Prince courts Controversy in first Welcome 2 Chicago show
Prince kicked off his Welcome 2 Chicago three-night residency at United Center in fine voice and high spirits Monday night, with the assured backing of a delightfully funky NPG band. Unfortunately, the night ended on a jarring note for many fans before the pint-sized potentate attempted to smooth over a staging snafu.
After a first encore of "Purple Rain" and an extended second encore, Prince left the stage and fans started cheering for more. Normally in such a situation, the house lights either come up soon or the band comes back out for an extra song or two. At the UC, it appeared Prince would indeed come back out to perform again before heading to his after-party set at House of Blues. The house lights stayed down, the crowd kept clapping, the lights ringing the glyph-shaped stage remained lit and a few stagehands began mopping up glitter and, presumably, precious, precious Prince sweat.
In what soon became a minor comedic spectacle, one poor guy kept mopping and mopping that stage for more than 30 minutes. At one point, some smoke effects went off and a cheer rose again. And then, after nearly everyone had remained for that extra encore, the house lights finally went up. Boos rained down on the stage from every corner of the stadium. What had been a fun party vibe was ruined by--what? Was it a glitch? Did someone forget to tell UC staff that Prince was done, or had he been ready to go back out when the house lights inadvertently went on? Were there venue curfew issues (Prince didn't take the stage until after 9pm)?
Whatever the reason for the snafu, it led most of the grumbling fans to quickly exit the stadium on what was, after all, a Monday night. But then something strange and pretty wonderful happened. NPG retook the stage and, with the full house lights on, tore through a couple of jazzy instrumental numbers. It seemed at first that they were just trying to placate the remaining 5,000 or so fans with a sonic consolation prize. But then Prince came back out as well, dressed for the after-party but game to make amends to the now-depleted crowd.
NPG, sounding sharper than it had all night, got the diehard fans screaming when it launched into "1999." After a rousing rendition, Prince asked the crowd if it would be all right if he played one more. Over the cheers, he performed a saucy, soulful "Little Red Corvette" before leaving for real around midnight. It looked to be a long night ahead for fans with tickets to the House of Blues after-party.
More: Prince fails to perform at $75-per-ticket after-party and leaves fans demanding refunds from House of Blues, TOC's Jake Malooley reports.