Prince / Columbia, SC / 04-21-2004 Concert Review

The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince’s show at the Colonial Center in Columbia, SC on April 21st was both frustrating and completely awesome. In a David Bowie like move, Prince announced that his Musicology tour would be the last time to hear his previous hits live. It was promoted that the hits would be played in their entirety. Unfortunately this proved untrue. After being wheeled to the cross shaped stage in a road case, Prince ascended in the middle of the stage to crank out a pumped up version of the title track of his new album. Then the hits started. Well, kind of anyway. The purple one decided to do a medley of half of his 1984 mega album Purple Rain. The problem with this show was that the hits were almost all cut short.

Fortunately, when Prince decided to cut loose and play a song in its entirety, it was nothing short of amazing, often culminating in a long jam that was the exact opposite of the medley of hits. The New Power Generation has to be one of the tightest backing bands ever. This was evidenced more than ever on the Gold Experience’s “Shhh,” which let drummer John Blackwell show off just how bad ass he is. Blackman’s hometown crowd urged him on and showed their appreciation.

Prince commanded the stage and had the 17,000+ fans in attendance eating out of his well moisturized hand. He danced like it was 1984 and had the faithful dancing right along with him. When Prince is on, there is no one that can touch him live. He even threw in parts of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” where he joked that he didn’t have enough booty, Outkast’s “The Way You Move” and Alicia Keys’ “Fallen.”

After an instrumental version of the Purple Rain B-side “God,” Prince took the stage seated on a revolving chair with an acoustic guitar. This was definitely the highlight. He started off with an acoustic reworking of “Little Red Corvette” that had everyone singing along. What was great about this part is that Prince just seemed like a normal guy playing guitar with a couple of his friends watching. He would often stop and talk to the crowd or as in the case of “Cream,” ask where his back ups were. When the crowd amazed him with an almost note perfect back up, he stopped again and had them do it again, and again. Ending the acoustic set was a great short version of “Sometimes It Snows in April.” The band came back out and went through a short version of “7” before ending with dancers plucked out of the audience for “Take Me With U.”

For the encores, Prince and the NPG performed “Nothing Compares 2 U” for the second time, “Kiss” and of course “Purple Rain.” The guitar solo in that song is still powerful enough to give you goose bumps. It’s pretty awesome to hear an arena full of people singing the “whoo-hoo-oohhoos.”

Overall, a bad Prince show is still better than 90% of the other major shows on the road these days. If he would just cut down on the medleys, this would probably be the best show of the year. As it stands, Prince is Prince and it’s still a fun ride and a giant party. Oh yeah, he’s a pretty good guitarist too!

-Benji McKay