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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)

Prince requested that 85% of the tickets be priced at $25, which included some floor and loge seats. The reason for the empty seats is because no one wants to pay $179 or get an American Express VIP package when there are 18 more shows to go on sale and you can snag a good seat at $25. Tickets went on sale Tuesday, I bought 4 and I couldn't get any friends to go. Too far with traffic, too little notice plus more shows to come. All 3 shows next weekend are pretty much sold out for the $25 tickets but you can still buy the $179 tickets, if you are an idiot.

The show was effing amazing. When the house lights went up, it was 12:37am. 2 minutes later, the band came back out and played one last song with the lights still up. I have never seen that before. It was truly a show for his fans. I mean, who the hell plays until close to 1am? A 9:15pm start time is not that late for a band to start with no opener.

It was Michael, Elvis and Jimi all rolled into one man. Prince Rogers Nelson is one of the most talented performers you will ever see - he commands attention. Too bad this reviewer hit the show with a preconceived notion and din't really pay attention.

Wow! Has journalism come to this? No wonder nobody buys newspapers anymore! You could not be more wrong with your review Evelyn. In what dimension was Prince insecure? That man exudes confidence! You can't be insecure and have a solo dance spot that the man did during "Kiss"! So, he grew up a little and doesn't sing about sex so graphically anymore. In what dimension did Prince not play enough guitar? I was actually surprised at how much guitar Prince played! He proved once again that he is one of the greatest guitar players alive.

Oh I get it. You're a "journalist" that wants to make a name for herself by causing controversy (pardon the pun) by wanting to get attention with a review that leans towards Prince being mediocre by you calling him insecure. Too bad, instead the review itself turned out mediocre. Maybe you're the insecure one?

Evelyns review lacks all the things she says Prince is missing. Or she is missing. This show was amazing, especially if you stayed till the end. It kept getting better and better. Ignore this tired woman.

Evelyn, you clearly missed the mark dear. This was, by far, one of the best concerts I've ever attended and Prince delivered for his fans. To expect Prince to be the same performer he was 20 years ago is to trap an artist in a time capsule and beg them to not grow. Everything about the show was phenomenal, including the $25 price tag - not to mention the fact that he stated he is there to help save The Forum. For a celebrity of his caliber to indulge in some community activism says more about the man behind the symbol than anything. And true Prince fans are aware that this is not out of character for him.

Prince gave us Prince Thursday night, as he always has.

just saw prince in nyc at msg.......amazing show, just incredible. oh, and he took a stroll thru the audience well before the opening act came on (great idea to get there early!)....i was a few feet from him, he appeared to have only one bodyguard, and seemed to just be taking in the sights. good thing i was a few rows up, had i been actually in the aisle, i'd have been knocked to the ground by the 30 or 40 people rushing towards him with cameras and pens.....what an awesome artist. and i saw alot of unfamily friendly stuff at my show, prince doin' alot of hip shakin', too, that is NOT pg........thank goodness! see this man, if you see nothing else this year. he's a genius.

So let me get this straight - the guy's a legend, he played a three-hour plus show, people can get in for TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS, his live band is killer, he dipped liberally into the catalog of hits, mixed up with extended jams - but because he didn't do the song about masturbation, the show was kind of a letdown....

Sounds like a bunch of cohorts of the "artist formerly known as prince" trying to right the wrongs of a bad show. Evident that he was only playing t0 less than half the house?? I wouldnt get too excited either if I saw so many orange seats.

At Cosmo: The audience was only at 1/2 capacity at very beginning and at the end after the encore. (Like ALL events in LA, people come late and leave early) The photo looks like it may have been taken at the very last encore performance at 12:30 am. The crowd DURING the show was at about 85%! This reviewer is trying to lead people to believe otherwise.

Like many others, I've attended loads of Prince shows and I'm not afraid to say it like I see it. His show at Nokia a few years ago was garbage. Thursday night's show at the Forum was probably in my Top 3 shows of all time.

Yes, he has evolved, hopefully his decades old fans have too. But he STILL played jams from his early days and his most popular days. And he didn't play them begrudgingly. I felt he played to his fans. I particularly liked his homage to Michael Jackson. Why wasn't that in the review? Shame on you Ms. Reviewer, for phoning it in. I think you've been exposed.

Anyway, I agree with the commenter, DeJuan. The man is an ICON and I hope this pitifully inaccurate review doesn't send potential concert goers away.

I'll be back at the Forum and will bring at least 3 new people with me! This opportunity is not to be missed.

I saw the show on the 14th and have tickets for the next 3 shows next week. I loved his first show, he still is the icon he's always been, rocks the house!

Critics and their opinions are not relevant really, what matters is: did you like it or not

This reviewer is not worthy of space in the otherwise excellent Los Angeles Times. Certainly she has a right to her opinion about the show but she has absolutely no credibility as a professional reviewer. Ask those who attend the show how they felt about the show and see if you get anyone making snarky comments about Prince and the 3 plus hour show. Do you know anyone of his level who performs for $25 a ticket (including fees)? How generous is that especially in the community? Prince Welcome2LosAngeles should not be missed!

