CONCERT REVIEW: Prince proves once again it’s always about the music

167011895pb00023-2013-billbFrom http://www.thehour.com: My review of the Prince concert at Mohegan Sun on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.

UNCASVILLE — The best thing about Prince is the fact it’s always about the music.

The riffs. The melodies. The lyrics. Put together, that’s what matters the most.

Prince Rogers Nelson — the Minneapolis-born musical savant — reminded the 9,270 or so fans who jammed themselves into the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night of just that.

It’s about the music. Intense music. Dance music. Beautiful music. Everything else appears to be nothing but white noise that gets lost in the hour-to-hour, day-to-day act of living one’s life.

Twenty four hours after a putting together an opening-night show of two hours and 25 minutes, Prince was back at it with an entirely different set list that went two hours and 20 minutes and included a trio of unique and vastly different encores.

Over the decades that have made up his career, the 55-year-old has remade himself time and time again.

He’s been a top-40 phenom (30 singles have made it on the list, 10 albums that have gone platinum), and he’s been a movie star (1984’s “Purple Rain” was my own introduction to the man and his music).

He’s also been a down-right odd ball whose name was once changed to a symbol.

But given a stage and a musical instrument and the muse to make something incredible happen, Prince has never failed.

Backed by a 22-person ensemble that include back-up singers, an entire conglomerate of various horns and his latest back-up band — the staggeringly talented New Power Generation and his latest all-girl trio of 3rd Eye Girl — Prince exploded into this, his first Connecticut performance since 2004, and never let up.

“Act of God” was his opening number — and it only seemed right considering that such an act would explain how much talent could be put into a diminutive 5-foot-2 bundle of musical genius.

For more than 25 minutes, Prince got the crowd off of its feet and partying. Without stopping, he transformed the band through one song to another, including cover hits like “What Have You Done For Me Lately” and “Dancing Machine.”

Then, he took his fans back to what many feel were his glory days, tearing back-to-back through “Take Me With U” and “Raspberry Beret.”

It was a night that included many of hits — some of which he hadn’t played the night before — and he even included a different yet still stirring powerful version of “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Entertainment Weekly aptly described it as a “slowed-down Zeppelin-ized version” of the hit song.

It also showcased his ability as a guitar player.

Adding more proof to the concept of the music being all that mattered was the fact Prince constantly urged his fans to put down their cell phones and enjoy the music.

At times, in fact, Prince asked for the stage to go totally dark so the fans wouldn’t waste time being distracted by their devices and could focus slowly on the music.

His first “encore” — it was more like a second act — featured Prince alone on the stage, sitting at a piano, offering up snippets of songs to his fans.

From “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” to “The Beautiful Ones”, from “Diamonds and Pearls” to “Strange Relationship” Prince sat there, back lit by a single spotlight, and just played, letting his music do the talking.

The band joined him once again for “Sign Of The Times” — kicking off a nine-song sampler of more hits, including his bringing the house down (and some lucky individuals on stage with him) for “I Would Die For U.”

Prince’s second encore was perhaps his greatest moment as two words brought the crowd into being one: “Purple Rain.”

Without a doubt, Prince’s greatest song ever, he and the band gave everything they had as the crowd sang along with him.

The only bad part of the night occurred next.

Following “Rain” the house lights stayed down for an extended period of time, leaving many to think one more encore was forthcoming.

Finally, though, the house lights came up and much of the Arena departed and left the building — only to find out somebody hit a switch prematurely.

Prince returned a third time with “Days of Wild” — Friday’s show opener — an included seven interpolations of other songs as he rocked well into Sunday morning.

Sadly because of somebody’s mistake many of the people who shelled out some major dollars didn’t to see the ending.

Toss in some very amateur video-making skills by cameraman that were sent up to the big screens on each side of the stage and there were some minor things fan could have complained about.

But, as Prince has always said, it’s all about the music.

And because of that this legend did not disappoint.

• • •

Prince returns to the Mohegan Sun Arena stage for one more night, Sunday, at 8 p.m. The Cabaret Theater” will be hosting an “After Party With Prince” following the show. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or the Mohegan Sun box office.

You Can’t Go Home Again, Thanks to Mother Nature

The view outside of my family's home in Maine the day before Christmas.

The view outside of my family’s home in Maine the day before Christmas.

Ah, the best laid plans of reindeer and men.

For the first time since I can remember, I actually had plans on going home for Christmas. It’s been at least seven years since I’d been “home” for the holidays and likely closer to 10 years as work and miles have kept me glued to the place where I lived, instead of being able to race to the true home of where I grew up.

