Before Prince even took the stage on Monday night -- less than a week after announcing the gig -- he added a third night, by demand, to this week's stand in Oakland, Calif. So Monday marked the opening night of the first West Coast run for his unconventional 'Welcome 2 America' tour, and Prince opened it in style fit for a king.
"Oh they said we couldn't sell this place out," he teased the audience. "How long did it take? Five minutes?"
And while Prince welcomed Sly & the Family Stone's Larry Graham to the stage for a quick romp -- respectfully thanking the local boy for opening the show -- it was the totally unexpected appearance of another Bay Area native that really made the night one for the history books: from out of nowhere, Carlos Santana emerged and literally took the guitar right off of Prince's neck, as if to show the visiting team a trick or two. Having been stripped of his instrument, but pulsating with every beat, Prince pounced on the purple grand piano and joined in the jam.
While his endless parade of hits -- so many of which so many hold near and dear -- are perhaps what you most look forward to when seeing a Prince concert, it's the reliable flashes of unplanned brilliance that you keep with you afterwards.
A second such standout moment came during the first of his several encores, when the band started tinkering with the intro to a familiar sounding song. Prince feigned protest but then requested his guitar -- and proceeded to lead the New Power Generation through Rihanna's 'Rude Boy,' nonchalantly navigating the song's DNA as if it was a deep cut from his own prolific past.
In the end, the show also did include many of those songs everybody came wanting to hear -- 'Purple Rain,' 'Kiss,' 'You've Got the Look' -- but, by his own admission, there just wasn't enough time for even half of them in a single night. At least, not unless he gave up those more spontaneous moments that made the show what it was. "I've got too many hits," he explained, justly. "We'd be here all night."
Of course, the audience wouldn't have minded that one bit. Quite the opposite, when the lights turned on exactly at 11PM, and the band had long been escorted from the center stage to the dressing rooms, the audience remained unwilling to leave. In fact, almost the entire arena began to "boo" loudly. The jeers turned into cheers as Prince returned to the stage. He must've made the call that, while he may always leave his fans wanting more, he'll never leave them unsatisfied. Thus, he strapped on his six-string, house lights on and all, for one last, guitar-driven jam. He charged forward into a fiery version of the rare 'Dreamers' before finally calling it a night. This time, no one booed. But everyone did leave trying to figure out how to get tickets and get their butts back to the Oracle Arena later on this week. One Prince show just isn't enough. Which means, of course, that it's everything an arena concert should be.