Matson on Music
Prince showers the Dome in 'Purple Rain'
Posted by Andrew Matson
Image via twitter.com/prometheusbrown
Prince channeled James Brown, Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix Monday night at the Tacoma Dome, but the high point of the concert was his epic power ballad from the '80s, "Purple Rain."
When the funk-rock legend swung his electric guitar from his hip and ripped into the climactic solo, it was like Hendrix come back to life, except slower and more soaring. The androgynous man in sparkly bell-bottoms brought squeals and roars out of his instrument, strutting the stage while jets blasted confetti 100 feet in the air. The Dome felt like a humongous snow globe.
Many audience members would have been happy if that moment had gone on forever. People were still humming the lonesome cowboy wail at the end of "Purple Rain" after the show was over, walking back to their cars.
For the rest of the two-hour concert he controlled his eight-person band with quick verbal commands, slashing the air with dance moves. That suited the 20,000 or so fans just fine, judging from nonstop screams and applause.
Prince's dancing sometimes recalled hip-hop, but rap music never entered the musical mix; he and his band instead blended rock, soul and dance styles, ending with the robo-funk number "Controversy," from 1981.
At one point Prince performed solo for a bit and segued between dance-y numbers in a rapid-fire medley. "When Doves Cry" into "I Would Die 4 U" was a special transition, industrial drums shuddering into zooming synthesizers. It was obvious Prince understood the concept of electronic dance music in a large space, and had a DJ bone in his body. He's from Minneapolis, after all. The Midwest is famous for rock and blues, but also raves, having invented techno and house music in the '80s.
Yet Prince was also old-school. He paused every 10 minutes or so to introduce (ex-James Brown) saxophonist Maceo Parker, who would emerge from under the stage and take a solo. Each time Parker walked out, Prince espoused Parker's legendary status: "Do you know who that is? School's in. Do you know who James Brown is?"
The predominantly older crowd probably knew. And many of them probably went home and fell asleep with "Purple Rain" going through their heads.
As for Prince, he left Tacoma and performed at an after-party in SoDo in Seattle, taking the stage around 2 a.m.
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