“All praise to God,” Prince said to a round of polite applause. “Some people say there are multiple gods and various ways to serve them, but that’s not true. There’s only one God.” Less clapping this time, and the pattern of diminishing returns continued as the newly devout superstar’s impromptu sermon briefly turned a frenzied funkfest into a Sunday service. Prince and his impeccably tight band, the New Power Generation, still can jam like no one else, but Prince’s famed dirty mind has been noticeably sanitized. Several numbers didn’t make the set list because of his newfound aversion to profanity (goodbye, “Sexy MF”), while several others were only teased, quite possibly just because he’s tired of them. (“When Doves Cry” and “Little Red Corvette” both appeared in drastically shortened form.) Still, few left Municipal Auditorium disappointed: Prince’s mere presence still packs enough power to leave even jaded concertgoers breathless.
Prince closed with “Purple Rain,” while the Short Bus Kids closed their Saturday afternoon set because of the regular variety. Playing an anti-FTAA rally at Volker Park, the Kids enlisted several bandanna-masked protesters to hold a tarp over their heads while they dashed through an even-faster-than-usual set. Also on hand were the MCs from Sevenfold Symphony, who, backed by DJ Rebel, treated the assembled crowd of roughly 300 to socially conscious hip-hop lyricism.
Fugazi frontman Ian McKaye, appearing Wednesday night at El Torreon, was all business, whether chiding moshers (though politely addressing the offenders as “sir”) or giving the boot to a brawler. When he wasn’t interrupting tunes to offer lessons in concert etiquette, McKaye led the group through a sterling set. Local quintet Big Iron won over a seemingly unfamiliar crowd with its vintage mid-’80s punk sounds, which brought to mind T.S.O.L. and, by virtue of its cover of “Gates of Steel,” even Devo.
It was a big week for followers of the do-it-yourself scene — Ani DiFranco arrived in town just two days after McKaye’s departure. Perhaps the night’s finest selections were two tunes that postdate even the double album she released earlier this month. Equally appealing was the fact that her fans, who once were known for interrupting DiFranco’s songs with romantic propositions, played it cool.