If you read ANY other review of this show, on ANY other site-- blog, legitimate media outlet (Rolling Stone, etc), message board-- you will see this night was beyond magical. And the place was pretty well packed-- not too many veteran artists could pack the Forum on a work night with 2 days' notice. (and given the expectation of 20 more shows, lots of people undoubtedly decided that they'd wait and buy tickets for a later, more convenient show, than try to juggle schedules and go with such short notice) The simple fact is this review is full of inaccuracies. Even the picture is ridiculous as it cuts off half of the stage (and the Forum), and was likely taken late into the night. The seats behind the stage (and the "o" portion of the glyph is the back, not the front) were the last to be sold, so of course they were the most likely to be empty.

But there always is one Debbie Downer in a crowd, too bad she was trying so hard to find new words in her thesaurus that she forgot to pay attention to the show she was supposed to be reviewing. (or maybe she was busy playing Words with Friends with Tony Pierce via their iPhones that she didn't look up occasionally) Either that, or she so desperately wanted this concert to be bad she decided she'd spin every possible thing so hard that it'd sound like a disaster. Can't help but think this sort of review definitely hurts the Times' credibility. I understand reviews are opinions but there is a point when someone is so oblivious to the truth-- or so desperately wants to change the truth-- that it renders their opinion worthless.

This review was all wrong. I wonder how many times this writer actually attended a Prince concert during her "29 years of seeing Prince perform live". My handful of Prince concerts were enough to recognize that the artist is experiencing the opposite of an identity crisis. Whether or not you have seen Prince before, you should get down to the fabulous Forum for one of these shows!

Based on these reviews, I think Ms. McDonnell NEEDS to post a response to HER CRITICS. It's CLEAR that she was totally off base with her "review."

I think she needs to explain the "interesting" photo choice, and her sheer lack of music knowledge. Perhaps SHE got the assignment on short notice, like the fans of L.A., so she got there at the very end when it had cleard out, took the photo, didn't hear HER favorite song, and decided to DISRESPECT Prince by posting this RIDICULOUS and INSULTING review.

Prince was in RARE form. I will be talking about this show for years to come.

Tickets for the upcoming shows, with the exception of the VIP sections are sold out, so apparently, and thankfully, fans didn't buy into this INSANITY.

I wasn't at the show so what I'm writing is a bit off-topic. It's about Prince himself. Back in the day I was a groupie and loved Prince. Bought all his records, saw the movies, the whole 9 yards. The last Really good CD he released was Earth, a brilliant and little promoted CD, before that it was Sign of the Times. I don't know what he's done recently.

I get the feeling that he feels the music world is passing him by -- which it is -- and he's not as relevant as he was -- and he isn't. He insists on shielding his songs, he won't collaborate, and whatever new music he has, you have to go to his website to hear and buy it.

If this concert was 3 hours long -- it was an indulgent move by him. I watched the video for "Cool" and it was a 10 minute song that went on too long. Normally he has the TIME with Sheila E. to accompany him, but I guess they got tired of propping him up.

If he didn't sell out (at $25????) then he has stopped being relevant. That he has to have Hollywood types and name stars come up on stage and prop him up even more, that's indulgent.

I used to love him and his music, but the music world has moved on and he hasn't kept up.

At first, the LA Times virtually ignored this music ICON...then, they give us this lame excuse for an article. HORSEPUCKY!

Dear Evelyn McDonnell -you are not worthy to write about PRINCE if this is what you think of one of the most EXCITING musical events ever. I too, saw PRINCE many, many years ago - and he did not disappoint on Thursday. The show was ELECTRIC and the music was spell-binding.

Anyone who thinks otherwise, is either tone-deaf or works for the Staples Center and is angry he didn't play there.

I told all my friends to come and see the LEGEND. Trust me - true Prince fans and people who like REAL MUSIC will be mesmerized.

The Show was Princetastic,as a True Fan of his work starting with the 1st LP(remember those?)"FOR YOU",Prince has continued 2 B an ARTIST who has produced,written and performed truly original work.I wish him much success in his endeavor 2 help the Forum,he is making history by playing 21 nites at the venue,2 my knowledge only Neil Diamond has done a longer run of shows, which was done in Las Vegas,Prince deserves 2 B recognized 4 what he is attemptting "in tha hood" at the FORUM(BLACK OWNED)and Black Female Operated Company.May the PURPLE 1 reign 4ever.

OMG! Prince insecure??? Evelyn, you so didn't get it!!! I've seen him too many times to count and your review....well, it's you that should feel insecure....you're not plugged in...YOU couldn't feel it - - - sorry.

Keep it up Prince....we're gettin you loud and clear out here...sexy, confident and spiritual as ever! The show was fantastic and we didn't want for anything....'cept another 3 hours!!

I was at the show on the opening 14th that this "reviewer" was at and I will say it's one of the best shows I've ever seen, and I've seen them all.

I never miss a chance to see an icon and this was just a fantastical show on every level.

