Prince, forever enshrined — especially for those of us who discovered Purple Rain in grade school — as a high priest of carnality, a sex-ed tutor with soul, funk, pop, and hip gyrations as his teaching methods, should by all rights transform any setting into a purple, velvet-y budoir. He did more than that Friday night for about 200 people at the Gansevoort Hotel, where he played a set to celebrate his new photo book, 21 Nights, and raise money for Love 4 One Another Charities and Urban Farming.
With tickets going for $1,000 a pop, the crowd was more Sex and the City than Glam Slam, but none of that mattered when the Beautiful One — sporting a black sweater with a rough, skeletal patterned, sparkly décolletage, and an appealing aura of compassion — took the stage. He immediately made reference to the economic crisis (“It’s been a strange day … we’re gonna make you feel better!”), then, appropriately enough, launched into a blues riff. Harmonica solos came to dominate the night, though it wasn’t just the Market Crash blues he was singing; there were also curious tales of “cockeyed women.”
Backed first by a fedora-clad bass player and keyboardist, then joined by two powerhouse female vocalists and a drummer, he of course delivered classics like “1999,” plus a few surprising covers — “Le Freak,” “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).” And we were rewarded for the obligatory “Purple Rain” sing-along, which sent much Red Bull Spraying, with sprinkles of some of our favorite, less predictable hits: “Cream,” “I Feel 4U,” even a quick chorus of “U Got the Look” (sadly sans Sheena Easton). It wasn’t Minneapolis in 1986, but when Price closed with encore “Nothing Compares 2U,” the room was flush enough with love to make it all right.