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Posts Tagged ‘Prince’

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

"Darling Nikki"

Chairlift covers Prince & The Revolution

Photo via WikipediaWikipediaIt’s not secret that Prince is no fan of people covering his songs (though I suspect his lawyers are because it gives them something to do) but when Spin marked the 25th anniversary of his masterpiece Purple Rain back in 2009 with a cover story and tribute album – Purplish Rain – I assume it was with his permission, either overt or tacit. Because, well, otherwise the whole endeavour would have been kind of dumb on their part.

One of the artists who contributed to said comp was New York’s Chairlift, who at the time were still a trio and still riding high on their iPod ad-powered debut Does You Inspire You?, who opted to dial down the overt lasciviousness of the original “Darling Nikki” and give it a bit of a slower, synthetic makeover – more literally “Computer Blue”?

Chairlift are in town at The Horseshoe on Wednesday night, March 28, in support of album number two, Something. Prince wrapped up his “Welcome 2 Canada” tour last Fall and has gone back into seclusion. As he does.

MP3: Chairlift – “Darling Nikki”
Video: Prince – “Darling Nikki” (live)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Purple Rain

Prince at The Air Canada Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangThierry CôtéI feel the need to preface this by saying I am not a Prince fan. And I feel the need to clarify that statement by stating that what I mean is that when it comes to an artist as prolific, prodigious and… somewhat peculiar as Prince, the true fans are in a different class. They follow his creative left turns, experiments and indulgences wherever they may go, they join his fan clubs, they keep the faith that his genius – an objectively measurable trait, not subjective praise – may yet result in more works that reach the heights of what he’s attained in the past. And that’s not me. It does not, by any stretch, mean that I don’t like the massive body of work that Prince Rogers Nelson has released over his thirty-plus year career – indeed, I grew up on ’80s top 40 radio, the same era in which his best works made him a global superstar and a lot of those songs are in my musical DNA. But real and proper Prince fans are a special breed and I don’t count myself amongst them.

But I was rubbing elbows with them on Saturday night, the second night of the opening stop of his much-anticipated “Welcome 2 Canada” tour at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. My degree of fandom only justified buying nosebleed seats for the show, which would be my first time ever seeing him live, but word out of the first night was that there were free ticket upgrades to be had if you just asked the right people. And indeed there were, which is how I ended up in the VIP “Purple Circle” section of the floors, nestled cozily into the top corner of the massive “Love symbol”-shaped stage which was set up in the middle of the arena. Not that I’m bragging or anything… okay, I am a little. But from the floor, I could see where I would have been sitting otherwise, and believe me when I say they were possibly the saddest seats in the entire venue. So this was better.

Advance information from the first show was also encouraging – a set jammed full of hits showcasing his mastery of funk, soul, rock, pop, everything, running over three hours in length with six encores and a guest appearance from legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker. Would we do as well on night two? Despite the advertised 8PM show time, the lights didn’t dim until 8:50 – which was fine, Friday had to wait until quarter past 9 – and anyone intending to hold Prince to account for tardiness promptly forgot as the artist formerly and forever known as Prince rose from the middle of the stage and led the NPG into “Gold”. And as strong an open as that was, the second selection was already a show-stopper – “Purple Rain”, wrought as epically as one could imagine. Few artists would be confident enough to bust out what is arguably their greatest composition so early in the show but as he would point out later on in the show, he had over 145 hits to choose from; the veracity of this claim can be debated, the confidence behind it cannot.

In any case, it was a damn near transcendent moment culminating with a guitar solo that was just beyond. Everyone was on their feet. Dancing, singing, clapping, screaming, whatever. All of it justified. And as the dust settled from the extended coda, a synth tone slowly rose in the mix. It was obvious what song it had to be, but surely he’d give us a chance to recover, to catch our breaths? He couldn’t possibly be going from “Purple Rain” straight into– “Dearly beloved…”. Okay, yes he could. The spoken word intro to “Let’s Go Crazy” was milked for all its worth but the payoff – including a foray into “Delirious” and then back for (another) epic guitar solo – was more than worth it.

And that was essentially the format of the show; technically probably medleys but more like suites of songs, built around a massive hit and segueing into covers (Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People”, Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”, Chic’s “Le Freak” all got nods), deeper cuts, extended solos, whatever. If you didn’t know one of the songs, which I didn’t for a fair bit, it didn’t really matter because a) it would shift into something you did know soon enough, b) it was being delivered with such verve and style that you’d be dancing along anyways or c) you’d be too busy gawking at the showmanship onstage to notice.

