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Review: Prince debuts new band in Vegas show, eschews cranky past for rocking future

"Y'all hear that bass?” asked Prince – no longer the Artist Formerly Known As – during his concert at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on April 27. “Too funky. I didn't know Las Vegas was going to get THIS funky."

That was an understatement. Decked out in an acid green jumpsuit and rocking his finest John Wayne fringe, His Royal Badness took the stage at the strangely early time of 8:15 pm in the 4,000-person capacity venue with his new back-up band, 3rdEyeGirl. 

Prince, now in his 50s, looked as fit and sexy as ever, excited and eager to perform to the sellout crowd.

Prince’s notoriously cranky past, which included a years-long contract dispute with his record label and an awkward, unpronounceable name change, is finally–thankfully – a distant memory.

“His war with Warner Bros. over the control of his catalogue and his songs really took a toll on him,” a source who knew Prince in the ‘90s told FOXNews.com exclusively. “He had a lot of pent-up, bad energy for a lot of years. That’s all over now, and he’s probably a lot more at ease these days. I think he’s happy that he’s finally in control. He felt like he wasn’t in control before, and there was a lot of pent-up hostility.”

Prince’s new attitude was clearly evident during his compact show at the Joint. The set – which lasted a mere 90 minutes – was filled with old favorites like “Little Red Corvette” ("I don't ever get tired of playing this song,” Prince noted with a wry smile), “Purple Rain” and a slow, down-tempo version of “Let’s Go Crazy.” 

“Tell me you love rock ‘n roll,” Prince commanded the audience, with a roar of positive response.

Following that cue, Prince rocked hard with his new material, including a exuberant version of “Screwdriver,” which he had performed just weeks earlier on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” 

Throughout the show, Prince was clearly enjoying himself and the love from the crowd, which included Magic Johnson and Andre Agassi. Towards the end of the set, Prince welcomed about two dozen fans to boogie on stage with him, with mixed results–this being Las Vegas, a few of the impromptu dancers seemed to be a bit wobbly from earlier libations.

Ever mischievous, Prince even cracked a few jokes, ribbing the likes of Britney Spears and Beyonce, asking rhetorically, “Everyone else is doing it, can we lip sync?”

While there was obviously no lip syncing, the famously controlling performer forbid anyone from taking photos or video, even going as far as allegedly having his team scrub the Internet–especially the social network Vine–of any surreptitious documentation (As of Monday morning, quite a few snaps of Prince’s performance at the Joint survived on Twitter and Instagram).

Prince came out for two encores, the second of which was a dizzying and exuberant collection of brief snippets of his greatest hits, including “When Doves Cry,” “Pop Life” and “I Would Die 4 U.” 

“When Prince is exuberant – when it feels like it’s flowing naturally – that’s when he’s at his best,” the Prince source explained. “There have been times when the exuberance was not there for Prince, but when it is, it is a thing to behold.”

Finally, Prince closed the show with an ironic version of “Play that Funky Music (White Boy).”

Las Vegas seems to be a particularly apt venue for His Royal Badness. Prince and his entourage occupied two villas at the Hard Rock, which could lead to plenty of trouble. 

“I’m about to get my own self pregnant,” Prince announce during one particularly sexy moment of his set.

If Prince could self-impregnate anywhere, it would be in Vegas.

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