Why Prince is a one-of-a-kind star

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A lot of babysitters earned overtime pay on Thursday night.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2011 (4076 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A lot of babysitters earned overtime pay on Thursday night.

The reason? Music legend Prince was in Winnipeg and the eccentric Minneapolis artist promised he was going to play an epic show that would run late.

“This feels like a weekend. I ain’t got nothing to do tomorrow, how ’bout you? You better call your babysitter,” he warned early on.

Kevin Winter / Postmedia Getty Images We'd like to show you a picture of Prince from his Winnipeg concert Thursday but photographers were barred from the concert. Instead, here's what he looked like in 2005 when he performed at the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles.

And he was true to his word, as his royal purpleness delivered a two-and-a-half hour set of funk, R&B, pop, rock and some disco spanning the past 30 years of his career, focusing mostly on the first half.

Some of the lateness was of his own doing since he took the stage 35 minutes after his scheduled 8 p.m. start time, but this was Prince, after all, playing only his second show in the city, and all was forgiven by the crowd of 10,500 at the MTS Centre as soon as he rose from a cloud of fog in the centre of his giant in-the-round stage shaped like the symbol he used as his name when he was the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

As a testament to the amount of hits he has, Prince opened the night with one of his biggest: an electro-pop version of When Doves Cry performed solo with a backing track while playing an electric piano featuring a wrap-around LED screen.

He served as performer, hype man and master of ceremonies as he offered up Sign ‘o’ the Times, a snippet of The Most Beautiful Girl in the World and Forever in My Life while getting the crowd to sing along and pump their fists in the air while performing in the dark or walking around the symbol stage outlined by lights that changed colours and throbbed to the beat. Fans in the VIP section sat at tables next to it and had their own drink service.

We would have had some great pictures to show you, but no photographers were allowed in the arena and fans were given leaflets threatening them with eviction if they were caught snapping shots.

His band the New Power Generation took the stage 15 minutes in, offering up some hard electro-funk then slowed it down as Prince walked around the stage reciting the words to the loungey Joy in Repetition before introducing former James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker, who took the first of many solos throughout the night.

Then it was time for some old-school funk as Prince finally picked up his Telecaster, introduced original Sly & the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham and covered three of the band’s hits — Everyday People, Stand and Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) — and got into some extended jams that had plenty of fans shaking their hips and singing along.

But it was Prince songs they came for and he got back to his own catalogue with a bouncy version of Take Me With U from Purple Rain, a snippet of Raspberry Beret and the 1991 single Cream before pulling out another cover, this time of Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.

“This is your party but tonight I’m the DJ and I play what I want,” Prince reminded everyone before the Jackson cover, which featured his four female backup vocalists sitting together on a piano before joining Prince at centre stage to dance.

At 53 Prince — looking dapper in a black and white suit for the main set and a white outfit later — is still light on his feet and showed off his famous footwork and spins often, although he didn’t do any splits.

He finished his main 90-minute set with the anthem Purple Rain, which climaxed with his electrifying guitar solo as purple and silver confetti blew over the crowd who were singing “woo hoo hoo hoo,” while waving their arms in the arm.

Purple Rain was a highlight, but there were still so many hits to go and he was just getting warmed up as Let’s Go Crazy, Delirious, 1999 and Little Red Corvette were unleashed in the first encore. Prince pulled out his falsetto for Kiss and shook his butt for some closeups on the video screens that earned some cheers from the females in the audience.

The house lights came up sending some to the exits, but they shouldn’t have left because Prince was back in five minutes and played for another 20, offering up Controversy, the ballad the Beautiful Ones and Baby I’m a Star to finish the night, and remind everyone of his status: a one-of-a-kind star.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

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