Prince, Lalah Hathaway
North Charleston Coliseum
If someone had told me a month ago that I’d be hollering wildly in approval for a 52-year-old man dancing and singing on a purple grand piano while dressed in a sparkling gold suit, I would have nearly choked with laughter. But there I was, standing alongside 12,000 rabid fans of all ages, watching in amazement while Prince played his ass off.
Prince guided his Welcome 2 America Tour to the North Charleston Coliseum on Wednesday night, and he brought along his band, the New Power Generation, a super-tight quartet of musicians and three sassy backing vocalists. The Purple One and his crew worked the crowd for nearly two and a half hours.
Up first at 7:30 p.m. was the elegant Lalah Hathaway, daughter of influential Chicago musician Donny Hathaway. Prince introduced Hathaway on a backstage mic, announcing, “This is real music by real musicians … you might want call your next-of-kin, because there are going the be some miracles tonight.” As Prince fans filed in, Hathaway led her combo through a gorgeous opening set of soulful ballads and simmering love songs.
Around 8:40 p.m., the lights dimmed. The crowd roared and waved their cell phones in the air. A majestic power chord on the organ rang out. Prince ascended from below the stage on a platform and bounced across to the “symbol”-shaped stage, which featured a lengthy runway. Calm and confident, he greeted the audience and launched into a dynamic medley of “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Delirious,” “1999,” and “Little Red Corvette.” The smooth, flawlessly executed montage was one of several slinky highlights of the concert.
When he wasn’t strutting from one side of the stage to the other, Prince switched between his Fender Telecaster, a customized four-string bass, and his shiny grand piano. His voice was in terrific shape. He delivered every low-toned groan and high-pitched “Yow!” and “Eeeh!” perfectly.
Prince pulled out all the stops, from his funky dance steps and spin-arounds to his tasteful call-and-response work with his fans. Half-way through the show, he said, “Carolina’s been good to me.” It was one of many grateful moments on the mic. Several times during the set, he asked, “Are’s y’all having fun, people? You’re going to feel so good tomorrow.”
Backing vocalist Shelby Johnson (a South Carolina native) sang lead on the romantic tune “Misty Blue.” Drummer John Blackwell, another South Carolinian in the band, kept the beat rock-solid on a large, double-bass drum kit. Hathaway returned to stage for a duet with Prince as well.
Through several wardrobe changes, a full set, and three encores, Prince and the group rocked hard on hits like “Raspberry Beret,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Kiss.” The grooves stayed heavy on deeper cuts, such as “Cream,” “Scandalous,” and “HouseQuake.” Purple confetti trickled from the ceiling at the end of a dramatic rendition of “Purple Rain” — one of many tunes accented by Prince’s fierce and virtuosic guitar soloing. The thumping “Controversy” kicked off the final encore.
At ease and in complete control, Prince barely broke a sweat. His impressive technique, acrobatic stage moves, and hip banter seemed so natural. The party vibe was relentless.