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Prince in Chicago

With Prince celebrating his 52nd birthday this week, we thought this was a good time to look back on his live performances here since the 90s, via the reviews of Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis.

*

Date: August 18, 1992
Author: Kot
Venue: Hyatt-Regency
Headline: Prince proves his star hasn't lost any of its luster

Review Excerpt: "'Hey, check me over, do you like what you see?'

"By the time Prince closed a private show late Friday at a Loop hotel with 'Baby I'm a Star,' the answer to that question was already sealed.

"With just a hint of a beard, a new 'typhoon'-style hairdo and an array of form-fitting costumes that accentuated his feral sexuality, Prince sure looked like a star as he wowed a gathering of industry high-rollers and fellow entertainers-from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Oprah Winfrey-at the centerpiece event of the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic empire's annual conference . . . The cuts ranged from stripped-down funk to florid, neo-psychedelic ballads-in other words, a typically varied Prince menu.

"What's different is how these tunes, new and old alike, were performed. Eschewing electronic gimmickry, the diminutive, high-heeled one from Minneapolis kept things raw, visceral and organic: real drums, gutsy voices and booty-bumping bass to accompany the splashes and jabs of keyboards that have become his signature.

"While digging closer than he has in years to his roots-Sly Stone, Stax Records, George Clinton, Jimi Hendrix-he also incorporated contemporary touches such as house dance rhythms and hip-hop vocals into his new music."

*

Date: April 5, 1993
Author: DeRo
Venue: Chicago Theatre
Headline: His Royal Badness Is Only Half-Bad At Best

Review Excerpt: "The goal of Prince 's current tour is to prove that His Royal Badness is back with a vengeance.

"'My name is Prince , and I am funky,' the Minneapolis singer announced as he stepped onstage in Chicago for the first time in five years.

"Unfortunately, his set only lived up to that boast part of the time.

"The first of Prince 's sold-out three-night stand at the Chicago Theatre opened with an elaborate funk-rock opera that drew almost entirely from his last album, which is untitled save for its cryptic symbol."

*

Date: April 5, 1993
Author: Kot
Venue: Chicago Theatre
Headline: Prince still reigns: Glittery concert has both duds and pearls

Review Excerpt: "In the first of three sold-out shows, Prince turned his first official Chicago concert in five years into a chest-thumping blowout, equal parts Vegas pomp and assaultive funk . . . So the opening numbers, 'My Name is Prince' and 'Sexy MF,' came off as Prince parodies, further diluted by the marginal rapping abilities of Tony Mosely.

"Just as troubling was Prince's decision to divide the show in half, with the first 75 minutes devoted almost entirely to his most recent untitled album.

"As one first-time Prince watcher remarked, the set was reminiscent of 'Cirque du Soleil, except with better music.'"

*

Date: April 7, 1993
Author: DeRo
Venue: Chicago Theatre
Headline: Prince Brings Back the Badness With a Hot Late-Night Show

Review Excerpt: "Now that was more like it.

"The Prince who played a surprise afterhours set at Metro early Tuesday morning more than lived up to the royal reputation.

"Using rented gear and the house P.A. and lights, the singer took the stage at 2 a.m. after the second night of his three-night stand at the Chicago Theatre. For two hours, he threw away the Vegas schlock and led the New Power Generation through two sets of searing hot funk.

"'I like doing the regular gigs, but this makes it all worthwhile,' he said. 'This is what we do.'

"The intimate crowd of 1,000 people was energized despite the hour. The 750 fans who weren't on the guest list stood in line for hours to buy $20 tickets, but it's unlikely that anyone went away disappointed.

"The first set opened with two sassy, James Brown-style grooves, 'Sacrifice' and 'Come.' It peaked with a galvanizing version of 'Gett Off' that started with the lazy rhythm of the Diamonds and Pearls album, then built to double and triple time.

"Throughout, Prince indulged in wah-wahed guitar solos that conjured the ghost of Jimi Hendrix, while drummer Michael Bland proved that he's this generation's Clyde 'Funky Drummer' Stubblefield.

"After a short break, the band returned with former Hendrix sideman Buddy Miles on vocals for a killer cover of Miles' 'Love Changes' and a slow blues vamp with another scorching Prince solo. The five-piece horn section was much more effective in the confines of Metro, and it pushed 'Sexy M.F.' and the new rocker 'She's a Peach' to heights they never reached on Sunday."

*

Date: April 27, 1998
Author: DeRo
Venue: Aragon
Headline: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince

Review Excerpt: "Even the most dedicated fans have had doubts about the recent recordings by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Since his 'emancipation' from Warner Bros., he's been cleaning out his vaults and releasing loads of quickly sketched, half-baked ideas.

"The Artist, as he's now known, seemed adrift in a sea of confusion and egotism, producing occasional flashes of the old genius and heaping mounds of self-indulgent crap.

"The Minneapolis musician has surprised us before, but it has never been as welcome as on Friday night. In an electrifying, tightly honed and extremely well-focused 2 1/2-hour set, he razed the Aragon, performing better than I or any of the fans around me had ever seen, and restoring my faith not only in his abilities but in live music.

"That sounds like hyperbole, I know. But the Artist's sold-out show begs comparison to one the night before by the Rolling Stones at the United Center. Those lazy, greedy old superstars coasted through the most expensive rock concert ever to hit Chicago, and fans accepted this mediocrity without complaint.

