Published Dec 18, 2011After a false start and delay due to a late soundcheck, Prince took to the stage at Rogers Arena in a cloud of purple smoke and the sound of lightning. Wasting no time after rising from the middle of a stage shaped like his iconic "unpronounceable symbol," he kicked off the night by transitioning from mid-'90s hit "Gold" into perhaps his biggest hit "Purple Rain." The song was altered from a three-minute single into 20 minutes of extended guitar solos, bright purple lights, and seemingly endless amounts of gold confetti, resulting in an energy that remained throughout the rest of his two-hour set.
The focus of the night was as much on Prince as it was his backing band, the New Power Generation. Featuring longtime keyboardist Morris Hayes and former James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker, the band spun their way through both hits and covers. The set concentrated mainly on immediately recognizable songs like "1999," "Delirious" and "Raspberry Beret," with Prince conducting the band by waving his guitar in their direction for cues to start and stop.
A seasoned veteran of playing to stadium crowds, Prince showcased his skills in pandering to the audience by way of call-and-response shout-outs to other Canadian cities he had visited on his "Welcome 2 Canada" tour, as well as repeatedly stoking Vancouver's own ego. The Canadian content came to a head with a bizarre and unexpected cover of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," sung by the rest of the band while Prince was lowered back into the stage on a hydraulic platform, something that got repeated uses throughout the night.
With the show seemingly over, Prince returned after 20 minutes of cheers for a second encore. It felt unrehearsed, mainly due to the fact that the house lights were left on, removing all earlier visual distractions (i.e., massive Prince-filled screens, LED-garbed instruments and liberal uses of dry ice). He triggered samples from the few hits that had been left out during the rest of the lengthy set, teasing the audience with short bursts of "When Doves Cry," "Sign o' the Times" and "I Would Die 4 U." Thanking the audience, he sunk back into the purple symbol one last time, bringing the night to its close.