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Live review: Prince at the Forum, April 14

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Chastity belts -- even metaphorical ones -- hinder rocking. No performer has built a more ecstatic three-decade career by channeling carnal desires than the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Watching one of the sexiest men on Earth trying to perform a PG show is like watching Kobe Bryant trying to play basketball with his shoelaces tied together. Prince wanted the room to get hot Thursday night, during the first of a promised 21-night stand at the storied but aged Forum. But the Jehovah’s Witness had to keep his libido in check.

 "I’m in rehab!" he chided, as he mischievously played the opening chords to his old masturbation ode "Darling Nikki," then quickly changed tunes. The man who used to make wild love to his guitar now apparently views eroticism as an addiction. "This is an abstinence ring!" he protested as he shrugged off another old musical temptation.

Tension between sin and salvation, blues and gospel, has fueled the fire of many great singers, including Little Richard -- whom Prince more and more resembles -- and Al Green, whom he increasingly sounds like. The pull of Prince’s youthful drive whipped him into a sort of existential fervor on the 1982 hit "Little Red Corvette"; he tweaked the lyrics -- "A body like yours ought to be in my jail" -- as the reformer wrestled with the rocker.

There was a feeling of imprisonment, that the indefatigable, elfin erstwhile glyph was trapped in an identity crisis. The veteran performer played in fits and lulls, seemingly unable to get the pacing right. There were several false starts; the show began 90 minutes after the announced curtain time, and the lights and house music went off repeatedly before comedian George Lopez finally took the stage, announcing Prince with the intro to "Let’s Go Crazy." There were false endings too; more than half the house cleared when the lights came on after one encore, only to have Prince and his old cohort Sheila E. return for her song "The Glamorous Life," and an additional half hour of music.

 Still, even an off show for Prince is a night to remember, especially if you paid only $25. He certainly didn’t skimp, playing for more than three hours. At 52, he looks gorgeous, tiny and trim even in heels, like Peter Pan with a lascivious grin. He has a solid band, although, with three keyboard players, they have a tendency to play quiet-storm schmaltz. And even without the smut, he has an incredible catalog to draw on: "Purple Rain," "Uptown," "Controversy" and "When Doves Cry" were among the hits played Thursday.

Prince tried to substitute spiritual energy for sexual, creating a revival atmosphere (a la Al Green). He also celebrated his black roots. "Welcome to the 'hood," he said by way of introduction. He announced that this would be the first of a series of Forum shows -- every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning April 21, "for as long as you will have us." This extended L.A. stay on the Welcome 2 America tour is intended to boost the fortune of the struggling former Lakers home. "With your help we can save this place," he said, sounding more like a community activist than a legendarily mysterious star.

With the cheap seats (as well as expensive VIP tickets that could get you on-stage), Prince is trying to get in touch with his fan base. Unfortunately, there were a fair number of empty chairs Thursday. In an old showman’s trick, the singer repeatedly sought affirmation from the audience: "Is it OK if I play guitar?" (Yes; I wish he had played it more.) "Can I stay?" These were rhetorical questions, but for the first time in 29 years of seeing Prince perform live, I also sensed insecurity. We love you, Prince. Now please, play "Darling Nikki."

RELATED:

Prince at the Forum: Three hours, massive setlist, many medleys

Prince keeps things affordable at the Forum for $25, but how close does that get you?

Prince announces first set of Forum dates

-- Evelyn McDonnell

 Photo: iPhone photo of Prince at the Forum. Credit: Tony Pierce / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (56)

Evelyn McDonnell must not have seen a Prince show in a very long time. The "smut" disapeard 20 years ago and, no, there was no feeling of imprisonment, and no, the "smut" has not been missed, and, yes, he has been playing amazing shows since. OK, he didn't play his guitar on every song, but, it was a long show and he did play it quite a bit with some amazing guitar solos. The show was awsome. With less than one week of promotion for 21 shows, there are a lot of people who didn't even know Prince was playing in L.A.

those were not false starts.... nor false finishes. all part of the show... he has done those kinds of things for years, bringing the house lights up and instructing the band to wait til the half the people are gone before returning to the stage, etc. likely done even more so in the first of a long string of shows so word of mouth can help propel sales of future shows.... just think, for a whole week people will be talking about how he "played til 12:30", etc. it's a good thing he and the band are so good, because i also get annoyed at the late start time for his shows (been to about 5 or 6 and they ALWAYS start that late). still a master showman and not a lot of those left that can do as much at that level... in his 50's.

