The Artist Known As.............
By Todd McKay
THE ARTIST GRACED Blockbuster Desert Sky with his presence last Saturday, October 25. The Artist, or his representative, wants to emphasize that there's a multitude of merchandise available for your buying convenience, like The Artist Necklace. Graham Central Station opened the show with some funk workouts anchored by Larry Graham's gigantic bass playing. Graham played bass in Sly and the Family Stone before striking out on his own, but the audience was indifferent to his performance, even though he was doing passable versions of Sly classics like "Everyday People" and "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."
This is probably just what The Artist had in mind. Because above all else, The Artist wants you to love him.
Love him you could, because he's a hell of a performer. He danced, strutted, and sang his way through material from his whole career, opening up with "Jam of the Year." Admittedly, I went with the pre-conceived notion the show would be a tepid rehashing of old material. But he emphasized his newer stuff and lead the great New Power Generation through their paces. New Power Generation is an exceedingly tight backup band, but they're rarely allowed to strut their stuff, since The Artist requires the spotlight at all times. The Artist played his symbol guitar, electric bass, and electric piano with equal talent, but often remained instrumentless the better to thrust his pelvis at the audience, the ground, the sky, and somewhat incongruously, his piano bench.
The Artist's name has undergone a well-documented evolution, leading to certain problems of subject verb agreement. When The Artist was vamping on the electric piano, teasing the audience with a montage of snippets from "Darling Nikki" and "Beautiful Ones," I was moved to reply. Back when he was simply Prince, it would have been simple enough. "Yeah, Prince!" or "You go, Prince!" But there's something awkward about screaming "Yeah, Artist!" This is no small matter, particularly when it comes to scream-for-a-while-with-the-lights-out-until-the-obligatory-encore time. Whistling and stomping is fine, but name-calling makes it a little more special. I had to try it.
"The Artist!" I bellowed. People looked at me, some nervously. It just didn't feel right in a darkened pavilion with people hoisting lighters, and I think it made the nice looking couple next to me uncomfortable.
It's too bad in all his narcissism The Artist didn't pick a name less awkward to yell, though I'm thankful we were all spared people shouting, "We love you, The Artist Formally Known As Prince!"
The last time I saw The Artist perform was during the Purple Rain tour. A friend and I made the unfortunate fashion call that it would be really cool to wear purple bandannas on our heads. (Hey, it was the mid-eighties, and Mike Reno of Loverboy had distressingly popularized the use of bandannas.) We were not alone: The most egregious of our fellow enthusiasts was the woman wearing a purple vinyl mini-skirt with matching jacket. This time around, though clearly dressed for the occasion, nobody tried to match The Artist's shimmering red suit with matching heels. One guy made a bold attempt to dance kinda funky, his motions coming across as some Pee Wee Herman Tequila-dance and Madonna-voguing hybrid. It was even more pathetic than a guy wearing a purple headband. But overall, not as bad as we imagined it might be. Whatever you call him, don't call The Artist finished. He proved he's got enough moves to last at least to the promised 1999.
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