How can you just leave me standing? … Maybe I’m just too demanding. — Prince, When Doves Cry
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA & THOMAS CONNER
As Prince returned to the United Center stage Monday night for his first encore, he seemed conflicted. He clearly had someplace else to be. He even said so.
“We got the House of Blues later,” Prince said, winding up for what became an odd medley of hits. “We can do it there or we can do it here.”
He opted for “here.”
Hundreds of fans filled Chicago’s House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, late Monday night for a post-midnight event called the Purple After Jam — something of a Prince tradition during these big-city residencies, in which his band plays a late after-show and Prince often makes an appearance.
But he’s not guaranteed. The tickets don’t have his name on them. The local press release for this week’s HOB concerts shows Prince’s photo but makes no claim of Prince’s appearance, only advertising gigs by his New Power Generation Band.
The Monday night (Tuesday morning) show at HOB began at 2:30 a.m. and spotlighted female guitarist Andy Allo fronting Prince’s touring band. She played tunes from her new “Superconductor” record, for which Prince is executive producer.
But at 3:30 a.m., with still no Prince, the crowd was thanked for coming out — a gesture that was greeted with boos.
Prince then shimmied out to the front of the stage and said, “The police said we gotta go. Tomorrow things will be better.” Then he prompted the audience and House of Blues personnel, “If they say yes, I’ll stay.” Many fans chanted, “Just one song!”
It didn’t happen.
Prince was in the house much of the night. Just before Allo’s performance began, he peeked through the curtain. Around 2:45 a.m., he actually stood next to a Sun-Times reporter in an opera box, waved at the crowd and looked at his watch.
But a source tells the Sun-Times the pop megastar simply didn’t make it to the stage with adequate time before the posted 4 a.m. deadline.
End times for liquor sales and performance are determined per event by each venue in consultation with the Chicago Police Department.
“As is their typical practice, the House of Blues consulted with the Chicago Police Department on a security plan for this event which included end times for both the musical performance and sale of alcohol, which their management enforced last night,” said Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for the department, Tuesday afternoon.
Fans paid between $50 and $75 for the Purple After Jam general admission tickets, and many clambered for their money back.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the House of Blues offered a trade-off instead: Anyone with a ticket from Monday night’s After Jam can exchange it at the United Center box office, 1901 W. Madison, for a 300-level ticket to Prince’s Wednesday night concert at the arena.
Dave Crain, longtime owner of Dave’s Records in Lincoln Park, was one of the disappointed fans at HOB. “I could understand if they didn’t get set up right, but he could have come out and played one song,” Crain said. “The DJ was great, and then it was a letdown.”
Vincent Fleweellen runs an early childhood center in St. Louis and traveled to Chicago for the show. “I’m disappointed, but I don’t think I was duped,” he said after the show. “I’m not so sure he was supposed to appear,” and he waved his $50 “Purple After Jam” ticket in the air that did not mention Prince’s name. “He was present, and I guess that follows basic legal procedures.”
Prince has appeared and performed at late-night jams before, including at Metro and Park West. The last time Prince scheduled an after-show at Chicago’s House of Blues — following a concert July 24, 2004, at the Allstate Arena — reviews of the event report Prince hit the stage at 3 a.m. and jammed until 5 a.m.
As for the next two House of Blues after-shows, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, a House of Blues spokesperson said on Tuesday, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure the shows take place.”
Contributing: Frank Main