Live Review: Prince’s Welcome 2 America Tour, Izod Center and Madison Square Garden, 12/17/10 and 12/18/10

As many of us can attest, getting older sucks. When one’s heroes start to show their age, well, that just fucking sucks twice as hard. i’ve been going to Prince shows for more than 25 years now, starting back with the Purple Rain tour last friggin’ century, so i know from good Prince shows. Unfortunately, i’m oh so sad to report that from the two nights i’ve caught of the Welcome 2 America tour, this ain’t his finest work. His Royal Badness can’t quite hit the high notes as often or sustain them for quite so long. i’m guessing it’s the hip replacement, but the 52-year-old can’t quite shake it like he used to, either. Most heart wrenching of all, however, he just didn’t seem to have the same “oomph” that he used to. When even my mother said, “he just can’t muster up the sexy like he used to,” i figure that about summed things up.

Fortunately, even the worst Prince shows are better than 90 percent of anything else you could ever hope to see, so let’s focus on the positives, shall we? The bulk of both nights was older stuff, predominantly from Purple Rain (“Let’s Go Crazy,” “The Beautiful Ones,” “Take Me With U,” “Purple Rain”). He played one track i didn’t know at all, i’m guessing off of 20Ten, and “Guitar” from Planet Earth; that was about it for the new stuff. He did up a number of classics over the two nights, including “Kiss,” “Cream” and an almost ballad-like “Little Red Corvette.” With the exception of the order and a few tracks, however, both sets were near identical in content.

Of the two nights, the first at the Izod Center clearly was the better of the two. i’ll be honest, the first two-thirds of the show were lackluster by Prince standards, but then he brought out Sheila E. for the first encore, and it was the 1999 all over again. Prince’s musical highlight of the night came then, right after a blistering solo perfomance by Sheila of “Glamorous Life, when he ripped up a bass jam he did for “Love Bizarre.” For those of you unaware of the master musician that the Purple One is, this tour certainly does play more on his musical capabilities than most. Unfortunately for this show, until the very end, a groove was never struck. Whereas Prince typically is a very gracious performer, sharing the spotlight with his band, with the exception of a nod to his back-up singers, there was no recognition whatsoever. He closed this night with a second encore, three ballad set of “Insatiable,” “Scandalous” and “Adore” (admittedly one of the best live versions of “Adore” i’ve ever seen him do). i kept thinking, “who ends on a string of ballads?” Answer: Prince does. And he does it WELL.

MSG had more energy upfront, but the tempo was all wrong. He brought out Sheila E. much earlier in the performance, saving the encore to bring a bunch of jamooks on-stage (Spike Lee? Jamie “The Least Talented Poser Alive” Foxx? Gimme a fucking break) that did nothing but stand there and clap. At least, Sheila tore the bastard apart when it was her turn. i’d like to say there was a standout moment at MSG; perhaps the cocktails had something to do with my fuzzy memory, but none stand out.

Again, don’t get me wrong, if you have a chance to catch either of the two remaining dates, GO. Prince does not put on a “bad” show. But for those of us who have been around since the beginning, it appears as if the halcyon purple days are dwindling. i guess this is what is sounds like when doves cry.

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