Las Vegas (Club 3121 at the Rio)
When Prince announced last fall that he would start a run at the Rio, fans and critics wondered what the Purple One would do to Las Vegas -- or, worse yet, what Vegas would do to him. The city has a kWhen Prince announced last fall that he would start a run at the Rio, fans and critics wondered what the Purple One would do to Las Vegas -- or, worse yet, what Vegas would do to him. The city has a knack for turning legendary, uninhibited performers into robots who churn out tidy 90-minute shows night after night.
But after seeing Prince at Club 3121, named for his last album, it's apparent that he hasn't succumbed to the Vegas beast. The performer, who often does impromptu jam sessions in smaller clubs, has brought his personal party to Sin City, which audiences can be a part of for $125 a pop.
Club 3121, which used to be a nightclub and was converted quickly for Prince, is a rotunda-shaped room with VIP booths encircling a general admission, standing-room only floor that goes right up to the stage. Open since Nov. 10, it features Prince playing Fridays and Saturdays. Doors open at 10 p.m., but he doesn't go on until midnight.
The show kicked off with a video montage featuring stars including Randy Jackson, Pharrell Williams and Salma Hayek played on several large screens that line the club's curved walls. Each celebrity extolled the virtues of Prince -- a message of his greatness that was then carried throughout the show.
The curtain, purple of course, then slowly rose to reveal one of the Twinz, the stunning dancing/singing duo integral to the show, and Prince singing "Joy in Repetition." The seductive duet kept building until Prince put on his guitar and blew the song out in a frenzied axe attack that carried over to "7," after which, he grinned and finally said, "Are you happy to see me?"
While the crowd was indeed, Prince seemed genuinely pleased to be there, too. He was as comfortable leading his band -- horns, drums and guest vocalists in addition to the Twinz == as taking the back seat and letting them shine. He also showed as much joy doing covers, like a charged "Come Together" and fiery "Johnny B. Goode" as he was playing newer tracks interspersed with his own classics. "I'll tear this place down," he yelled. "I got too many hits!"
Each song melted into the next, and while the "3121" material, including "Lolita" and "Black Sweat," didn't get as big a rise as hits like "Kiss" and "Cream," Prince kept the pace brisk. He doesn't use a set list and decides on the spot what he will launch into next, which gives the audience a peak into some Prince stream of consciousness. It was apparent, however, that dance routines were meticulously choreographed -- at one point, the Twinz delivered his guitar by carrying it over their heads and sliding it over him. Like another great performer and perfectionist, James Brown, Prince's production was tight.
The show culminated with the epic "Purple Rain," Prince, once again standing back to let the audience handle the "woo-woo's" at the end so he could enjoy his guitar solo straight into an abbreviated "Let's Go Crazy." The encore, though lighthearted, was slightly anticlimactic as he covered "I'll Take You There" and "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" and invited audience members on stage to dance. After the finale, the crowd was invited to the adjoining 3121 restaurant, where he's been known to appear around 3 a.m. to jam some more.
As of now, Prince's run is indefinite, but it looks certain he will take time off to tour in spring. As always, there are no definites with Prince, which still makes him one of the most unpredictable and entertaining stars inside -- or outside -- of Las Vegas.