Say what you will about his idiosyncrasies out in the real world, but on stage Prince is king. The set up was relative spartan, with the band stationed at the very top of the Love symbol and Prince’s mic set up in the middle, but every inch of it got a workout as he roamed, strutted and sashayed to every corner of the arena, either dancing or ripping guitar lines or both, working the crowd into a frenzy with each wag of his finger, cock of his head, shake of his ass. Even at 53, he looked ageless, had boundless energy and still oozed sexuality. For serious. And while some may have chosen to see his many “TORONTO!” shout-outs as contrived, I chose to believe there was genuine affection being expressed – he did use to live here, after all. And the look of delight on his face on hearing the roar of his fans? There was no faking that.

His three backing singers – Shelby J, Elisa Dease, and Liv Warfield – got almost as much of a workout as they kept up with their boss and even took lead on a cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” while Prince took a short breather, and they were periodically joined onstage by guitarist/vocalist Andy Allo who was almost as much of a presence on stage as Prince. Almost. And for a few songs, a number of lucky fans were invited onstage to dance at the front of the stage. It was a spectacle, no doubt, but unlike many shows of this scale it was still first and foremost a band, onstage, playing – no props, no set pieces, no Prince dancers. Okay, there were confetti cannons that showered all in purple and gold but come on – it was the purple rain.

You got a sense the main set was ramping up to a finale when it went to all hits, all the time – a euphoric run that ran “Little Red Corvette” into “Take Me With U” into “Raspberry Beret” into “Cream” but wrapped with not an official Prince tune but “Cool”, which he wrote for The Time in 1981. A curious finish, but not the finish at all as everyone knew – here came the encores. Until this point, the baby grand piano set up on the far left of the stage had been used as little more than a prop for climbing on and writhing, but when Prince sat down at it and the unmistakeable synthetic beat of “When Doves Cry” ran out through the ACC, it became clear that it wasn’t a piano at all, but a sampler station set up to allow him to recreate the complexities of the songs solo while simultaneously laying bare just how simple they were at their core. Astonishing to see, and when the band rejoined him for a grand and funky “Kiss”, which culminated in an extended dance/ass-shaking solo that brought the house down, most everyone was sure this was just them getting warmed up for another extended run – but no, that was it.

You knew that someone like Prince wasn’t going to repeat himself night after night, but I didn’t expect that would be as two-edged a sword as it felt. Rather than six encores, we got one and rather than the three hours ten Friday night’s audience got, this night ran a comparatively light two hours twenty. And yes, I completely understand how ridiculous it is to criticize an artist for “only” giving over two hours of top-of-his-game, unbelievably entertaining effort but still, it felt like the show was ended prematurely and an unworthy punctuation mark on what was otherwise been a stellar show. Happily, that latter fact – that I had just seen a bona fide legendary artist from as close up as you could possibly get and been thrilled for the duration – has become the prevailing memory. I’ve heard some words of disappointment in the show from die-hard fans who’ve got numerous past Prince experiences to compare with, and I can see where they’re coming from. Hell, if I’d even gone to both nights of this stand I’d probably have thought the first was better (based on pure quantitative comparisons), but this was my first Prince show and it was incredible and I’m grateful to have it. Still not going to call myself a fan by the standards established at the start of this piece, but after Saturday night I’m exponentially moreso. His name is Prince. And he is funky.

Spinner, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, CTV, The Toronto Sun and The Toronto Star have reviews of the Friday night while NOW was on hand for night two. The Toronto Star also landed a pre-tour email interview with the artist.

No photos as there are no photos of Prince. We weren’t even allowed to take our phones out in the Purple Circle, so many thanks to Thierry from Sonic Weapons who was able to snap the accompanying shot at the Friday night show. And the list below is what happens when my OCD meets Google and an extensive videography. Be afraid.

