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
He didn’t even sit down at a piano once!
Then again, that’s the trouble with Vegas: When you’re doing that many shows, week after week, it’s always going to be a little bit different, and no single show is ever going to be totally satisfying to every fan. (I gather he performed a piano medley the night before I saw him.) The payback is that when an artist is performing week in, week out, you get this bizarre combination of casual off-the-cuffery and moments of real perfection and even transcendence. So the show I saw wasn’t a piano show. It was a guitar show. And since Prince is the greatest living guitarist, that was all right. His solos on this dangerous orange beast of his were metal as hell, plunked down in the middle of funk arrangements like some party crasher — sinuous and threatening and then poetic, minimal, loving. These days, Prince expresses his fierce love and respect for humanity through his guitar. You saw it on the Super Bowl. He’s an arrogant bastard, but he does have a lot of love to give.
So if Vegas didn’t already exist, Prince would have to build it as an almost ideal habitat for himself. He’s really not a road warrior; he’s actually a homebody. (It’s all over his lyrics too. Sometimes he’s fantasizing about a gothic, mansion-based lifestyle; other times, he longs for a cozy love nest: Would you let me wash your hair? Could I make you breakfast sometime? Or then could we just hang out, I mean, could we go to a movie and cry together? . . . Prince is all about houses, rooms, beds, bathtubs; courtyards and backyards; violets and daisies. He’s even got a newer song about sleeping on the couch.)
He’s also one of the greatest live performers of our time. That can’t be an easy paradox to carry around every day of your life. In Vegas, a guy like him can have it both ways. In Vegas, he can let the road come to him.
It’s kind of funny looking back now on his “symbol” period, that troubled time in the late ’90s when he was more or less hibernating in Chanhassen, Minnesota (a Minneapolis suburb as famous among locals for its dinner theater as for the Paisley Park complex). At that time, he was very into holding those semisecret, late-night gigs for anyone who made the hike out. (Classic Prince, right? Totally reclusive, yet close enough to touch.) He served juice and chips, as I recall. In my very limited experience, these shows were a crapshoot: Some nights were kinda boring, and some nights were like something suspended outside the plane of real life — true magic, true warmth from another sun. I look back on that now and see that he was, in a way, trying to do Vegas back then, in Chanhassen.
The trouble with those gigs was that sometimes the fans were a little blasé about the whole thing — as if Prince had made himself too available, weirdly, and people kind of took him for granted. If there’s anything I could say to America about Prince, it would be this: Don’t take this one for granted. Grab him while you can, because you won’t see another one like him.
It’s on a different scale, but I wonder if a similar challenge might exist in Vegas. Granted, in Vegas, if nowhere else in the world, an outsize talent and ego such as Prince’s seems quite natural — almost human-scale, even, given such outlandish surroundings. Then again, I’d guess a creature of such talent and ego might not want to blend into his environment too well. I mean, if I were Prince, I would quickly grow tired of competing with French Canadian clowns for the bachelorette-party dollars (or even competing with Gwen Stefani, who happened to be playing Vegas the same night I saw him). After a month, I’d be like, “Fuck all y’all. I’m fucking Prince. I’m the only fucking show in town.”
If I were Prince, I’d be like, “I am fucking Elvis.”
And I would be right. And I would stay there, and I would make those clowns cry.