PRINCE AT THE FORUM

 

“It was Saturday nite, the moon was bright, shining down it’s harvest light…” – Saturday Nite by Earth, Wind & Fire

Let me go ahead and make the Michael Jackson fans reading this mad from the start: MJ was the bigger star, but Prince was and is a better overall performer, songwriter and musician.  In fact, any list of rock’s greatest guitarists that doesn’t have him at #1 is a farce. Yes, there may be some who play a certain genre better than Prince – Eric Clapton on blues and Eddie Van Halen on rock come to mind – but there’s NOBODY who plays R&B, Jazz, Blues, and Rock better than Prince does and that’s just a fact.

When I first heard that the Purple One was going to do a 21-night stand of shows at the once “Fabulous Forum” in Inglewood, CA, I took the news with a bit of trepidation. Oh, I had no doubt whatsoever that Prince and his current band  would rock the joint; after all, his name is Prince. My hesitation was about going to a building that I first entered in June 1970 to see the Jackson Five along with Ike and Tina Turner and Rare Earth. A building that I had watched many NBA games in, including the 1983 NBA All-Star Game that Marvin Gaye opened with his legendary rendition of the National Anthem.  A building where I saw some incredible artists give some of the best shows I’ve ever seen including Earth, Wind & Fire in 1977 and 79, The Jacksons in 1981, Journey  and Genesis in 1984, and countless others. A building in which I also worked concerts during my music industry days.

Like many others, I’d heard the stories of the Forum’s physical decline since the Lakers (and the NHL Kings) left for the much greener and lusher pastures of the Staples Center in downtown LA. Before Saturday night, it had been over 10 years since I’d been in the Forum, but this was Prince, so I bit the bullet and bought my ticket.

Imagine my pleasant surprise on the night of April 23rd, when I walked up one of the curving outdoor ramps that lead to the entrances to the Forum and through the door. Once inside, it was like the building had been recently visited by Ty Pennington and his crew. No, the Forum hadn’t received an Extreme Makeover, but it has definitely had a “nip & tuck.” The walls were freshly painted, the floors sparkled and trust me, the bathroom that I used was much cleaner than most of the ones at Dodger Stadium on any given day (I had forgotten about having to go down a flight of stairs to enter the bathroom – a space-saving innovation – which is unique to any other arena I’ve ever been in).

Yes, the menu at the concession stands was limited, but honestly, how much more than a hot dog and a drink (beer, wine, soda or water), peanuts, popcorn and nachos does anyone really need at a concert? You want a fine meal – stop at Red Lobster or Sizzler before the show. The lines moved quickly, the workers were friendly and fast, and everyone was in a great mood.

And yet, I was still nervous about entering the actual arena. What does it look like, I thought to myself. Is it raggedy like the Sports Arena or has the new management company made it comparable to its long-ago glory days?

Well, as soon as I entered the seating bowl, looked up at the iconic “Wagon Wheel” ceiling and looked around at the seats, I felt relieved. Prince’s stage – in the shape of his familiar unpronounceable symbol – was in the center of the arena floor and because of the Forum’s excellent sightlines and the hi-def screens ringing the lighting and sound rigging, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house (I was in Loge 33). And the seats themselves were in good shape and still very comfortable.

Like the President Obama reelection event that I’d attended only two days before, the crowd reflected the rich diversity of both our city and Prince’s broad-based appeal. Folks of all races, colors and ages were in their purple finery and ready to party. One of my good friends and his wife took their 13 year-old daughter and when I saw them during intermission, that teenager was grinning from ear-to-ear as if she was about to see Justin Bieber.

Before we saw Prince, we heard his deep yet playful voice introducing opening act “Chaka Khan y’all!” Chaka opened her set with I Feel For You and proceeded to remind everyone that she’s still a star. After singing many of her hits – both solo and with Rufus – she exited after singing the Stevie Wonder penned Tell Me Something Good. The fact that she didn’t sing Sweet Thing was just a hint of what was to transpire later in the evening.

After a brief intermission, in the tradition of the late, great James Brown and the Laker teams that won 5 NBA titles in the 1980s while calling the Forum home, it was SHOWTIME!

Proceeded by a trumpeted fanfare and his stunningly beautiful dancers, The Twins, Prince Nelson Rogers rose from under the stage and baby, it was on and popping!

The show itself was simply A-MAY-ZING. If you’re truly talented and have a seemingly bottomless catalog of hits to choose from, all you really need to give a great show is a killer 5-piece band (check), 3 female background vocalists who can flat-out “sang” (check) and outstanding sound and lights (double-check).

After a few of his own songs, Prince and the band effortlessly segued into some Sly and the Family Stone and lo and behold, here came the original bass popper himself, the one and only Larry Graham with his all-white bass. Then, oh my, is that Sheila E playing timbales in an impossibly short dress and 5″ ankle strap stilettos? Yes, Yes, Yes it was! After performing The Glamorous Life, Sheila stuck around as Prince brought Chaka back onstage for a rocking yet tender rendition of Sweet Thing. And yes, she can still hit the high notes in the song.

And that was just the first hour folks. The last ninety minutes were all Prince and the capacity crowd rocked, danced and sang along. I left as he was wrapping up Kiss around 11:30, happily exhausted, feeling full of joy and admiration for a legend who came back to a legendary venue and blew the roof off the joint.

If you haven’t seen Prince in a while (or ever) and miss “real music played by real musicians”, I strongly urge you to go and see him while he’s still in LA (go to LiveNation.com for info on upcoming dates). And, if you hear that he’s coming to your city or one near you, run, don’t walk to your computer and buy the best ticket you can afford. Trust me, you won’t regret one single, solitary moment of the show.

Prince won y’all. He’s still standing – singing, dancing and playing the guitar as well, if not better, than anybody else in the game.

His name is Prince and he’s still funky! See for yourself if you don’t believe me. Prince At The Forum Videos

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