Video: Prince – “Crimson And Clover”
Video: Prince – “Chocolate Box”
Video: Prince – “Somewhere Here On Earth”
Video: Prince – “Song Of The Heart”
Video: Prince – “Fury”
Video: Prince – “Black Sweat”
Video: Prince – “Cinnamon Girl”
Video: Prince – “Call My Name”
Video: Prince – “Musicology”
Video: Prince – “The Daisy Chain”
Video: Prince – “U Make My Sun Shine”
Video: Prince – “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold”
Video: Prince – “Face Down”
Video: Prince – “The Holy River”
Video: Prince – “I HAte U”
Video: Prince – “Dolphin”
Video: Prince – “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”
Video: Prince – “Acknowledge Me”
Video: Prince – “Pink Cashmere”
Video: Prince – “Peach”
Video: Prince – “7”
Video: Prince – “Damn U”
Video: Prince – “The Continental”
Video: Prince – “Blue Light”
Video: Prince – “The Morning Papers”
Video: Prince – “My Name Is Prince”
Video: Prince – “Sexy MF”
Video: Prince – “Willing And Able”
Video: Prince – “Insatiable”
Video: Prince – “Money Don’t Matter 2Night”
Video: Prince – “Diamonds And Pearls”
Video: Prince – “Cream”
Video: Prince – “Gangsta Glam”
Video: Prince – “Violet The Organ Grinder”
Video: Prince – “Gett Off”
Video: Prince – “Question Of U”
Video: Prince – “New Power Generation”
Video: Prince – “Thieves In The Temple”
Video: Prince – “Scandalous”
Video: Prince – “Partyman”
Video: Prince – “Batdance”
Video: Prince – “Eye Wish U Heaven”
Video: Prince – “Glam Slam”
Video: Prince – “Alphabet St.”
Video: Prince – “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”
Video: Prince – “U Got The Look”
Video: Prince – “Sign O’ The Times”
Video: Prince – “Anotherloverholenyohead”
Video: Prince – “Boys & Girls”
Video: Prince – “Mountains”
Video: Prince – “Kiss”
Video: Prince – “America”
Video: Prince – “Paisley Park”
Video: Prince – “Raspberry Beret”
Video: Prince – “4 The Tears In Your Eyes”
Video: Prince – “Take Me With U”
Video: Prince – “I Would Die 4 U/ Baby I’m A Star”
Video: Prince – “Purple Rain”
Video: Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”
Video: Prince – “When Doves Cry”
Video: Prince – “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”
Video: Prince – “Automatic”
Video: Prince – “Little Red Corvette”
Video: Prince – “1999”
Video: Prince – “Sexuality”
Video: Prince – “Controversy”
Video: Prince – “Dirty Mind”
Video: Prince – “Uptown”
Video: Prince – “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”
Video: Prince – “I Wanna Be Your Lover”

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

"Let's Go Crazy"

Janelle Monae covers Prince & The Revolution

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangNot that he’s looking to abdicate the title of one of the most multi-talented – if, er, a bit eccentric – artists of our time, but if you were to nominate heirs apparent for Prince, then Janelle Monáe would have to be right at the top of the list. I don’t know how her guitar chops are, but as far as being a singer/songwriter/visionary who effortlessly blends soul, funk and rock and outrageous showmanship at a ridiculously young age – she’s just 25 – Monáe has got the goods.

Said goods were fully on display at the 2010 BET Awards, which featured a tribute to the Purple One and had Monáe tapped to perform “Let’s Go Crazy”, from 1984’s Purple Rain, and in performing it she does just that. The audio is a rip of the video, which is unsurprisingly hard to find online given Prince’s negative feelings about -in no particular order – the internet, images of himself online and covers of his songs. But vids still remain online and it’s worth watching as much as seeing both for Monáe’s performance as the audience of footage of Prince himself at first watching impassively, then getting into it and finally applauding Monáe’s rendition. That’s some high praise, right there.

Prince will be on the receiving end of the applause this weekend when his Welcome 2 Canada tour kicks off at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday and Saturday nights. His last release was last year’s 20Ten, but who’s kidding who – we want to hear the old stuff. And from past Welcome 2 America set lists, he’s in an obliging mood. As for Monáe, she’s getting to work on her follow-up to last year’s debut The ArchAndroid and also turns 26 next week on December 1.

MP3: Janelle Monáe – “Let’s Go Crazy” (live at BET Awards)
Video: Janelle Monáe – “Let’s Go Crazy” (live at BET Awards)
Video: Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”

Monday, October 31st, 2011

You're A Woman, I'm A Machine

Death From Above 1979 at Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFirstly, thanks to The Grid for their preview piece on the Death From Above 1979 reunion tour which finally made it home for two nights at the Sound Academy last Thursday and Friday night. They do a far better job of encapsulating the band’s backstory than I could, since though I was certainly around for their first heyday in the early aughts, I wasn’t much of a fan. Some of their disco-metal hybrid was appealing and I dug Jesse Keeler’s bass tones, but it was generally too aggressive for my tastes and Sebastien Grainger’s vocals were definitely not my thing. When they announced they were splitting up five years ago, I didn’t give it half a shrug.

So why be at the Sound Academy to see the reunion? Mostly curiosity about this reunion which, even in the era of reunions, felt different to all the others. For starters, the response to it seemed disproportionate to how big they were when they broke it off, but as The Grid points out they were on the cusp of blowing up when they split and rather than see interest in them fall off a cliff as a result, evidently it kept growing into the realm of myth. Hence the high billing on festivals worldwide. Hence the playing to more people at home over two nights than they probably did in total over their first run. So curiosity, and also the fact that I happened to be outside the Beauty Bar in Austin, Texas back in March when they were soundchecking their surprise SXSW appearance – their very first comeback show and eventual near-riot – and it sounded great.

