Prince, on the verge of his 53rd birthday, remains a master of surprises. (Surf rock? A Minnesota Vikings fight song? The View?) But Prince caught Hollywood completely off-guard yesterday with the sudden announcement that he would play two sets Wednesday night at the venerable (but only 500-capacity) Troubadour club. Separately, word came that the Purple One would continue his Los Angeles residency with 5 more Welcome 2 America dates. Which you should catch.
We — along with Kim Kardashian, who got to see His Majesty up close at once least once before; Glee warbler Darren Criss; and our buddy Trent from Pink Is The New Blog — had the enormous privilege of seeing Prince rock the tiny house with a strictly-for-fans double set that spanned rare tunes, romantic classics and a new song, “When She Comes”. Dearly beloved, check our full review (with setlist) below.
Prince used his first set to transform the Troubadour into a jazz club, with the band kicking off a cover of Billy Cobham’s spacy “Stratus”. That set the tone for the next two hours, as Prince delighted in leading the band through extended interludes and encouraged frequent solos by his longtime sax player Mike Phillips. It was a dreamlike experience — Prince seemed to drift on and off-stage as he frequently tried to put his band in the spotlight (and shy away from cameras in the crowd). And as he spun through rock, R&B and even blues, it was clear that his Troubadour show would serve to indulge the hardest-of-hard-core fans — in addition to the Sexy MF himself. With all its twists and curveballs, his whole performance posed an unspoken challenge: is he a living legend because he can write hits? Or because he can do so much more?
“Stratus” was followed by the 80s jam “Power Fantastic”, and Prince then immediately slipped into falsetto for the romantic epic “Somewhere Here On Earth”, prompting couples to canoodle across the club floor. Prince also used the occasion to pull out some covers, including a too-sexy cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, with local talent Andy Allo on vocals. The set was purposefully short on hits, though Prince did treat the crowd to a rapturous “Controversy”, the 2004 jam “Musicology” and ended up the first set with “Pop Life” — which thrilled Bird And The Bee mastermind Greg Kurstin, also in attendance. He returned to to encore with “Beggin’ Woman Blues.”
It turned out that first performance was something of a warm-up, because for the second set, Prince and the band turned up the rock, pulling out “Endorphinmachine”, a cover of the Troggs’ “Wild Thing” (possible Charlie Sheen tribute?), Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” and reprised his own “Musciology”. Prince seemed to enjoy the show — he even spray-painted hearts on the drum kit.
If you had a chance to see Prince live, would you prefer him to play the hits? Or hear the band jam through rarities?
[Spray-paint photo via @trentvanegas]