Prince was king.

His Royal Purpleness delivered in utterly regal fashion during his 8 p.m. concert Tuesday, the first of four shows performed over two consecutive nights at the 800-capacity DNA Lounge in San Francisco.

It was an awesome treat to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer perform in such an intimate venue -- well, at least it was when you could actually see him. For much of the night, many fans simply had to trust their ears to know it was Prince onstage, since trying to get a view of the vocalist-guitarist was tricky through the unbelievably packed crowd.

Yes, there is a downside to seeing a megastar in a club instead of an arena. Sightlines were poor, especially from the back of the venue, and there seemed to be a higher percentage of tall people in the crowd than what you'll find on the court at an NBA game.

Yet, all of that was greatly outweighed by the fact that we were in such proximity to greatness.

And Prince was certainly great during this roughly two-hour set.

Backed by his all-female 3rd Eye Girl band, Prince was in the mood to party, and his exuberance for the music was even more important than the specific songs that populated the set list. He poured his heart, and plenty of electric guitar, into everything he played, which ranged from deep cuts to new material to longtime fan favorites.

He opened the show by paying tribute to one of rock's recently fallen heroes.

"Rest in peace Richie Havens," Prince said in reference to the Woodstock vet who died on Monday.


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Prince later underscored that sentiment by performing an achingly emotional version of "Motherless Child," the spiritual that Havens incorporated into the signature song "Freedom" (prominently featured in the "Woodstock" film).

He definitely delivered the funk, heaping on a heavy dose early on with "Screwdriver," but mainly stuck to rock 'n' roll, which was a delightful change of pace.

I like Prince's big arena band, especially when it features saxophonist Maceo Parker, and there are certainly songs that benefit from the horn section and the overall fire power. The 3rd Eye Girl trio, however, is a very different creature. It's built to rock, leaving plenty of room for Prince to fill with his epic guitar leads.

That said, however, the best song of the night was the somber, hushed "Sometimes it Snows in April." It was a stark, teary-eyed reminder of just how effective Prince can be on a ballad.

He drew the main set to a close with the relative obscure "Guitar" (from 2007's "Planet Earth") and the brand new song "FixUrLifeUp," before returning for his ultimate anthem, "Purple Rain."

Prince, however, was far from being done. He kept threatening that he was leaving the stage, only to stick around and play more numbers.

"I've got too many hits," he explained.

If only more artists had that problem.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.