Another last call with Prince

I am always open for closure.

I watch every last credit at the end of a movie, I stay for the last out of a baseball game no matter the score (well not so much with this year’s Cubs).

All this came up in therapy years ago.

And this is why I headed back to the House of Blues on Wednesday night-Thursday morning for the final of three “Purple After Jams” following Prince’s shows at the United Center. All of us who were at Monday’s jam were royally screwed and Prince made up for it on the final jam.

I had to see how this played out. I owed it to myself, I owed it to my readers……….

…….Just as he did on Monday, Prince peeked out from between the curtains around 1:25 a.m., but by 1:30 a.m. Thursday he was on stage.

He never performed during the first jam.

I was at the back of the main floor with my vibrant guest on Thursday morning. On Tuesday morning I was in an opera box surrounded by Prince’s female backing vocalists including the bald and glistening Shelby J. All three female vocalists were on stage for the final jam.

The singers complemented Prince at the jam moreso than Monday’s United Center show where they often padded his vocals, especially his trademark falsetto.

Highlights of the nearly two-hour jam included a driving rock-flavored cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “We’re a Winner” (a mash up in Monday’s U.C. set) and the 1967 Aretha Franklin ballad “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).” The Monday-Tuesday jam headliner Andy Allo was back in tow with her strange ’80s tinged pop tune “People Pleaser,” but her appearance was more sensibly placed in the middle of the set. Another special jam guest was Wednesday night’s United Center opening act Janelle Monae.

But for me the highlight was the appearance of former James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker who took the jam to a higher ground.

Parker became a sometimes member of Prince’s New Power Generation (NPG) band in the 1990s (he played on 1999’s “Rave Un2” and 2003’s “C-Note”) and remains an electric conduit for Prince’s sourcing of James Brown, George Clinton and Esquivel-Little Richard.

From the back of the room I counted at least seven horn players on stage. Parker, 69, led the entire band through an extended brass jam that left me thinking of the late 1960s glory days of the Burning Spear nightclub, 5523 S. State. Late night early morning sets were the norm with the likes of Bobby “Blue” Bland, hard bop saxophonist Gene Ammons, and local greats like Otis Clay and Syl Johnson. The Burning Spear had big bands and its own chorus line. The audience was mostly black, and the smoky haze was blue. The club was owned by popular Chicago disc jockeys E. Rodney Jones and Pervis Spann.

Going to the 21st century Spear-inspired jam was an audible.

Earlier in the evening my friend and I saw British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka and his band with opening act Bahamas at the Park West.

Kiwanuka’s jazz-folk-soul was flavored by duo pecrussionists and in concert his sweet, searching vocals sound more like Bob Marley (something my friend pointed out) than the Bill Withers comparisons most often made to Kiwanuka. It had been a while since I had been at the Park West and I forgot what a great venue this is for the integrity of music like Kiwanuka’s. One of the most memorable tracks of the set was the tenderly appointed version of “Home Again,” the title track from his debut album.

Since the show was over around 10:15 we had ample time to head to my office at the Matchbox to orchestrate our next move.

I had heard Prince started his Tuesday jam around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, but a House of Blues spokesman e-mailed me that “Prince does whatever Prince wants.” I had a beer and Jackie bought us a couple shots of tequila. Etta James classic “At Last” was on the house mix .

My friend is a pop-soul singer and she began singing “At Last,” flexing her gospel grit. I was impressed.

The entire bar turned around. Including Damian The Happy Cab Driver who lifted his tired head from his Sun-Times.

At last we decided to jump in a cab and head to House of Blues.

There were more people in the house than at the final jam than there were on Monday, so we shimmied our way to a spot at the back of the crowded room.

And we immediatly bumped into Michael Kiwanuka and his band? 🙂

Kiwanuka, 24, told me he had never seen Prince. I told him about good places to go in Chicago for record digging. My friend told him about her singing career. The three of us tried to move on up, but I quickly realized I was blocking the views of fans who had arrived much earlier. We retreated back to our space.

My 5’1″ friend and Kiwanuka headed over to the other end of the main floor. Despite a couple texts and a walk through the crowd I never saw my friend or Kiwanuka the rest of the evening. Kiwanuka did tell me he had a Friday show in Prince’s stomping grounds of Minneapolis.

I went home, listened to the autographed Bahamas “Barchords” CD she bought for me.

The first song was “Lost in the Light” as morning closed in.

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