In 2011, the Purple One came to Los Angeles, where he had sporadically lived over the years, to perform. What could have been a simple one-night stand was instead a masterful 21-night residency at multiple venues. And in true, inscrutable Prince style, he only announced the shows, which were part of the Welcome 2 America tour, a week beforehand by calling in to the George Lopez show.
The magic began on April 14 at the Forum. Prince opened by declaring, "Inglewood is mine!" and closed out the three-hour show with five encores, reports Rolling Stone. The set included smoke, showmanship, a hydraulic lift, guest appearances from Eva Longoria and Javier Bardem, and plenty of music, including an epic 15-minute version of "Purple Rain." Tickets for the show were as low as $25, making it a bargain for fans.
Prince played 12 shows at the Forum. The sets featured medleys, reworked versions of his most recognizable hits, deep cuts and covers of everyone from Sylvester to Bob Dylan. The stint also featured a raft of special guests such as jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, piano virtuoso Alicia Keys, rap star Missy Elliot, pop artist Gwen Stefani and Stevie Wonder. Prince's longtime drummer, Sheila E., was also a frequent guest.
On May 11, Prince played two surprise shows in a single night at the Troubadour during the middle of his 21 Night Stand. The intimate shows at the tiny West Hollywood club were a thrill for fans who were able to score tickets, according to the Hollywood Reporter:
"The little hall was treated to album cuts, instrumentals and covers — a free-form amalgam of musical genres mixed into an often-thrilling 140 minutes of anti-arena Prince. There was no trapdoor entrance, backing throng or even dancing (OK, a little near the end). And a late-set take on 'Pop Life' was his only hit single he played."
On May 25, Prince announced he would be playing three shows — that night at the same venue. He performed at the House of Blues, Sunset Strip, first in the main concert hall, then in the Jazz Café at the Porch Restaurant and finally a private charity event at the Foundation Room.
To complete the 21 Night Stand, Prince returned to the Forum for four more concerts, closing out the residency on May 29, 2011.
For fans, it was a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see the pop star in a setting that combined all the glitter and showmanship of a large venue and the playfulness of a bar residency. And it only scratches the surface of his influence and fandom here in Southern California.
Were you there? Share your memories of Prince — during the 21 Night Stand or any other era — here in the comments.