Funkier than thou

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There are few celebrities in this world that can acceptably get by with one name, for example, Elvis, Beyoncé, Madonna, Sting and others. They are so undeniably hip that perhaps these artists feel as though a second name is too much baggage. While this may be the case, some artists are so cool that, had they a second name, the world would spin off its axis because there would be too much cool to go around. One such artist is Prince.

Prince is funkier than you, your aunty Guadalupe, your mom, and your break dancing cousin Jamaal. He was funky as a young man, is still funky as a middle-aged man and has enough funk for everyone in an entire stadium. He is the living embodiment of all that is Rhythm and Blues. He also knows that when he’s playing San Jose to not refer to the audience as “Frisco.”

“San Jose, this ain’t no lip synch show,” His Majesty said, encouraging the audience to sing along during his acoustic set at the HP Pavilion on Sept. 10. The nearly three-hour-long set boasted dozens of songs, a seven-piece band including famous sax man Maceo Parker, two full-on jam sessions, one acoustic set, and a grand total of three nights in the Bay Area, back-to-back. Not bad for a man who hasn’t played a tour this big for many years.

This is also the second sweep of the region for the “Musicology” tour, as the first round in June sold out immediately. And can you have too much of a good thing, especially Prince? San Jose surely didn’t think so. One reason for the tour’s popularity can be accredited to the fact that it was billed as the last time Prince will do his biggest hits together.

Being the true showman he is, Prince saved his biggest hits (those from album/soundtrack “Purple Rain”) for first, squishing them together in a medley, then moving on to meatier stuff like “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “U Got The Look,” “Raspberry Beret.” He even pulled out the stops and covered songs like “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction),” “No Diggity,” and “Whole Lotta Love.”

And if the music wasn’t good enough alone, there was the incredible stage show. Rising to the center of the smoke-covered X-shaped stage that doubled as a catwalk, Prince looked like a demigod. He also proved that men in high heels are truly the best dancers. Occasionally, he brought members of the audience up to dance with him, including a young boy who did his best to shake what his momma gave him, and shake what the band gave him (a tambourine).

If anyone came to the show expecting ass-less leopard print pants and stage humping, then they came for naught. In recent years, Prince has toned down his sexier-than-thou image-he’s a man of God now. As a result, the audience saw three modest costume changes, complete with a curtain of pearls, a confetti drop, and smoke machines, all of which the audience lapped up.

Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t get nasty. After all, you can take a man away from the nasty, but you can’t completely take the nasty away from Prince. Two audience favorites, “D.M.S.R.” and “Little Red Corvette” fell into such a category, yet were probably the raciest songs of the evening. This contrast was reflected in what songs from his vast and expansive career he performed that night–a balance between the older, hyper songs and the funky, yet laid back sounds of his more recent material.

Ultimately, the two best parts of the show were of this same mixture: The living legend Maceo Parker and Prince’s grand finale encore of “Purple Rain.”

Parker is an amazing talent that every man, woman and child should see, ASAP. Having played with James Brown, The JB’s, Parliament, Funkadelic, and Prince himself, Parker has more than earned his stripes. Whether sprinkling the various songs of the evening with a cascade of joyful noise or holding down the stage while Prince went to change costumes, Parker’s every heartfelt note was thoroughly enjoyable.

Eventually, at the end of the night, the moment everyone had been waiting for came. Prince re-emerged from beneath the stage one last time to play the grandiose rock ballad “Purple Rain,” and before the time he even hit the first chorus, there wasn’t one person in the crowd that was not singing along. Prince would not have it any other way, commanding everyone to keep going, and neither would the crowd, savoring every last note.