Only at an overbooked musicfest like Austin's South By Southwest would "secret" megashows by Justin Timberlake, Smashing Pumpkins, and Fall Out Boy be the respective second, third, and fourth gig choices of the week's final epic evening. Instead, the place to be on SXSW Saturday was Samsung Galaxy's private closing party headlined by the artist formerly, currently, and forever known as the almighty Prince.
His Great Purple Majesty closed SXSW in style at the La Zona Rosa club on Saturday night--or make that Sunday morning, since he played until 3am--performing a 160-minute, six-encore show with a 12-piece brass band for 1,300 extremely lucky festivalgoers. (Here's some more math for you: Prince also underwent five costume changes, wearing everything from a natty blue suit paired with a rhinestone cane to a leather vest accessorized with a furry rave hat.) "They called our people and said they wanted some funk in Austin," he told the elated crowd. "We’re gonna show you how we do it in Minneapolis."
To quote a line that Prince and the latest incarnation of his supremely funky New Power Generation band sang repeatedly throughout the night, ain't no party like a purple party, purple party don't stop. By their third song, they'd already performed "1999" amid a shower of celebratory confetti, and they even got to "Purple Rain" before the first encore. And they were just getting started. "You've heard of Five-Hour Energy?" the tireless Prince asked the crowd. "Well, 'Eleven-Hour Energy' is my middle name."
The evening was a marathon celebration of music ("Real music, y'all," Prince noted), with a setlist that leaned heavily on crowd-pleasing covers, like Curtis Mayfield's "We're A Winner," Aretha Franklin's "(I Ain't Ever Loved A Man) The Way That I Love You," James Brown's "I Don't Want No One To Give Me Nothing," Rose Royce's "Which Way Is Up," and three Jacksons songs (Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough," Janet's "What Have You Done For Me Lately," and the Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine"). "I love being a musician. It's like being a servant. A servant to you," Prince told the grateful audience, as he served up the jams.
Prince also served up many of his own smash classics, of course. ("Don't make me hurt you. You know how many hits I got?" he mock-threatened between encores, as the crowd eagerly begged for more.) But even then, many of those hits were ones made famous by his protégés, like the Time's "The Bird," "Jungle Love," and "Cool," Sheila E's "Glamorous Life," and his groovy duet originally recorded with Sheena Easton, "U Got The Look."
And Prince kept going, and going, and going--really, this show could have been sponsored by Energizer instead of Samsung and it would've made perfect sense. "We have 20 more minutes," he proclaimed well after the usual 2am curfew. "Think we can make them the best 20 minutes of our lives?"
Prince was in a banter-happy mood in general throughout the evening--although his best, or at least most ironic, quip came when he ordered one fan, "Turn off your cell phone, baby!" Cell phones in general were officially banned at the show (although many spectators couldn't resist sneakily snapping a pic or two), despite the event's heavy Samsung branding. Maybe that one cell-wielding fan who specifically caught Prince's attention simply wasn't using a Galaxy.