Prince and the New Power Generation after-party, Republiq, Seattle, Dec 20 2011
– by Shawn Conner
Prince‘s Welcome2America/Welcome2Canada tour came to an abrupt halt in the wee hours at a Seattle nightclub this morning. And, if it wasn’t all we’d hoped for, it was still pretty fucking hot.
There were five of us (that I know of) who made it down from Vancouver for the set. One of us had seen the Rogers Arena Prince show Friday night (you can read her review here), and another hadn’t seen the Vancouver concert but had finagled his way (after a four-hour wait!) into the after-party at a Yaletown nightclub. I have seen Prince, but not for years, maybe more than a decade; the other two hadn’t seen the eccentric performer at all.
I say “eccentric”, but at least in one regard the eccentricity made sense. All through this tour – well, since Winnipeg – I’d been hearing how Prince was strongly discouraging any kind of photo or video documentation on the part of the audiences. This was true at both the concerts, at arenas in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the after-parties, which seem to take place in nightclubs in nearly every city and, in a set-up I think must be unique to Prince, pre-sells tickets.
At Republiq, an industrial abattoir south of downtown Seattle, we were reminded of the no-photo policy everywhere, from signs in the club to the line outside (a nightclub employee reminding everyone waiting to get in) and by the bouncers who tossed out anyone in the venue foolish enough to pull a cellphone out of their pocket and even look like they might be taking a picture.
But you know what, this was okay – it forced us all to stop checking our email for two hours and just enjoy the experience. And it was quite the experience; especially after the merely curious – maybe a third of the six or seven hundred patrons – had either left or been bounced for idiocy (and believe me, the crowd had no dearth of idiots).
Just after two, after we’d all been made to finish any drinks we still had – no standing around nursing a drink after last call here; what up, Seattle? – and following an opening set by soul/funk outfit Opus and an hour of righteously selected tunes from DJ Rashida, the New Power Generation sans its leader appeared.
Prince was barely missed, however; backup vocalist Shelby J, she of the bald, jewelry-encrusted dome and huge presence, whipped us into a frenzy with help from the other two NPG singers, drummer John Blackwell, a bassist, at least one keyboardist that I could see, and sax-man Maceo Parker (about whom Prince would later declare: “There’s royalty in the house!”)
The star of the show came out maybe 20 or 30 minutes in; there was no mistaking that figure, who looked like he’d stepped straight out of an ’80s video with better production values. Wearing wraparound shades, a blazer and a pink shirt with collar up, Prince Rogers Nelson dazzled us with virtuosic guitar work (a real treat, since we’d heard he played mostly bass at the Vancouver after-party), surprised us by actually seeming to enjoying himself (smiling, making faces, singing) and teased us by promising to “party all night”.
Alas, this was not the case – the band grooved for about another 90 minutes, shutting down at 4 a.m. By then, enough people had cleared out that there was room on the dancefloor, and just about everyone in that room was feeling the same good fortune at just being there. Where reports from the Tacoma Dome show from earlier in the night had been mixed – more than a few tweets mentioned the low energy and the short (under two hours) set – the band seemed ready to go out in style on this, the last night of the tour.
“Pass the Peas”, a funk hit from the ’70s by Parker’s band The J.B.s that has become a standard at these after-parties, was a highlight, as was a stirring version, without Prince, of Gnarls Barkley‘s “Crazy”. And one thing Prince did do that I wasn’t expecting at all was one his own songs – “Musicology”, the title track of his 2004 album. It wasn’t “Little Red Corvette” but hey, I wasn’t about to complain.
It was over too soon, and we were left stumbling around a strange Seattle nightclub at 4 in the morning watching roadies tear down the band’s equipment, asking “Was it worth it?” The answer, my friends, is definitely yes.