December 16, 2011

Caught Live: Prince - Dec. 8, 2011

A guest post by Sue Sorensen

At which point during the December 8 Prince concert in Winnipeg did I decide that Prince was really Sinatra? Perhaps it was early, when the lights snapped up after his opening number, a shuffling of melodies and rhythms on his singular electronic piano. (He was, I think, opening for himself.) Under the brighter lights, Prince was revealed in a dapper dark suit. Sharp white shirt, ascot. The surprise was the asymmetry of his jacket. At the back: one side long, a tail coat. The other side: short, so you could see his trim 53-year-old behind.

Sinatra dressed impeccably for his shows. He took his vocation as a professional entertainer seriously. Likewise, Prince told us that this was his job; he was willing to sing and play the guitar as long as we were willing to get up, do the windshield wiper, and waggle our hips. When he talked about his job, he sounded joyful.

I hadn’t expected to encounter joy at a Prince concert in a hockey rink. I respect Prince for his prodigal musical imagination, for his sometimes bizarre independent stance in the music industry. I appreciate the way he has crashed together his dirty mind, now somewhat curtailed—this was surprisingly wholesome show—with his love of God. I’ve been bemused by how prolific he is. Prince by normal standards writes far too much music. He has driven his distributors crazy. The listener cannot keep up, and in recent years Prince could delete and edit more. But he doesn’t. It’s his life, his music.

This profligacy, this delirious too-muchness that goes along with Prince, is ineluctably part of the experience of real joy. We don’t encounter enough joy. My other insight that night, as a bunch of purple confetti erupted, was that this was what good Vaudeville once felt like. Maybe Prince is a funk or R&B singer. Or he’s the last Vaudeville performer. Or the best entertainer with a vocation since Sinatra.

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