Concert Review: Nothing compares 2 Prince

Prince surprises Toronto with 2 back-to-back concerts March 25 at the Sony Centre.

The best moment of a great experience is the moment before it begins.

And that moment arrived this past Thursday when it was announced that in less then 48 hours, Prince would be at the Sony Centre for two exclusive performances. Back-to-back shows. Only a microphone, a piano and Prince.

Luckily, at the last minute, I grabbed a ticket.

The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts is not a small venue. It takes up an entire block of real estate in downtown Toronto. When I arrived there Friday night, the line up to get inside wrapped around the entire building.

I gasped. I watched everyone who showed up after me gasp.

The lineup just kept going. You had to walk around three corners to get to the end, each time thinking it surely can’t be much further, but it always was.

Shortly after finding the end of the line, a nearby side door opened. The venue had finally come to its senses I thought. After confirming this side door was in fact letting ticket holders in, I followed the chunk of people in front of me over to this saving grace.

Unfortunately, as quickly as we all laughed and smiled in delight, the door was confusingly just as quickly shut. Only a lucky few were let inside. We all ran frantically back to the main lineup, hoping not to have lost ground. 

As we settled back in, the line began to move erratically. We would stand still for 15 minutes and then all of a sudden break out into a jog, as the line would quickly disappear around a corner.

Were they opening side doors everywhere? Were we being screwed with? 

Everyone looked around with astonished expressions, wondering why we need to move this fast all of a sudden. Although everyone did, because if you didn’t you would be passed!

Forty minutes later and finally inside, the experience of going to a Prince concert was just beginning.

The stage was bare except for a purple grand piano, four candelabras and a large projection screen. The show began when a middle portion of the screen the size of a doorway opened up. There stood a smokey purple outlined silhouette of a man with legs crossed, hips tilted, leaning stylishly on a cane. Prince walked forward, twirled his cane a few times and sat down to a thunderous ovation.

Prince controlled every aspect of the show. We were his pupils. He would cut a brief standing ovation short by telling us to sit down and we immediately obeyed. He would turn the house lights on and tell us to stand up and sing for a couple songs, we would. If we didn’t sing for him, he mocked us. He even jumped up on his piano and lay down, as if to take a nap, while we sang for him. He owned us and we loved him for it.

Hypnotized by the Prince show below:


(See set-list below)

How much of a showman is Prince? When he came back out for the second encore, he did so walking backwards, only to precisely turn and sit down politely at the last second before tripping over his duet bench.

After leaving the concert on a high, I started thinking about Prince and his history with Toronto. I remember hearing that he once owned a home in the Bridle Path. 

With a little bit of digging, I was able to piece together multiple reasons why Prince holds a special place in his heart for Toronto, and Toronto for him. .

From 2001 – 2006, Prince was married to Torontonian Manuela Testolino. It was during this time that they owned a home in the exclusive Bridle Path area. This north area is known for its private, exclusive and chic mansions and estates, and also the most expensive properties in the city.  Although he no longer owns this home and now is divorced from Manuela, he still remains quite smitten with Toronto.


Here are a few pictures of his (former) home there:

Prince house outside



If you’d like to see all of the former home of Prince, click here:

Prince is quoted as saying “I love Toronto…It’s cosmopolitan…There’s all sorts of different kinds of people everywhere you go in Toronto, there’s all sorts of great music, great restaurants, great night spots that don’t respond to a lot of American playlists and have playlists which I really dig. It’s a real melting pot in every sense of the word.”

These elements contribute to Prince’s legacy of musical success. His album Musicology was recorded in Toronto, and even includes a photo on the back of the album of Prince with a Toronto skyline in the background. “Musicology is the first record I’ve recorded in Toronto and I can really feel the difference,” Prince has said. “It has a completely unique sound that came from the total disregard for what’s happening in American music, and for the workings of the American music industry. It doesn’t sound like anything else that’s out there right now.”

See Musicology Image below:


Besides performing secret shows, attending Raptors games and enjoying the downtown nightlife also attracted the songwriter to the Tdot.  A Toronto Star feature story from April 2004 described the sequence of events that would typically occur before a routine dropin in his favourite spot.

“Prince’s security calls ahead, checks things out, then the singer takes a low-key spot, either alone or with his wife, and sips coffee, Amaretto on ice, or Merlot through a straw,” the paper reported. Now wouldn’t you love to see this happen?

He also was a big fan of City TV’s Speaker’s Corner. “I just love the idea of it,” Prince raved. “I am so tempted when I go by to stop the car and go into the booth and say what I have to say.”

I don’t know about you, but I wish he did stop by Speaker’s Corner when it was still up and running! I have a lot of fond memories of that show, a real Toronto institution of the late nineties and early 2000’s.

Toronto holds many charms that keep the seven-time Grammy winner coming back for more. The freedom to create without American influence combined with the diversity of people and culture continue to offer inspiration for Prince’s musical success. What I really think Prince is saying is that he Feels for Us….

Bridal Path Homes For Sale

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Prince Setlist #2 Toronto Sony Centre:
Joy in Repetition
Look at Me, Look at U
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
I Feel for You
I Would Die 4 U
Little Red Corvette / Dirty Mind
Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi cover)
Elephants & Flowers
Black Muse
Take Me With U
Raspberry Beret
Starfish And Coffee
Paisley Park
Black Sweat

How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
Waiting in Vain / If I Was Your Girlfriend
A Case Of You (Joni Mitchell cover)
Purple Music
Free Urself

Encore 2:
Nothing Compares 2 U

Encore 3:
Somewhere Here on Earth
Diamonds and Pearls
The Beautiful Ones
Purple Rain