POP MUSIC REVIEW : Prince Gives Tribute to Friend, Offers a Peek of World Tour : Concert: Hits from the ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Batman’ periods highlight benefit for family of his late bodyguard.
Every time since 1981 that Prince has done a major concert tour, he’s previewed it with an unannounced club gig here in his hometown.
This time, it was different. Prince wanted to pay tribute in song and to the tune of more than $50,000 to his former bodyguard Big Chick Huntsberry, who died last month of heart failure at age 49, leaving a family of seven. So on Monday, Prince played an announced, $100-a-ticket concert at swanky, suburban Rupert’s Nightclub, where in 1987 he had previewed his European tour with an unannounced, $5-a-ticket, four-set bar-band performance.
Before Prince sang a note Monday, he dedicated the concert to Huntsberry, assuring the 650 fans that the burly bodyguard-turned-evangelist was “looking down, smiling.” If so, he witnessed a fun 90-minute greatest-hits party, heavy on tunes associated with “Purple Rain” and the recent “Batman” period.
The most emotional moment of the evening came when the uncharacteristically talkative Prince dedicated a stirring performance of “Purple Rain,” Huntsberry’s favorite of his ex-boss’ tunes, to his widow.
“Question of You,” the lone new piece in the program, was an eclectic and exciting showcase of Prince’s versatility as he offered some gorgeous Spanish-flavored guitar, a playful Chaplinesque dance, a bluesy vamp and a James Brown coda.
Prince has once again revamped his band, dropping the two-man horn section, replacing the drummer and keyboardist and hiring three male dancers in place of the electrifying Cat Glover. Prince is favoring more of a rock than funk feel, obviously offering a whiter show than the kind of James Brown-inspired funk extravaganzas he has taken on the road beginning with 1984’s “Purple Rain” tour.
This concert was billed as a preview of his 56-concert European “Nude Tour,” which begins June 2. It refers to the superstar’s return to stripped-down rock. Meanwhile, U.S. fans will have to wait for a new show, expected to hit the road in the fall after Prince’s “Graffiti Bridge” movie, set for an August release.
Bream is a pop music critic at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.