Prince and the Sweet Smell of Success

Maybe you can bottle genius and sell it in a store

He's full of lewd promises and filthy panting, his voice twisted into a compressed falsetto. Prince has chronic bedroom eyes, a condition that I imagine causes many embarrassing moments at the morning breakfast table. I bet he looks at his ladyfriend with those coy peepers and asks her to pass the non-dairy creamer, and she misunderstands and starts disrobing, so that he has to be all, "Um, I'm sorry, I really did just, it's just that the Splenda is on the other side of you, if you could...?"

Then Wendy, of Wendy-and-Lisa fame, comes out to play a few songs. The rest of the band takes a break while the two of them touch briefly on a string of Prince and the Revolution-era hits. All of a sudden, everything is so much crisper, and you realize the muting effect all the extra instrumentation has on the emotional directness of the songs. He sings the first verse of "Little Red Corvette," and it's far more wistful and yearning than I remembered. They bounce into "Raspberry Beret," and then stop short a few bars into the next number.

"Ya'll don't know this—it ain't out yet. You'll be bootlegging," he accuses playfully. "Okay, we'll do a different version."

Prince: Nothing Compares 2 Eau
Nick Vlcek
Prince: Nothing Compares 2 Eau

What a control freak. As if this teasing isn't enough, he keens his way through 30 seconds' worth of the heartbreakingly melancholy "Sometimes It Snows in April" and abandons that, as well. Doesn't he want to make me cry? I want him to.

2:45 a.m. Sunday, First Avenue

For accuracy's sake, I'd like to see the Freakonomics guys do an assessment of the true cost of First Avenue afterparty tickets. How much value do you assign to every scorching hour spent sitting on a sidewalk? How much is it worth when you have to stand in line again at midnight and then slowly wilt inside the club for another few hours?

But for the true believers, this kind of calculus misses the point: The orbital convergence of the Kid and First Avenue is a rare celestial phenomenon that might not be repeated and therefore cannot be missed.

I can't imagine backup singer Shelby J relishes singing an Amy Winehouse cover to a crowd panting for "Purple Rain." But given the possibility that 1,500 innocent souls might have been electrocuted if exposed to the weeping-angels guitar solo, it's probably for the best that Prince doesn't play it. But "Controversy" brings a moment of total transcendent rightness, as does the homestretch medley with Sly & the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham.

While getting some fresh air during an extended instrumental jam, I hear a host of rumors: Steve Jobs is on the guest list. Sandra Bullock and Elvis Costello are hanging out in the VIP lounge. The police are about to shut down the show.

Multiple sources confirm that last, and the night ends without the wished-for revue of beloved Prince hits. But before he leaves, he looks out at the brimming house and declares, "I'll be back. I promise U."

I say we trust the man.

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