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Prince Closes Oakland Run With Three Hour Dance Party

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The artist known as Prince became King of Oakland, Calif. this week, bringing his ‘Welcome 2 America’ tour to the Oracle Arena for a three-show stand, which was announced and ticketed less than a week in advance. It was a risky move given today’s economic climate and the volatility of concert attendance in recent years. And yet, Prince pulled it off, seamlessly. And it wasn’t the only risk he took with these shows — it was just the first of many.

Whereas Monday night’s grand opening featured special guest Carlos Santana and an unexpected cover of Rihanna‘s ‘Rude Boy,’ and whereas Wednesday’s show was a hit parade through Prince’s back pages, the third and final performance was reserved for an all-out funk-off. It was a dance party that lasted nearly three hours and which spanned the width of Prince’s multi-era career, opening up with a string of guitar bangers before giving way to the show-stoppers.

And although he’s been known pay homage to his heroes for entire show segments, it was still a treat when Prince brought out bassist Larry Graham — who opened the first two nights with his band Graham Central Station — for a little tribute to Sly & the Family Stone, of which, Graham was an integral member. Prince wedged his own ‘Alphabet St.’ inside a Sly & the Family Stone medley which included ‘Everyday People,’ ‘Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Agin)’ and ‘Dance to the Music.’

In the end, Prince had a hard time saying goodbye to Oakland — he said parting words such as “goodnight” and “thank you” and “we’ll see you next time” for nearly two hours, and he even left the stage entirely multiple times, only to come back for seconds and thirds. After three encores — which packed such punches as ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’ ‘Let’s Go Crazy,’ ‘Delirious,’ ’1999,’ ‘Purple Rain,’ and ‘Kiss’ — Prince waited for the house lights to come on and the place to start clearing out before deciding to have one more go of it. Those who stayed were treated to even more of Prince’s chart toppers, including ‘Raspberry Beret,’ ‘Cream,’ and — finally — ‘U Got the Look.’

Given the unconventional, hit-and-run nature of Prince’s ‘Welcome 2 America’ tour, who knows where he’ll strike next. But his stay at the Oracle Arena in Oakland was, by all accounts, victorious. “Bring foot spray because it’s going to be funky,” Prince told reporters at a press conference for the tour, back in October. “Come early, come often … no two shows will be the same.” He’s got that right.

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