The less said about Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" the better, and the entire Vanity catalog has mercifully escaped me. But I liked that duet with Apollonia on the Purple Rain soundtrack, even if no amount of fuzzy nostalgia can burnish her "hit" single's labored double entendres. Sheila E. was pretty catchy in her day. And in 1984, who would've known the wonders that Wendy and Lisa would bring to Neil Finn's last record, as well as the Largo stage? So maybe being a Prince "protege" isn't the worst fate. Now, on to the report:
Tamar with special guest Prince, The Fillmore, January 30, 2006: At least that's how the show was billed. I vaguely Googled Tamar before I bought the tickets, but they had me at with.
In typical Prince style, this show was announced mere days before the gig, tix were will-call only, and the band was set to hit the stage at midnight. Against all odds, I managed to get tix through the regular Internet sale, so it was just a matter of lining up a little before 10 to get into the Fillmore. The queue was manageable, and even the two-hour wait inside the club wasn't bad. The energy level was high, helped along by the great tunes streaming from the PA.
It's nice to take a step back from your usual subcultures and observe others' rites, and that's how I felt at this show. Lord knows I haven't seen an indie band elicit that much preshow dancing since, say, the first Franz Ferdinand tour, and it was impossible not to join in.
A little before midnight, we heard screams from somewhere in the middle of the dance floor, and following the eyes and fingers, we saw a small, shadowy figure being escorted around the perimeter of the Fillmore's balcony, from the back entrance to the backstage area. Obviously, it was Prince himself, and his presence signalled that the show was ready to begin.
Around 12:15, the show kicked off with the band assembled onstage and a few words of introduction from Prince, looking natty in a red and black suit and manning lead guitar. It's funny how much of your teenage trivia refuses to leave your brain. For some reason, I can't forget that Prince, Madonna, and Simon LeBon are all the same age. It's absolutely no contest: Prince still looks fantastic, which is more than I can say about my era's other idols.
Tamar looks a little like late-'70s/early-'80s Diana Ross and, with her backup singers/dancers, brings Tina Turner to mind as well. And speaking of the singers/dancers, they were twins--kinda like Diamond and Pearl, except doing stuff. I don't listen to modern R&B enough to compare her sound to the current trends, but with Prince supporting her, it certainly seemed like there was more to her songs than airy beats, drenched strings, and multi-octave excess. Instead, we got a few facets: the ballads (of course), the dance hits, and a lot more rocking than you might expect.
Prince took a background role--almost literally, in some instances. He mostly played guitar, lent backing vocals here and there, and interjected a few comments. For some songs, he was content to stand just offstage or retreat all the way to the back, hanging out with the other players. But that's not to say he's lost his taste for showmanship. For instance, he, Tamar, and the dancers took a short break for a costume change. And he welcomed the spotlight for a handful of guitar solos. I was surprised by how excited I was for this show. Yes, I'm an idiot for skipping the Musicology tour (blame my venue snobbery, not my music snobbery), and this wasn't exactly a Prince show, but it was thrilling to witness him for myself at the Fillmore.
I had heard that they would do no more than an hour set, but they played until minutes before 2am. Toward the end, they kicked off a long medley of soul classics, including hits made popular by Aretha Franklin and Michael and Janet Jackson, among others. I thought it was odd that they would do other people's hits from Prince's heyday, but perhaps those songs suited Tamar better or maybe Prince wanted her to stand on her own talents. In fact, he referred to her at least a couple of times as his "baby sister." They also brought the audience in a number of times. I heard it's part of the show's script, but it was new to me, pandering be damned.
I missed Nels Cline's show across the bay for this gig, but I stand by my decision. As soon as I stepped off the last step of the Fillmore's stairs, my energy drained away and my legs were like rubber, but I take that as a sign of a good night.