Prince Keeps the Funk Flowing at Tiny, Star-Packed New York Shows

October 14, 2008 11:19 AM ET

To celebrate the release of his first book, the hefty photo essay 21 Nights, Prince played a pair of implausibly intimate shows in the poolside penthouse of luxury New York hotspot Hotel Gansevoort Friday night. Tickets were roughly $1,000 for the early show and $350 for the afterparty (proceeds benefitted the Love 4 One Another charity and Urban Farming), and attendees were treated a rare opportunity to see His Royal Badness in a room that had the size, energy and temperature of a frat party.

Less than 200 people crammed in for the first show and it was sweaty and funky within minutes, full of people in designer suits freaking out and getting loose. The 90-minute set from Prince and a stripped-down, three-member version of the NPG (plus his two backup singers) was front-loaded with hits: "I Feel For You," "Controversy" complete with disco woop-woops, and a version of "1999" which he rewrote to include "The stock market was crashing, there were people running everywhere." To amplify the party vibe, funky covers came fast and furious: Chic's "Le Freak," the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" and a razor-sharp version of Tower of Power's "What Is Hip?"

The tight space allowed Prince to interact with the audience in ways that he probably couldn't at, say, London's O2 Arena, even stepping down into the crowd in the middle of of his "Beggin' Woman Blues." When someone shouted "Purple Rain," he slyly murmured "That's my name, don't wear it out." When he finally played it, everyone in the room helped fill in the background vocals on the coda.

By the end, the band was in full rave-up mode: playing the triumphant Sheila E hit "A Love Bizarre," "Cream" and a version of "U Got the Look" that was so heavy that it sounded like Free's "All Right Now." Not holding back for a minute, his encore of "Nothing Compares 2 U" was done with the mic-gripping fervor of James Brown doing "Try Me."

Prince hit the stage for part-two at close to 1 AM and turned out a three-hour throwdown for what felt like an even smaller crowd. While much of the material from the first show was repeated — including "Le Freak" and "Miss You" — Prince ramped up the energy with a version of "Purple Rain" that dripped with soul and party-starting versions of "1999" and "3121." The crowd was far more exclusive this time: Anderson Cooper, MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser and Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes mingled about while reclusive comedian Dave Chapelle hopped up during Prince's costume change to deliver some improvised jokes. "This is not my concert," Chapelle cracked. "I am just a filthy night club act. Someone's going to be for fired for letting me come up here. This is the man you came to see!" Then Prince returned to the stage and ripped into a set that didn't wrap until almost 4 in the morning, unleashing jams like Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done For Me Lately?," "The Glamorous Life" and "U Got the Look." "You all having a good time tonight?" he shouted. "Me too!"

Show One:
New Song
"I Feel For You"
"Sexy Dancer/Le Freak"
"Miss You"
"Beggin' Woman Blues"
"Purple Rain"
"A Love Bizarre"
"What Is Hip"
"U Got the Look"
"Nothing Compares 2 U"

Show Two
"Crimson and Clover"/"Wild Thing" (Tommie James/Troggs)
"Let's Go" (Cars)
"Come Together" (Beatles)
"Sexy Dancer/Le Freak" (Chic)
"Long Train Running" (Doobie Brothers)
"Musicology"/Prince & The Band
"Girls & Boys"
"Honky Tonk Woman" (Rolling Stones)
"Stratus" (Billy Cobham)
"Miss You" (Rolling Stones)
"Red House" (Jimi Hendrix)
"Purple Rain"

Dave Chappelle set
"Brown Skin" (India.Arie) (sung by Shelby)
"In The Morning" (Sung by Shelby)
"You Can't Hide Love" (Earth Wind & Fire)
"Love's Taken Over" (Chante Moore) Sung by Marva King
"I Want To Be Free" (Ohio Players)
"U Got The Look"
"What Have You Done For Me Lately?" (Janet Jackson)
"It's Alright" (Graham Central Station)
"Alphabet St."
"The Bird"
"Jungle Love"
"The Glamorous Life"
"Love Bizarre" (w/Housequake)

Related Stories:
Prince: Burning Down the House
Prince's Message to Everyone: Stop Bootlegging My Stuff
1983 Cover: Prince's Hot Rock

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