By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
To really comprehend Prince’s enormous talents-and to see him jam with many of his muses and celebrity friends, you’d need to go to all 21 of his “WELCOME 2 AMERICA LIVE Featuring PRINCE Plus Special Guests” concerts at the Forum.
That, however, is most likely impossible.
At only $25 a pop (plus fees in some cases), the next best thing for many a fan may be to go once, twice, even thrice. Just know that how much you enjoy him may depend on which show you catch-and how long you’re willing to wait around after the show appears to be over to see if he comes back out to do encore(s).
For the most part, however, it’s all good.
There are some reviews of shows where he did four, five, even six encores of choice material. That would a royal flush!
Then there’s at least one show that started at 8 p.m. and opened with Prince’s Minnesota homeboys, Mint Condition. Prince did a great show that night: Halfway through, Sheila E. and Cuba Gooding, Jr. joined Prince and others onstage to party. But the highlight of that show was when new mama Alicia Keys dueted with him on his “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore,” the Prince ballad she covered back in 2001.
At 11 p.m., that show was over-or so it seemed. Most of the crowd waited for about 45 minutes to see if what they’d heard from others was true-‘Don’t leave,’ they’d been told. Prince will definitely come back out.’ But most of crowd emptied out of the arena, never to know whether he had.
Not so at last week’s Thursday concert. First of all, he had his funk muse, Chaka Khan, as his opening act. At one point, she was joined onstage on “Tell Me Something Good” by the strong vocal backings of Whitney Houston, who’d been seated in the VIP lounge near and below the stage.
Unfortunately, Khan’s straightforward half-hour set ended abruptly with “Ain’t Nobody.” The crowd was still singing along was Chaka was being escorted from the stage.
Somewhere between 9 and 9:30 p.m., New Generation Band keyboardist Renato Neto played a searing 10-minute solo. And then came the Prince, who emerged from the center of his guitar-shaped stage in clouds of smoke, red guitar in hand. The size of the stage and the way it was set up-and the fact that it allowed him to come to the edge of each part of the stage-made for a close up, intimate feeling.
And from the moment he stepped out from the smoke, the crowd was on its feet, dancing fervently-especially on “C-O-O-L,” since Prince added Michael Jackson “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and Rick James “Give It To Me Baby” tribute interludes behind the “Cool” groove.
Not only can Prince be the ultimate in “Cool”-witness the close-ups of his facial expressions and nods and winks-on the four big screens hanging above the stage”-but let’s not forget he’s a funky little brother in his two- to three-inch heels. Though he didn’t play his funkiest known tune, “Housequake,” at either of the shows visited here, he showed off his best James Brown and Morris Day (of The Time) dance moves on “Let’s Work.”
And on “U Got the Look,” he frolicked with not one but gorgeous identical dancing twins. In case you haven’t seen him in a while, you can forget how passionate-and how very creative he is: He did a little ditty that was “a tribute to Inglewood” on which he was joined by Whitney Houston.
On a medley that included “Take Me With U” and “Raspberry Beret,” many of the celebrities in the VIP lounge climbed up to dance with him-Cedric the entertainer and Whitney Houston being just two.
This night he ended with “Kiss”-or so it seemed. About 10 minutes after that ended, he began his two encores (or was it three, as someone who went suggested?!), including “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Delirious” and “Let’s Go.”
And then about 10 minutes after that encore ended, he came back to do “1999,” “Little Red Corvette” and his anthem “Purple Rain.”
At one point Prince announced that “My house (The Forum, that is) is your house” for the next few Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and that “you’ll hear real music by real musicians.”
And at $25, maybe you can afford go-at least twice?