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Friday, May 20, 2011

Prince Teases HP Pavilion with the Tips of His Hits

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM

click to enlarge Prince at HP Pavilion.
  • Prince at HP Pavilion.
May 19, 2011
@ HP Pavilion, San Jose

Better than: Thoughts of pretty you and me

"My name is Prince. Everything you heard is true."

If that's the case, we thought, we might be here funkin' 'til the break of dawn and makin' love 'til cherry's gone, even though it's Thursday night inside a hockey arena, the Sharks logo only half covered and still showing teeth. With that hot opening line, Prince made us believe in the possibilities of turning San Jose into Erotic City, if just for 90 minutes.

That's a relatively short set as far as Prince concerts go, but the man works harder during each moment of live performance than pretty much anyone, expertly covering his Symbol-shaped stage to give every corner of the house some deep eye contact and winsome smiles. He seems to have reached some sort of happy medium from the years spent avoiding singing his most risque songs; now, he just teases with the tip of those more prurient hits and throws you a beat here and a couple words there. And you want it all.

Last week, Prince announced two performances of his Welcome 2 America Live Tour at HP Pavilion, a brief respite from his "21-night stand" at the Forum in Los Angeles. He last came through the Bay Area in February for a two-night stand in Oakland (guess he finds us a quicker bang than L.A.?), bringing cameos from Carlos Santana and Bay Area native Sheila E. and a bass-thumping opener in Larry Graham (Sly & The Family Stone, Graham Central Station).

click to enlarge Larry Graham rocks the bass.
  • Larry Graham rocks the bass.
Graham once again did the honors of beginning the show, as he has done for years, with a steadily building set incorporating Sly and Graham Central riffs and highlights. But it was a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" that sent Graham and his seven-piece band really soaring into the rafters. They finished with a graceful take on Sly's "Thank You," walking out of the arena with shaking tambourines and acoustic singing.
click to enlarge prince2.jpg
Mr. Nelson rose up, as a proper icon should, from a lift below the ground, a vision in a crystal-studded gold coat and shirt and silky white pants. We fought for breath as he unleashed some of the mega-classics early: "1999," "Little Red Corvette," and "The Beautiful Ones." And then, an amazing switcharoo: Prince lowered back into the floor and Sheila E. popped up in his place with her drum kit, attacking "Glamorous Life" in a fantastically fitted sleeveless gold dress. She got a huge reception from the crowd and they let her really take the moment to soak it in; she looked really appreciative.

"Bay Area," she said, "I love you too!"

Prince raised back up, this time dressed in a lovely, silky grey stage pajama set and ready for us to "Take Me With U" and throw on the old "Raspberry Beret." He looks really comfortable in everything he wears on stage, even his chunky white heels, which might as well be bare feet considering the ease with which he dances -- even atop his piano.

He seems to always include at least one cover song in his sets, and we were thrilled when the opening strains of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" kicked in.

"That's my jam!" he exclaimed, and took the moment to dance and let his three fierce singers share the words, slyly morphing them into Prince's song "C-O-O-L." Soon came just a smidgen of the naughtiest song of the night, "Cream," where he introduced two dancers as the "twins": Australian sisters Maya and Nandy McClean, who have toured with him for several years. A leopard-spotted guitar came out for "U Got The Look" and helped usher in the surprise release of purple confetti during "Purple Rain."

The twins' shining moment would later come when, dressed like 1920s flappers, they did the Charleston to "Let's Go Crazy" and "Delirious" before Prince would be lowered into the ground for the "ending" of the show.

He quickly came back on stage without his band and without the twins, alone behind a sampler to pound out teasing, staccato riffs of "When Doves Cry." We're jaded concertgoers with thousands of performances under our belt (including Prince when he was the artist formerly known as the Artist), and all we could do was stand there, awestruck, and emit a low "woooooo" every 15 seconds or so. Our professional opinion: Woooooo.

"Doves" faded into a couple of beats of "Nasty Girl" and a true declaration ("I got so many hits!") that was quickly backed up by fleeting moments of anthems mashed into one fast-paced "LoveBizarreHotThingIWillDie4UKiss." He then gave us more art of the tease in the form of some exaggerated booty shakes, and was lowered back underground to leave us to deal with the consequences of the seduction.

click to enlarge Check out our newest fashion statement: Prince leggings.
  • Check out our newest fashion statement: Prince leggings.
Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: We will soon be openly displaying our shameless affection for this man through last night's purchase of leggings emblazoned with Prince in Purple Rain script on the right thigh. (Don't be jealous when you see us rocking them.)

Random detail: We were disappointed by the lack of Princely sartorial flair on the part of the fans. We spotted one man in a purple coat and flouncy white shirt and one spirited fellow sporting a silver sequined vest, but that was it.

By the way: Prince returns to HP Pavilion for another performance on Saturday night.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Tamara Palmer @teemoney415, and like us at

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