Prince At Chicago's United Center
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By Sarah Mudler
From Sept. 24–26 Chicago's United Center was the temporary home to Minnesota resident and seven-time GRAMMY winner Prince and his royal court. On the second night of his sold-out three-night Welcome 2 Chicago residency, fans, many of whom likely partied "like it's 1999" in 1999, were decked out in their most fabulous purple suits and raspberry berets for a full evening of revelry.
As the crowd filed into the 20,000-seat arena, massive screens suspended from the ceiling displayed vintage Prince videos with the Revolution, Sheila E. and the Time. Club-style VIP seating hugged the theatre in the round-style platform stage, which was appropriately built in the shape of Prince's iconic love symbol.
In true royal fashion, the lights dimmed 30 minutes late as smoke was pumped across the floor and the sounds of thunder and lightning brought the room to an excited hush. The hush quickly turned to hysterical screams as the man himself, with a guitar strapped casually around his back, was raised on a platform in the middle of the stage.
He strutted, as only Prince can, acknowledging each corner of the audience. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life!" he exclaimed. And the crowd went fittingly "crazy" as he launched into the party classic "Let's Go Crazy."
Looking perfectly quaffed and decked out in a pair of yellow trousers and a black long-sleeved shirt adorned with flames that seemed to glow in the dark when the lights lowered, Prince and his stunning backup singers moved flawlessly around the stage, hitting every mark and choreographed move with an almost military precision.
Before launching into another song, Prince took a moment to recognize the foundation that benefitted from his world tour. "I'd like to give a shout-out to Van Jones and Rebuild the Dream! Thank you brother."
After a handful of familiar jams, Prince was joined onstage by his protégé, funk/soul artist Andy Allo, as he led the band and a six-piece traveling horn section to Allo's newly penned "People Pleaser." The tall beauty joined Prince on tambourine for a few additional songs throughout the evening, including "Take Me With U." "I love when this little girl sings with me," Prince exclaimed as she grinned in appreciation of her mentor.
Highlights of the night included performances of classics such as "1999," "Raspberry Beret" and "Cream," as well a stunning duet with Chicago sweetheart and GRAMMY winner Jennifer Hudson on the tear-jerker "Nothing Compares 2 U," which was a hit for Sinéad O'Connor. The latter was followed by a set-ending explosion of "Purple Rain" that filled the entire arena with glittering purple confetti.
Delighting the audience with four encores following the set, the show was full of classics, new favorites and plenty of pomp and circumstance that few other artists could achieve. After a full arena chant of "We want Prince!" brought him back to the stage, he asked that the house lights stay on to "let this place breathe a little" and proceeded to lead the room in a closing performance of "Little Red Corvette" before coming back for a fourth encore that featured a performance of Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done For Me Lately."
It took me 33 years and one fantastically thoughtful boyfriend to see Prince in concert. What did I learn? Glitter cannons make everything better, it's possible to make an entire room move with the clap of a hand, and when Prince asks you to jump, you jump. Even if your knees run directly into the seat in front of you. I'll take my bruises as badges of honor today.
"Let's Go Crazy"
"U Got The Look"
"Sometimes It Snows In April"
"People Pleaser" (with Andy Allo)
"She's Always In My Hair"
"I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man"
"Take Me With U" (with Andy Allo)
"Cool"/"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" (Michael Jackson cover)
"Nothing Compares 2 U" (with Jennifer Hudson)
"How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore"
Second Encore (sampler set)
"When Doves Cry"
"Nasty Girl" (instrumental)
"Sign 'O' The Times"
"Alphabet St." (instrumental)
"Forever In My Life"
"Darling Nikki" (instrumental)
"I Would Die 4 U"
"Little Red Corvette"
"Act Of God"
"What Have You Done For Me Lately" (Janet Jackson cover)
"(Theme Song From) Which Way Is Up?"
(A Midwest girl at heart, Sarah Mudler joined The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter in 2004. Coming from a Detroit rock background, she has expanded her musical interests into everything from pop to blues to jazz to gospel, and even a little country now and again. She can be seen haunting local Chicago venues almost every night of the week, and is currently the Senior Project Manager for the Chicago Chapter.)