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Nothing compares to Prince in concert

By Devin Parrish
CNN Headline News

Prince performs at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois, on April 10.
Atlanta (Georgia)

(CNN) -- When he changed his name, I stuck with him. When he changed it back, I rolled my eyes and waited for him to release his next album.

In a nutshell: I've persevered as a Prince fan through everything post-"Purple Rain." Sometimes, it's been difficult to do, but every time I see him in concert, I'm reminded of why I hang in there.

Prince and his band, the New Power Generation, performed last week at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. It was my third time seeing him live.

Prince had been on his "Musicology" tour for a month by the time he played Philips, but it felt like his opening night.

For those familiar with some of his music, he played the hits: "Purple Rain," "I Would Die 4 U" and "Let's Go Crazy." For those of us who own every album -- even the ones from his "symbol" days -- he played the misses: "The One," "Shhh" and "The Question of U."

I screamed the loudest during his guitar solos, a reminder of the man's impeccable musicianship; it's almost always overlooked and overshadowed by his unconventional behavior offstage.

He danced, strutted, joked with his band and the audience. He gave toothy smiles, sang and played his heart out for nearly 2 1/2 hours.

There was no pyro and no lip-synching. Prince changed guitars more than costumes. Strings of pearls and tapered white cloths hung from the ceiling. An intricate lighting design with purple and red gels ushered in new moods, and smoke machine use was kept to a minimum.

The stage was in the round, and Prince made a conscious effort to give each side of the arena his full attention. This was especially evident during the acoustic part of the show when he sat on a swiveling stool with his purple guitar.

Prince updated a few classics as well.

"Sign 'O' the Times" was reborn as a jazzy romp with the addition of a thunderous drum solo and flawless horns. The new additions distracted me from the song's melancholic lyrics about AIDS, drugs, gang violence and infanticide.

The horn section also breathed new life into "I Feel For You," replacing the keyboard break in the original version from 1979.

Several times during the concert, I looked around at the 19,000 people who filled the arena. Most of them were there to appreciate a musician who's maintained his integrity even when most of us thought he'd lost his mind.

Prince's new album "Musicology" was released on April 20.

Who knows? Maybe he came close.

I can only imagine how lonely it must have been for him to challenge a giant of a music industry while questioning his existence and future within it. Then watching his songs disappear from radio and music video play lists overnight.

Through it all, Prince never compromised his vision. So far, he hasn't surrendered to the pressures of product endorsement. (Shame on you, Bob Dylan!)

I was exhausted and sore the day after the concert. It takes a lot of energy to cheer and jump for your favorite musician.

When they're as unpredictable as Prince, you have to use even more energy to prepare for their next move.

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