Prince @ The Hi-Fi
Photo Credit: Annabel Taylor
PRINCE & THE NEW POWER GENERATION
THE HI-FI, MAY 19
Talk about shock and awe. At 7pm on Friday night, I was planning a quiet one in. Nine hours later, I was stumbling out of The Hi-Fi having witnessed the greatest live show I’m ever likely to experience. Almost entirely removed from the pomp and ceremony of his stadium show, Prince — the musician, not the caricature — reminded us why he’s worth the spectacle.
After a mood-setting selection of ‘70s funk and ‘80s pop from DJ Rashida, capably tiding over fans who have shown up at the drop of a hat and queued for hours, the clock strikes 2. The NPG starts up on the unmistakable groove of ‘Musicology’ from behind the curtain, while the backing singers go to work on Bobby Byrd’s ‘I Know You Got Soul’. The curtains open, and there’s Prince, about to play to a room of 650 people on Boundary St and loving it. “Got soul,” he says, dripping with understatement. It is, quite frankly, one of the greatest moments in the history of Brisbane’s live music scene, and we are there.
What follows exceeds our wildest expectations. A positively glowing Prince (I can see his aura, and it’s purple) rips through a set that includes Charlie Parker’s ‘Scrapple From The Apple’, Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’, Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)’, The Ohio Players’ ‘Love Rollercoaster’, Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’; even India.Arie’s ‘Brown Skin’ (a showcase for powerhouse vocalist Shelby J). If you were trying to explain funk music to an alien, you’d bring them to this show. Musicology, indeed.
His Royal Purpleness dips into his own hefty back catalogue, too, pulling out live favourite ‘Days Of Wild’; a slow, bluesy take on ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man’ that builds to an emotionally charged solo worthy of the heavens; and closer ‘Controversy’ (including the ‘Housequake’ chant!), one of the tracks that broke him over here in the first place. Through it all, he is the consummate frontman, guiding his band and his audience (and the lighting crew) through every step of his genius.
We don’t see a diva, or even an icon, tonight, but of course what we do see is inextricably tied up in all that — we see an incredibly gifted man, doing what he does best for an audience that won’t ever forget it.