Prince City National Grove of Anaheim May 7, 2013 (Early Show) When you've been around as long as Prince, you make your own rules. This was evident from the moment people entered the parking lot of the City National Grove of Anaheim and received little paper flyers outlining that there would be no photography or video allowed at the show. Before the Purple One and his band 3rd Eye Girl hit the stage, drummer Hannah Ford reiterated while she and her bandmates didn't mind photos, Prince did and that's what mattered. While most people got the point, some didn't and got booted from the venue. But hey, for the time being, this venue was Prince's world--and we just happened to live in it.
As for the show, The Artist Formerly Known As A Weird Symbol was rockin' and groovin'. Sporting a cropped afro, tight black and white turtleneck, black spandex and high heels, his slightly altered look this time around was indicative of the increased rock flavor added to his sound. Prince's current tour is a throwback to how things were done at the onset of live club shows. There was an early show at 8 p.m. and a late one at 11:30 p.m. Fans who ponied up the $200-plus for the show definitely didn't sound disappointed, especially with reworked versions of hits like set opener "Let's Go Crazy" and "Little Red Corvette." The set was full of newer, lesser-known tracks along with some hits from across hit catalog.
The aforementioned 3rd Eye Girl, the latest all-female incarnation of Prince's backing band, brought out the rocker in him. Many of the tracks were harder, which was different than his last area shows at the Forum, where he was backed by the New Power Generation. While all three members had been part of the rotating New power lineup, this new approach featured crunchier guitar solos and a degree of edginess on songs like the newly released "Screwdriver" that Prince had gotten away from in the past few years. Decked out in a biker chic Native American garb, the onslaught of jaw-dropping guitar solos of Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen's fuzzy and furious bass skills brought out the true player in Prince. The set stayed crisp throughout the night, and the long bloated solos that were present at the end of his run at The Forum were replaced by tighter jams mixed in with a few quiet, sultry moments. Playing with the gals has reinvigorated Prince's live show.
Was it a bummer not being able to take photos and live Tweet from the event? Absolutely. It took everything we had not broadcast to the world that classics like "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" and "Purple Rain" were being played directly in front of us. However, there was something refreshing about not having a zillion flashes going off and screens lighting up. Prince thrived in this controlled environment. He was relaxed and loose, often times cracking a smile when facing the crowd or when he looked at his band. He's grown into his role as a bandleader and a conductor at the same time, much like the jazz groups he grew up listening to.
A musician like Prince doesn't often play to small rooms like the City National Grove of Anaheim. When he does, it can be magical and borderline surreal even if he doesn't play his greatest hits. Last night, he made other band's songs, like The Cars' "Let's Go" and The Troggs' "Wild Thing" sound as good, if not better than the original versions. Oh, and there was a Nicole Scherzinger sighting. The former Pussycat Dolls frontwoman came out during the second encore to share vocals with Prince on "U Got the Look" after watching from the side of the stage all night.
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By the time the two-hour set ended, it was time to clear out the first group of people in order to make way for the line of people that assembled in the parking lot. No matter how the second show went, nothing could top seeing Prince in such a small setting. Even if it never happens again, this Orange County venue with forever have a bit of Purple aura surrounding it.
Critical Bias: I was standing about the length of a baseball bat from Prince. Does it really get any better than that?
The Crowd: People who didn't care about the hefty ticket prices.
Random Notebook Dump:Did you know the VIP lounge was designed by former Anna Nicole Smith interior decorator Bobby Trendy? We saw Tony Kanal of No Doubt chilling back there! Follow us on Twitter @ocweeklymusic and @danielkohn. Like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality