So I am sitting in my warm house last night, while the snow just started to come down. Winter has definitely reached Chicago. I really didn’t have any plans on trekking outside my well-heated apartment… until I got the call. Rumor had it that Prince was going to do a late show at Chicago’s Metro, immediately following his sold out show at the Riviera Theatre. The show was announced around 6 PM over the radio, and news spread faster than the Chicago fire. I threw on some warm clothes, made some calls, and made my way through the brisk air, to stand in line for the show. I couldn’t miss the chance to catch The Artist at a 1100 person venue!
Upon reaching the Metro, I was met by staff members who were issuing 2 wristbands that would allow access to the show. (Admission at the door was $20, compared to the $75 ticket for the earlier show at the Riviera.) The snow fell, the line grew long, and the there was a nearly-visible buzz in the air. The line consisted of people from all walks of life and of all ages. Everyone was brought together for one special event, and you could read the excitement on every face around. Who else but Prince could announce a show at 6 PM, and drag 1100 people out in the cold to stand in line from 9-midnight just to get in to the venue?
After a 3 hour wait in the cold, the doors finally opened. As we walked inside, the stage was filled with crew members, rushing to get the gear set up. On stage left, there was a purple shag keyboard stand... we knew who was in the house! The music being played made you dance... you couldn’t help it. The funky hip-hop and acid-jazz grooves were just a taste of what was in store. The light man warmed up, the sound was checked, and by 1:45, the show was ready to start.
The smoke machine laid a light layer of fog over the crowd, as the lights created a purple haze on stage. The band walked out on stage, and Prince made his entrance wielding his one of a kind purple guitar, which was somewhat S shaped, with a long extended body that swooped down towards the ground and then back up. You couldn’t help thinking the words “rock star” in your head as Prince teased the beginning of Voo Doo Child, before busting into a heavy funk groove. The backup singers began to sing Sexy Motha Fucka, as the Artist gave the audience a brief taste of his guitar skills, while strutting around the stage. Not only were there about 30 people hanging out around the back of the stage, but there were all sorts of musicians in attendance, including home town Chicago rapper Common, and the one and only Macy Gray. (The two had a show together at the Aragon earlier in the night, and came out to warm things up at the Metro.) Common and Macy Gray, along with some other unknown singers and rappers improved lyrics to funk riffs, while Prince came on and off the stage, contributing vocals here and there, and just kickin’ it with all the people around the stage. He and Macy Gray sat next to each other center stage for a while, talking and laughing, while Common and others free styled and sang. The funk became so thick at one point, I felt like George Clinton was going to come out. (Clinton had a show at Northwestern University earlier in the night, and played with Prince last week, but did not make an appearance at the show.) At one point, one of the guests on stage rapped a comical piece called I’m in Love With a Crack head, while another later chanted a tune with the lyrics "White folks, don’t act so tight... let your body get loose, you might get some tonight!" Eventually, the improv session led to a Macy Gray/ Prince duet on an unknown song, which then led to Macy busting out her hit I Try. Prince would leave the stage for a few minutes, and then return to lend back up vocals at the end of Gray’s tune.
The on-stage musical party would last for an hour or so. Prince thanked Macy Gray, Common, and the rest of the special guests as they cleared the stage. It was time for Prince to take over the stage, and give the crowd what they came for. His presence on stage commanded everyone’s attention. I, for one, felt like I couldn’t dance hard enough as Prince busted out a pair of heavy funk jams, featuring his master guitar work. The powerful tone of Prince’s guitar was reminiscent of Hendrix. The jams would extend over 30 minutes or so, as the crowd grooved hard…it seemed that everyone realized they were getting a rare treat. No, we didn’t hear Purple Rain, or any other classic Prince piece for that matter. What we did get was a raw display of the Artist’ ability to make ya’ move. A down and dirty in your face funk dance party, with Prince as the host. The final song of the night was a 15 minute rendition of Santana’s Soul Sacrifice, featuring Prince and his saxophone player trading solos. After the song was finished, Prince thanked the screaming crowd, and left the stage. The lights went on (around 3:40), and the show almost seemed like a dream. Nobody could believe what they had just witnessed. That’s what going to see live music is all about.
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