Editor’s Note: I’m still reeling from the loss of Prince. I…just…can’t. He is one of the few entertainers where I have his work in vinyl, cassette, CD and MP3. I was fortunate to experience him twice in concert. Originally published in May 2015, I thought it fitting to repost this article illustrating his revolutionary artistry.
I was in the lab working on the latest lyric experiment, when I felt obligated to share my musical out-of-body experience.
Prince. Merely uttering (or writing) his name is enough.
Prince Rogers Nelson graced Baltimore with his presence at the Rally 4 Peace concert on Sunday, May 10. The event was Prince’s remedy to help the city heal after the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year old man fatally injured while in police custody. Very few artists can sell tickets three days before an event and fill a 14,000-seat facility. As a lifelong Baltimorean, I’ve attended events at the arena from the Muppet Babies to Cirque du Soleil, and I have NEVER waited in a long line simply to enter the building.
Per the Purple One’s request, concertgoers don gray clothing in honor of Freddie Gray. The usher emphatically, unequivocally, forcefully tells me “Don’t take your phone out for any reason during the show. If they see the light, they’re coming for it.” I don’t know if the cell phone ban is because Prince is an artist and he is sensitive about his sh$t, or for business reasons. This IS the man who changed the way the music industry measures record sales.
I introduce myself to my seat neighbor Matt from middle-of-nowhere-Pennsylvania (his words not mine), who drove three hours to get to the show. Standing on the other side of me is—let’s call him Buff Guy. This moniker comes in handy later. He is a huge fan and feels compelled, unsolicited, to dazzle me with his intimate Prince knowledge throughout the night.
The emcee issues another warning about the cell phones and declares that what we are about to witness is, “too big for your technology to capture.”
Finally, Prince emerges backlit, behind a curtain and reminds us why we’re here, “To the families that have lost loved ones, we are here for you tonight. We are your servants.” His Royal Badness, backed by band 3RDEYEGIRL, launches into Let’s Go Crazy and the crowd gleefully obliges.
He performs Take Me With U and Raspberry Beret before the live debut of Baltimore, a political anthem inspired by the civil unrest in the city. A large projection screen displays footage of demonstrations and news reports.
While Prince has a ridiculous body of work, to hear his music performed in a curated compilation is something else entirely. Next up is The One, Controversy, Little Red Corvette and Nothing Compares 2 U. I step out to get a t-shirt. I know it’s borderline heresy to leave, but it is the only way to score merchandise without battling the masses for a memento.
By far the audience favorite is 1999. At this point, Matt is getting his life screaming and dancing, and Buff Guy is so enthralled that he is making his pecs jump a la Terry Crews.
Prince tells us Why Doves Cry, teases with a 20-second instrumental of Nasty Girls and gives us the Sign O’ the Times and I Would Die for U. Enter special guests.
One of the all-time best party rockers, Doug E. Fresh, got the crowd hype rapping over a familiar funky melody. That beat is Kiss and Prince works the stage.
After a five-minute unannounced break, he blesses the audience with the opening bars of Darling Nikki, Pop Life and If I Was Your Girlfriend. Stripped down, piano-heavy versions of How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore, Diamonds and Pearls, The Beautiful Ones and Do Me Baby fill the air.
I can’t determine who is singing. Based on the voice, body type and hair, I guessed correctly that it is Miguel.
The music is Purple Rain, but the voice is not the musical genius. British songstress Estelle kicks off the classic tune, part of the Library of Congress’s National Registry, then Prince takes over with an intense guitar solo. He speaks words of encouragement to inspire young people and “ends” the show. Notice the quotes.
No cur-few! No cur-few! No cur-few!—Rabid Prince Fans
People begin to leave, the lights stay down, chants of adoration get louder and Prince makes his way back to the stage. He performs three more songs. Prince did allow us at the very end of the show to use our cell phones as faux lighters to illuminate the arena. Just for a few hours we weren’t a people divided we were a community united.
This is how I felt the next day after a Prince extravaganza.
— lyricfancy (@lyricfancy) May 11, 2015
Do you have Prince memories? Share them in the comments below.