DNA Lounge- late show, Wednesday night April 24
The word from the Swede, who had gone to the previous night's late show, was that is was guitar-heavy rock and roll, with almost nothing he recognized during the first hour, but with which the mostly younger audience seemed well-versed. He said he wanted to get in line for the next night's show at 8:30. Having worked all day at my day job (people are constantly surprised I have one- as if this beast somehow paid my bills) I needed a wee bit of downtime before meeting up with him.
Sometime around 9:30 I found him near the front of the line, and once I had made friends with the folks around us he ditched me to get a half-pint of Makers. Returning, he opened the bottle and took these little itsy-bitsy swigs, then took out a pack of blue American Spirits, lit one, and then gave one out to everyone standing behind us. I was the only one not smoking and not drinking and I taught this fucker the pleasures of both bourbon and cigarettes and there was something about this entire situation that was just incredibly wrong.
The line to get into the 800 capacity club was incredibly long, snaking all the way down the block. I had no idea how all those people were going to get inside, but I also didn't really care because we were pretty close to the front of the line. I know I mentioned that already. I know I'm gloating. So?
Soon the line began to move and I noticed a half-pint of Beam, more than 3/4 full, sitting on the sidewalk, discarded next to the bus stop. It looked so sad there. I knew the Swede's Makers was going to soon join it and even though I gave up booze over a year ago, I still hate to see it go to waste. Fucking amateurs, just leaving it there on the sidewalk for the bums. Pros like me had soft-sided flasks. That's comme il faut.
We got inside and staked out a spot about 15 feet from the microphone placed center stage. A voice came on the PA and said anyone taking pictures with their phone would be removed from the audience. The Swede said they weren't joking about this, since he saw them give people the boot the night before, but as it turns out I did see a couple of people who thought this didn't apply to them turn out to be right.
When these shows were announced, along with their hefty prices, I took umbrage to a comment I saw on a friend's Facebook that the audience would be full of "douches" because obviously who else could afford such tickets. This ended up becoming an online debate between us as I stuck up for my peers, who had just been called douches by some 30-something slacker/hipster, and though the crowd was for the most part quite nicely appreciative, enthusiastic, knowing and behaved, I did have the distinct misfortune of standing next to two of the most obnoxious assholes I've encountered in a very long time, one of whom felt the need to tell everyone within earshot that Slash is the worst guitar player ever and Jeff Beck is the best. Repeatedly. 300 fucking times. Okay, maybe only six times before I looked at him with an annoyed look and asked him to shut up. What an asshole. Only creepy douches walk around telling people Jeff beck is the world's greatest living guitar player. What an asinine thing to say. Jeff Beck isn't even in the top ten. Everyone knows that. Try humming a Jeff beck solo from after 1971. See? Idiot. Jeff Beck. Jesus. Dumbshit. Then there was his pal, who was just a creep, trying to manipulate this young guy who was there with his girlfriend, saying he shouldn't let her out of his site because someone might give her a roofie. He seemed like just the type of Humbert Humbert wannabe scumbag who would do such a thing. He really creeped me out. Meanwhile, however, the young guy's girlfriend, who was also Swedish (but raised here), felt it incumbent to keep pressing her large breasts forcefully into my back and arms and resting them there. As if I should know them. And I wanted to. Douches aside, so far the show was great and Prince wasn't due onstage for at least half an hour.
The lights went down at 11:35, the crowd went crazy, and Prince and the three women who comprise 3rd Eye Girl walked onstage and accommodated us with a slowed-down, grungy blues version of "Let's Go Crazy" and I immediately wished I had brought some ear plugs, as I could feel every hair on my body rise and begin to move like underwater plants. It was incredibly loud, to the point of painful, but it also felt good and soon my ears adjusted to the volume.
Now let me state this without reservation: 3rd Eye Girl- Donna Grantis, guitar, Ida Nielsen, bass, Hannah Ford, drums- is the perfect back-up band for Prince when he's in a rock and roll mood, and that's exactly what this tour is about. . While Grantis gets to trade licks with Prince, it's really Ford's drumming, and her never-ceasing exuberant smile, which propels the band and makes this foursome rock solid. It's also a seamlessly tight band, but the audience expects that from Prince at this point.
At the age of 54, he's just starting to show signs of aging (it's almost imperceptible, but you can see it in his skin and in his body movements if you look closely and pay attention) but musically the man is still in his prime and obviously going strong. Of course it helps to have a body of work like his, which he made plain to the crowd when he taunted "Do you know how many damn hits I have?" in the middle of a medley of some of the bigger ones later in the hour and forty-five minute show. But the new material- guitar oriented, hard driving, muscularly beat out with slashing chords and a stomping beat, sounds hot, and the band played both the new and the old with equal fervor. Still, the funk was there. During "Housequake"(my favorite of the night if only because I didn't expect it), Prince commanded "Everybody jump up and down!" and we did, to the funky beat, and it was good. It was fantastic. It was like 1987 because for some reason Prince decided to play more songs off of Sign O' the Times than any other album, and who would have expected that?
If you didn't already know Prince was one of the greatest guitarists of all time, then this band and these shows may not be for you. For those that do know, and that's a lot of folks, it doesn't get much better than this. Loud, raucous and funky- this band kicks ass, and with the electric lights pulsing behind them, the music cranked, the women shredding and smiling, it's like they're the house band in a Tarantino remake of Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!
The set list, as I could recall it the next afternoon...
Let's Go Crazy
You Got the Look
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
She's Always in My Hair
I Like It There
Sign O the Times
I Would Die 4 U
When Doves Cry
A Love Bizarre
Fragments of Nasty Girl/Single Ladies
Top photo: Prince and 3rd Eye Girl in Vancouver. The lights for the DNA show were set up differently, but the vibe is similar.