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Coachella Day Two: Purple Mountain Majesties

Prince Coachella 2008 day two was a slow starter, what with larger crowds, longer lines and significantly higher temperatures. In fact, Jaded Insider has just now gotten back to the room (3 a.m.), and it’s not because we were hitting up Prince’s after-party. The man’s two hour-plus set was hands down the apex of the day, the duration of which was rivaled only by the nearly as long logjam getting out of the polo field parking lots. Thankfully, the Am/PM across the street from the hotel had enough Combos and Funions in stock to keep us conscious enough to write this post, but a proper update will follow in a few hours.

Suffice to say however that Saturday’s lineup fell far short from Friday's many pleasant surprises. Solid performances from Portishead, Death Cab For Cutie and MGMT kept the faith, but they were all dwarfed by the phenomenon that is Prince. His instrumental prowess, songwriting depth and immaculately well groomed hair and mustache were on full display before the tens of thousands of listeners assembled at the Main Stage.

Surprise guests and surprise covers mixed well with extended jams on greatest hits, encompassing material from 1979’s eponymous album all the way through 2004’s "Musicology." After taking the stage with a brief introduction, Prince yielded the microphone to Morris Day and Jerome, who strutted their stuff to “The Bird” and “Jungle Love." He then introduced Sheila E. to the Coachella masses as she percussed her way through a sassy rendition of her 1984 hit “The Glamorous Life,” much to the delight of the assembled desert throng.

Having effectively established his entourage, the star of the show, draped in a celestial white bedazzled tunic, proceeded to claim his stage, tearing through “1999” and “Controversy” before a re-imagined “Little Red Corvette,” complete with a sultrier intro and slower verse tempo. A medley of “Cream” and “U Got the Look” officially brought the funk to full force, while smeary covers of Radiohead’s “Creep” and the Beatles’ “Come Together” were appropriate nods to the Coachella faithful.

Following a costume change into a creamsicle-colored yellow French-cuffed pajama suit, Prince reemerged with a stunning countrified version of  “7,” and after briefly leaving the stage, returned for an encore of “Purple Rain.” Refusing to obey the festival time constraints, he then finished off the crowd with a manic “Let’s Go Crazy,” successfully bringing it to a purple-drenched paroxysm.

Not many artists can so easily make such a deep connection with an audience so quickly or effectively, let alone sustain it over the course of two hours. Prince's onstage charisma is so thick and his musical identity so fully formed that it’s hard to imagine him existing off stage at all. That he is able to direct the crowd’s ebbs and flows as he sees fit is merely one manifestation of these powers, the others being complete and utter instrumental virtuosity, ageless vocal prowess and intuitive songwriting acumen. We're pretty sure he can also fly.

Regardless of the fact that he will turn 50 this June, Prince truly does transcends age, gender and genre. Because he has attained iconic status, it’s easy to forget what a diverse and significant artist he is. He has taken his love of old school R&B and laced it with traces of funk, new wave, classic rock, psychedelia and more, somehow creating a sound that is wholly unique, yet accessible to all. This was plainly reflected in both the set, the audience response and the sequins on his outfits Saturday night.

April 27, 2008 in Coachella | Permalink

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