With little more than one day’s advance public notice, Prince brought his under-the-radar Hit ‘n’ Run tour to Hollywood on Friday.
He may not be the commercial presence he once was, but the man (the legend) is still quite capable of tearing the roof off any joint, even the sterile Palladium – as he amply demonstrated over the course of a nearly 30-song set.
“You’re about to have the best time of your life,” his Purple Badness boasted before the evening’s opening number, 1980’s disco-y “Uptown,” and then he and the latest incarnation of his NPG band delivered on that promise with a super-sexy, old-school funk party that left the packed house in a blissful state.
Show featured music from nearly every facet of the vast Prince catalog. Generous mix of hits, album cuts, cover songs and at least one new composition spanned from his first hit “I Wanna Be Your Lover” to “The Work – Pt. 1,” a new funk and blues tune (released via a deal with Napster) that featured one of many excellent sax turns from former Cameo member Najee.
Prince, dressed initially in a black suit (followed later by a red suit and a white one), tossed his guitar into the front row as a short take on “Controversy” turned into the Family’s “Mutiny,” while two dancers gyrated about the stage.
He got his guitar back shortly thereafter for a particularly nasty version of “Cream,” then took a seat in a throne-like chair during “Little Red Corvette” and watched as dancer Geneva showed off her talents.
Middle portion of the concert included some longer, gospel- and R&B-informed entries – during which energy in the crowd flagged just a bit – such as the revival vibe of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We Will All Be Free,” with more tasty Najee sax, and vocals from keyboard player Kip Blackshire.
An updated arrangement of “Scandalous,” with funky new syncopated beats courtesy of super drummer Johnny Blackwell, was among the many highlights of the outstanding show, along with “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” which came with a terrific jazz-metal guitar solo, and a super-charged, late-set take on “Let’s Go Crazy,” which Prince played on his “symbol” guitar.
The place was near boiling when Prince and Geneva, who was dressed in a short schoolgirl outfit, teamed up for some dirty dancing during the naughty “Purple Rain” cut “Darling Nikki.” Geneva teased Prince while he sang and played guitar, lifting her skirt over her head and ultimately reducing him by song’s end to a stage-humping frenzy.
Show ended on a strong note, just before 1 a.m., with a winning encore run of “U Got the Look,” “Kiss” and “Get Off,” in which both Prince and the appreciative crowd seemed to get their second wind.
A new Prince album, “The Rainbow Children,” is due later this year.
Presented by NPG Music Club and Goldenvoice Band: Kip Blackshire, Rhonda Smith, Najee, Mr. Hayes, Johnny Blackwell, Geneva. Reviewed May 4, 2001.