Last week, Twitter and the Internet lit up when Prince serenaded Madonna at Paisley Park after her Xcel Energy Center concert. Much ado was made about two superstars in the same room even though Madonna left after five songs and Prince played on for a few dozen people.
Sorry Madge. Prince trumped that Wednesday night at Paisley Park. He performed and partied with a roomful of superstars and World Champions – the Minnesota Lynx WNBA champs -- for three hours (no doubt, one hour for each of the Lynx's championships). Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, MVP Sylvia Fowles and others.
The championship series went a hard-fought five games and Prince, who attended the decisive game Wednesday at Target Center, responded with one of the longest and most joyful performances at Paisley Park in years.
Prince started the party with “Purple Rain” shortly after 12:30 a.m. even though the champs hadn’t arrived yet. Within a few hits including “Let’s Go Crazy,” he was showing his respect, congratulating the Lynx “on a job well done.” On the two video screens in the NPG Music Club, a newly made slide featured the Lynx logo and the words “2015 WNBA Champions.”
The players arrived in time, causing the invite-only crowd of Lynx staffers and Target Center personnel to grow to maybe 150. Augustus wore an orange championship ballcap when she joined dancing machine guard Renee Montgomery onstage. Prince invited several of the players onstage to dance – and Montgomery proved to be as impressive on the dancefloor as she was on the court.
Lynx assistant coach Jim Petersen, the former Gopher and NBA player and the tallest person in the room at 6 foot 11, camped right in front of the stage, chomping on an unlit victory cigar and blocking the view of the diminutive Prince, who did not invite any of the Lynx to play hoops with him at Paisley.
Moore and Fowles showed their moves in a spontaneous line dance that enabled them to see around Peterson.
Playing guitar and keyboards (and even a drum solo at one point), Prince led a band that featured his usual guitarist, Donna Grantis, but not his usual rhythm section from 3rdEyeGirl. Kirk Johnson, a former NPG drummer, was behind the kit and Mono Neon manned the bass. Backup singers Liv Warfield and Ashley Minnieweather, and keyboardist Josh Welton joined in occasionally.
The lengthy opening set was heavy on hits including “Kiss,” “When Doves Cry,” “Sign ‘o’ the Times,” “Guitar” (with a great exchange between Grantis and Prince on guitar),“Hot Thang” (“hot thang, world champs,” he sang) and a mashup of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and the Time’s “Cool.” At one point, Warfield and Minnieweather broke into their own funky refrain of “we are the champions.”
There was one newer song, “1,000 X’s and O’s” from Prince’s new “HitNRun” album, which was the night’s slow dance. Prince also mixed in a gospel treatment of Bill Withers’ “Use Me” and the Allen Toussaint-penned Pointer Sisters classic “Yes We Can Can,” sung by Warfield and Minnieweather.
After two hours of nonstop music, the Lynx were knocked out.
“I didn’t expect this party,” Moore said.
What did she think of the performance?
Of course, the Lynx didn’t realize it was just halftime.
After 25 minutes of disc spinning from DJ Mike, Prince and his band returned for another set that could best be described as a loud jam. Prince started with the raucous “Shut This Down” and “X’s Face,” both from his September “HitNRun” release, and it didn’t seem to matter to him that there were only about 35 people in the audience.
Prince admitted to the faithful that “we’re just jamming,” and he had an improvised soulful and sexy exchange with Minnieweather. But that was topped by Minnieweather and Warfield doing a slow jam treatment of Rufus’ “You Got the Love” that was super S-E-X-Y.
Despite his jam mentality, Prince mustered a couple more actual songs, including “Alphabet Street,” which seemed like the finale as his musicians started to exit, and then “Gold Standard” with a little tease of “If I Were Your Girlfriend.”
It was three minutes before 4 a.m. Prince, the party man in black with a black stocking cap, bowed, walked off the stage and headed into the crowd. When he got into the middle of the dancefloor, he feigned like he was going to fall over from exhaustion. He steadied himself and marched off like a champion.