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It might make some sense if Prince, the cooler-than-cool funk/rock superstar whose career is suddenly in serious revival mode, had found happiness at 45 settling down in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Paris or London.

But Toronto?

"I love Toronto," Prince said late Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press after a wild two-hour concert in this north Florida city. It was the 21st stop of a tour he's loathe to call a comeback - because, he insists, he's never truly been gone.

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"It's cosmopolitan," he said. "There's all sorts of different kinds of people everywhere you go in Toronto, there's all sorts of great music, great restaurants, great night spots that don't respond to a lot of American playlists and have playlists which I really dig. It's a real melting pot in every sense of the word."

Prince is married to Toronto-born Manuela Testolini. The couple spends "a lot of time" in Toronto, where they own a home in an upscale north-end neighbourhood and where he recorded his recently released album, the critically acclaimed Musicology.

The CD jacket features the diminutive Prince in front of the gleaming Toronto skyline at night, and includes at least one veiled reference to the street where he lives that he asked not be pointed out "in case any crazies show up at my door."

But it's not simply romantic love that attracts Prince to his wife's hometown. The Minnesota native likes the frigid winters - "it's worse in Minneapolis," he laughs - he likes Canadian songstress Nelly Furtado, and most of all he likes

Canada's tendency to ignore the American recording industry, obviously an alluring quality to a man who famously scrawled the word "slave" across his cheek in the 1990s in a protracted dispute with his record company over creative and financial control of his music.

" Musicology is the first record I've recorded in Toronto and I can really feel the difference. It has a completely unique sound that came from the total disregard for what's happening in American music, and for the workings of the American music industry. It doesn't sound like anything else that's out there right now," Prince said.

He's also a fan of the Toronto institution known as Speaker's Corner, a City-TV show that features everyday citizens in a tiny video booth opining on everything from politics to lost love.

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"I love Speaker's Corner!" says Prince, dressed in black and sporting shaded spectacles in his candlelit dressing room. "I just love the idea of it. I am so tempted when I go by to stop the car and go into the booth and say what I have to say."

Relaxed and charming even after a frenetic show that saw him writhing on the stage during some of his guitar solos, the recent Jehovah's Witness convert seems serene these days. That's in stark contrast to the apparently angry man referred to simply as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince until four years ago.

He acknowledges he's at peace now that he's got complete control over his music, but points out he's never stopped churning out his brand of exuberant, rock 'n' roll-tinged funk.

He doesn't deny, however, that his phenomenal opening number at this year's Grammy Awards with R and B superstar Beyonce seems to have the masses clamouring for a full-fledged Prince resurrection.

That hasn't been by design on his part, he insists - it's just been all about the timing.

"I get asked every year to play at the Grammys," he says. "This year I did it because I have an album out that I want to promote and a concert tour that I want to promote. My fans have always come out."

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The tour comes to Toronto in July for two shows, and tickets have sold out rapidly in every city where they've gone on sale.

Prince is amused. But he adds he's delighted if he's now introducing young music fans to some quality funk and R and B.

"To us, this doesn't feel like anything new - we've been playing the same show for awhile. It's me - I'm just doing what I always do and what I love to do. But someone has to do this, because no one else is. The music is such a treasure, so celebratory and joyous, and no one's doing it anymore - I'm happy to keep it going."

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