Prince. 3rd Eye Girl. Live Out Loud. Ogden Theatre. 05.12.13 (early + late shows)

prince

If you’re a Prince fan, you’ve probably already chosen a side when it comes to The Artist’s latest tour. “Live Out Loud” has drawn praise and outrage from fans across the West. Those in favor of spending a premium to see the legendary performer in rare intimate settings had no problem forking out half a grand for a pair of tickets. Those who would rather see an arena show, with the option for less expensive seats, felt snubbed by the high ticket prices. Whether you find Prince to be a living legend or a pretentious has-been, $250 a ticket is a high price to pay for a show at the Ogden Theatre, but when you consider the fact that it only holds around 1,500 people, it’s actually not that bad. The best 1,500 seats at a Pepsi Center show would have cost well over five bills. And as far as I can tell, the naysayers did nothing to stop shows from selling out quickly, from Vancouver to San Francisco to Vegas. But here in Denver the consensus was not in Prince’s favor. The early Sunday night show was the only one that sold out, leaving scalpers holding pricey paper for the late show  — paper that dropped in value by the minute. It’s because of that surplus in tickets that we were able to catch not one, but two “once in a lifetime” shows last night. And after three hours of Prince with 3rd Eye Girl, I sympathize with the arguments on both sides of the coin.

$250 is a lot of money for relatively short sets. A lack of hits hurts, no matter how good the new (and obscure) material might sound. The “no photo/video” rule is fine, but respect the intelligence of your audience enough not to shove it down their throat. And open the doors and show up on time, especially for the early show — your fans paid a lot of money and waited a long time to see you, so assign a little more value to their position.

Now, all those arguments aside, when Prince is on stage, with his ridiculously good band, there is nowhere else you would want to be. When he is up there, shredding his guitar to pieces, with 15 pedals in front of him, and a platinum blonde with sticks, skills and a triple kick behind him, there is a part of you that wants to make it rain $100 bills to show your appreciation for a master at work. After the show, once the adrenaline cools down, you might question some of his decisions, but from the opening riff of the retooled “Let’s Go Crazy”, until the house lights expose the decimated crowd, every moment is one to be savored.

hannah

Both shows started with a welcome/warning from Hannah Ford. The drummer for Prince’s all-female 3rd Eye Girl wanted to remind us that technology was not allowed in the audience. Anyone caught fiddling with their iPhone would be escorted out of the venue. This had already been beaten into our collective brains by security, staff and countless banners around the venue, but for some reason it was easier to swallow when Hannah assured us that just because Prince hates photos doesn’t mean she does — prompting everyone to take a few shots of her before putting the devices away for the remainder of the night.

Both performances started the same as well — the black curtain drops to expose the Purple One with his 3rd Eye trio. The filthy, guitar and bass-driven “Let’s Go Crazy”, followed by “Endorphinmachine” and “Screwdriver”. The latter of which had scrolling lyrics and a little lip syncing going on. It was from there on that the sets diverged. Each performance was heavy on deep tracks and new songs, and light on hits, but the obvious common denominator was the guitar — some tracks literally losing themselves in a feedback frenzy not often witnessed this side of the 70’s. Prince might like his “rock with a little funk”, but he likes it with a lot of hard guitar as well. The journey through the rabbithole of sound was what made these performances so unique.

Besides the wavering walls of sounds that seemed to exist outside of a setlist, new versions of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, “Bambi” and “She’s Always in My Hair” were highlights of the main set — although the cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” was a welcome surprise. The interesting thing is, the new(er) material was the most funky — having rearranged the old stuff to be much heavier than what would be expected, it was tracks like “FixUrLifeUp” and “Cause and Effect” that had people dancing the most. But those who prefer the piano to the electric guitar were not ignored — “Sometimes It Snows in April” and “The Love We Make” both saw Prince resting his legs at the keys, while “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” saw piano-Prince at his best as he shattered non-existent chandeliers with that signature falsetto.

Crazy

Despite various change-ups in the set, it wasn’t until the encore that the late show really differentiated itself from the early show. The first show ended with a cover of “Play That Funky Music” while the late show saw the night’s biggest hits — “When Doves Cry”, “I Would Die 4 U”, and at least partial performances of “Housequake” and “Pop Life”. The lightning storm on the screen was an unnecessary tease, but even without “Purple Rain”, we left feeling much more satisfied after the late show.

Having seen Prince perform all his hits at an arena show in Oakland a couple years ago, I will say that despite the setlists, these were the better shows. It was just a completely different experience. I will also say that even a 5 minute sampler set at the end of the early show would have made people feel better about what they paid for — because it would be a lie to say that set didn’t end abruptly — like there was supposed to be more to come. But maybe it was just a ploy to get the crowd to buy tickets for the next show. If so, it worked for us.

(we paid $100 less than face for each ticket to the late show)

It will be interesting to see how tonight goes. If you are going, and you have the choice, I would recommend the late show. I’d place my bets on that being the best of the four.

Early Show:
Let’s Go Crazy
Endorphinmachine
Screwdriver
Dolphin
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
Guitar
Plectrum Electrum
FixUrLifeUp
Sometimes It Snows in April
Colonized Mind
Bambi
Cause and Effect
Compassion

She’s Always in My Hair
Dreamer
Play That Funky Music

Late Show:
Let’s Go Crazy
Endorphinmachine
Screwdriver
She’s Always in My Hair
A Case Of You
The Ride
Liathach
How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
The Love We Make
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
Crimson & Clover / Wild Thing
So Far, So Pleased
Stratus
Plectrum Electrum

The Max
When Doves Cry
Nasty Girl (clip)
Pop Life (clip)
Darling Nikki (clip)
A Love Bizarre (clip)
Housequake (partial)
I Would Die 4 U

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