The empty stage - raw and ready. Who needs gimmicks?
It begins in those teen years. You pick your band, your singer, your hero, your 'team' and that is it. Hooked for life. Unshakable loyalty to the bitter end. Those tortured years filled with endless growing pains are made marginally easier simply by playing their music... the stylus getting stuck in a groove, the vinyl warping with over-use. You know every word, every note - have poured over the inside sleeve to memorise all the B-sides... Their names are scrawled on your study files, their posters adorn your walls. Nothing comes close to the years when you have the time and the pocket money to worship so religiously, to devote yourself so entirely to one hero.
It began for me in '84 and I only wish my teenage self could have imaged just how close she'd be to her god, 30 years later.
I went alone, but wasn't worried - with fellow tweeters telling me where the gig would happen and how to get tickets - there was a general comradeship amongst the fans: selling tickets at face value to others, trying to help people lay their hands on golden tickets etc. I immediately met a couple next to me - turns out they were brother and sister (later it turns out they know old mates of mine in York and even my cousin!). They offered me a tin of gin and tonic - all terribly civilised now that most fans are 30 plus... I queued from maybe 4:30 - doors opened at 5:30 and even had time to get drinks - and still was 3 people from the front. This, my 4th ever Prince gig - was the first I had to don my specs! My new BFFs had never seen him before and were beyond excited - but even they weren't prepared for the epic-ness of the next 2 hours...
A little after 7pm out he came (heels, natch). The intimate crowd went nuts and he kicked off with a string of hits - one segueing into the next. I could see every single expression on his amused face - behind two blonde women who had even seen him gig at Paisley Park, at his home. Turns out he drinks 'Prince water.' AMAZING.
For the next two hours, it was nothing short of electric. Here's the thing about his purpleness: he aint in it for the fame (1D) the pretentiousness (Coldplay) the money (U2 - and before you berate me, where does Bono store his cash? Hmmm methinks Monaco...) - he is in it purely to get his funk on. He is up there on stage having the time of his life - he loves the music, is lost in the moment. 3rd Eye Girl were everything the Revolution were and then some. These kick ass women were incredible - especially Donna Grantis (sweating to death in a sprayed on leather catsuit) on lead guitar. His first encore ended with an 8 minute Purple Rain guitar solo - the crowd woo hoo hooing with all their might. At that point the tears came and all I could think was 'please please let this not be the last time I ever see you play.' Prince is 56 next week and here is is playing for over 4 hours at 2 gigs in the same night... What if he never returns to these shores again? And boy is he tiny. I think if I hugged him I would squeeze him to death. His afro is easily as big as the rest of him.
Prince climbing on a speaker (as you do).
There were hits galore, a string of less well known songs for the hard core fans and an amazing version of Joni Mitchell's 'a case of U.' Frequently he referred to himself in third person, even asking if 'Prince should play that funky music?' He updated Kiss from 'Dynasty' to 'Real Housewives...' His second encore felt like it was almost just for him... as he pounded the keyboard, then picked up his guitar, even twiddling the odd nob on stage. Then he stood and thanked us all in a heartfelt manner, clutching his chest and saying 'I will never forget tonight.' (According to other fans he hasn't done that this year at any other gig). He came back on stage and released a handful of purple and white balloons, they soared up to the roof and then he was gone.
We left and envied the crowd busting to get in for show 2. As I walked through the Camden puddles I felt immense love for my husband who had said, '£80 a ticket? It is PRINCE Suzanne. Go! He is your icon.' He was right. Never in all my life have I been to such a gig. Yes, the crowd all looked a bit knackered towards the end - everyone mainly over 40 and thinking about long journeys home; yes, it has been manys a moon since Prince had his hay day - the topless oiled days are gone, replaced by polo necks and bizarre tabards, BUT no one comes close when performing. No one can whip a crowd into the same frenzy - some 30 years later.
It began in '84, on a tape deck, my step-sister having recorded the charts and 'Let's go Crazy' was in at no.4. All I ask, Prince, is please don't let last night be the end....
3 heads from the front. Amen.