Prince Blows Minds With Intimate Paisley Park Hometown ‘Piano and a Microphone’ Show (SHOW REVIEW)

“This is the first time I’ve played alone, ever! And you’re the first to see it.” Prince used these words to address the limited number of ever so lucky fans in attendance at Paisley Park on January 21st for an event one might refer to as History/Herstory in the making. Two sets of “Piano – Microphone – Prince” took place on this special evening and this account is from the later set.

The event was open to all ages and attracted followers worldwide (London, Japan, Russia and Switzerland to name a few), which is not uncommon when Prince puts the word out that something special is going to take place. Tickets sold out in minutes with VIP ($250) the first to go, which included a seat close to the stage, onsite parking and a gift box including the first pressing edition of the new Hit n Run Phase Two compact disc. General admission sold out shortly after at $100 and included a shuttle ride to the venue and standing room behind the seated VIP setup.

Seasoned fans have learned to exercise a little patience when they embark upon an adventure at , knowing full well the pay-off greatly outweighs a little wait outside in the Minnesota elements because the schedule is running a bit behind. It may have been cold to some, but there were very few complaints knowing what was in store for us. Once at Paisley, we were greeted by friendly staff dressed in purple directing you where to go. I headed directly to my favorite stop, the merch booth. I was excited to find the new CD available for $15 along with older tour t-shirts (ranging from $5 to $30) and a cool record bag for $25 — Score! We quickly found our perfect spot for viewing and anxiously waited for the Purple Yoda to appear.

It was apparent that careful preparation went into creating an environment that would set the perfect mood, including a small stage adorned with candles, incense and a baby grand piano, purple of course! All of this was made possible by NPG drummer/Paisley guru Kirk Johnson who Prince thanked at the end, but didn’t name. Prince’s assistant walked out and touched a single key on the piano signaling it was time. The lights went down and a puff of smoke bellowed out from behind a curtain encouraging the crowd to applaud and scream out their excitement and appreciation. The 57 year old artist finally was in sight, dressed in a two piece purple/mauve silky outfit and white platforms with red blinking LED lights. At last, Prince and his larger than life afro had arrived to perform an 80 minute set full of 22 emotional classics and rarities.

He started out with “Wow” off Plectrumelectrum and all eyes were glued on the Purple Wonder under the spotlight. Up next was “The Love We Make”, which had fans smiling and surely sent a tingling down the spines of girls and boys alike. Prince remarked with a smirk, “I can feel you staring.” He was certainly in a playful mood. He again said “Staring…” The crowd bursted into laughter and Prince flowed into the next tune. When the first notes of Musicology’s “Call My Name” sounded, I felt a hot rush sweep over my body as the emotional ride was about to start. During the transition into “Purple Rain” you could feel people around you getting choked up, happy tears were flowing in the absence of tissue no one thought to have on hand. As the timeless hit concluded Prince jumped up and wiped tears from his own eyes, exclaiming, “I forgot how emotional music can be at times, I might have chosen the wrong set, I’ll do my best to get through it.”

Most of the songs he selected for the evening were a bit more familiar to the average Prince fan, however performing them on piano alone was a like a breath of new life that gave an unexpected sense of originality. Prince has become a master at reworking his past hits, but there was something different on this special night, a sincere sense of vulnerability in these songs. The distraction free environment also aided in the heightened appreciation with the absence of cell phones or someone talking in your ear really allowed you a chance to hear the lyrics, the notes, and to feel the personal connection Prince has attached to them. Something you rarely can fully appreciate with a full band and busy light show. Prince was basically naked and we were all drawing him like students in an art class, and he was letting us! A side of Prince we rarely get to see.

Upon playing the chorus to “The Ladder” Prince jumped up and walked away. The room went absolutely nuts! People yelled, “Play it!” as if he were teasing and not going to come back. He did return and started the song over, leaving me completely mesmerized. It’s one of my personal favorites from “Around the World in a Day”. I was truly transfixed on every movement Prince made. My view was more from his back so I could see his shoulder blades move with every note, his blinking LED shoes would light up when he’d touch a pedal. He’d turn in our direction occasionally, but it really wasn’t necessary for the effect. It was about the music and I was waiting for him to sprout wings and fly us all to heaven.

 The mood turned a bit lighter with a few karaoke style hits including “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, “Raspberry Beret”, “Starfish and Coffee”. The crowd clapped and sang along as Prince gleefully played and joked around. Again the tears flowed with a rare performance of “Sometimes it Snows in April”, another personal favorite being a Minnesota native. “Dear Mr. Man” showed a more aggressive, political side of Prince relating to current events. The Artist pounded on the piano and commented about Flint water and quoting, “We have to take away all the guns.” It seemed appropriate when a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of U” followed and just like that, Prince was gone. Was it over?

Nope! A very satisfied and happy Prince returned to a standing room of adoring fans begging for more. And with that we heard “Kiss”, a very hard edged “Black Sweat” and “Free Urself”. The lights came up and the night was over. People filed out with huge smiles on their faces. If this is something Prince ever decides to take on the road, I suggest not missing it. I’m really still trying to process everything that I experienced. As someone who has seen Prince live more than 50 times, this was a one of a kind experience. There’s never been anything from Prince quite like this, a vulnerable look into a genius at work.

 

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