I was lucky enough to see Prince in a variety of settings over the years, and while there's no question that he was always a dynamic and amazing performer, there's also no denying that seeing him in a small venue really brought all of his artistry and talent into particular focus. In a big venue like the Air Canada Centre or Maple Leaf Gardens he was well aware that he was entertaining a crowd that numbered in the thousands. But in a smaller venue like Massey Hall or the Sony Centre there was a greater sense of intimacy to what he was doing, a relaxed looseness that gave him the opportunity to stretch out and do what he wanted. In a big venue Prince was performing for an audience, but in a smaller space it very much felt like Prince was performing for Prince, and that distinction meant anything could happen at that point.
1997 I was able to see Prince at the Warehouse, a club gig that was only announced that morning, and it was definitely the most free form and
spontaneous show that I ever saw him do. It felt as though he was making up the set list as he went
along, calling out shots to the band and jamming on whatever he felt
like at the time. There was little interest in promoting his current album "Emancipation" or any
of the hits, it really just felt like he was playing whatever he
wanted, with a handful of covers and B-sides, some deeper album cuts and
just two or three singles. Yes, he played Purple Rain and Raspberry Beret, but it was songs like 17 Days and If I Was Your Girlfriend, The Cross and Take Me With U that really defined the show for me, electric and elastic takes where the band stretched out the songs and jammed on whatever groove came to mind.