Ta'mar and Prince's Hit and Run
Offices all around the Washington area are feeling an acute employee drain this morning, and it's not only because people are calling in "sick" to enjoy the summer temperatures. Many of the people whom you might see on a day-to-day basis placidly balancing spreadsheets in neighboring cubicles were wildin' out at Nation last night. I saw them with my own two eyes. Such is the power that Prince holds over hearts and minds.
With one more night on this D.C. leg you may be asking yourselves, "is it worth it to surrender precious sleep and $60 before the Ticketmaster bamboozlement charges to see Prince back up some singer I've never heard of?"
I'd recommend it.
I'm not even a Prince head like that either. I know the hits like everyone else. I've got some b-sides in my collection, even an original vinyl copy of his Black Album. But that's DJing madness, not Prince madness. Last night was actually my first time seeing him live. Some of the Princeophiles I know gasped and crossed themselves when I mentioned that, but I think it's helpful for my "keep it real" quotient.
Enough about Prince for a second. Just off of her 90 minutes of nearly continuous full tilt dancing and singing Ta'mar might have more raw talent and presence than any Prince protegé save Sheila E. Her vocals were mixed loud and straight down the middle of Nation's booming system so any shortcomings with her pipes would be on full display, and you'd think they might be affected by the aerobic Tina Turner-esque choreography. She's definitely not a vanity prop for the Purple One. Ta'mar is legit.
I don't know much more beyond what I saw. A Google search turned up little more than a stint on Star Search and raves about this current tour. What kind of material is she working with? Undoubtedly funky as long as Prince has a hand in it, but her few originals were packed in with a lot of covers. That was probably a shrewd move because it endeared her to an audience that regularly interrupted DJ Rashida's opening set with chants of "We want Prince!" I surely wasn't mad at her take on Meli'sa Morgan's "Love Changes."
Okay, back to Prince. He was in bandleader mode and everything was in place to optimally shine light on his new artist, from the lighting to the stripped-down band to the superhuman workout given by Ta'mar's twin backup dancers/vocalists. The dude is a ham though and clearly loves his job. Even as a sideman he can't help but feed off of the crowd's energy and reflect it back by several powers of ten. He dropped copious helpings of chicken grease on his Telecaster and ripped searing solos on pretty much every other song. The sense of humor that fuels his showmanship was on full display too, whether it was snapping on the audience members brought up on stage at several moments in the show or becoming dramatically overcome by the dangerous levels of funk being generated by his band. "Oh snap, we 'bout to hit 'em with the Oooh Weee!" he warned, before exchanging the Tele for a Strat and rocking out at thundering decibels.
And what a band it was, composed only of bass, drums, keys and Prince's axe with a brief cameo from NPG alumnus Mike Scott on rhythm guitar. I could have used some horns though, but I won't split hairs. The MVP award definitely has to go to drummer Cora Coleman-Dunham. To put it frankly, she's a beast. Because she spent some time doing her thing here in Washington, I'm feeling bereft that I'm just now getting hip to her. Last night was a sufficient enough introduction that I'm not overly mournful about what I've missed to this point.
One last practical concern: doors open at 10 p.m but the show didn't start until just after midnight. Folks ranging in age from post-college all the way up to established AARP members didn't seem to care. Hopefully this has proven useful to those of you who are still on the fence.
Did you stay out late and experience it for yourself? Chime in with your thoughts.
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