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22

Prince at Mohegan Sun Arena

Scott H. Thompson By

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Prince
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, CT
December 29, 2013

I don't know where he finds 'em... but Prince has put together an incredible 20-piece band fronted by the female power trio of 3rd Eye Girl. He tore the roof off of Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena during a 3-night run December 27-29, 2013. At the end of the jam, there were about 12 horn players onstage with a rhythm section, backup singers and a dancer joining the rock icon.

My ears are still ringing with a sensory overload hangover as I write this the morning after... with a big smile. Prince proved his power and authority as he led his legion of wild funk soldiers with a true show of force. And yes, his guitar screamed with shades of Jimi Hendrix! As Miles Davis put it; Prince is a combination of James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Hendrix.

Janelle Monae opened the Sunday night show. The two previous nights had Esperanza Spalding as the opener. But this crowd was there to see Prince.

Wearing a sleeveless black shirt, tight black pants and gold hi-heeled shoes, his voice was as strong as his message: this was going to be the funkiest night of our lives! Every person at the 7,500-seat arena would attest to that. It was the first time Prince Rogers Nelson was in this area since 2004.

Early in the multi-hour onslaught of soulful energy, he rocked hard on guitar joined by his backing trio, 3rd Eye Girl, with a slowed-down funk version of "Let's Go Crazy." That set the pace for what was to come. 3rd Eye Girl consists of: Prince, Donna Grantis (guitar), Hannah Ford (drums) and Ida Neilsen (bass). Look forward to their upcoming release with great anticipation.

The band morphed into various forms as the evening progressed, from power trio to solo Prince to the full-frontal assault with horns. The show included personal favorites: "Pop Life," "Raspberry Beret," "Sign O' The Times," "1999," "Housequake," "When Doves Cry" and a stunning version of "Nothing Compares To You" featuring soulful vocalist Shelby J. Another highlight was backup singer Liv Warfield, with a new release; who Prince discovered on YouTube.

New Power Generation dancer Damaris Lewis added to the show's visual components, which included 2 Jumbotrons spotlighting the performers as well as a huge, behind-stage screen displaying everything from gently falling rose petals to blazing fire to soft flowing waters. It was a sensory extravaganza on many levels.

With the combination of 3rd Eye Girl and the New Power Generation, the concert stage became crowded like a P-Funk show. Screaming guitars, horns, funk—what more could you ask for?! The crowd was up and dancing throughout the whole show, prodded by Prince, "Let me hear the beautiful people tonight!!"—answered by a roar of screams and applause.

The 55-year-old showed no signs of slowing down, as he conducted the huge double horn sections on both sides of the stage, leading them to piercing highs, then dropping them down to their knees in silence—all in one note—lights off—total darkness. He worked his way over to the onstage sound booth to DJ some cuts—adding his vocals and electronic drum beats. He was at the microphone without his guitar much of the show, but when he strapped it on, his burning chops made hair stand on end. I saw Hendrix back in 1968, and suddenly felt transported to another time and space. Jimi was smiling down on this gig. So were James and Marvin.

The gang left the people hungry for more. Too much was not enough. Prince came back for two encores. The final was a slow, deep, guitar-fueled "Purple Rain" that had the whole house singing the chorus in the end, as one. An unforgettable night. Thank God for music.

View the setlist at setlist.fm.

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