If I had paid $250 for the ticket I would be happy. I paid $25. Contrary to the picture, it was packed, especially considering the show was announced 2 days earlier. Not sure what this reviewers gripe is but it was a legendary show by a legend. Plan on going to most of the shows he does at The Forum. What a man.

Elvis + Michael Jackson + James Brown = Prince

AMAZING

I dedicate TWO songs to... I mean... 2 U ...Evelyn McDonnell. Only the pertinent lines of each.

"Old Friends 4 Sale"

Sunset in the west this mornin'
I know, I know, L.A. is callin'

Bad news they say, people are talkin'
They say you're kindom is fallin' yeah

They say you've lost your fire, with another musician you hired
Little do they know...

Sunset in my heart this afternoon...
Sunset in my mind this evening...

Maybe it will all make sense...

*

"Billy Jack..."
What distortion could U let your pen forget 2day'
What misfortune left your heart so broken U only say
Words intended 2 belittle or dismay'

I found this article very negative about Prince's concert,furthermore I want tomset the record straight,I was at Princes concert the 23rd,I Dont know what concert you saw,but Prince was off the chain,he didn't do anything inappropriately or too sexy,Chaka Chan was the opener and she was off the chain,the crowd was absolutely loving it,after Chaka Chan Prince came out with my favorite POP Life, his presentation was fabulous,he entertained the crowd fully with all his songs,and I didn't see any empty seats,the crowd roared and roared for Prince,Sheila E was off the chain on those drums,it was all in all just off the chain,so the writer of this article,needs to go back and check it out again or something,some of the things you said,I just didn't see at all,your article was very prejudice and wrong,and dated April 14th,you need a update my friend.PRINCE WAS THE BOMB?

Ok I was at the show on the 21st and it was incredible. I had goosebumps for 3 hours! And by the way, YOU CAN'T TAKE THE SEXY OUT OF PRINCE!!! When he sang SHHH off of the Gold album it was off the charts. Sexy sexy sexy. Maybe this blogger should of been at my show and seen him get on all fours and crawl like a panther across the stage. The crowd went CRAZY!!! So the venue was full and most people were smart enough to stay for all the encores seeing as security were standing by. Best show I have seen to date.

@Chicago48 "If this concert was 3 hours long -- it was an indulgent move by him." Have you ever been to a Prince concert. His shows for the most part are ALWAYS alomost 3 hours long. I have seen him 10 times from 1986 up until this past Friday, the 22nd and the ONLY ONE that wasn't 3 hours long was the show on Friday. This is nothing new or self indulgent for him. He said it pretty well himself Friday night. He said "I don't care if I ever get played on the radio again, I just love music". To me that doesn't sound like someone who really cares whether or not he is still relevent (which he still is by the way). It sounds like someone who just loves performing and at 52 years old more power to him. Also, this part right here "Normally he has the TIME with Sheila E. to accompany him, but I guess they got tired of propping him up." What are you talking about??? Sheila E is part of this tour with him and from what I understand The Time was at one the Madison Square Garden shows. Get your facts right.

A few responses to comments below to clear up misinformation and inform general interest fans"

@Hutch - "smut" didn't disappear 20 years ago. It disappeared when Princeo became a hardcore Jehovah Witness in '01. His last tour where he played Darling Nikki in its entirety, along with salacious splits, floor grinding was the Hit N' Run tour of 2000. In fact, I consider that his lascivious Prince farewell tour! All that misinformation Prince turned Jehovah Witness in 1990 is completely erroneous.
I agree though, little time in between ticket sales is a hard sell, but luckily old school radio stations have been promoting concerts.

@Evelyn McDonnell - Funny how reviewers complain about lack of guitar solo when in the last 10 years after turning Jehovah and trying to move away from dancing, he's had his Hohner tele attached to him with crazy glue. Which was, is like, tiring to see, in this tour, he's dancing more, laying that guitar down for once! He should bring out the Cloud, the white futuristic Model C, I've only seen the Batman Model which rocks, love those guitars.


@ lc - I see that sort of sentiment where 'well he's older and wiser', of course he is, but Prince back way back also sung about some pretty mature stuff, I can name a several songs that were just as mature and clean as many of his songs today or his revisions of his old songs.

I saw the show on 4/22 and it was pretty amazing. Yeah, he did not sing the old favorites, but with as many hits as he has, he does not have to. And the house was packed on Friday night. I am going to see him again on Friday and again in May. For 25 bucks, we get to see this legend, who would pass. I ain't.

Hilarious and predictable. This "review" smacks 100% of baiting for comment pageview fodder. And congrats! It worked. The iphone photo provided by Tony Pierce only verifies the tactic completely. Get people riled up and they will return! Straight out of the howard stern playbook. Makes sense though, since the LAT printed edition is dying, dying, dead. Why worry about journalism? Pageview ads are all that are going to pay your checks.

http://www.good.is/post/the-l-a-times-is-dead-long-live-the-l-a-times/

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ask an eight-year-old child for a real review. I like to come here and read music opinions in order to laugh and to make myself feel smart.

 
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