Prince Rocked Baltimore w/ Historic, Career-Spanning Show f. Miguel, Estelle, Marilyn Mosby + More [Recap]
“The Kid was indeed in rare form 2nite.” By the kid we mean of course, Prince, and as that eloquent 30-character recap by Questlove indicated, last night’s star-studded ‘Rally 4 Peace’ was indeed historic; Prince & 3rdEyeGirl standing as beacons for the healing power of purple frequencies and delivering a four–yes FOUR–set performance that included 4 encores and virtually every hit on his sheet. The night began typically late and with an intro from the ladies of 3EG, who warned that there was no use in busting out your phone, as no piece of technology could capture the magic of the evening in a single frame, not even those used here. And they were right.
Once the deep purple veil was lifted to reveal Mr. Nelson and the band, it was practically a full-sprint through 2-plus hours of funk & roll, beginning with a hard-nosed, steel-toed medley of “Let’s Go Crazy”; “Take Me With U” and “Raspberry Beret” followed by a short breather.
Then the Purple One walked over to the wings, grabbed the hand of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and ushered her to the stage to enjoy the entirety of the show from a couch just off to the side; a regal gesture of resounding gratitude for the woman that charged six cops involved in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. That gesture also framed the perfect time and atmosphere for the live debut of his deceptively buoyant and breezy ode to the embattled city and its citizens, “Baltimore.”
Prince’s guitar would cry for most of the evening, channeling the pain of a city and the family Gray, who were apparently backstage being consoled by Beyoncé & Jay Z–but the six-string was really weeping for the world last night. The whole evening was littered with instances of P gushing over the love he felt on that stage, radiating from the legion of purple patrons that had descended upon what was once known as the Baltimore Arena.
The first set closed with an absolutely ruckus barrage of musical punches “Controversy”; “1999”; “Little Red Corvette” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” rounding off the first part of what would be a lengthy night for we, the fans. Then the stage went dark (this happened maybe 5 times throughout the evening) and P’s baritone booms over the system — “No curfew” he says — as the crowd is now at full tilt, salivating over the prospect of this being one of those legendary Prince shows our parents raved about. Turns out, it was indeed.
Set 2 opens with just P on the keys with a backing track of “When Doves Cry,” quickly transitioning to “Sign O’ The Times” where the band rejoins, but not before teasing “Nasty Girl” (“where y’all at??!!”) and then closing with “I Would Die 4 U.”
The lights once again go dark, this time the crowd is virtually uncontrollable, themselves chanting “NO CURFEW! NO CURFEW!!” And then P reemerges with the second of the evening’s many guests, none other than Doug E. Fresh, who busted a few lines over crowd-favorite “Kiss,” while P showed the world he’s still got all of the moves. Another medley of later material caps off this particular segment of the evening, with Miguel joining for “Forever” and The Staples Singers cover “When Will We Be Paid” and making a swift exit as Judith Hill took his spot to perform her own track with The Kid “As Trains Go By.” Hill was then replaced by Estelle, who lent her voice to what seemed like the perfect cap on the evening; an all-star showing of “Purple Rain,” which the audience had been literally begging for the entire evening.
But not even that would draw this evening to a close, as the crowd continued their “no curfew” cheers, which prompted a 3rd and final encore to the evening, where P and the crew blazed through Michael Jackson‘s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” but over the groove from The Time‘s “Cool,” which worked eerily well. Then came “Alphabet St”; “Mountains” and the night’s true blue (or should I say deep purple) finale, where the Gray family joined Prince and the whole band on stage for what was a truly magical moment; a phone-lit performance of Andre Cymone‘s “The Dance Electric.”
And so Prince’s “Rally 4 Peace” went off without a hitch, accomplishing precisely what it had sought; to provide a strikingly different picture of that city, which appeared to the world in flames just two weeks ago via the cable news machine. As a resident of Charm City for most of my life, I can say without question, that I have never seen such a brilliant spectacle of love and unity at 201 Baltimore St. and likely never will again. So thank you, Prince, for bringing our city together, when we’re all still reeling.