This year, everything was lined up for a “surprise” visit home. I took time off from work. I even had the Christmas bow picked out that I was going to wear on my head when I walked into my family home and shocked my mother with the ultimate Christmas gift — her son coming home unannounced.

Then Mother Nature got in the way. And we all know what a bitch she can be.

First was the ice storm that slammed into Maine, coating everything like an ice rink and leaving thousands upon thousands without power. Even as I was basking in 50 degree rainy weather here in Connecticut, my native state of Maine was getting hit pretty hard. It might not have been as dire as the 1998 Ice Storm, but it was bad enough to change people’s holiday weekends.

As of Monday night, when I spoke to mother, under the guise that I was concerned about her in such treacherous conditions, all systems were still go. Things were icy, but she still had power and my plan was still in place. The long range weather forecast showed the ice would be melting and there would be no travel concerns weather-wise. The long-term forecast showed nothing.

Twenty-four hours later, though, things changed.

First came a voice mail left from my mother. Three hours after we spoke on the phone on Monday, power went out in her house. She learned from her local power company that it likely wouldn’t return until the Friday after Christmas. The entire family was packing up and headed to my sister’s house in Bangor for the holiday.

Crashing Christmas at your childhood home is one thing. There is plenty of room for unexpected visitors, even if my old bedroom had been turned into a computer room.

Showing up at your sister’s two-bedroom apartment with the rest of the family and who knows who else was another story. I could have shelled out for a hotel room and still made the trip, but not wanting to disrupt somebody else’s Christmas plans I made the decision to postpone the trip an extra day. I would drive up on Thursday and like a Fed Ex/UPS package, I’d be a day late but my surprise factor was still there.

Thursday morning came and as I drank my morning coffee I took an online look at my former hometown newspaper.

The headline made my heart sink: “Up To Six Inches of Snow Expected”

Where there is ice there is snow, even if it’s spread apart by nearly a week. Where was no power, there would be plenty of powder.

From here to Bangor is a 382-mile journey. Six hours and 35 minutes if you’re going the speed limit.

Driving into a six-inch snowstorm? That makes the trip from here to eternity.

Erring on the side of caution, I scrapped the whole idea.

For now.

I know I need to get home again. I want to go home again. For my mom.

When I last saw her, this past summer, it came after a surprise visit when she was in Portland, Maine. As I left that day, she started to cry and it left me with an unsettled feeling that she might have been wondering if that was the last time she was ever going to see me. I wasn’t about to let happen. I couldn’t let that happen.

Plus, there are other people I want to see, too. Old friends, lost, then found again — at least if they want to see me.

The jury is still out on that one I suppose.

So Merry Christmas, Mom. A day late and far too many miles short. I’m sorry about that.

And to my friends, I promise I’ll make it home someday. At least I hope I do.

Eight months later: Let’s try this again

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. Never had a reason to, really.

Never smoked cigarettes, so I never had to quit. I’m overweight, but haven’t had the heart attack to scare me skinny. Don’t have a lot of interest to find Mrs. Right because she’ll just change her name to Ms. Wrong so it’s a waste of time anyways.

So come this final week of Twenty-Thirteen I’m not making great plans for The Year Fourteen.

But I do want to write more. It’s been nagging at me for more than last year.

In fact, last Feb. 22, I started this blog as a place where I could spew anything I wish to write about it. It could be an essay, a story, a thought, a photo. Anything.

For the first two months, I posted periodically, but things dropped off. Until this post, it’s been a dormant site for the last eight months.

Today, that changes.

It’s three days before Christmas and I’m giving myself a gift — The Right to Write. Again.

My goal is once a day, though I know I won’t reach that goal. I also want to weigh 180 pounds again, but that’s not happening either.

So I’m just going to write when I write and I’ll know when it’s right. I’m going to post my links on Facebook so that those who want to read my words and know what’s going on in my mind will get the opportunity to follow my madness. And if you don’t care to follow me, then fuck ya – Don’t click the link.

It’s that simple. Don’t like “Duck Dynasty?” Don’t watch it. The show’s not all it’s quacked up to be anyways. (Now utter disgust over such puns is a perfectly acceptable reason not to read my words. That I’ll admit.)

This won’t be just a place for my ramblings, though. I’ll post other things here, too.

Photos. Interesting tidbits I find over the course of the day. Whatever I want — after all it’s my blog.

It starts with this post, but this is just the beginning.

Let’s try this again.