Some 30 years after my introduction to the sultry musical magician known as Prince, I finally got to see him in concert.
It would turn out to be his second-to-last performance.
Prince hit the airwaves with Purple Rain when I was 12 years old and newly “into” music, and I saw the movie at a friend’s 13-year-old birthday party. Not to go all get-off-my-lawn on you, but 13-year-olds were less world-weary back in those days, so Prince’s overtly sexual performances and offstage antics in that movie were eye-opening for us, a group of relatively sheltered girls in South Mississippi.
Suddenly, guys who could dance were HOT (Dirty Dancing was still three years away). Guys who wore skintight jumpsuits, high-heeled boots and ruffled blouses were HOT.
I say guys here, but I really mean just the one guy. Sure, we had David Bowie on the charts already, but he was still two years away from his turn in Labyrinth, another movie that illustrated the utter hotness of guys who danced in skintight pants, high-heeled boots and ruffled blouses.
Prince sang about sex in ways that even 13-year-old girls sensed were more empowering than creepy, more poetic than dirty.
For example, this passage from When Doves Cry starts out as a well-crafted poem, then turns erotic:
Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat
The heat between me and you
I could go on – the man had SO MANY songs.
I can only say that Prince’s April 14 concerts were pure magic – even though I was only able to go to the first, everything I’ve heard assures me that the second was just as good, if not better.
When I learned it was only going to be Prince and a piano on the stage, I briefly worried. It sounded very Las Vegas, very gimmicky.
I had faith that Prince wouldn’t do gimmicky, however, and I was right.
From the moment he stepped onto the stage, emerging from a cloud of fog, I went pure fangirl. Understand, I’ve seen A LOT of concerts, and never have I spontaneously high-fived strangers, screamed uncontrollably and danced with no thought of remaining inside of my own personal body space.
This is what it must have been like to see The Beatles in 1964.
He looked and sounded amazing. He didn’t have to adjust his songs down to meet any reduction in vocal capacity, a trick that I’ve seen other older singers use. His voice had lost absolutely no range over the years.
I came out of the Fox wanting an album filled with Prince singing his songs accompanied only by his own piano-playing. There was nothing Vegas about it – every song was pure feeling and talent. He could have sung it all without the piano and it would have suffered little.
I almost didn’t go. We missed the initial ticket sale and were already slated to be out of town on the original performance date. Had he not postponed his shows by a week, we wouldn’t have been able to go.
Thirty years. That’s a mighty long time.
And it was worth every minute.