This past December, I saw Prince for the first time at Madison Square Garden. For those of us used to seeing indie rock shows in a half-filled dive bar, there is certainly something eerily futuristic/Matrix-y about a concert in a vast, jam-packed arena complete with video screens, nausea-inducing bleachers, 20,000 seats, and nine dollar domestic beers. A smallish sized city of people had assembled and paid at least ninety dollars to see the man- just one of many sold-out shows- which must be some kind of ego trip.
Then there was Prince himself, who pranced and prowled on that color-shifting Prince-sign shaped stage, performing a medley -focused set worthy of a Super Bowl half-time show. He changed outfits, guitar soloed, and didn't stop for the whole show. Kiss, a song many of my fan friends dislike due to its lack of synth/instrumentals and overplayed status, was a highlight, and the glittery red Mandarin-collar tunic and red flared pants he wore for the number will be forever imprinted on my brain.
My favorite part of the night came when Sheila E. hit the stage for a rendition of The Glamorous Life. One of the many things I love about Prince is his willingness to promote (or, less lovably, manage in an evil Svengali-type way) female artists and actually make use of their talents. Sheila E. did a mind-blowing drum solo that held all billion people in the audience spellbound. Was it cool to stand among 20,000 people passionately singing along to the lyrics "She wants to live the glamorous life/She doesn't need a maaaaan's touch!" Yes it was.
I guess I don't really see Prince as a person, like you and me, so much as a musical deity. His talent, starting with his precocious first albums, has always been inhumanly oversized, and the brilliance of his lyrics, use of sexuality, and always-glam aesthetic never fail to amaze me. In college I used to live in a lavender house called "Purple Reign" and it was always as though he, like God, was looming over everything we did. Once a visitor stopped by and saw us watching Prince on Saturday Night Live, saying, "He's a great artist and all, but he's a jerk." There was a brief silence, and my friend finally replied, "You don't say stuff like that about Prince in this house, man."
There is no question there are greater Prince fans than me (it's not like I bought Musicology) and it's true that I would trade the spectacle of the 2010 Prince for the thong-clad, floor-humping, trenchcoat-wearing Dirty Mind era version any day. Most of my heroes are well past their prime, so there's always that. But there's no question about one thing: the man knows how to put on a show.
PHOTO COURTESY CAPTAINSDEAD.COM