LoL! It happens when one matures. A good lesson for the young ones who thinks the world is nothing more than fun, games, and sex. You get older and your priorities change.

Prince fans have recently become aware of his conversion to Jehovah's Witnesses, but few are aware of just how much that is affecting his music.

I want to see this show. False starts, whatever. I have been a fan of his for a long time. I feel like his music was at a high level and music changed, but not for the better. Is he still relevent? Has he kept up with the times? No, but the music of the time is so mediocre, why would you want him to? He is Prince.

Not quite sure what show Evelyn was at. Maybe she left after the first two encores...Prince finished the show with a HALF HOUR of guitar playing rock! Including a cover of Billy Cobham's "Stratus" that was delicious. And spiritual? Hardly. It was "nudge nudge wink wink" all night. Did you not see the scantily clad "Twins" dancing throughout the show? Or the myriad closeups of Prince shaking his bootie on the jumbotrons? This blog reeks of "I better come up with an angle since I know so little about the performer - so - uh - I'll pick on the one thing he said - even if it was a joke".

Evelyn, sit back and enjoy the music. We all did. The idiots who left early should have known better. Prince plays that tantalizing and teasing game with his crowd all the time...sort of like he's having sex with them. Oh...did that ruin your blog? And let's not forget that tickets went on sale two days prior to a show on a weeknight. I was actually pretty surprised at how good the turnout was.

There were definite problems with the show last night, mostly technical & mostly minor...and the absence of a horn section was noticeable, but Prince came on at 8:45PM and finished at 12:35AM and it felt like he was looking at everybody in the place as if he was a few feet from them. I defy you to name anyone (except maybe Springsteen) who can command a stage like that while playing a setlist that is conceived on the fly. Go ahead...I'll wait...

Sounds like the little guy has seen better days and maybe it's time that he step away from the stage before he ends up playing at the opening of your local supermarket. This is a sad ending to what was once a great career now that he has suddenly decides that its time to start sharing his religion with the rest of us. I guess you could say that at 52 it comes across as a bit disingenuous especially when you look back at a performer’s career that was sold to the public on the bare bottoms of various beautiful girls over the last 30 years. I guess you could say that this is his attempt of trying to remain relevant in a new music industry where different and outrageous is anymore considered mundane especially after fans have been so fortunate to have been treated to the secrets of many of their female idols feminine hygiene shaving habits compliments of the paparazzi as they exit cars minus their undergarments. So when one takes these new lows into account the shock value that was once the corner stone of a Prince concert suddenly fall short of the connection that made him into a firebrand so many years before. So, what to do, well if in fact he is serious about his faith he should follow the foot steps of Al Green and become an ordained minister and leave the vida loca behind in his quest for absolution in an unforgiving world.

Upon reading “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan these lines struck me as relevant to his situation:

Well, so I did, but yet I did not think
To Shew to all the world my pen and ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what; nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my neighbor: no, not I;
I did it my own self to gratify.
Neither did I but vacant seasons spend
In this my scribble; nor did I intend
But to divert myself in doing this
From worse thoughts which make me do amiss.

John Bunyan - The Pilgrim’s Progress

AH YES ........ JESUS IS THE CULPRIT AGAIN.

I am a devoted Prince fan. I have seen him live over 30 times. Last nights show was one of the best I have ever seen. This review is so insane. What shows does Evelyn go to? Britney Spears where everything is pre-recorded? This is real music by real musicians. He murdered it! There were so many incredibly intimate moments that I have never witnessed before. The show was stellar from start to finish. Next time the LA Times reviews a Prince concert, they should send a writer who actually is a musical fan and not a philosopher. NOBODY can rock like Prince. I would go every night if I could. And who plays for $25 dollars?? Unreal and Perfect. May you live to see the dawn....

