Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prince Still The Mega Royalty,
In "America" And The World

Prince on Thursday night during his "Welcome 2America" tour
at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California
Omar P.L. Moore

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Saturday, February 26, 2011

OAKLAND, California

To say that Prince is a megastar goes beyond stating the obvious.  On Thursday night he showed why he's the world's greatest living entertainer and one of five or six all-time great artists on the third and final night of this stop on his "Welcome 2 America" tour.  The tour began in December in New York City at Madison Square Garden, with Oakland as the second city on the tour.

Almost two hours before the iconic, 50-something rock-and-roll Hall of Fame genius -- who still looks 23 -- took the stage at the Oracle Arena, music videos of vintage performances from his forerunners played on large oblong screens.  Tina Turner in the 1960s.  Wilson Pickett's "Night Of 1000 Dances".  Mavis Staples.  Santana, in his younger, more vital days with "Black Magic Woman".  These legends are among Prince's heroes and she-roes, and they also served as a message to his fans that he knows where to pay some of his respects.

On the stage before almost 20,000 screaming fans of various ages, Prince transcended and electrified, with unrivaled energy as palpable and invigorating as any of the frenzy of the adoring throng that accompanied it. 

His Royal Badness, as he is known among some of his most loyal and avid followers, paced himself through almost three exciting hours with precious few breathers, if only to accentuate his generosity to newer, upcoming artists, as well as more enduring, familiar ones, like Sheila E. (who played homage to Santana's rousing "Soul Sacrifice") and Larry Graham, bass player for Sly And The Family Stone.  They enjoyed and basked in their renewed glory on the stage. 

One of the best and most complete concert shows in Prince's repertoire, "Welcome 2 America" was everything and more.

If Thursday's event had been a concert movie on IMAX the results may just have been as earth shattering.  The acoustics were second to none.  The synching of music and lighting were as pinpoint as even the most lukewarm fan of concerts, and Prince specifically, could hope for, and the artist's supporting cast each made a distinct and memorable impression.  You could see teleprompters of the lyrics for the songs in a couple of areas, and such is a common occurrence, especially when you've written countless songs which haven't yet been released or performed live in a dozen years or more.

Prince played rock, funk, glam, pop, soul, R&B, ballads and medleys from the 80s.  He also played five different instruments, sang, danced, ran and admonished the audience playfully.  "Stop tweeting and be here!", he dared.  He interacted, played, teased, loved, seduced and yearned, all night long. 

Prince on Thursday night during his "Welcome 2America" tour in
Oakland, California
Omar P.L. Moore

From afar he taunted a celebrity, after bringing a young, eye-catching lady on stage who danced unselfconsciously, engaging the VIP floor section -- fans who paid $1000 to be close to their idol.  "This ain't Kim Kardashian!" Prince declared, referring to the reality television star who famously showed reluctance to dance on stage at Madison Square Garden earlier this month when called upon by Prince to do so.  That night he told Ms. Kardashian to "get off the stage."  (Reportedly, Prince later gave Ms. Kardashian a second chance, and she ended up dancing, not needing to be told a third time.)

On Thursday the stagecraft was singular and unmistakably Prince.  Neon colored outlines of Prince's distinct hieroglyph from his "Artist Formerly Known As" days dominated at center stage of the arena where the NBA team the Golden State Warriors play. 

"Purple Rain", "Kiss", "Little Red Corvette" all played to rapturous applause, as did many others of the thousands of Prince songs that the artist has written and perfromed.  (Alas, there was no "Raspberry Beret", "When Does Cry" or "Betcha By Golly Wow!" to be found on this night.  With "Kiss" there was an updated variation to one lyric line: "you don't have to watch The Kardashians to have an attitude.")

In the night's biggest highlight, Prince, facing the audience, played his guitar with one hand and the piano -- which was behind him -- with the other hand, both at the same time, for about a minute and a half.  The act recalled the great Jimi Hendrix, except even more adventurous, showing a virtuoso ease that has catapulted the diminutive Minnesota native to the top of the music artist tree over the 30-plus years of his evolving and seemingly indefinable career.  As restless in his pursuit of different planes of artistry as Miles Davis, Prince showed his curiosities and indefatigable qualities, both as maestro and mischief-maker.

Many of the younger fans in attendance weren't around when he starred in several films, some forgettable, others not -- and directed one ("Under The Cherry Moon".)  Like Elvis Presley, but even more so than the late rocker, Prince wore an array of hats but played his way into each fitting, and effortlessly.

One didn't have to know all of the words to every song or even dance as suggestively or rhythmically as Prince, but all in attendance on Thursday knew they got the show of a lifetime.

"Thank you, Oakland, we'll be back very soon!", Prince promised.  "Will you be here?"

It was obviously a rhetorical question, but the sated fans packed inside Prince's church of rock on this purple rainy damp Oakland night were adrenalized and compelled to answer, and with fervor.
Slideshow: Prince at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California - "Welcome 2 America"

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