Prince's "Surprise" at Dakota Jazz Club, 1/18/13

Prince's "Surprise" show, late set
Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis
Friday, January 18, 2013

The third and final night of Prince's run at the Dakota Jazz Club was dubbed "Surprise," so it was no shocker that there was rampant speculation going around about what the surprise might be. After attending the late show on Friday night, I'm still not sure what the surprise was, or if there was one at all, or if the surprise was the show itself. It didn't seem like anyone at the Dakota cared about that, though, because Prince took us on a two-hour funky guitar-fueled victory lap with him and reminded us all why we were willing to spend a small fortune just for the chance to be there.

The tables had been cleared out of the Dakota's main floor for the Friday night shows, making it look like what a rich old person's idea of a rock club might be. By the time I got inside at 10:30, the floor was already packed full of people who had been willing to shell out $250 for the privilege of being there. The crowd was younger than I assumed it would be given the price tag, even Prince noted "I haven't seen one old person yet" before singling out some poor fan by adding "except you."

See Also:
5 possible surprises at tonight's Prince show
Prince's "Jam" at Dakota Jazz Club, 1/17/13
Prince's "Rehearsal" at Dakota Jazz Club, 1/16/13


The show began right at the announced time of 11, and out came Prince's backing band followed by the man himself. He ditched the horn section and the rest of his band from the previous two nights' shows in favor of the all-female trio of guitarist Donna Grantis, bassist Ida Nielsen, and drummer Hannah Ford. The stripped-down band allowed Prince to show us why he is, at least in this humble reviewer's opinion, one of the best guitar players around today, after using his guitar quite differently the previous two nights.

The nearly two-hour set opened with "Endorphinmachine" and spanned his entire career, playing a mix of some lesser-known old songs mixed in with some of his more recent work. It featured only two of his certifiable hits and plenty of funky jamming between songs. The crowd was eating up every second, but the largest reaction was for a relatively-early-in-the-set "Purple Rain," which featured an extended intro and a whole lot of sing-along time. I am not familiar with any one in his backing band, and clearly they haven't logged much stage time together, but they held their own on stage all night and they did not fake the funk. Prince played the keyboard on a few songs but this night was clearly all about his guitar, and the band put up a solid foundation and let him take care of the rest.

Prince was very funny and playful all night, even cracking jokes at his own expense -- at one point he noted that he was one of the oldest people in the room. The intimacy of the venue allowed for some great crowd interaction, capped off by having some lucky fans in the front row hold his guitar for him while he got ready for "Purple Rain," as well as telling the people on the balcony to "be quiet and listen." As if we needed any more convincing of how comfortable he was at the Dakota, late in the show he emerged from backstage wearing some kind of animal hat with long tails on each side. And this is Prince we are talking about.

The Dakota released some additional tickets the night of the show as their capacity was substantially higher without the tables. It got very crowded quickly and the Dakota staff was clearly not used to a crowd this size, and I can't blame them. It was a good thing that Minneapolis' finest were there to help with security, as the bigger crowd came with a few jerks doing the jerky things we all hate at concerts. Over the course of the show, two people were escorted away and neither said a word to protest when a police officer tapped them on the shoulder and told them to follow. Everyone around me was a bit more on edge and not willing to put up with some of the things we might just try to ignore at other concerts. Luckily there were only a few loud talkers near me, and one fanatic who thankfully kept shushing everyone when they were talking over the music, and it certainly helped that Prince brought in a much bigger sound system than is normally used at the Dakota.

It also needs to be said that Prince's no cell phone policy may seem annoying, heavy-handed, and off-putting, but I can't thank him enough for it. The cell phone camera has hurt live music more than just about any other new technology, and it was nice, for once, to not have to try and look over/under/around some idiot who would prefer to watch history unfold through a 5 inch screen when the real thing is right in front of them. I can't even imagine how bad it would have been at a show this rare.

All in all, it was not the best Prince concert I've seen, musically speaking, and I would have loved to see some of those horns from the previous two nights, but seeing him in an intimate place like the Dakota made it unquestionably the most memorable concert I've ever seen. Despite the ticket price -- which was about three times more expensive than the most expensive concert ticket I've ever bought (which was also for a Prince show) -- and the ribbing I got about it from some Prince hating friends, it was worth every penny and I would do it all again tomorrow, if he let me.

As he was closing the night with "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man", he told the crowd "there's a whole bunch of people in Minnesota who say ain't nobody do it like Prince do." This was a perfect example of the polarizing nature of Prince, the haters will hear that and use it as an example of why they can't stand him, but all of us in the Dakota Friday night knew that he was telling the truth. He's certainly earned the right to say something like that, and let's be honest, if you were Prince, you'd probably feel the same way.

Set List (via Local Current)

Screwdriver (new song)
Beautiful Strange
Purple Rain
I Like It There
She's Always In My Hair
Encore 1:
Instrumental piano jam
The Record/Compassion

Encore 2:
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man

Critic's Notebook

Overheard: "Do you mind if I rub on you while I order a drink?"

The Crowd: On the floor, a much younger crowd than I had anticipated and filled with Prince fanatics. The balcony -- which still had tables -- seemed to be a little older. The crowd was not as well-dressed as I thought they'd be.

Personal Bias: I spent $280 (after taxes and fees) to attend this concert, do you really need to know more? Seeing him so up close and personal was like seeing a ghost. I'm still not really sure it happened.

Random Notebook Dump: "Prince looks younger from this distance," "I hope that guy didn't get kicked out even though he was being a total jerk," "The drummer is wearing a Joe Boxer tank top," "Am I the best dressed person here?"

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