I’ve been to my share of reunion shows and most have had the sort of demographic you’d expect; mainly older fans from said act’s first go-around indulging in a bit of nostalgia with the mean age brought down a notch by kids who discovered the act in their fallow years and finally getting a chance to see them live (I tend to straddle the two). For DFA1979, however, the audience was overwhelmingly young – so much so that you got the sense if they hadn’t booked an all-ages venue, they wouldn’t have needed two shows. My theory is that those who’d followed the band in the first half of the decade had largely outgrown them, no longer running on the necessary blend of hormones and adrenaline, and instead these shows were being attended by those who’d been in high school or college when DFA were at their peak – see above about hormones and adrenaline – but had never gotten the chance to see them live. Until now.

And with youth comes energy and the jammed room was rather crackling with it as they awaited their hometown heroes to emerge, getting into form with a little exploratory crowd surfing to Iron Maiden over the PA and chanting, “D! F! A!” the way you might hear “U! S! A!” at a monster truck rally. With that as the pre-show noise floor, then it was no surprise that security had orders to be extra-vigilant and rightly so – when the curtain covering their giant “DFA 1979 2001-2006” tombstone backdrop fell to the floor and Keeler and Grainger strode out onstage, shit was lost (and so was their stage garb, with the all-in-white, bleached-blonde Grainger looking rather Jacob and Keeler playing The Man In Black, but I digress).

I must confess to only knowing a few songs from the DFA1979 oeuvre (even though it consists of just a single full-length in You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine and a few EPs and singles) but I don’t think that was a real issue as their aesthetic is pretty limited. Imagine grinding, metallic bass and drum riffing seasoned with synths and wailing vocals and you’re pretty much there. But what they lack in range, they more than make up for in volume and vigor. They pounded out one song after another while the crowd surged like a wave pool, steadily cresting with crowd surfers as drinks, clothes and three-finger devil salutes flew about. Early on it seemed like it’d be all business for the duo, with a “Thank you, we’re from here” offered by Grainger as the only bit of banter, but later on they got chattier with a highlight of the banter being Keeler’s response to a request for a bass solo: “every song is a bass solo”.

As mentioned, things got fairly samey to me after a while with the band offering sleek aggression and relentless rhythm in lieu of hooks – not that my head ever stopped bobbing to the beat. “Romantic Rights” was appreciated not only because its killer opening riff remains a high point in the entire DFA1979 catalog, but because Grainger took the opportunity to get up from behind the kit and wander the stage while singing, proper frontman-style. But even when my attention wandered from the music, there was also the audience to watch as they continued to freak out, head bang, what have you throughout the show. I may have been there mainly out of curiosity, but for many/most this was something they’d been waiting for for years and probably never expected, considering how acrimonious the original split had seemed. And for them, I’m pretty sure it was everything they’d hoped for and more. I get it, but I still don’t like the vocals.

Exclaim, NOW, BlogTO, The National Post and The Globe & Mail all have reviews of the show(s).

Photos: Death From Above 1979 @ The Sound Academy – October 27, 2011
MP3: Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”
Video: Death From Above 1979 – “Black History Month”
Video: Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”

Arctic Monkeys have released a new video from Suck It And See.

Video: The Arctic Monkeys – “Evil Twin”

PopMatters chats with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons.

The Quietus talks to Jim Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain.

Exclaim reports that Elvis Costello will be releasing a live set culled from the Los Angeles dates of this year’s “The Spectacular Spinning Songbook” tour, which came through town in June. Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!! will be released as a limited-edition CD/DVD/10″ box set on December 6 – with price to match – and less fancy editions will be released in the new year.

GQ talks to PJ Harvey.

Spin is offering a stream of the opening track from Noel Gallagher’s solo debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out next Tuesday and showcased over two nights at Massey Hall on November 7 and 8. The Globe & Mail has an interview.

Stream: Noel Gallagher – “Everybody’s On The Run”

Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers discusses his Polaroid fetish with The Guardian. The images compiled over the Manics’ career will be compiled in a book entitled Death of a Polaroid: A Manics Family Album, out next month, and the band’s new best-of comp National Treasures is out today in the UK.

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Globe & Mail and The Guardian talk to Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine about her second album Ceremonials, out this week.

Exclaim points to a stream of both sides of a new 7″ from former Long Blondes singer Kate Jackson, limited to 300 pieces and due out December 7. You may recall a different song was premiered a few months back, but it wasn’t sold physically so this is her first “proper” release.

MP3: The Kate Jackson Group – “Date With Dawn”
Stream: The Kate Jackson Group – “Wonder Feeling”
Stream: The Kate Jackson Group – “The Atlantic”

And Prince has announced two dates at the Air Canada Centre on November 25 and 26 as part of his “Welcome 2 Canada” tour. Yes he’s crazy but he’s also an incredible performer and if the “Welcome 2 America” shows already done are any indication, he’s giving the fans what they want this time out. So… yeah. Tickets on sale this Friday, November 4 at 10AM, ranging from $67.75 to $268.25, fees included.

Video: Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”