The Artist (no longer) formerly known
With the summer music festival season over, Japan's
fall to spring parade of pop dinosaurs gets underway in earnest.
Each artist faces looming questions: Are they still big enough
in Japan to fill the drafty venues for which they have been
booked? Do they have anything new to say or will they simply
be trotting out the tried and true to a nostalgia-hungry audience?
Andgranting the material for which they have become
famous is worthywill they offer an inspired performance,
or limp renditions whose main goal is to reflate depleted
A concert by two of Prince's musical progenitors last
winter starkly illustrated this quandary: A unique double
bill at the Tokyo International Forum showed a Chuck Berry
merely going through the motions (granted he's 76), while
James Brown was as inspired and in control as he's ever
In his first concert in Japan in the better part of a decade,
Prince faces the problem of reconnecting with an audience
that has grown away from him during his artist formerly
known as era. He also will have the challenge of dealing
with a cynical audience that three years ago was subjected
to Beck's devastating, humor-laced postmodern take
on Prince's '80s funk-shtick in his 1999 album,
Things look even more precarious for Prince to fill the Budokan
two nights running and a recently added show at the Tokyo
International Forum when you consider the lackluster performance
of last year's Rainbow Children album. While this listener
was snapping his fingers to the album's breezy jazz funk
grooves, the quasi-religious message fell on deaf ears from
a commercial standpoint.
Yet notwithstanding Prince's fall from platinum status,
the word on his latest concert dates has been overwhelmingly
positive. Let's not forget thatunlike fellow '80s
icon Michael Jacksonthe lithe Minnesotan was always
more than a mere singing, dancing automaton.
As producer, songwriter and instrumentalist, Prince is more
a Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Jimmy Hendrix all rolled
into one. No wonder, then, that the reviews from his latest
tour have been glowing.
Documenting the tour, the just released One Nite Alone...Live,
Prince's first live album ever, shows the artist stripping
away much of the pomp and circumstance that characterized
previous tours (Prince's last show at the Budokan had
him descending from the ceiling in a purple, satin bed, and
Beck even went so far three years ago in his own concert at
the Budokan to imitate the bit).
Highlighting his pyrotechnic guitar technique, Prince appeared
on stage in the spring to summer tour as the sole guitarist.
It's time we all reach out for something new and
that means me too, he told the crowd in a June 13 homecoming
gig in his native Minneapolis.
He has also been keeping stellar company, with stars ranging
from ex-Sly Stone bassist Larry Graham to rapper Q-Tip to
soul sax titan Maceo Parker joining him on stage in free-flowing
jams. The shows have reportedly been offering a mix of tracks
from Rainbow Children with hits like Raspberry Beret
and Nothing Compares 2 U.
Prince plays the Tokyo International
Forum on November 15, and Nihon Budokan on November 18-19.
See concert listings for details.