hmv.com reviews… Prince @ Sony Centre, Toronto
Prince. The one and only.
Sony Centre, May 19, 8 pm show.
Any good supports?
Does he need any?
Was it full? And how was the crowd?
Packed with disciples. (The superfan lady next to me had a ticket for the 11 pm show too.) A cosmopolitan crowd spanning the ages from giddy teens to giddy oldsters. Lots of adoration in the house - and some purple hats. Note: This was either the best-smelling crowd ever to attend a concert, or Prince arranged to have the place scented like his boudoir. Aromas of sandalwood, cinnamon and cardamom wafted through the air, augmented by the occasional spliff.
So what was the set like? What did they play?
He played not one hit during his first hour on stage, and yet the fans were in his pocket from the get-go - through Hendrixian acid jams à la Band of Gypsies and ’70s funk-fusion (hello, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Edgar Winter, et al!), all-out roadhouse blues rockers like ‘Rock and Roll Love Affair,’ and more than one gospel-tinged tours de force that employed the considerable range of all three backup singers. ‘Funknroll’ from last year’s Art Official Age album was a pure and glorious homage to Parliament/Funkadelic.
The second half was a hit-fest, with medleys and reinventions of signature tunes ‘Take Me With U,’ ‘Raspberry Beret,’ ‘Cream,’ ‘When Doves Cry,’ ‘Darling Nikki’ and ‘I Would Die for You.’ A couple of encores brought out the mega-hits: ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Kiss.’ But the show wasn’t over yet. His third encore delivered the subdued, mellow and uplifting ‘The Love We Make’ and then a gentle reading of ‘Nothing Compares to U.’ It was like getting a long kiss goodbye at the end of a perfect date.
Any good between song banter?
Not really, but lots of “Ya’ll having a good time, Toronto?” and hand-clapping with a fair bit of mugging and pointing. Everyone felt like Prince’s closest pal.
Did they put on much of a show?
Call it glamadelic. This wasn’t so much a concert as a seriously rocking visual-aural art installation propelled by a momentous groove. What a band, what a show! Beautiful stagecraft and perfectly tuned lighting and big-screen psychedelic graphics complemented the performance as Prince presented new music and greatest hits with equal enthusiasm. He sincerely loves to perform and plays to the audience with full-body fervour backed by an impish grin.
His band ranged from four-piece to nine-piece, always with his hand-picked ensemble 3rdEyeGirl keeping the motor running. The group is fronted by Mississauga native Donna Grantis on guitar (noted by Rolling Stone magazine as hailing from “the outskirts of Toronto.”) This superb group took Prince’s re-arrangements of his classics to new heights, and demonstrated a remarkable virtuosity that never got in the way of good party music, even as stretched out jams verged into ’70s prog-funk orchestrations. Grantis channeled Prince as she covered the solos in ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘Nothing Compares 2 U.’ But she’s her own force too, with tasteful runs bending genres from blues to metal.
What was the highlight of the set?
Too many to say, exactly. Prince brought his audience to the point of climax many times, with faux showstoppers that seemed to single the end, and then he’d launch into just one more encore. But his solo piano segue from Elvis’s ‘Love Me Tender’ to a full-band version of ‘The Beautiful Ones’ (from Purple Rain) had the crowd in his palm.
Then a rapid-fire medley of ‘Take Me With You,’ ‘Raspberry Beret’ and ‘You’ve Got the Look’ seemed to end with a powerful version of ‘When Doves Cry.’ Then Prince asked “Y’all all right if we keep going?” - no one protested - as he launched into ‘Time’ … and he just kept going. The show clocked in at two hours, leaving him less than an hour to prep for the 11 pm gig.
Where can I catch them next?
Who knows? Prince announces his shows just a couple days ahead, causing pandemonium wherever he goes. How fun is that?