Prince at the Sony Centre

The Purple Wonder's performance skills are still a sight to behold

PRINCE at the Sony Centre, Tuesday, May 19. Rating: NNNN

It’s been more than two decades since Prince released an album that’s come anywhere near the magic of his early work, but you’d never guess it by the excitement his two surprise shows at the Sony Centre generated.

At the first of his two Tuesday night gigs on his HitnRun tour, those who had only heard about his mythical performance skills found out quickly that they’re still a mighty sight to behold. Few contemporary pop stars come close to matching the level of musicianship and old-school showmanship the Purple Wonder brings to the stage.

His current backing band, 3RDEYEGIRL, features Toronto’s Donna Grantis on guitar (Prince also has a home in town), and the band plays up the soulful hair-metal side of his personality. It’s a sound that hasn’t been fashionable since the 80s, but somehow they pull it off, mostly through sheer confidence and technical prowess.

It wasn’t until the first of two encores that the setlist shifted away from new material to classic hits, and the intensity and energy stayed consistently high throughout that first hour and beyond. So high that it was mind-boggling to realize that he and his band were going to do it all again 40 minutes later. | @benjaminboles

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