I have been a Prince fan for YEARS, and have attended too many Prince concerts to count.

I was SOOOO disappointed in LA. I know it was short notice, but still, the man IS A LEGEND. It should have been packed to the rafters, if for no other reason, out of respect for an ICON. The New York shows at Madison Square Garden all sold out.

Their loss!

OMG! He rocked the house. He is as good as he's ever been!!! He looked great, and sounded even better! Sheila E. too!

I took my 18 year old nephew so that he could see and hear what REAL MUSIC is. He bowed down to the ARTIST.

I plan on going back SEVERAL times. I agree that "word of mouth" will help sells. I heard serveral people say they would be back for the other shows.

Sure, I would have loved to have heard "Head" and "Erotic City," but did the lack take away from what he did perform? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

PRINCE REMAINS ROYALTY!

I was at this incredible show last night and I have no idea what Evelyn was talking about. The man is an incredible showman and hasn't lost any of his appeal even with his conversion. And maybe the reviewer left after the 2nd encore because I swear he played more like over an hour after the first encore.

Evelyn McDonnell, did you go to this concert? If so, you must have been sleep. Go get yourself another ticket & try it again!!!

I was there and I think this concert was one of the best of all times. I have only seen Prince on the movies, so I didn't know what to expect, but I must say, I have yet to experienced an artist with so much energy. His band was off the chain and his backup singers had the best harmony I have ever heard. I left that show feeling as though I owed Prince some money (LOl) because I sat in the $25 seats and partied like I was in the VIP section. I enjoyed myself and I will be returning to see him once again... Why can't we ever leave well enough alone? This man is doing what most wouldn't do and that's supporting a good cause, while putting on a damn good show...

"The greatest place on earth right now is the Forum in Inglewood"

He was right, no doubt about it...

Can't wait for next week!

black roots? wasn't sure that he was human let alone a black one

This review is so bad it's sickening!!! The picture was taken after 2nd encore when people had left!! The place was 85% full with no promotion!! IGNORE THIS REVIEW!! This person knows nothing of Prince!

'I better come up with an angle' : my feelings exactly on this ill-informed review. Prince does not wear a chastity belt. He wears a profanity and pornography belt : no 'ass like he's never seen' in Little Red Corvette or girls masturbating with magazines, but other than that, it's all fair game, and girls still get to park their cars sideways. Does that exclude sex from his shows ? He opened with Dance Music Sex Romance, the whole sampler set is one big sexual tease. He cries out 'This is an abstinence ring!', cuts off several songs short, but then breaks into four full fledged sensual ballads with cooing and falsetting (get it?). He does the butt dance, he has two hot twins dancing with him. He performs multiple encores to sate the lustiest.
And for the record, he did in fact perform a 'Jehovah Tour', with preaching, songs about theocratic order and everything rated G back in 2002, One Nite Alone. And those were incredible concerts. The ones he's performing now are different.
Also, the only specifically 'musical' comments in the review are that he has a solid if a little schmaltzy band and that he didn't play enough guitar. So please, more on the actual music, less preconceived and balky perspective on the spiritual and the sexual.

Wow, I think this review was written before the concert even began. Or someone at the Times has it in for Prince, especially using a poorly framed iPhone photo to try to make it look like the Forum was mostly empty. At the VERY beginning and at the VERY end, when it was well past midnight on a work night, it wasn't packed. But for the majority of the show, it was a good 80%+ full of people having the time of their lives. Prince was on fire in a way that I've never seen before, bringing an amazing vitality to his songs. He played 25 year old songs like they were brand new, he played newer songs that people (self included) weren't as familiar with like they were old favorites, and he barely stopped moving for the entire 3.5 hours.

I am a pretty casual Prince fan, but I have seen him live before, and knew that this show was something pretty special. I feel really lucky that I was there last night and able to make it with 2 days' notice. If you had any complaints about the amount of Prince's guitar playing, you obviously missed the encore with Peach which was beyond amazing. No, he didn't play it on every song, but it made it all the sweeter when he did.

