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I’m having a hard time getting started this morning. It’s Monday and it’s raining. But those are the last two things I want to talk about with you today. One, it’s Monday everywhere. (Unless you live on the other side of the international date-line, in which case it might be Tuesday. I think) and two, rain is what happens in April. Dreary, but inevitable.

No, what I really want to talk about concerns the late, great Prince. This isn’t an “appreciation” or an “in memorium”. You can find those in abundance, written by voices more eloquent than mine.  And I have no wish to be redundant, but this post does use Kristine’s as a jumping off point.

Since last Thursday, when I heard the sad news, I’ve been thinking about something I hadn’t thought of in years. So, I would like to share my memory, of my experience.

In July 1997, I won tickets, through a local radio station, to see Prince (or “The Artist”, nee The Artist Formerly known as Prince, as he called himself at the time) at the Boston Garden. By this stage of his career these tickets were very hard to come by. He routinely sold out shows in a time before scalpers were allowed to gobble up seats and sell them at a huge mark-up, and when everyone had to actually stand in line (or wear out the redial button on a phone) to get a ticket. For me, this was the chance to tick off a “bucket-list” box (before I even had a bucket-list) and I jumped at it.

The seats weren’t great.  We weren’t in the “nosebleed” section, but we weren’t front row center either. There are a lot of seats in between. Ours were behind the Plexiglas shield that was inexplicably still in place, despite the chances for a random hockey puck hurtling through the crowd being practically nil. The arena itself was bathed in soft purple light (at least I think it was. It could be my memory playing tricks on me. I know I was wearing purple), but the mirror ball above the stage kept throwing bright beams into the Plexiglas, so mostly I saw spots in front of my eyes, and not the bantam dervish and his band 100 feet away.

Prince, Emancipation, 1997

Prince performs Dec. 8, 1997, in the Fargodome. Nick Carlson / The Forum

I’ve been to a lot of concerts, including Led Zeppelin on their last American tour*, so I believe I have a solid foundation for comparison and aurally speaking, it was probably one of the worst concerts I’ve ever attended. Chalk that up to the enthusiasm of the crowd and the acoustics in The Garden. (It was the new one, then known as the Fleet Center as the old one hadn’t yet been demolished.) In any case, Prince was touring in support of the album “Emancipation”, a record released to celebrate the end of his contractual obligation to Warner Brothers. It’s a triple album, filled with typical Prince-like brilliance. Not that I could hear much of it, nor was anyone else there to hear it, really. We wanted the hits and the hits are what he played – with exuberance. The high point of the show, for me, was the crowd on their feet singing and dancing along to “Let’s Go Crazy”.

Indeed.

The highlight of the evening, however, was yet to come. The tickets I had won included a perk that would not have to be shared with 19,000 others.  I was on “the list” – the list compiled by Prince (or at least his PR reps), that would grant me and a guest admittance to the “after-party” and private concert to be held at The Roxy, a nightclub I had been to many times before. After that night however, I’d never look at the stage the same way again.

I don’t know how many people Prince had invited to this “party”, but the place was, of course, packed. At least there was alcohol available, which turned out to be a good thing, as we waited…and waited… over two and a half hours – in fact, last call had already been given – by the time “His Royal Purpleness” showed up. Not that anyone was going anywhere. We’d probably all have waited until dawn.

When Prince finally took the stage, and by this time he’d changed his ensemble and was actually wearing yellow, it was just him and a piano. He did a short 30 minute all-cover set and then he was gone again, in a puff of dry ice smoke. The crowd erupted, after we figured out that that really was all we were going to get, in thunderous applause and whoops of appreciation that carried us out to the street.

Now, memory is “a chancy thing…subject to random losses and unconscious conjectures that {take} the place of fact.”**  It’s possible that the fullness of time has put a romantic patina on this night. But I don’t think so. (If it had, surely I’d remember the actual concert being better, right?) In any case, it’s my memory and I’m sticking to it.

 

Do  you have a favorite concert experience, or even a memory of Prince, that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!

*Yes, I’m bragging.

**Diana Gabaldon – “The Fiery Cross”

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