Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Staples Center - Los Angeles

May 28, 2004

First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2004, Volume 11, #7

Written by Michael Cooney

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Over the course of his nearly three-decade-long career, Prince has grown from a prodigy to a genius and a true musical icon. The man from Minneapolis almost single-handedly redefined pop music, and in the process he taught an entire generation the beauty of sensuality, spirituality and funky soul. When it was announced that his current U.S. tour would be his last — at least the last in which he would perform his most well-known hits — the news signaled the end of an era.

On May 28, Prince fans of all ages from around the world converged upon the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and many of those who grew up during the 1980s brought their children to the show, sitting right alongside punk rockers, players in pimp suits, and hip-hop kids. Everyone in the crowd seemed to have a favorite Prince story from the past, including one woman in her mid-thirties who even recalled playing Prince tunes in the hospital room while giving birth to her son.

The show opened with a series of photos moving across four giant viewing screens. Each image documented Prince’s ever-changing stylistic appearance through the years, and this was followed by a video celebrating his recent induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Indeed, the air was thick with nostalgia and old memories, but when Prince finally arrived on stage in a flash of sparklers and purple spotlights, he hardly seemed like an aging rock star. Clad in matching crisp, white suits Prince and a flawlessly tight backing band wasted no time thrilling the crowd as they romped through classics like Let’s Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 U, and a scorching version of Kiss. Drummer John Blackwell, bass player Rhonda Smith, and a brassy horn section captained by James Brown’s former sax man Maceo Parker blended beautifully, concocting one delectably funky grove after another. The band jammed hard on old school nuggets like Controversy, I Feel for You, and D.M.S.R.. The show quickly spiraled into a blissfully feverish spectacle that was part glitzy carnival and part Minneapolis block party, and Prince danced furiously around a pair of open, x-shaped catwalks repeatedly whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

However, the most emotionally charged moments of the night were quiet ones. About half way through the show Prince sat center stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar, and he proceeded to lead the crowd in an old- fashioned sing-along. A little girl sitting on her father’s lap knew every lyric from both Little Red Corvette and Raspberry Beret, and she sang them at the top of her lungs. After an electrifying, spiritual rendition of Purple Rain, the voices of all 19,000 fans in attendance showered Prince with one last burst of affection. Wiping tears from his eyes, he seemed a bit surprised by the passionate display. "Turn up the house lights! I want to see your faces one more time," he shouted.

It quickly became clear that most in the crowd weren’t cheering for an icon or a hero. They were saying goodbye to an old friend.

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2004 The Music Box