As a result of a general awareness of his live pedigree as the consummate musician/showman, I knew going in that checking expectations at the door was a key pre-requisite to full enjoyment of my first PRINCE show during my first trip to Las Vegas. Expectations leading up were very high. These expectations were obliterated.

Signs informing fans to keep their phones off and in their pocket were EVERYWHERE both outside and inside the 4,000 capacity Joint, making for a more engaged and focused show-watching experience (anonymous person on the floor shared the grainy shots you can see dotting this post). From our excellent vantage point from the middle balcony across the square and acoustically sound room, we had an eagle-eyed view of what would be one of the better audiovisual live music experiences in some time.

the joint

With a strobe-filled and sometimes jarring visual aesthetic (with loads of shadows / silhouetted back lighting being fused in to make PRINCE & 3rdEyeGirl appear larger-than-life), PRINCE and his stellar all-girl band began tearing through a razor-sharp rock set, heavy on high-octane guitar fireworks by both PRINCE and Donna Grant and a barrage of smoltering, prog-heavy runs.

With the quip “Do you like rock and roll,” a quick affirmative roar and the artist’s response “I do too, but I like mine funky…” the soulful show man was able to hint at the simple and straightforward themes of the set. It was rockin’, it was funky and it was LOUD.

princejoint5The show popped right off with a stomping blues-rock version of “Let’s Go Crazy” – a re-tooled remake of the 1984 hit with a stellar “Frankenstein” interlude mixed in. His Royal Purpleness knows how to set a tone and this style of full Guitar God mode playing would prevail throughout the first / pre-encore set. His 3rdEyeGirl bandmates, as expected of anyone working alongside such a perfectionist, were entirely on-point no matter what kind of shots PRINCE called out from the stage, ready to go anywhere along the ride. Songs like the grungy and gnashing brand-new track “FIXURLIFEUP” (a track expected to appear on PRINCE’s upcoming 26th LP Plectrum Electrum) brought a raw, 90s flavored heaviness that could indicate his next recorded direction.

The more casual fans were thrown a few bones, and there aren’t too many out there who can’t get down on some of the bigger hits like the aforementioned “Let’s Go Crazy,” the heavily-reprised and notably extended version of “Purple Rain,” and the hit I had to see: “When Doves Cry”. After a half-hour or so of doing his thing, PRINCE remarked at his own unrepentant badass-ness, saying “I’m scared of my own self” before queueing up a bawdy rendition of “Screwdriver,” the tune the band played a few weeks prior on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Prince’s way with the audience certainly tapped into the everyone’s-a-VIP general aesthetic of Vegas, and the Purple One wasn’t hesitant to feed the crowd’s general ego with comments about playing all night, loving the energy and shouting out rallying cries like “ain’t nothing like a purple party because a purple party don’t stop.”

After about a roughly 90-minute set, the curtain closed with a bang before the otherworldly and extended “Sampler Set” encore. Prince and Co. weren’t done scorching retinas and easily saved the biggest treats musically for the final minutes – sending everyone out on an extremely high note (and wishing tickets to the late show were in possession).

PRINCEShadowThe encore set was an entirely different dimension sonically, visually and the relatively mild-tempered audience on the floor finally livened up en masse and the proverbial roof got blown off. As he’d begun the night PRINCE re-appeared in silhouette behind the keyboards, and opened the encore set with 1987’s “Sign O’ The Times.” A mixed-down “When Doves Cry” came next with a “Nasty Girl” sample, producing one of the biggest party atmospheres of the night.

“A Love Bizarre” came soon thereafter and at this point, there are a ton of dancers up on stage of varying talent levels and The Joint was basically quaking at this time – befitting that a monster version of “Housequake” (also from Sign “☮” the Times) beamed in next with Hannah Welton completely wailing away back on drumkit riser, loving every minute of the Vegas spotlight. Alas, a cover of the unexpected and perfectly ridiculous “Play That Funky Music” helped close out a remarkable show that will remain perma-sketched into my mind for the rest of my days.

PRINCE and his uber-talented backing power trio of females laid down a thick slab of the best and easily most unique live electro-funk I’ve ever heard during the encore. Additionally, all the Vegas shout outs and fan love for the early showgoers was a nice, personalized kicker. After PRINCE, everything involved in the trip was pure gravy and added incentive to make a planned return back in July for another run at The Joint.

VIP SUITE2A lot of people get the ephemeral “I’m a baller / VIP / blah blah” sensation while carousing around Vegas and that’s certainly part of the fun and allure. While we’re genuinely thankful of the royal treatment we received from the good folks at the Hard Rock all weekend along (and especially on Saturday night), it was clear from the minute he hit the stage that PRINCE was the only true royalty in the building.

SETLIST: PRINCE @ The Joint, Las Vegas, Nevada | SATURDAY, APRIL 27th, 2013 @ 8pm (EARLY SHOW)

Let’s Go Crazy (w/ Frankenstein Jam)
Let’s Work
U Got The Look
Shes Always In My Hair
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
Plectrum Electrum
I Like It There
When We’re Dancing Close & Slow
Purple Rain >
Adore >
Purple Rain (Reprise)

ENCORE “Sampler Set”

Sign O’ The Times
When Doves Cry
Nasty Girl
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (clip)
A Love Bizzare
17 Days (clip)
Pop Life
I Would Die 4 U
Alphabet St.