With all due respect to Bruce Springsteen and his “Dancing in the Dark,” there ain’t nothin’ like Prince funking in the dark.
That’s what happened at Night 2, Show 2 on Thursday at the Dakota Jazz Club. While he used modest stage lights for the evening's opening set (read review here), there were no lights shining on the stage during the nightcap – just a table lamp with probably a 25-watt bulb (behind his keyboards) and about a dozen lit candles scattered about. Prince, wearing sunglasses of course, and his band performed in the dark.
And the Purple One (who was dressed in all black) has never been in a nastier funk groove in his hometown than in Thurday’s second show. The six-man horn section (stationed off to the side of the stage) started in an old-school jazz groove with a Middle Eastern vibe before the rest of the players broke into Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” before traveling through Prince’s own “Days of the Wild” and the Time's “Wild and Loose” all the while the horn section continued on its jazz caravan.
During this 21-minute jam, Prince asked if the clubgoers approved of new drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. (RBJ to Prince). They cheered enthusiastically and the bandleader said, “I think so, too.” Prince also brought a female fan onstage to groove with him, high-fived a clubgoer and danced in the dark to the delight of all 275 Dakota denizens.
The rest of the 70-minute set included an incomparable duet of “Nothing Compares to U” with roof-raising backup singer Shelby J (somebody give Shelby her own gig at the Dakota, please), as well as some selections repeated from Thursday’s earlier set -- the gospel-funk “Act of God,” Lianne La Havas’ “Lost & Found” (sung by the three female backup vocalists) and a medley of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately” and Stargard’s “Which Way is Up,” which was way funkier in the late show.
Prince was chatty, tossed off funny lines throughout the set. He sang “Sherlock Holmes and his smarter brother Puffy told me more money will bring you problems.” After calling this "The Medicine Show, “ he said: “If you hear something you never heard before – lyrically or otherwise – don’t worry about it. Once it gets down in your system, it’ll be alright.”
He was feeling so good that, between songs, he commented, “It’s windy outside. It’s Windy and Lisa outside.”
Late in the set, Prince asked his horn section to do some New Orleans second-line music, and the players paraded through the crowd, after which he played a portion of “When the Saints Go Marching In” on bluesy guitar. In the first set, he strapped on his Telecaster once but never played it. At least the late-night crowd heard a couple of guitar workouts. They also heard an encore of “Controversy” — during which Prince asked for the house lights to be turned up so he could watch the crowd dance. But he was still funking in the dark.
Among the clubgoers were former Prince associates Bobby Z (drummer), David Z (producer/engineer), Kirk Johnson (drummer) and Paul Peterson (of the Family). Famous bass man Victor Wooten, who plays with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, and Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams and Rick Kinchen were in the house, as well.
Two more shows are set for Friday at 8 and 11 p.m., with Prince expected to unveil his new female backup band.