The pop music world was shocked this morning to learn that singer-songwriter Prince has died at age 57 at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota. Prince played the final show of his Piano & a Microphone tour just over a week ago in Atlanta and had wowed Australian audiences with his performances in February this year.
This review is of Prince’s second Melbourne show on February 16. It was a tough night for the singer who had just learnt of the death of his friend and muse Vanity (Denise Matthews-Smith) earlier that day. In many ways the Piano & a Microphone tour was a fitting farewell to his fans: intimate and very personal.
Prince took to the stage at 10pm for the second of his two solo shows last night at Melbourne’s State Theatre. He sat at a grand piano with simple prop candelabras either side. A massive kaleidoscope of colour was his backdrop.
At first it seemed his show would take an autobographical tone — Prince spoke of his upbringing and the role his musician father played in introducing him to the piano. But family history was soon jettisoned. An emotional Prince instead addressed the recent death of his friend and muse, Vanity, (Denise Matthews-Smith) aged 57 who fronted the ’80s trio Vanity 6. Prince had apparently only learnt of her death earlier that day and dedicated a rousing version of Little Red Corvette and Dirty Mind to her.
But narrative wasn’t a big feature last night. Instead, Prince worked his way through stripped-back hits and album tracks including Dorothy Parker/The Max, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Do Me Baby, If I Was Your Girlfriend, The Beautiful Ones, The Ladder, Black Muse, Raspberry Beret, Starfish & Coffee, Paisley Park, and of course, Purple Rain.
In many regards the show was breathtaking. Prince’s showmanship (honed over four decades) had the audience eating out of his hand every second he was on stage. The clarity, quality and range of his vocals was superb and benefitted from the sparse piano accompaniment — in other performances his vocals have often been somewhat drowned out by a live backing band.
As much as it was thrilling for this Prince fan to see him up close and in such an intimate setting, the brevity of the show was disappointing. The show was advertised as two hours with no interval — but the capacity State Theatre audience was given a one hour and 20 minute performance. For a show that had so many ‘pinch me’ moments, this ending was premature and anti-climactic.