*Nearly 40 years after the release of his debut album, Prince still mesmerizes audiences.
The Mercedes Benz Superdome was packed July 4th as Prince took center stage for the 20th Anniversary of the Essence Music Festival.
The entertainment icon and lyrical chameleon began his set with the ever popular “Let’s Go Crazy.” Waves of cheers and applause reverberated throughout the dome when the pop master uttered the words “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today.” No appearance, just a voice behind a rippling white satin stage drape. When the drape dropped to the floor, Prince and his electric guitar appeared center stage, with his band the New Power Generation.
The crowd, already eagerly awaiting his stage presence and performance, went wild. Anticipation building after Prince teased the audience with brief appearances at the end of Janelle Monae’s set, while performing her rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy.” The very beautiful and talented singer opened the 4th of July show, performing her hit songs “Electric Lady” and “Primetime.”
Prince also made an appearance during Nile Rodgers performance, playing the electric guitar during a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” a hit song produced by Nile Rodgers back in the 80s. Rodgers of the very popular disco group Chic, performed the groups iconic hits “Good Times” and “Le Freak.”
Prior to his set, Rodgers asked the audience to indulge him so that he could take in the moment. He took pictures of the audience, thanked Prince for giving him the opportunity to perform as an opening act, and told the audience that he was blessed to have beaten cancer, and is still able to perform.
Rodgers rocked the dome with disco favorites, including a cover of “We are Family,” by Sister Sledge, which he wrote. Rodgers was joined on stage by Kathy Sledge who sang lead vocals on the song.
Meanwhile, Prince’s high energy performance kept the audience on their feet for nearly his entire performance. The music legend didn’t appear to disappoint, singing hit songs “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Raspberry Beret” among other hits. Prince also did covers of Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life” and “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” by Morris Day and the Time. All crowd favorites. After bidding the crowd adieu, for several minutes, Prince said goodnight and exited the stage, leaving the stage dark and a confused crowd chanting Purple Rain.
After several minutes of audience chants, the musicologist returned to the stage to closeout his performance at the Essence Music Festival with his masterpiece “Purple Rain.” The audience responded like the song was fresh off the movie soundtrack 30 years after its release. I will admit that I was expecting a slightly different performance. I saw Prince perform on three separate occasions, the first time at the Summit in Houston, Texas, now Joel Olsteen’s church home. This was with Vanity 6 and Morris Day and the Time. I was an 8th grader. My Aunt Lisa, who was a senior in high school at the time, drove me to the concert in her brand new two-seater Mazda. His performance was sensual, sexy, electrifying. I remember it clearly, including the bed that was on stage. I loved it. It was his signature musical style. I again saw him perform live at the MCI Center in Washington, DC, post religious transformation. The show was frock with hit after hit. It was sensual, sexy and electrifying. His signature musical style.
Los Angeles, a few years ago, was all abuzz with his performances at The Forum. For several weeks, he played to sold out audiences. I was there. The show was sensual, sexy, electrifying he included a good majority of his hits. He did not leave out the naughty ones. Quintessential Prince. He was very coy about how he introduced those songs, hinting at them, no lyrics, just instrumental. A tease, just to let us know that he has not forgotten. Another signature performance. The performance at Essence was high energy, but I was disappointed that it was not what I had come to know as a signature Prince performance, sensual, sexy, electrifying. I enjoyed him. I danced, I screamed, cheered, was at the edge of the stage as he sang to the audience. The performance was satisfying, just not signature. It felt incomplete to me.
But, that aside, I can tell you if crowd response is any indication, it appears that nearly 40 years after his debut album, Prince fans are in it for the long haul. And, it is safe to predict that Prince Rogers Nelson, the kid from Minneapolis, whose talents have made him a worldwide superstar will be playing to large audiences for years to come, including me!
Tibberly G. Ríchard has served as an entertainment writer for EURweb.com for a number of years. She was also an on air personality with RadioScope, the Entertainment Magazine of the Air. Contact Ms. Ríchard via: [email protected].