Overall, this review is beyond laughable-- "Welcome to the 'hood" is Prince's way of "celebrating his black roots"?! Wow. Concerts starting after the time on the ticket is NOT a sign Prince being "off" -- what was the last concert you were at that DID start at the time on the ticket? I go to dozens of concerts a year and am usually amazed if I'm even in the door by the time on the ticket.

Anyone reading this review and actually taking the LA Times seriously owes it to themselves to check out ANY review posted on pretty much ANY other website. This was hardly an off show for Prince-- this is about the only review I've seen that doesn't say this was a very, very special night. (and congrats to the Forum for hosting such a great event-- it felt so nice to be back there after so many years. I really hope more artists look into going back there, it feels so much more intimate and has so much more character than hospital-sterile Staples has. Plus without 3 stories of luxury boxes even the "nosebleed" seats are really good!)

this review couldn't be more off base and offensive. the reviewer sensed "insecurity" in prince? were we even at the same show? last night's show was nothing short of pure magic; to have a veritable icon come to LA and choose to play at a venue that has seen better days, have 85% of his tickets priced @ $25, and play REAL music with REAL musicians for 3 hours is more than anyone could ever ask for.

evelyn, what exactly were your expectations last night? because prince far exceeded any of mine. were you comped for this show? what did you pay for your ticket? you sound like a consummate whiner either way. i can't help but feel fortunate that i'm not going to be one of those who glorifies shelling out hundreds of dollars to go on a hipster holiday this weekend at coachella; instead for $25 dollars , i ended up getting the real deal with prince.

also, i'm still deciding what offends me the most about your review: your pedestrian appreciation for musicianship or the fact that you honestly wrote:

"He also celebrated his black roots. "Welcome to the 'hood," he said by way of introduction."

disappointing to say the least.

Prince rocked the house and had people going nutz yo!!

Who wrote this demeaning review? Was that you Evelyn McDonnell? What a crock! I agree with whomever expressed it was probably written before the concert ever happened. Prince is beautiful and a brilliant performer and musician. He was great and there was NO DISAPPointment. Don't listen to the negative LAME Evelyn McDonnell she's wrong and maliciously biased. Absolute great musician and performer and the best we have..Love you Prince!

Real Music by REAL MUSICIANS! Prince ROCKED the show! 5 encores!!!! I mean, insecure? He couldn't be more confidant in who he is! He's a professional! Was the writer of the review really even at the show? Did you really expect him to start playing at 7:30pm? Were you not there for the guitar playing during the encores? JAMMMMMMED it!

This review is quite ridiculous to say the least. Clearly uninformed of what Prince is all about. A show lasting 3hrs40mins, with 6 encores, teasing an audience deep into the early night.

She sensed insecurity...the guy has never been more confident in his life. These series of concerts show him to be at the top of his game. I went to see the show at Madison Square Garden in January and its only gotten better since. Not to demise the MSG show, different vibe, different set-list...which also goes to show...which performer nowadays is able to throw 2 entirely different shows? Aren't all shows today over-rehearsed and manicured?

This was as fine as it gets. Insecurity? Pfff...6 encores I say!

Prince was spectacular..Great as usual. Sorry Evelyn you're sure off on this one. Prince wonderful as usual and I would highly recommend to any and everyone to go see his concerts. He is the best...love you Prince and thanks again..

Who wrote this review & what show did this person attend?? He/she obviously was not at the packed Inglewood Forum, experiencing the greatness that Prince shared with us last night! At the age of 52, Prince exuded energy & stage presence that you just don't see in today's young performers!

I could barely sit still, enjoying hit after hit, as Prince took us through his awesome catalog of music! Yes he teased us with a rousing intro to "Darling Nikki", musing about the obvious eroticism of the tune, but that only served to heighten the show even more! The writer of this review is seriously reaching, to have arrived at the conclusion that Prince [was insecure].

The LA Times would be very wise to issue a retraction of this review, as it is so far from the actual experience of last night's show that it's shameful! I've never read an LA Times article full of more inaccuracies! Yes it is based on the writer's opinion, but the writer is DEAD WRONG!!

 
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