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Live Review: Prince at Montreal’s Bell Centre (5/23)

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    Photo courtesy LiveNation / WBR Press

    Nothing about Prince is normal, and that’s why we love him. While other pop stars promote their tours months in advance, Prince needed only three days to pack the Bell Centre for a surprise show on his fantastically spontaneous HITnRUN tour. Montreal is well known for its exhilarating Saturday nights, and Prince lived up to the city’s high standards.

    Starting the show behind a massive purple curtain, Prince opened with the rock-heavy “Wow” and “Funknroll”, giving reason to revisit last year’s largely dismissed Plectrumelectrum. 3RDEYEGIRL, Prince’s all-female backing band, added a new level of muscle to Prince’s best known hits, with guitarist Donna Grantis standing particularly tall on this night because of a hometown connection: she lived in Montreal while studying jazz performance at McGill University. The adoration in the air was overwhelming after a singalong of “Let’s Go Crazy”, with Prince noting, “Look around at what we made on only three days’ notice. This is what I call love.”

    Part of Prince’s genius was in his ability to shift genres flawlessly. While some were freaking out to his multiple wailing guitar solos, others cheered for the glossier tracks, like “Diamonds and Pearls”. At close to 57 years old, Prince still bounces around the stage like a man half his age. His stage presence was infectious, and he had the crowd at his command through “Little Red Corvette”, “U Got The Look”, and “Nothing Compares 2 U”.

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    Before “When Doves Cry”, Prince acknowledged that most of the audience was there for the hits rather than his new music, and there was rarely a still moment over the span of two and a half hours and four encores. On “Hot Thing”, he invited members of the crowd on stage to dance around while he brought the funk on keys and one of his saxophonists delivered a massive tenor solo. “Cool”, a throwback to his time with The Time, was one of the funkiest moments of the night, with the full brass band joining him in the front of the stage. His third encore was devoted entirely to an emotional and pleading “Purple Rain”, capped off by a face-melting guitar solo.

    Each passing break between sets grew progressively longer, with a large number of people fooled into leaving after the third encore. Unfortunately for them, they missed the biggest funk party of the night. Bringing his full brass band to the front of the stage and backed by three supremely talented backup singers, Prince had the arena dancing in their rows with a groovy cover of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”, before finishing with “I Would Die 4 U”. With only three days’ notice, Prince delivered a night full of hits and memories to a very lucky city. Who knows where he’ll pop up next?

    Setlist:
    Wow
    Funknroll
    Guitar
    Plectrum Electrum
    Let’s Go Crazy
    Take Me With U
    Raspberry Beret
    U Got the Look
    Cool (The Time cover)
    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Michael Jackson cover)
    The Breakdown

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    First encore:
    When Doves Cry
    Sign “☮” the Times
    Hot Thing
    Controversy
    1999

    Second encore:
    Diamonds and Pearls
    How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
    The Beautiful Ones
    Forever in My Life
    Little Red Corvette
    Nothing Compares 2 U
    Kiss

    Third encore:
    Unknown Liv Warfield Soul Track
    Purple Rain

    Fourth encore:
    Mountains
    The Dance Electric (André Cymone cover)
    Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry cover)
    Housequake
    I Would Die 4 U

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