I will be writing this review on Prince performing at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood last night. Now I know that is not a particularly strong way of opening an article, but there is something somewhat unique about this statement: I cannot claim to have any kind of meaningful musical knowledge or relationship with Prince or any of his work. Naturally, arriving at the Forum around 8:15 p.m. and watching the colorful crowd trickle in, I had not the slightest intention of writing up a piece. By 9 p.m. Prince had begun his set.
By 9:15, I figured I should start taking notes.
When Prince took the stage, it might have been the loudest venue I have ever been in. He played alongside a group of talented musicians, including three keyboardists, three beautifully powerful-voiced backup singers, a female bass player who slapped funky rhythms with conviction, and a drummer whose set almost reached around his body.
Prince also had two backup dancers he called, “The Twinz,” who would come on stage occasionally to offer more visual aids to an already dazzling spectacle.
The stage itself was designed in the shape of the Love Symbol he once identified himself with. This elaborate staging allowed a 360-degree view of the crowd and a large surface for all members of the band to move around and interact with the crowd.
The crowd itself was amazing. There were people of all ages, but it was the fans that grew up with Prince, approximately mid-30’s–early 40’s, who showed up in full force. Almost every time a song started, there would be an explosion of applause and screaming, followed by standing and dancing. In essence, it was a gigantic party for an older generation of music fans.
It was at this point I started to think about the music of my generation. It was a struggle at all to think of any contemporary pop star that might someday reach the level of iconic status that Prince still, and will always enjoy. I couldn’t come up with anyone.
There are several reasons why it is unlikely for any musician nowadays to reach the popularity of Prince. Everything about music has changed since he began his musical campaign in the late 70’s. Where there was once innovation and the concept of an entire album as art, there is now overproduction and focus on top-40 hits in hopes of being played repeatedly on the radio. Music, even in the mainstream, was an art form during his heyday. Now, music is merely a money machine.
Of course, I would be remiss not to give Prince at least a little credit for his own success. The 52-year-old star has been prolific in creating music, releasing at least one album almost every year since his debut in 1978. Also, Prince has always given off the vibe of a true rock/pop star. He owns his persona and does not waver when confronted with criticism or negativity unlike so many musicians who “reinvent” themselves while basically asking, “do you like me now?”
With a clear love for the stage, and more importantly a passion for making and playing music, Prince has survived the ever-changing landscape of the music business all these years.
Prince played for over three hours, including five encores, before he retired for the evening. He had the type of energy that could not be rivaled by any amount of stage gimmickry. He had the type of energy that could not be rivaled by any number of Gaga’s, Beiber’s or any other current star. He had the type of energy that could not be rivaled.
Even with his marathon performance, Prince was unable to play every song the crowd was hoping for. During a medley he condensed several fan favorites into minute long chunks, explaining to the crowd, “I told you, there’s too many hits!”
This is a problem only an artist who has released over 30 albums and still loves everything about music has.
Here’s hoping there’s someone who can fill half his shoes when I’m 40.