Every so often, the clouds above unexpectedly part and you’re graced with the light of great fortune. This could come in the form of love or an unforeseen scholastic or professional achievement or, in this case, a private Prince concert. Either way, you walk away having experienced something completely exciting and out of the ordinary.
Perhaps you’re wondering how I stumbled across the concert. Well, on the evening prior to the show, I was speculating on what artists might collaborate with Lynyrd Skynyrd on the night before their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That brought me to the Nokia Theatre’s website and after clicking on a mysterious purple image, the word was out.
Teaming with his new protégé, Tamar, Prince had fans lined up along Broadway well before doors were scheduled to open. Anxious fans of all ages and races cluttered together and shared stories of how they stumbled across the news. After much waiting (followed by another 45-minute wait), the doors were opened and fans were greeted to the funkiest house music I’ve ever heard; Prince songs interspersed between Stevie Wonder, George Clinton and James Brown classics.
As the clock chimed 12:30, the purple one casually walked across the stage, playing coy as if he hadn’t noticed the cheers. This act, characteristically un-Prince like, set the tone for the evening as Prince put the spotlight on his new artist, Tamar. Although he didn’t crawl across the stage, dance or sing lead, he delivered with many scorching guitar solos and brief interplay with fans. His mark was felt most notably in Tamar’s original material, which was either written or co-written by Prince.
Tamar, for those unaware, is a young, soulful, R&B funktress who embodies the sound of the past, far more than that of current R&B hip-hop. Alongside Tamar was a pair of extremely attractive and energetic backup singers, simply addressed as “The Twins.” Judging by the provocative dance moves and many up-skirt viewings, it was clear Prince had his hand in making the band and did so to perfection. The man hasn’t lost his touch.
Now among many talented singers to have collaborated with Prince (Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, Ani DiFranco, etc.), Tamar had to prove to New York that she was deserving of the honor. Vocally, Tamar was able to nail every note and conveyed each song’s emotion rather effectively. Performance wise, she was on par and where she lacked energy, the twins more than made up for it. All in all, Tamar proved that she deserved her position.
Expectedly, originals only made up a small portion of the setlist and were as enjoyable as one could have hoped; they were essentially Prince songs sung by a woman. As such, the evening’s setlist was dominated by funk and soul covers that included “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Higher,” “When a Man Loves A Woman” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” These selections went over particularly well and captured the party atmosphere of a true Prince concert.
On several occasions, fans were invited onstage to join in the festivities. Most of the time this translated to dancing, but for one lucky fan it was an opportunity to sing lead vocals on “Play That Funky Music (White Boy).” Remarkably, the random singer knew all the words and had everyone impressed including the twins…everyone, that is, excluding Prince. As soon as the singer kicked into the third verse instead of the second, Prince walked up to the mike and remarked something akin to, “Oh, so we don’t do the second verse anymore?” Apparently, Prince has a low tolerance for imperfection.
Overall, it was a truly unique performance with Prince showcasing his guitar talents and unveiling his new protégé Tamar. While it failed to fully capture the magic of a true Prince concert, the show was hard to beat and left many hungering for more. Accordingly, Prince is currently mapping out plans for a summer tour, with Tamar set to open. In album news, Prince is scheduled to release 3121 on March 21. Tamar’s debut Beautiful, Loved & Blessed is due in May.
Photo Credit: Afshin Shahidi