This review originally appeared in the Boston Globe on Monday, March 22, 1993.
WORCESTER -- With all the hoo-ha that has surrounded Prince over the years -- his reclusiveness, his capriciousness and, currently, his somewhat diminished album sales -- you can sometimes forget that the man is still probably the most dynamic performer in rock, the James Brown of his day. And while last night’s show wasn’t the most dazzling or mindblowing Prince show I’ve seen, he doesn’t do walk-throughs. It sure was fun to watch the splits, hear the falsetto vocals and eloquent guitar screams, and to suck in the semimuddled fantasy, best described, perhaps, as Prince Goes Arabian Nights With His Usual Lust and Love Mix.
But first a word on the weird scenario. The good news: Prince was making a rare appearance, touring the US for the first time in five years and playing relatively intimate venues at that. The bad news: What had been planned as a neat city adventure at the Orpheum got bounced to the Worcester Aud, evidently
because it was discovered at the last minute (Friday) that Prince’s people and equipment wouldn’t fit on the stage. So, 3,100 folks made the westward trek to a venue that reminded more than a few patrons of a large high school auditorium. And there were a few angry folks who arrived late -- not having heard about the switch.
But once we all got settled in, Prince -- the lithe genre-blender and (sometime) chaotic and creative genius -- declared “My name is Prince/And I am funky,” and in the next song proclaimed his paramour “you sexy m.f.” He and his 15 players set sail on a 2 1/2-hour course that went every which way: funk, rock, pop, psychedelia, rap -- a bit too much during the first set -- sexy romantic ballads, hyperkinetic dance routines. The lighting, par for a Prince show, was superb, the choreography stunning and the bubbling sensuality never too far from the surface. Thematically, the major shift was that Prince has de-emphasized the spiritual, gospel-tent side of his show. Last night was pretty much one for the secular humanists.
The first half of the set was taken entirely from his latest album, the one without a proper title, but a symbol. The second half consisted of faves such as “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss” and “Irresistible Bitch.” It was the stronger segment, with a soul-wrenching “Scandalous” and the elegiac ‘‘Purple Rain” climax. One downside, though, was Prince packed ‘‘Partyman,” “1999,” “Baby, I’m a Star” and “Push” into a medley. Granted, the guy has a monster of a catalog, but you wished he’d played ‘em out, especially the party-til-the-bomb drops “1999.”
The first half had a lot of highlights -- the erotic “The Max,” the slinky “Blue Light,” the swaggering “Peach,” the delirious pop of “7.” It was only the overarching concept that sagged -- something about Prince’s courtship of a teen-age Middle Eastern princess. Even so, Prince and his female dancer/foil had undeniable chemistry, the three male rappers kept the stage alive with movement and the five horn players gave a sassy punch to most everything.
Quibbles? More guitar playing, less from the “symbol” album, more substantial stuff from Prince’s early mid-period. Nevertheless, the diminutive purple one gave pretty close to maximum bang for the buck. Sexy, strong, versatile: There’s no reason for his reign to end.