Prince rocks Madison Square garden (photo: NPG)

*As part of his “Welcome 2 America” tour, His Purple Highness Prince blew into a snowy New York City on Wednesday, December 29, 2010, and melted the hearts of thousands of adoring fans who braved the frigid weather to attend what will go down in the history of Madison Square Garden concerts as one of the most majestic shows ever!

Wearing a purple shimmering shirt, Prince thrilled a sold out frenetic crowd that stood dancing in place during the two hour plus show including long time funky band cohorts Shelby Johnson and Morris Hayes and three background singers.  Prince avoided fancy backdrops and explosive pyrotechnical gimmickry and any other distractions and opted for a luminous, glyph-shaped stage rounded out by good old fashioned entertainment which captured his radiant essence to perfection.

As soon as the house lights were dimmed, pandemonium broke out.  Minutes passed before the frenzy died down and when the lights came up, Prince was seated at a black baby grand piano as Misty Copeland, a beautiful soloist ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre, joined him on stage as he performed “The Beautiful Ones.”  The symmetry of that performance set the tone for what was to follow . . . an enchanted evening filled with an equal dose of love, beauty and sexual healing layered with a high measure of funk!
Then it was party time as the gifted one turned up the heat and broke into a body of his electrifying hits – from his signature albums 1999 and Purple Rain — as he played to the crowd enticing them to sing along on the choruses to “Little Red Corvette,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Kiss.”  They also lent their Prince Prowess to his cover of the Time’s “Cool.”

Prince and dance Misty Copeland (photo: NPG)

Three quarters into the show, His Coolness took a deserving break and when he reappeared he was sportin’ a red sequined top over red velvet form-fitting bell bottom spandex pants with red shoes.  There must have been a funk machine in the back where he was able to get a funk transfusion ‘because he came back with more energy than an energizing bunny laced with naughty dance moves.

He ran through “Uptown,” “The Question of U,” and “If I Was Your Girlfriend” with a little funky help from Monáe.  He returned to playing the piano for a medley of tracks – “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore,” and “Condition of the Heart.”

He was joined on stage for his final song, the Time’s “Jungle Love,” by WBLS radio personality Egypt and Cyndi Lauper who wailed her tail off.  And as he danced all over the stage with gyrating moves like an exotic dancer who had overdosed on Viagra, the crowd started their New Years Eve celebration early jumping up and down and shouting out his name over and over not aware that Prince had long ago left the building.  But he left his funky print behind that kept this crowd going – like an energized bunny!

Prince’s fellow Twin Cities homeboys Mint Condition opened the show followed by double-Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe who is someone worth watching.  If Prince had a sister, her name would be Monáe.

In addition to seeing one of the master performers of all time perform, another thing that made this show so worth seeing was his genius use of established artists such as Mint Condition, Cassandra Wilson, Maceo Parker, Larry Graham and Sheila E, who have paved the way for others while placing the spotlight on emerging artists such as Monáe, jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding and R&B artist Lalah Hathaway.  Showcasing the newer artists is Prince’s master plan to pay forward knowledge and empowerment to the next generation of talent and to try to inspire others to do so in their own spheres of influence.

The tour launched the Prince Chocolate Candy Bar of Belgium milk chocolate by Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world’s largest candy emporium. “We are thrilled that Dylan’s Candy Bar is making a commemorative candy bar to mark Prince’s residency in New York, which marks the beginning of his much anticipated ‘Welcome 2 America tour,'” said Prince’s manager, Kiran Sharma.

The limited edition Prince candy bars are available only at his concerts in the U.S. and at the chain’s New York City, East Hampton, Roosevelt Field, Orlando and Houston stores.

“When I started Dylan’s Candy Bar in 2001, I wanted it to be a place that merged my love of pop culture, fashion, art and music with candy.  Since then, we have been fortunate to pioneer artistic partnerships with many legends.

To have Prince, the purple majesty himself, approach us with his signature graphics to be developed on a commemorative chocolate bar was a dream come true,” said Dylan Lauren, CEO and founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar.

Editor’s Note:  Kudos to Prince who brought in Terrie Williams, publicist and public relations specialist to the stars to make sure that the African American media was invited to his show.  Williams worked with her “go to” senior consultant Cheryl Duncan to make this happen.  Both Williams and Duncan visited each media person in their seat to bring personal greetings from Prince.  What a class act.  Purple Passion rules!

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

Audrey Bernard