Photos by Cindy Ord/NPG Records
Prince is proof that in the musical arena: talent is king.
For one: very few artists can announce a show, release the tickets the next day, and damn well sell it out (save for a couple of single seats scattered throughout the 3,191 Sony Centre capacity.) Fewer, still, can do it twice in a single night.
With Prince, though, the element of surprise and the eccentricities of it all is part of the appeal. He may have left excited fans waiting in the cold at his last botched surprise shows in the city but, for all the times he hasn’t shown up, it’s wholly forgettable and forgivable once you actually do get the chance to see him perform.
He’s a consummate showman and he’s created a relationship with his audience that’s as dependent on their reception as it is on his abilities.
At the second of his Hit n Run sets in Toronto, the 56-year-old Minnesota-native delivered a show heavy in said “hits” – delighting the weeknight crowd with songs stretching his extensive discography.
It was enough to warrant repeat returns to the stage at the demand of the audience, Prince responding to the reception with: “Toronto, you’ve got to be careful with me. I have been known to break a few curfews.” With the 11:00 pm curfew already long past, I’m not sure there would have been many complaints had he played the whole night long and into the dawn.
The big songs were inevitable highlights thanks to crowd participation. Audience members sang and danced along to staples such as “Raspberry Beret”, “When Doves Cry”, “Kiss”, “Cool”, “Nothing Compares 2 U” (on which hometown 3RDEYEGIRL guitarist Donna Grantis dominated a guitar solo), “1999”, and – of course – set closer “Purple Rain”.
Throughout the performance, Prince himself was teasing and approachable in his behaviour with the crowd (even leaning back into the audience at one point, later inviting people to jump on stage and dance nearer the end.) He was also monolithic in his abilities. It seems pretty obvious that the man was born with a guitar in his hands and music in his veins. Whether it was big, beefy notes or more intricate solos, the ease and comfort in which he wielded his guitar was admirable.
Playing a show that just surpassed a little over an hour-and-a-half in length (he and his seven-piece backing band took to the stage just after 11:30 pm and were done by 1:15 am), Prince was downright sprightly. There were no signs of fatigue – or even a sign of sweat. He danced and twirled; his vocals were commanding and soulful; and there was a whole lot of funk to go around the room. He put on a show with the type of energy men half his age are unable to dream of, let alone ever achieve.
He also seemed happy to be there, importantly. Prior to 1986’s “Kiss”, he told the crowd: “I used to like it up here. I think I’m going to like it again.”
The same goes for seeing a Prince show. He’s damn good. And he’s damn worth seeing again.
Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.