Prince w/ Anthony Hamilton
Time Warner Cable Arena
March 24, 2011
The Deal: Prince makes a stop in Charlotte — one of six stops in the Carolinas during his "Welcome 2 America" tour.
The Good: The night started with a lengthy, soulful set by Charlotte's Anthony Hamilton. Chaka Kahn may have only gotten 25 minutes during her Raleigh performance as the opener, but Hamilton got 45 minutes to shine in front of his hometown crowd. His vocals showed control and range as he poured his heart out... though I was kind of wondering why a talented singer needs three male backups.
While clearly everyone in the arena was there to see Prince, it didn't take long for the Purple Yoda from Minnesota to hit the stage. While the stages were being changed, video of Elizabeth Taylor was shown on the overhead screens. Roughly 15 minutes after Hamilton had walked off, the lights went out and the screams went up.
Escorted down the arena floor to the "symbol"- shaped stage, Prince and his band cracked open the night with a medley of tunes starting with a minute or two of "When Doves Cry," leading into snippets of "Nasty Girl," "Darling Nikki" and "Sign of the Times" before wrapping up with "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." Prince quickly noted, "I've got too many hits, we'll be here all night!"
In a kind of tribute to Charlotte, his first full song was "Uptown" which was followed by hits "Raspberry Beret" and "Cream" that ensured every crowd member was on their feet, singing along and following any command Prince happened to give — there were a handful throughout the night, from waving hands in the air, to waving cell phones to "take a picture, did you see my suit?!"
The first hints of Prince's guitar work came during "Cream" as he fired off a brief solo with ease. Next up was "Cool" which gave Prince a bit of time to show off his footwork — looking like a mix of Michael Jackson and James Brown, his entire body glided, spun and shook with rhythm and ease.
When the Black Eyed Peas hit Charlotte not too long ago, I complained that their entire stage show was too choreographed, too static and the band played the same set every night. For anyone who attended that show and then last night's, the difference is clear and simple. Prince is a performer in every sense of the word. He may have choreographed moments of when he needs to stand at a certain spot, but you could easily see the enjoyment in his dance moves, the improvisation in his guitar solos and the vocal talent it takes to hit a wide range of notes up and down the scales. BEP, you've got nothing on this guy.
Songs rolled into each other as the setlist grew... His backup singers — a trio of women — helped with choruses and had moments to shine in their own way throughout the night. They also held the tune while Prince found a moment or two for a costume change. While starting out in black pants and vest with purple heels and shirt, he later appeared in gold sequined pants and shirt.
During his rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U," Prince noted, "This is real music y'all, by real musicians!" He also noted that he was enjoying his time in the Carolinas, saying he'd been treated with "grace and respect." He then told the crowd, "I'm playing some of my favorite songs tonight. They're not old songs, 'cause they're my songs. They're only old when they're no good no more."
His set fused funk, r&b, soul and rock as Prince found a balance between the upbeat and somber. One minute he had a crowd member dancing on stage for "Play That Funky Music," and the next he was seated at a piano for "Diamonds & Pearls" and "Something In The Water Does Not Compute." During "I Want to be Free," Prince even found a moment to jump back and yell "Sexual Chocolate" — humor for those familiar with the movie Coming to America.
"Kiss" offered an extended dance break a the end of it, before he closed the set with a six-minute "Purple Rain." After 10 minutes of screaming and waiting, Prince glided back out to the stage on a bike for an encore that had his backup singers performing "Dance To The Disco Heat" before he returned on "Baby I'm a Star," wrapping up his show in roughly two hours.
The Bad: A bit of disappointment to see screens set up all over the stage with the song lyrics. Of course, people were expecting to hear "1999," "Delirious," "Let's Go Crazy" and "Little Red Corvette," as they were heard at the previous two Carolina stops, but not this night. While Prince performed three encores in those other cities, fans were a bit shocked to see the lights stay on after just one here.
Fans near the floor were unable to see the full stage setup, or much of Prince at times. He spent a good bit of time in the middle of the stage, leaving those behind it with partial or back-of-the-head views.
The Verdict: Prince puts on an amazing show. It's that simple. He's got vocal abilities, guitar talent and his feet never stop. His musicianship went between guitar, piano and moments of orchestration over his band. While some "hits" were missed, the long setlist gave everyone in attendance a taste of his diverse music catalog. There are few people out there who can put on a show like Prince.
When Doves Cry>
Sign of the Times>
The Most Beautiful Girl In the World
Cool (w/ Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough intro)
U Got The Look
Nothing Compares 2 U
Take Me With U
Play That Funky Music
Which Way Is Up
I Want 2 B Free
The Beautiful Ones
Diamonds & Pearls
Something In The Water Does Not Compute
How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore
If I was Your Girlfriend
Dance To The Disco Heat
Baby I'm A Star