Sunday, October 11, 2009

Prince at the Grand Palais

As I mentioned earlier, Prince suddenly decided this week that he wanted to do two concerts in the Grand Palais.

I was able to obtain two tickets to the 5p show (the second is at 10p) for 99 Eur each not really knowing what to expect (who did?) except that I knew Prince had a reputation as a phenomenal performer although I have not really closely followed his music or career.

We intended to arrive close to 3:30p when the doors were scheduled to open. We took the metro to the Invalides station and intended to walk across the Alexandre III bridge to Grand Palais except that there was a huge crowd blocking the bridge. At first I thought this was quite a turnout for Prince but then discovered it was "Internal Security Day" and they were demonstrating their security capabilities on the bridge.

We had to walk to the next bridge (Pont des Invalides) and eventually made it to the line around 4p and we were in by 4:15p without much problem.

This is the pic I took of the security demonstration from in front of the Grand Palais looking back across the Alexandre III bridge with Invalides in the background.




The is the front of Grand Palais with the Prince concert promotion on the front.





I had never been in the main gallery of the Grand Palais, having only visited the Renoir Exhibition in one of the smaller side galleries, so I was curious how they would configure the concert in a building that does not normally host concerts.

5000 tickets were sold to each show, with 4000 standing and 1000 seated.

The stage was set up opposite the entrance with a small set of bleachers in front and room for 4000 to stand in between the stage and the bleachers. Both wings of the gallery to the left and right were empty which, combined with the high glass-paneled ceiling allowing daylight in, created a very open sensation. 5000 people just didn't seem that many in the building, which was built for the Paris Exhibition in 1900.

Here are the pictures I took before the show showing the layout. I also have one video panning the inside of the gallery. The stage is a little hard to see between the two speaker towers because it is not that high. The haziness is not my camera but the fog they were pumping in from the stage which I think improves the light show by giving the beams something to reflect off of. Also, this was some 30 minutes before the concert but most of the crowd was in by then so the emptiness you see in the video in the left wing (the right wing was also empty... you just can't see it) is how it was during the show. It was a very interesting choice of stage setup and crowd size.






video

Prince arrived by black Mercedes, which actually drove him right into the Palais near the stage. While we had been told that photos were not allowed, this is a standard warning at every concert that is never enforced.

When Prince stepped out of the car, the crowd moved in that direction and I saw many people pull their cameras out so I pulled out my iPhone to see if I could catch some video of him walking to the stage.

The next thing I know a large black security man reaches into the crowd and grabs my iPhone. I refused to release it so he clasped his big hand over mine. I had a death grip on my iPhone and he had a death grip on my hand and pulled me to the side. He didn't really say anything but kept his grip on me. Whatever happened I was not giving up my iPhone.

A few moments later, a smaller guy with long hair (he had made an announcement from near the stage a few minutes earlier but it was in French so I didn't understand it) came up and said I was gone -- he was apparently kicking me out of the concert before it began! I asked if I could just delete the picture but he continued to make a big scene while saying no pictures were allowed and I had to leave.

As we started to walk out, he leaned over and said "Trust me with this, just follow me." I then realized this was all for show in order to scare everyone into not taking pictures. He was simply using me as an example.

We went out the front entrance and he was actually pretty nice. He said I needed to wait 5 minutes and walk in the other entrance to the right side of the stage (Amanda and I were about 20 feet in front of the left speaker in front of the stage -- see pics above -- before this happened) so that people would not recognize me. He wanted them to think I had been kicked out. I asked him if he was the promoter and he said yes. I thought he said his name was Albert Bernard or something similar but it wasn't clear. He spoke English well but with an accent.

I told him my wife was in there so he said they would try to find her but if she did not come to the other side within 20 minutes, I could return to my original side.

Well, Amanda never showed up so I circled back behind the bleachers to the other side to see if I could find her. After a few minutes I did, although she was not as close to the stage as she had been. What I didn't realize is that she didn't see all that had transpired and didn't know where I had disappeared to. At first she thought I had just moved over towards where Prince had been driven in but when I never returned, she thought I had been kicked out for taking pictures.

In any case, we were able to watch the rest of the concert together but I don't have any audio or video for you.

Prince only played for a little over an hour (!) but then returned for almost 30 minutes of encore. I was expecting 2 to 3 hours, especially for the price. It wasn't clear to me that he had a prepared song list, especially during the encore when he asked the crowd what they wanted to hear.

There was some concern about whether the gallery was acoustically suitable for a concert but I thought he sounded solid. Frequently however during his performance he would speak instructions to the sound guy to increase or decrease the stage or "house" instruments or vocals ("more piano in the house", "more drums on stage", etc).

He had a female drummer, 3 back up female singers, a bassist, a keyboard player, and an occasional harmonica player. Prince played the guitar and lead vocals, wearing a white coat with black print on it.

The stage set was very simple, just 4 or 5 feet off the ground and the lighting was not that elaborate (although the daylight may have had something to do with that). It was just about the music, which was pretty much R&B and Motown.

The crowd was enthusiastic although I think they wanted a lot more than 90 minutes. The performance was energetic but Prince was clearly relaxed, making adjustments on the fly to get the sound right.

When he finally finished, he walked off the stage to the left and back to the black Mercedes that had delivered him, which then drove him out the left side of the building towards the river and he was gone.

And I didn't see anyone taking any pictures during the show so maybe the promoter's strategy worked!

Glad I could be of assistance. ;)

PS It is now the next day and you can see pictures and reviews on-line but you will probably need to use the Google Translate toolbar to read it in English.

Le Parisien (There is a video but it must have been from the 10p show because it wasn't that dark when I was there.)

Le Figaro

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