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Prince plays Raleigh

RALEIGH -- Seven years ago, Prince brought a tour to Raleigh that aimed to demonstrate who was the boss (him, of course). Wednesday night brought him back to the RBC Center, and the underlying context this time seemed to be a demonstration of just how many employees, underlings and spinoff divisions he's had.

Prince really was kind of the Motown of the 1980s, with an instantly recognizable sound. Whether it was his name or somebody else's on the Paisley Park Records label, you always knew it was him right away.

That point was made before Wednesday night's performance even began, as the video screens showed a series of videos by '80s-vintage Prince associates including The Family, Sheila E., Andre Cymone, The Time and Mavis Staples. Then after Prince introduced her as "my inspiration, the voice of seven generations, the bridge, my sister," opening act Chaka Khan came out and began with the hit he wrote for her, 1984's "I Feel For You."

As for Prince's two-hour headlining set, it was so tightly scripted he needed teleprompters to keep track. It was intermittently amazing, too, although the opening stretch was a touch too manic. "Y'all know how many hits I got?" he asked. "Wanna hear 'em tonight?"

Yes, but not crammed into a single half-hour. After beginning with "When Doves Cry," he launched into an ADHD-friendly medley featuring regrettably abbreviated snippets of "Sign o the Times," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "Hot Thing," "If I Was Your Girlfriend," "Scandalous" and I can't even recall what else.

If the format left something to be desired, Prince and his crack band showed impeccable virtuosity and showmanship. He himself did very little playing during the opening stretch, because he was too busy conducting, directing, shimmying, strutting, preening and stalking the crowd like a gigolo on the make. He put in some impressive footwork as he sang, especially considering that he was wearing red high heels.

Things were just picking up with "Raspberry Beret" and "You Got the Look" when Prince vacated the stage to do an outfit change. And that was when his backup singers sang Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," which was no less dreary as a gospel number than it is as soundtrack for those animal-cruelty commercials. It felt interminable.

Fortunately, Prince returned bearing a guitar. He brought Chaka Khan back onstage for a cameo performance of "Sweet Thing," in which she got a much kinder mix than during her own set (she'd been barely audible over the muddy, indistinct roar of her backup band). The following "Controversy" got everybody hopping up and down, and Prince played some of his best guitar of the night.

A cover of Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" made the perfect excuse to invite a few dozen folks from the audience onstage to dance. After that, it was one bullseye after another: "Let's Go Crazy," "Delirious," "1999," "Little Red Corvette" and an epic 10-minute version of "Purple Rain." The encore version of "Kiss" (with the "Dynasty" lyrical reference changed to "Real Housewives") made for a nice victory lap.

He's still the boss, for sure.

david.menconi@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or 919-829-4759

ADDENDUM (4/7/11): What's in Prince's refrigerator?

Clay Aiken gets animated with "Phineas & Ferb"

You could argue that Clay Aiken has always been animated. Now he really is!

The singer appears on a special one-hour episode of the clever cartoon "Phineas & Ferb," (Disney Channel, tonight at 8  & 11) singing a duet with Chaka Khan called "I Believe We Can."

"Phineas & Ferb" is the story of two step brothers perpetually on summer vacation, who always embark on some grand project. Their sister Candace watches on angrily, but is never able to get their mom to catch them in the act. The two also have a platypus named Perry, a secret agent for an all-animal government organization that primarily takes on Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, an evil scientist.

Watch a clip below.

"Interview" with the Chaka Khan

Well, here's one that got away. I had planned to interview Chaka Khan recently, to preview her performance in Raleigh tonight at the Soul Music Festival 2009, but her management could not be troubled to respond. So I decided to have a bit of fun and attempt to channel her, kinda. Using the "Song Titles" drill going around Facebook (in which you answer questions using a single artist's song titles), I conducted an "interview" of sorts -- results below.

This didn't run in the paper for reasons of space, after I wound up interviewing Jamie Foxx at the last minute. And so I present it to you here. No big whoop, I just hate for things to go to waste.


1. Are you a male or female: "I'm Every Woman" (1978)
2. Describe yourself: "Best in the West" (1982)
3. How do you feel about yourself: "I Feel For You" (1984)
4. Describe your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend: "So Naughty" (1980)
5. Describe your current boy/girl situation: "The Drama" (1998)
6. Describe your current location: "Chinatown" (1984)
7. Describe where you want to be: "Feels Like Heaven" (1993)
8. Your best friend is: "Missing You" (1996)
9. Your favorite color is: "Blue Love" (1978)
10. You know that: "I'll Be Good To You" (1989)
11. What's the weather like: "Sticky Wicked" (1988)
12. If your life was a television show, what would it be called:
"Tell Me Something Good" (1974)
13. What is life to you: "Life Is A Dance" (1978)
14. What is the best advice you have to give: "Move Me No
Mountain" (1980)
15. If you could change your name what would it be: "Coltrane
Dreams" (1986)

ADDENDUM (8/31/09): Catastrope.

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