January 8, 1979 (Monday)
Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy
by Jon Bream
He had the opportunity to play his first concert in New York’s prestigious, 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden. But instead, Prince, the teen-aged, one-man-band recording star, chose to debut at the Capri Theater, an obscure movie house in his hometown of Minneapolis.
Backed by five other young, local musicians, Prince gave an encouraging debut performance Friday before about 300 persons.
Jive-talking emcee Carl Ray of KUXL introduced the 19-year-old prodigy – who had produced, composed, arranged and played all the instruments on his first album “For You” – as the next Stevie Wonder. That comparison may have been a bit too lofty and presumptuous. But, in many ways, Prince (who was named after his father‘s stage name) lived up to his regal name.
He strutted across the stage with grand Mick Jagger-like moves and gestures. He was cool, he was cocky and he was sexy. Prince is a real showman. He reached out to the audience, and the fans, especially the teen-aged girls, embraced him.
His one-hour show sounded quite different from “For You,” which is dominated by falsetto singing and smooth, soulful sounds. Onstage, Prince and his band tore into an uproarious, hard-funk sound.
At times, it sounded like kind of a youthful if not immature mixture of the Isley Brothers (when they had Jimi Hendrix as their guitarist) and Sly Stone. Bassist Andre Anderson and guitarist Dez Dickerson often relied on flashy pyrotechnics and overzealous showmanship. Yet, what the players lacked in sophistication, polish and experience, they made up for with refreshing energy and emotion.
By contrast, Prince’s singing was more thoroughly professional and quite convincing. He demonstrated a fascinating, female-sounding falsetto with uncommon range. Unfortunately, several times his voice (which recalled Smokey Robinson’s) was swallowed by the feedback and clutter of the inferior sound system. Even the pretty, acoustic ballad, “So Blue,” was marred by an annoying buzz in the sound system.
Despite delays for technical problems, the pacing of the show was effective. Prince, who played several different instruments during the concert, opened with the soft, catchy title song from his album. He then moved into a jazz-rock-funk instrumental and his dance-oriented single “Soft and Wet.” A couple of new, hard-funk tunes were sandwiched around the acoustic number. Then the program closed with a trio of tunes dominated by loud instrumental work.
The highlight was the finale, “Just As Long As We’re Together,” Prince’s contagious, new single that should appeal to soul, pop and disco audience alike.
As a whole, Prince’s performance clearly indicated he has extraordinary talent. Combined with careful direction, time, experience and refinement, that should spell a royal future for Prince.