Last Friday night Prince packed out the Target Center one more time for Prince: Live on the Big Screen. Originally set for Saturday, April 21 – which would have been the second anniversary of The Purple One’s death, your Minnesota Timberwolves making the NBA Playoffs saw the show rescheduled for the night before. Bring that Prince and basketball have always coexisted swimmingly, the fans understood and were ready to relive the closest thing to a Prince live show we could still experience today. Here’s our Four Takeaways.
1) It was tasteful – Full disclosure, as a hardcore Prince devotee, I face any live Prince tribute with an (even if involuntary) level of skepticism. The idea of a Prince hologram or simulated post-mortem duet rubs me wrong, so to hear the show promoted as a Prince performance with live musical accompaniment, I went in bracing for the worst. Since Friday’s show, the first question I’ve received from literally everyone who heard I attended the show was “Was it tasteful?” Fortunately, what we received Friday night was as tasteful, tactful and in-line with Prince’s wishes as possible. The live music accompaniment on stage were the same performers seen performing with Prince in the footage, and their playing was more-so to accentuate the sound in what we were watching.
2) Hit-after-Hit-after-Hit – Speaking as someone who trades live Prince bootlegs, I have an idea of what to expect from his setlists more than most. If you’re a casual Prince fan, Friday night was an evening of pure tenderloin. “Let’s Go Crazy,” “1999” and “Pop Life” were all in the first half-hour. While Prince would tend to space out his biggest hits between a few night of his live shows in the same town, the one-night-only element allowed for a cherry-picking of footage giving us “Little Red Corvette,” “Cream,” “Take Me With U,” “The Beautiful Ones” all night, leading up to an encore of “Kiss” and “Purple Rain.”
3) The Balance – But that doesn’t mean it was only Prince’s major singles, or even mostly Prince with a band. A substantial chunk of the second half was just Prince and his piano which, like the best moments of the evening, felt like I was watching a high quality bootleg of a Prince performance with the entire Target Center. The close-ups of the stationary Prince transcended the looming fact that he was gone to allow for some much needed intimacy. My personal highlight of the night was Prince’s performance at the piano of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”
4) Nothing Compares 2 Prince, but this was close – The night’s only real shortcomings come from Prince’s inability to be there. Having seen Prince perform live on his lovesign symbol, his charisma could control an entire arena from being in the direct center of it. Being the set-up was to play one of these centered performance from a stationary screen on a stage that remained in one far side, the depth-perception was occasionally thrown-off and distracting at moments. As were the moments of the Prince footage being put into slow-motion, and visual effects to make multiple Princes appear on-screen. While I understand and admire the effort to do something with experience Prince in this new medium, these portions didn’t quite work. Still, getting straight never-before-seen Prince footage for two hours was a great way to kick-off a weekend remembering Minnesota’s Purple Yoda, and it’s a comforting note that The Vault’s output is being filtered through good hands.