SEATTLE — Was he worth it?
It’s a question that anyone who saw Prince at the Showbox Thursday will have to answer because at $250 a ticket, the price was too steep even for some of the icon’s biggest fans.
The answer depends on what you expect from an artist who has been making music on the big stage for more than 30 years.
Regally announcing himself with “I’m here — and you’re there,” it’s clear some things haven’t changed. But as the evening rolled out, it’s also clear that a lot of things have changed, and for the better.
The first of four shows in Seattle that are part of a short club-circuit West Coast tour, the Grammy-winning musician used the intimacy of the Showbox to his advantage and stretched out in directions that few in the audience have seen from him. The evening wasn’t about reeling off his best-known hits like “Little Red Corvette,” instead this was a place where Prince could showcase one of his greatest skills — his guitar playing. And play he did.
Foregoing accompaniment by piano and with little onstage dancing, Prince let it fly with a lot of 6-string crunch. And his band, a trio of young women dubbed 3rdEyeGirl, proved to be the right support the 54-year-old musician needed.
“Sign o’ the Times” opened the show and the song’s poignant lyrics about rockets and bombs made it all the more relevant given this week’s happenings. The stage stayed dark throughout the song, a cloak of darkness that further drove home the song’s message while the crowd — a mix of Gen Xers and Y along with fans that looked like they have followed Prince throughout his career — drank in every minute of it.
Moving from one classic to another, Prince then pulled out “Let’s Go Crazy,” but this was not a mere regurgitation of the “Purple Rain” platinum hit and instead was a sensual slow jam, replete with funk-fusion guitar and pulsating strobe lights. From there on out, it was B-sides and side hits like, “She’s Always in My Hair,” which was infused with a rock vibe.
As always, Prince leads a tight band. These ladies can play, and Donna Grantis, on guitar, was given plenty of solos and held her own against Prince’s polished play.
Prince, who was dressed casually in a dark silk shirt and sporting an Afro, circa 1986 Dr. J. or, dare I say, Jimi Hendrix. It was the latter that Prince gave the nod to, saying he was “a hometown hero — not my hometown, your hometown,” and with that he spun into “Voodoo Child,” and was as funky as Jimi could be.
So — was he worth it?
If you weren’t looking for nostalgia in a purple coat and wanted something more from a man who has created some of the most memorable melodies that have been rattling around in the heads of music fans for three decades, than it was actually a bargain — especially if you like guitar.