"In stark contrast, the Artist took joy in every note, challenging himself and his audience, taking chances, daring to fail but instead succeeding wildly. People could complain about the paucity of his signature tunes (though he did offer a reworked but grandiose 'Purple Rain'). Those people would be sadly misguided, because funk, soul and R&B just don't get any better."

*

Date: April 27, 1998
Author: Kot
Venue: Aragon
Headline: Artist A Prince of Funky Kingdom

Review Excerpt: "The concept behind this nearly three-hour performance was old-school funk with its festive, free-for-all atmosphere. Anybody who has attended a Parliament-Funkadelic show knows the scheme: Use the classic melodies of funk's heyday as launching pads for extended improvisation, fervid call-and-response between band and audience, and dance-till-you-drop celebrating by all involved.

"Joy radiated from Prince and his sidekicks. Dressed neck to ankle in a diaphanous, fringed white outfit that hugged every contour of his lithe, athletic frame, the singer cavorted between the mike stand and a set of keyboards with an eye-popping array of spins, pushups and leaps. He orchestrated his fierce band, the New Power Generation, on the fly with a flick of the hip, a chop of the wrist or a karate kick.

"With only a couple of pauses, the music flowed non-stop, as familiar melodies from R&B's last golden era became a rushing river of funk. One after another, Prince called to the stage figures from the past that made tangible his debt to this music."


Date: November 18, 2000
Author: DeRo
Venue: The Riviera
Headline: 'Hit N' Run' Prince show defrosts fans at the Riv

Review Excerpt: "They started lining up in the 35-degree chill at 5 p.m. Thursday for a show scheduled to start at 9 p.m. They had already paid $75 for tickets that sold out instantly, but seating was general admission, and they wanted the best possible vantage point.

"It isn't every day that Prince plays a venue as intimate as the Riviera Theatre.

"His Royal Badness rewarded faithful fans with a 2 1/2-hour set of greatest hits, including many he hasn't played in 15 years . . . Chicago has always been a special place for His Purple Majesty, and the crowd brought out the best in him. For those last 45 minutes, he was loose, at ease, having fun and dragging members of the audience onstage to dance."

*

Date: June 27, 2004
Author: DeRo
Venue: Allstate Arena
Headline: Prince commands fans' respect - Even without hard-core content, he gives them what they want, in style

Review Excerpt: "The faithful may grouse about the PG-13 nature of the Allstate Arena show. (Recently converted as a Jehovah's Witness, Prince is skipping the hard-core sexual innuendo on this tour and cutting out all the cuss words.) And it was disconcerting to note that Friday's set list was almost exactly the same as it has been for every night of the tour, compared with the smaller-venue gigs of the last few years, where he has always mixed things up.

"But all of this is quibbling: Prince was giving people what they want - the hits - after generally avoiding that for quite some time . . . The show opened strong with the title track of Musicology, which found Prince throwing down the gauntlet by declaring his intention to 'keep the party movin' . . . kick the old-school joint.' That he did, by following in rapid succession with the classics 'Let's Go Crazy,' 'I Would Die 4 U,' 'When Doves Cry' and 'Baby I'm A Star.'

"Other highlights included a dynamic version of 'Shhh!' and a hard-grooving 'DMSR' that, despite the cleaned-up lyrics, still didn't entirely purge the 'sex' part of the 'dance, music, sex, romance' groove.

"Throughout the night, Prince played more lead guitar than he has in years, clearly enjoying the vibe of being a rock star playing an arena in the round.

"But the best part of the long and generous set was arguably the acoustic interlude in the middle of the evening, when he rose on a revolving stool in the center of the stage alone with a purple acoustic guitar to perform some of his best-known songs.

"Prince smiled, joked with the crowd, asked for the house lights to be turned all the way up and let the fans finish the choruses of tunes such as 'Little Red Corvette,' 'Cream' and 'Raspberry Beret.' And these songs never sounded better.

"It was just one man and one guitar, but he held the crowd in his grasp. In fact, the only other performer I've ever seen do that so effectively was Sir Paul McCartney."

*

Date: June 28, 2004
Author: Kot
Venue: Allstate Arena
Headline: Prince makes a place for himself - again

Review Excerpt: "In the midst of a ferocious opening montage of horn-spackled riffs, knee-buckling funk bass and whirling dance moves in glittering high heels, Prince came to a dead halt.

"The packed Allstate Arena crowd collectively stopped rocking in the aisles Friday and burst into applause. Prince surveyed the scene just long enough for things to quiet down, and with an impish grin declared, 'Ya'll been waitin' on this, haven't ya?' . . .

"He interpolated bits of music by [Alicia] Keys, OutKast and Beyoncé into his 2 1/2-hour set, but he also forged ties to Archie Bell and the Drells' 'Tighten Up,' Rufus' 'Sweet Thing' and Sam and Dave's 'Soul Man' . . .

"The latter one-third of the concert found Prince at his freest and funkiest, uncorking a majestic Santana-esque guitar solo to kick off 'The Question of You,' and bringing a bevy of female fans onstage to dance during a housequaking finale of 'U Got the Look,' 'Life 'O' the Party,' 'Soul Man,' 'Kiss' and 'Take Me With U.'

"By the time he wound up with 'Purple Rain,' Prince had served up most of the hits. But this wasn't a nostalgia show in the traditional sense. Slicing in tracks from his new album, rearranging his most familiar tunes, and using everything in the set as a springboard for improvisation that highlighted the muscular chops of his band, Prince still insisted on doing it his way. The lesson: Never count him out."

-

Comments welcome.



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Posted on June 9, 2010


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