The Forum – Inglewood, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
My phone was hounded by texts all day with people trying to figure out where I was at the Big 4 concert in Indio. As the resident metal head of Concert Confessions, it makes sense that I would be deep in the desert for Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. While I am sure the Big 4 was an amazing time, it simply wasn’t in the cards for me. Instead of seeing metal history, I drove 15 minutes south to Inglewood where I became a small part of another historic musical event. That event was night 4 of Prince’s 21 night Welcome 2 America residency.
Excitement was high walking into the once proud home of the Lakers with my pal God Frank. I’ll admit that when it comes to Prince, I really only know the hits. I’ll also admit that I know a true musical genius when I see one and with the man in purple charging only $25 (that’s including fee’s) for most tickets, there was no way I was going to miss my chance to check Prince off my live music bucket list.
The night started out with a brief yet powerful opening set from Miss Chaka Khan. Despite the fact that Miss Khan was nothing but rude to me for over a year in a previous incarnation, I made sure to put those feelings aside when watching the 58 year old Queen of Funk do her thing on stage. Rocking the stage in high heels for about 20 minutes, Miss Khan gave the crowd essentially a medley of all her hits. Highlights included “Ain’t Nobody”, “Tell Me Something Good” and a high octane version of “I’m Every Woman” that was dedicated to all the Sisters, Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunt’s and Nieces in the house. While abbreviated compared to your typical arena opening time slot, Miss Khan was on stage just long enough to keep you excited as opposed to overstaying her welcome. Her performance was truly a great way to kick off Saturday night.
You don’t need me to tell you that Prince can do it all. Rock, R&B, you name it. On this particular evening, it was clear Prince was in the mood to bring the FUNK! Hitting the stage at about 9:15 pm, the man from Paisley Park opened with an extra funky take on “D.M.S.R.” After solid versions of “Pop Life” and “Musicology” Prince really took things up the next level. Inviting long time musical partner Sheila E to the stage to lead the song “Mountains” fans from the VIP tables up front to the last row of the arena erupted into frenzy. While I am always impressed by individuals who can drum and sing at the same time, to do it at her age in heels as high as the heavens is something truly special. The way she was jumping, you had no doubt she could hold her own with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s.
Coming out of “Mountain” Prince made it clear his goal was to break the funk-O-meter. With Sheila E still on stage, Prince welcomed Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham for the classics “Everyday People” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” Graham is a beast upon the four strings, it’s a shame he was unable to stay up there slapping away all night. The man has influenced so many of my modern day bass heroes, watching him perform was just one of the many highlights of the evening. As Graham exited, Prince welcomed Miss Khan back out for her classic “Sweet Thing.” Prince was all smiles sharing the stage with Miss Khan and it’s clear the two have a true respect that comes out when they perform together. Prince exited the stage shorty after Miss Khan, allowing Sheila E and his backing band to funk out “The Glamorous Life” while he did his first of many costume changes below.
Upon his return, the second half of Prince’s set may as well have been dubbed the greatest hits portion of the show. Things kicked off with “Raspberry Beret” which got many in the crowd back up on their feet dancing Saturday night away. Musically speaking, “Let’s Go Crazy>Delirious>Let’s Go Crazy” was easily the highlight of the greatest hits run. The way all the musicians lock together is truly something magical. From “1999” to “Little Red Corvette” hit after hit kept everyone moving and shaking. Of all the hits, he closed his triumphant first set with my personal favorite “Purple Rain.” With purple confetti pouring down upon the stage, Prince grabbed hold of his signature telecaster and played the solo looking right at me. OK, so perhaps it was not right at me with me as I was pretty dang far from the stage, but the man can make a 20,000 seat arena feel as though he was playing to you in your living room.
Joking that he was out of hits, Prince returned to the stage for a medley that consisted of “When Doves Cry>Nasty Girl>Sign ‘O The Times>The Most Beautiful Girl In The World>Darling Nikki>Single Ladies>Hot Thing>I Would Die For You.” While he didn’t sing all the songs (Nikki for example was just a tease of the introduction as Prince smiled and shook his head) this segment of the show portrayed the silly and playful side of Prince. When his band returned, they once again brought the funk with “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “Scandalous” and a few other choice tracks. For Encore #2 – Prince once again turned the heat up and made us sweat a lil bit more with “Kiss” (the first Prince song I remember as a young child growing up in the 1980’s).
Encore 3 began with a touching dedication to his sister/speech on racial equality before breaking out “Sometimes It Snows In April.” That was one thing I noticed about seeing Prince. All walks of life, all religions, sexual-orientations and races came together as one united in the music. Covering most shows, this is something I rarely see and this is what has left the biggest impression on me in the hours since the event. Prince reminded me that we can indeed come together as one people and truly achieve something great.
Had it not been for our friend Steven Anthony, chances are I would have left as the house lights came up after “Controversy.” He informed me it was best to stay till security gave us the boot. I am glad he shared this as we were treated to three more songs. “A Love Bizarre” (with Sheila E) kicked off the 4th encore as the house lights remained on. From there, Prince closed out the night just like he started it – bringing the FUNK. “Play That Funky Music” gave the band the chance to do just that while the final closing number “Hollywood Swinging” had its lyrics changed to “Inglewood Swinging.” With 17 nights left on his run at the Forum, it’s safe to say Prince will have the town below the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport swinging hard for weeks to come.