Prince Stuns in First Ever One Man Show at Paisley Park

We only know of one lucky soulhead who attending this once in a lifetime event that will go down as one for the ages.  Prince (our favorite) held an intimate concert/gala billed as “Piano and a Microphone” last night at the famed (and newly renovated Paisley Park in suburban Minneapolis.  Beginning with the amazing ballad “Baby” from his self-titled debut, For You, and ending with the soaring “Anna Stesia” from Lovesexy, Prince made the ladies swoon and the gents beam with envy.  For those in attendance, this sounds like one of the best shows ever.

Prince Piano and a Microphone Photo

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Prince approached the piano, a purple baby grand. He landed a single chord, resonant and bassy. He stood. He walked away.

As we could have guessed, Prince’s first-ever (first ever?) solo show last night at Paisley Park, his home compound in suburban Minnesota, was no simple, straightforward affair. The 57-year-old funk-pop wizard approached the performance as a challenge, an opportunity to prove that he could deliver a full Prince show without much of anything we expect from a full Prince show: No powerhouse band, no impossibly lithe dancing, no masterful guitar fireworks. Just, as the show’s official title put it, “Piano & a Microphone.” And a lot of Prince. Maybe more Prince than he’s ever shared before.

Prince framed the evening as an autobiographical struggle, the story of how he mastered the piano and emerged from the shadow of his father, a jazz pianist. The set moved chronologically (with a few exceptions) through the first decade of Prince’s career, including at least one song from each of his first 10 albums. Familiar melodies splintered into virtuosic cascades for a dreamlike effect, as though Prince was remembering the birth of his career in real time.

The night began with some introductory psychodrama. Elegantly casual in his mauve pajamas, that enormous afro dominating his slim frame, Prince took a stage decorated sparsely with candles, befogged by a smoke machine, his personal glyph looming from behind, illuminated by kaleidoscopic patterns. His voice was doused in heavy echo as he expressed the dreams and doubts of a child who sneaks down without permission to play his father’s piano. “I can’t play piano like my dad. How does dad do that?” he wondered, while attempting improvisations that, at one point, suggested Thelonious Monk teaching himself the theme to Batman.

Then it got sexy. Prince’s fingers were everywhere during “Baby,” a ballad from his 1978 debut For You that served as foreplay to the full-body workouts “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Dirty Mind” before the ecstatic squeals of “Do Me, Baby” provided the climax. Multiple climaxes, even.

Prince moved between songs fluidly. He introduced the moving ballad “Free” by celebrating “the freedom to say no,” later interrupting the song to wipe a tear and briefly mourn David Bowie: “I only met him once. He was nice to me. He seemed like he was nice to everybody.” Before we knew it, he was in the middle of a gorgeous take on a longtime Prince favorite, Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which transformed into a bluesy vamp that Prince used as a lesson in musicology. “The space between the notes — that’s the good part,” he said. “How long the space is — that’s how funky it is or how funky it ain’t.” And just like that, he was was moaning the spiritual lament “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

The intimate setting was ideal for falsetto-wrenched ballads like “Sometimes It Snows in April” and “The Breakdown,” one of a handful of newer songs inserted into the set. But Prince never forgot that the piano is a rhythm instrument. If the old-time boogie-woogie masters didn’t need drums to rock a party, well, neither did Prince. He remade “Paisley Park” as a bluesy, gutbucket romp, and his pumping left hand recalled Ray Charles, a debt he made clear when he ripped into the soul legend’s “Unchain My Heart,” a song he recalled playing with his father.

FULL ARTICLE

Set List
“Baby”
“I Wanna Be Your Lover”
“Dirty Mind”
“Do Me, Baby”
“Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)”
“Free”
“A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell)
“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” (Traditional)
“The Beautiful Ones”
“U’r Gonna C Me”
“Condition of the Heart”
“Raspberry Beret”
“Paisley Park”
“Sometimes It Snows In April”
“I Love U, But I Don’t Trust U Anymore”
“The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”
“Unchain My Heart” (Ray Charles)
“Baltimore”
“Rock and Roll Love Affair”
“Starfish and Coffee”
“The Breakdown”
“Anna Stesia”

Paisley Park After Dark – The Remodel from Infinitree Media on Vimeo.

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