Prince Kicks Off 21-Concert Residency With Epic Three-Hour Show

The singer played five encores on opening night at the Forum

April 15, 2011 10:25 AM ET
Prince Kicks Off 21-Concert Residency With Epic Three-Hour Show
Kevin Mazur/WireImage for NPG Records 2011

"Inglewood is mine!" shouted Prince – and after two hours of thrilling music, no one could doubt him. On opening night of his 21-show run at the Forum just outside Los Angeles, Prince performed an epic 15-minute version of "Purple Rain," climaxing with purple confetti stars shot from a cannon. He brought celebrities onstage, ranging from Eva Longoria to Javier Bardem. He even duetted with special guest Sheila E. in matching gold lame outfits. So when Prince declared victory and the house lights went up, over half of the crowd headed for the parking lot, sated. The fans who stuck around? After waiting 15 minutes, they got four additional encores: 11 songs that took the show way past midnight.

Photos: Prince's Welcome 2 America Tour at MSG

The current iteration of Prince's band the New Power Generation includes multiple keyboardists (and identical-twin dancers), but no guitarists. And for about half the show, Prince eschewed the guitar himself. So a song like "Kiss," originally built around a shimmering guitar lick, was transformed into a funky synth groove – interesting, if not really successful. But when Prince strapped on his six-string, he played heroically, transforming "Little Red Corvette" into a bluesy showcase, hammering his way through a grungy "Peach," and spinning long, lyrical solos in "Sometimes It Snows in April."

Prince performed many of his songs in truncated versions – none shorter than "Darling Nikki," where the band churned out only the opening riff before Prince cut the raunchy tune off, saying, "I'm in rehab!" The concert also included a bevy of covers, including Sylvester's "Dance (Disco Heat)" and, in a showcase for the backup singers, Bob Dylan's 1997 "Make You Feel My Love." Most interesting was a mash-up version of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," where Prince acted as hype-man, exhorting the backup singers before interpolating his own composition, the Time hit "Cool."

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At age 52, Prince is no longer a whirling dervish onstage – his days of splits are done. But he still has an unfailing sense of showmanship: While his band had to exit the stage via a staircase, the undisputed star of the show made use of a hydraulic lift in the middle of the stage. Even as Prince vanished from sight, he could strike a pose. Even better theater came from the three slow jams that ended the main set: "Insatiable," "Scandalous," and the heavenly "Adore." Pretending to resist the band –"there's going to be some baby-making if we play this!"– Prince sang in glorious falsetto, and then shied away from the microphone. It looked as if Prince, like everyone else in the audience, couldn't believe the noises coming out of his throat.

For those who paid $25 for a ticket (as 85 percent of the audience did), that meant the three-and-a-half-hour show cost roughly $7 an hour – a little below minimum wage. (Don't worry about how Prince affords those sparkling shoes and fringed ponchos; the other seats were priced from $205 to $781.) By the end of the marathon, a bargain arena show had become its own intimate after-party; it felt like Prince might invite the remaining audience members over to his house for basketball and pancakes.

Prince and the New Power Generation at the Forum in Inglewood, CA, April 14, 2011:

Pop Life
Prince and the Band / Musicology
Raspberry Beret
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough / Cool
Let's Work
U Got the Look
Make You Feel My Love
Purple Rain
Let's Go Crazy / Delirious / Let's Go Crazy
The Beautiful Ones
Little Red Corvette
When Doves Cry / Nasty Girl / Sign O The Times / Darling Nikki / Single Ladies
If I Was Your Girlfriend

First encore:
A Love Bizarre (with Sheila E.)
Play That Funky Music

Second encore:
The Glamorous Life (with Sheila E.)

Third encore:
Dance (Disco Heat)
Baby I'm a Star  

Fourth encore:
Sometimes It Snows in April  

Fifth encore:
She's Always in My Hair
Welcome 2 America

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