Prince after show at the House of Blues Chicago

By Mark Guarino

“Any of you going to church in the morning?” asked Prince. “You better, after this funk.”

Even a noon church service would have been too early for the crowd that crammed the House of Blues early Sunday morning for a sold-out after party show from Prince, who capped his third and final show at the Allstate Arena Saturday night.

The shows were make-up dates for canceled shows in late June due to the drowning death of the daughter of New Power Generation drummer John Blackwell. The after party show — by now standard fare for Prince — wasn’t announced until late Friday.

Doors opened at midnight but Prince and his eight-piece band didn’t show up onstage until just after 3 a.m. The early sunrise set of covers, impromptu jamming and hard funk lasted until 5 a.m.

Unlike his arena show, the setlist was unscripted and open to the slightest impulse. Prince, dressed in a crimson suit, sunglasses and platform flip-flops, started the show playing guitar, but when sound problems led him to knock his amp to the floor, he spent the night switching from keyboards to standing at the lip of the stage hauling up fans to dance with him.

The show served as a chance to see Prince unhinged which meant diving into his early ‘70s funk and R&B influences. His band was fresh and hardly sounded fatigued, even though they arrived on the heels of playing a three-hour show. Instead, they dug into the covers as if on the attack.

For the first half hour, Prince led freeform funk covers of “Everyday People” and “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin” by Sly and the Family Stone.” They featured a guest spot by former Stone bassist Larry Graham who took centerstage soloing while Prince tweaked his effects pedals.

The band also launched into lengthy covers of Tower of Power’s “What is Hip?” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Blackwell, rumored to be soon given a reprieve by former Prince mate Sheila E., was given the spotlight several times as was his three-piece horn section featuring former James Brown saxman Maceo Parker.

Prince strung everything together loosely, cueing solos by tapping shoulders and pacing the stage as if deciding what direction to go next. The show wound to a close with an extended version of “Controversy.” At the start, Prince ordered the lights turned off so the stage was entirely dark. Which was appropriate since outside, it was just starting to become light.

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