Last week, I saw 2 acts I’ve wanted to see live for 30 years in back to back shows: Prince and Duran Duran.
(photo from Amiee Stubbs, who was 2 rows in front of me)
I don’t just feel incredibly lucky to have been there–I was. I found out tickets would go on sale via Facebook, about 15 hours before the start of the sale, and I knew I’d be on orders at the Air Force base that day and would not be able to go online (or call, more than likely) to get tickets (which were only available via the venue, not Ticketmaster or another such service). So, I asked my bride to do whatever she could to get through on the phone or online. With 5 minutes to go before the beginning of the sale, I thought, “I should see if my paralegal would be willing to try, too” and emailed her with the link. “What’s your cap?” she asked. “None–I want the best tickets you can find.”
As it turned out, my 75 calls to the Fox before a mandatory meeting, and my bride’s numerous attempts to get through online and via the phone failed, but my paralegal came through and got the maximum allowed: 2. Then Prince got sick and postponed, and my para went to Grenada for a week’s vacation.
On Tuesday of this week, I went to the dentist for my 6-month cleaning, and right before I left (the cleaning and x-rays were finished, and the dentist was coming by to give a cursory look into my cavity-free mouth), I tried to make small talk by mentioning being disappointed last week when Prince got the flu and postponed his show, but that I hoped he’d come back at a time when I could attend. The hygienist was on his way out of the room when he said, “I heard on the radio he’s playing this Thursday.” My heart leaped…I immediately texted the Mrs to ask her to find a sitter asap. Since, again, my para had bought the tickets (using my card but her email address), and she was having an “unplugged” vacation outside the country, she didn’t get the email about the new show. But for my happening to go to the dentist 2 days before the new date, I would have missed it and been out the cash and the experience.
I’ve never hated Atlanta traffic more than I hated it when trying to get to the Fox Theatre (14 miles away) before 7pm. We left our house at 5:30; we walked into the theater at 6:45. I got a double Makers and showed the usher our tickets. “Oooohh…y’all are down in the orchestra pit…keep walking!”
After showing 2 more ushers our tickets, we sat in row EEE–5 rows from the stage. Photography or recording during the show was explicitly and strictly prohibited, so I took one picture of the piano and put my phone away.
To our left was a music blogger from Funkatopia; to our right was a couple who’d dropped $3500 via a broker to attend. Further down our row was a couple of the musical performers from our church (and “The Voice”).
Then the screen showed this:
A lean silhouette then appeared with an Afro and a cane. The crowd stood. Electricity. Ecstatic screams.
He apologized for postponing the previous week and started playing “Little Red Corvette.” The show was amazing…he played a few B-sides and several of his hits from the 80s, 90s, and beyond, plus songs by Bowie and Joni Mitchell (the “Peanuts” theme song and “Chopsticks” too).
I thought the show would be somewhat chill–after all, the artist was known for shredding the guitar, and this show would have no guitar, no Revolution, or accompanying singers/dancers, and the ticket stub said “Piano & A Microphone.” I was wrong. Sure, it was a more laid back performance than the ones he gave in “Purple Rain” or during the ’07 Super Bowl, but it was still Prince. And hearing the keyboard versions of some of his most beloved hits was every bit the experience I hoped to have at his show, and more.
He was witty and endearing with his banter. He seemed genuinely surprised and humbled by the loud and enthusiastic adoration of the crowd. He was energetic and theatric. Playful, even, as his hands danced across the keyboard. No way this was a man with 1 week to live. It couldn’t be. He was having too much fun.
My only complaint–up until I got the news–was that he didn’t play longer, as the show was about 80 minutes, even with multiple encores. In fact, when he concluded his last encore with “Kiss,” and the lights somewhat came back up, no one left. We stood and cheered and clapped and pleaded for more, until a female voice came on the house speakers to tell everyone it was time to exit.
We walked out of the Fox and into the quiet evening, barely able to process all we’d seen and heard. I didn’t want the experience to end, and it was only 8:30, so we started walking north along the sidewalk paralleling Peachtree, trying to find a place to sit and have drinks and reflect. We settled on The Vortex and sat outside for burgers, tots, and beers.
Then one week later…
The texts started shortly after lunch time…within a few minutes, 9 people wrote to ask if I’d heard. Still others sent Facebook messages or emails. I didn’t want to believe it was true.
During the Duran Duran show Friday the 15th, the band asked all of us to shine our cellphone lights and send positive thoughts and prayers to Prince, as news of his plane’s landing to take him to the hospital that day had been broadcast shortly before the show. I thought it was a nice gesture but an unnecessary one, as he’d seemed fine the night before. Surely TMZ had gotten it wrong. Don’t they get it wrong a lot?
But it hadn’t. 57 years old and taken many, many years too early. And by the flu?
Since accepting the news, I’ve found numerous articles about Prince just like you have. I’ve tuned into XM 50 “The Groove” for non-stop Prince songs, re-watched the Hall of Fame and Super Bowl performances, found a bootleg recording of the show I attended and listened to its entirety, and read everyone’s thoughts and memories on social media. I stopped by a cigar store I’ve never visited before, bought a nice Nicaraguan, and talked to 3 old men about Prince while watching CNN coverage of the autopsy and his musical legacy. Later in the evening, we rented “Purple Rain” on Amazon Prime and watched it in its entirety for the first time. During his performance of “Purple Rain” at the film’s climax, I wept.
Rest in your badness, Prince.
I hear the afterworld is a world of never ending happiness where you can always see the sun–day or night. And all the Corvettes are red, and all the berets raspberry.