“Real musicians play real music…forever” – Prince, 22nd of May, 2012.
The lights had finally lowered. Just as the crowd’s anticipation had reached its volcanic peak, there was complete darkness. Then silence.
The spotlight circled to an unknown acoustic guitarist. But then, the familiar opening guitar riff to the familiar, bittersweet melody of “Purple Rain” echoed through the vortex of the arena.
Who the hell opens a concert with a ballad ?
No, no…let me rephrase that: Who CAN open up a concert with a ballad ?
Rising from the floor, a statuesque woman in a flowing white gown started to walk down the stage shaped in Prince’s iconic symbol.
A 50 metre long train trails behind her and then it began. The crowd went ballistic.
Although our seats were distant and high, the surrounding giant screens allowed us to see him finally emerge, also from beneath the floor.
A flood of emotion and memories of yesteryear pierced my heart. At that moment I was transferred back into my teenage bedroom where I cranked up the volume dial on the little ghetto blaster beside my bed, completely immersed in the Purple Rain soundtrack for the upteenth time.
Swimming in a myriad of daydreams.
Where would I travel ? What was I to study ? Would I have a chance to create music as beautiful as this ? Or was fate going to keep me confined in these four walls of suburbia ?
There was a LOT of dancing that night. In fact, let’s call it stomping. Grinding like it was 1989. Just like those Saturday nights when nightclubs were still called discos, thank you very much.
While the band launched into “Raspberry Beret”, I was immediately transferred back to cheesy high school socials and memorising the dance steps from the video clip was like riding a bike.
Happily reminiscing the liberating fun of teenage life, the moment was dedicated to the ghosts of high school friends past.
A school hall of mixed up adolescents – geeks, toughies, the popular ones, the beautiful ones, the awkwardly shy – all banding together to the pop song of delicious naughtiness of first time sexual explorations.
Grooving to the funky guitar riffs of “Kiss”, there was no holding back the screams of delight and sheer excitement.
For its pure seduction alone, I will love that song until time stops.
Undoubtedly, it was his flirty falsetto voice, the smooth, 60’s-inspired wah-wah guitar and sultry rhythm that made me feel so sexy when I was 18. And how over 20 years and twinlets later, it still had the same enticing effect.
Then, there was the magic of “Nothing Compares 2 U”. I stopped in my tracks, dazed while remembering the first rejection of love. The time capsule locked me into that late winter’s afternoon, sitting in my parents’ beat up Ford at the university car park. Crying inconsolable tears in dusk’s darkness while listening to the lyrics of unrequited, heart-wrenching love.
A stage in a young life that only knew love to be innocent, pure and untainted. Yet, for it to suddenly become the heaviest burden your heart had to bear. And if this agonizing emotional pain was indeed love, you were as certain as the sun rising again tomorrow, you never wanted to experience it again.
Then, there was a surprise performance of a song that belonged to his much- publicized rival, the late Michael Jackson.
His equally funky rendition of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” was a respectful tribute to the performer who not only dominated the music industry during the same time as him, but was also of the same age. It was a chance to tell the audience that bygones had quietly been buried too.
Prince performed four encores for his final performance in Australia.
Leaping back on my feet as the first round commenced, another couple had moved seats to be a little closer to the view.
“Isn’t he just awesome ?” I called out to the lady who had also started to dance next to me.
“Oh my, yes! And I noticed you were the only one dancing in this entire section of seats !” she smiled.
All that dancing, screaming and excitement shaped an opportunity to reclaim my youth. Convinced that it wasn’t misspent.
To say, “Hey that’s where I’m came from. And here I am today…partying with Prince.”
Performers who can play a variety of instruments, I think, are rare.
I’m certain I witnessed one of the most gifted musicians of our time. A man so talented he jumped from the guitar, to the bass, to the piano, all the while dancing and singing. Always flawlessly and with complete ease.
Yes, I’ve seen Prince in concert.
I will die happy.