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PRINCE IN ANOTHER WARM-UP

Near the end of his “sneak” concert Friday night at the Wiltern Theatre, Prince assured the audience that this show was no rehearsal. “I’m serious (tonight),” he said. And sure enough: This was a far leaner and more effective concert than the one Prince and his expanded Revolution band put on a week earlier at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco.

Both of the zesty, funk-oriented shows were warm-ups for a summer tour and they offered roughly the same song selection--a few old numbers (including the notorious “Head”) but mostly deliciously energized treatments of tunes from his last two albums. The difference was that Prince wisely cut a half-hour from the 2 1/2-hour San Francisco show. Besides reducing the number of solos, he eliminated most of the exaggerated horseplay that seemed aimed at demonstrating he’s a nice guy.

As up north, Prince was part of a slick revue, but he was definitely the man in charge this time. The show’s party-time spirit--with its obvious homages to James Brown (and Ricky Ricardo?)--should satisfy his fans, even in a stadium setting (there are rumors of a Coliseum show this summer), yet it still falls short of the captivating spirit and challenge of his earliest dates here. Prince is such a major talent that he humbles most of his rivals, but his past achievements hang over this show like a ghost in the wings telling you that he can do more.


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