teases you with the choruses of those hits, but plays through only a few of the old favorites. Still, when someone is that talented, even less-familiar songs are entertaining.
Here are a few highlights from the setlist:
- “The Glamorous Life,” featuring Sheila E.: At 53, Sheila E. continues to rock! Not only can she still bang the drums, but her body is bangin’, too (Kenley insisted I point that out). This song was right after “Purple Rain,” but it got everyone on their feet. She received the largest ovation of the night, driven home when someone behind me said, “I thought this was a Prince concert.”
- “Take Me With U”: Yes, we’ll go with U.
- “Raspberry Beret”/” Cream”/”Cool”/”Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” medley: Prince played my favorite Michael Jackson song and invited Halle Berry to dance on stage. (Kenley says it’s unfortunate that Prince will be remembered as only the second-biggest male entertainer of the 1980s).The video below is from the opening night of his stand at the Forum:
- “U Got the Look”: What a perfect L.A. song, and I think I remember having a dance routine to this at Southern Strutt when I was in middle school. I bet Kristine and Greer still know the choreography.
- “Nothing Compares 2 U”: I love Prince’s soulful version of this song. Prince: “We’re going to start church early this morning.” Not sure my Mom is going to let that one count, Prince. But He might.
- Sampler Set: Prince got behind the piano and teased the audience with a few lines of the songs you really wanted to hear longer versions of, including “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 You” and the intro to “Darling Nikki” (Kenley was 5 when this song was released. Ugh.) Prince to the crowd: “I’ve been known to tire out many a customer.” That doesn’t sound much like church to me.
- “Kiss”: The first encore, which everyone knew was coming. Possibly Kenley’s favorite Prince tune.
- Encore 2: “Play that Funky Music (White Boy),” which was kind of an ironic song since the musicians all had plenty of soul; and Kool & The Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging,” changed to “Inglewood Swinging.” Prince invited the people in the VIP tables to dance with him on the stage. VIPs for the night included Berry, Susan Sarandon and Craig Robinson, who plays Darryl on “The Office.” (It was the second time I had spotted Robinson. The first was while having drinks in the lobby of the Culver Hotel.)
Here’s our friend Eric Greenwood’s review of the Columbia show from the Free Times, and here’s the L.A. Times review of the opening night, which notes the tension between Prince’s sex drive and his religion.