By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
PRINCE at the Hollywood Palladium, May 4
You don’t have to be rich . . . to see the post-squiggle Prince . . . but when you’re shelling out 75 bucks for a general-admission ticket, it might help. Still, the line for the sold-out-in-210-seconds show rectangles all the way around the Palladium, and it’s all stripes and sizes: Red-hot couples dressed to the leopard-skinned nines, white Valley girls in leather jeans with butt-length hair, tight-pantsed Prince freaks with “Controversy” tank tops, 40ish sweetheart secretaries from Yucaipa, and what seems to be most of L.A.’s black cultural elite. The mood is impatient but anticipatory — the scene feels so good outside that even the presence of that damn Dennis Woodruff, slowly circling the block in his giantheadmobile, is strangely tolerable.
Finally, an hour and a half late, those of us without counterfeit tickets are in. And within minutes of His Purple Majesty taking the stage and immediately getting down into a stomping medley of “Uptown,” “Controversy” and “Mutiny,” one thing becomes glaringly obvious: the word genius is used much too loosely these days. Because here is the rarest kind of performer — a cocky, preening flower-in-teeth ecstatic singing dancing soul-elevating awe-inspiring joyous sexy guitar funk-force — for whom the highest terms of acclamation should be reserved: words that are used to describe no one else.
Twenty-one years down the line from Dirty Mind, backed by an airtight six-piece New Power Generation (and occasional backup singers and dancers), Prince is a miracle of continuous, multitalented inspiration who doesn’t seem to have aged a minute: a hit parader reinventing old favorites while tackling fresh jams (“The Work”) like a tuff-talking James Brown working out “Hot Pants” with his new band in ‘71. His singing is all aces: falsettos and coos, screeches and grunts. His between-verse dancing is marvelous, his stage presence open, charming and generous: He preludes “Housequake” with “L.A.! I play for U — would U dance 4 me?” and invites a gang of ladies from the audience up onstage to share the spotlight for a couple of songs. (When he does the same thing for the fellas during the second encore for “Come On,” a roly-poly bearded-and-eyeglassed white fella gets so funky mammalian that the Purple One almost blushes.)
And then there’s his electric guitar playing: fantastic fuzzy lines all over the set-closing “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a brilliant intro to “Little Red Corvette,” and some lengthy soloing at the stage’s western edge at the end of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” that’s flamboyant and cocky, sensitive and soaring — a model of effortless, beautiful economy, accompanied by those coy eyes of his that dart, rove and roll so suggestively . . . and by enigmatic, purposeful hand motions that seem to finger-point the guitar’s trailing notes directly into some collective id. When Prince’s backup vocalists croon “Ain’t your soul divine” on a slow gospel-blues, it’s not a question they’re asking — it’s a statement of beautiful fact. Awesome, extraordinary and, yes — genius.
FINLEY QUAYE Vanguard (Epic)Listen to Finley Quaye: Real Audio Format The Emperor Burning
What do you do when you go from Next Big Thing to Never Really Happened in the blink of an eye, with nothing to show for it except some minor MTV buzz and lots of cover stories in trendy British magazines? If you’re reggae singer Finley Quaye, you simply shrug and move on. His debut record, 1997’s fantastic Maverick a Strike, did garner some major awards in the U.K., where he behaved as badly as a young rock star with newly minted privileges can (alienating the media, publicly feuding with his equally mercurial nephew, Tricky, and giving indifferent live performances). Maverick was a near-flawless fusion of roots reggae, ’60s R&B, folk and pop, the sum often wildly, eccentrically exceeding its parts. Considering Quaye’s poster-boy looks and coolly seductive voice, the package should have made a much larger pop impact than it did.
On Vanguard, the same basic formula is employed, only the emphasis is much more on reggae influences, and the experimentation with genre boundaries is considerably toned down. There’s still much that shines, however. Drum ’n’ bass beats on the opening track, “Broadcast,” lie just beneath a lilting island groove, then give way to a raucous rock workout on “Spiritualized.” Reefer madness is the only explanation for the nonsensical stream-of-consciousness rhyming and riffing on “Broadcast” and “Chad Valley,” where the sheer force and funkiness of the grooves mitigate artistic disaster. (Digs at the culture of celebrity and at the music industry are tucked deep inside such babbling as “I signed with Sony, you ride a pony/You wear stilettos, check your history/I love to burn weed, I love electro.”)
The album’s highlights are “The Emperor” and “Burning.” The latter is a moving love song where Quaye’s voice creaks and cracks with both devotion and the effects of too many blunts; the overall impression is one of ridiculous sexiness. The former song would make Bob Marley himself proud; strings shimmer behind the singer’s vocals as his voice — so achingly lovely — conveys both mournfulness and defiance. It’s a protest song drawn from spiritual strength, from deep reserves of conviction, and almost single-handedly makes Vanguard worth owning. (Ernest Hardy)
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