Prince Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, April 15

Prince Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, April 15
Photo: Lori Lousararian
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Being that Prince's early gig at the Vogue Theatre was the first of a four-show stand in Vancouver, the opener of his North American residency tour with new backup band 3rdEyeGirl, and the premiere show following the announcement of his still-to-be-detailed Plectrum Electrum LP, it's fair to say that there was a lot riding on the performance. Add to that a $275 ticket price, and you have some high expectations to meet. So, did the Purple One deliver? At first, it seemed he did. The night opened softly with the tentatively-titled "Down," a heart-wrenching ballad that found Prince plunked behind a piano, and rifling out lines in a velvet falsetto about "the saddest story I ever heard." Glass-shattering visuals exploded on the massive video screen behind his three-piece backup group as the track reached its high-flying emotional apex.

He lightened the mood a little later when he announced jokingly, "Y'all ready for some lip-synchin'" as a snippet of new single "Screwdriver" played in the background. After cracking that everyone else in the biz relies on backing tracks, Prince and company blasted into the crunchy rocker in the flesh. It's not one of the strongest singles in his awe-inducing repertoire, but the lyric-scrolling visuals still got the crowd to sing-along fervently. Beyond the brand new tunes, Prince did dig deeper into his monolithic vault, performing classic tracks like "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" and "Bambi" alongside more recent numbers like Planet Earth's "Guitar." Unsurprisingly, the set was also heavy on the jamming, with unquestioned guitar god Prince letting loose a litany of quick-fingered licks and wah-wah soaked six-string sonics on arguably too-long run-throughs of songs like "I Like It There." Guitarist Donna Grantis got plenty of licks in too, whether she was rushing to the front of the stage and dropping to her knees as she scorched her fretboard, or wailing away as she lay across her quadruple stack.

An encore unfurled a spectacularly raunchy, halftime funk rawk rendition of "Let's Go Crazy" that had Prince panting into the mic and once again attacking his axe before bassist Ida Nielsen sauntered into a fuzzy nod to the Edgar Winter's Group's "Frankenstein." When Prince said goodnight, though, things got a little ugly. Unsurprisingly, the fans wanted more, but following a lengthy stretch of cheering and pleading for one more song, a roadie yanked Prince's guitar behind the curtain, leaving many to give up and walk out the building. Eventually the band returned for one last middling, albeit funky, jam sesh, but the damage had been done. On a technical level, Prince didn't dole out a greatest hits show but he delivered some scintillating six-string work, and he must've sweated out at least a little red Corvette's worth of swagger as he stomped and slid across the stage. The fact that the preordained two-hour time slot contained at least 20 minutes of milking the crowd's applause, however, left a sourness to the proceedings. Hopefully the late show managed to pack in more music and less waiting around.