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Prince: The Dove Has Flown

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Prince has passed away. The aftershock of this seismic occurrence will be felt for some time to come within the music industry and amongst his legions of fans, not to mention his close associates. I, for one, am still coming to terms with the blow of his sudden demise. “Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last,” as he once famously sang in the hit classic “1999.” Just a week before he died, I had christened my new stereo by playing Purple Rain. And now he was gone. Surreal.

I am deeply saddened by his death, because he seemed so young with so much life life left to live. It has taken me almost a month to finish this article. Weeks of playing his music, basking in the warmth of his phenomenal talent, processing all his fantastic accomplishments. Now I can accept that he is gone and think about what his legacy means to me.

Let’s face it; Prince’s catalogue is mindboggling. With 39 studio albums, a plethora of bootlegs and hundreds, maybe thousands of unreleased tracks chilling in the vault, the biggest question remains what does this mean for his music? That remains to be seen. Prince was notoriously protective of his work, but his fans are having a field-day judging from the glut of videos on YouTube lately. As a matter of fact, I received a notice from his lawyers to remove footage I`d shot of his Welcome 2 Canada concert in 2011 or have my YouTube account deleted. I complied, wondering how some 2 minute low res clips could possibly pose a threat to Prince. But nonetheless, it was oddly gratifying to receive a warning letter from Team P. I simply wanted to share the experience with those who could not make it. And evidently, there were plenty of people who wanted to see His Royal Badness, seeing how my videos racked up a total of over 7,000 views for 1 glorious week.

prince mural toronto

Prince mural on a sidewalk in Toronto, Canada.

Prince was the soundtrack to my adolescence. The first time I remember seeing him was on a Billboard countdown on T.V. He was in the top 5, inching closer to number 1 with “When Doves Cry.” I saw this strange looking dude dressed in purple and a frilly shirt with a morose expression on his face. I didn’t know what to make of him. I couldn’t tell whether he was black or white. I decided not to like him. And then I saw Purple Rain, the movie. I was blown away by this temperamental, stylishly talented musician and the mercurial drama surrounding him. The wardrobe was hip and astonishingly extravagant with lots of lace, big hair and big boobs heaving out of corsets. I liked how he fought with The Revolution, especially with the rather masculine Wendy, and the fact that he mentioned masturbating (!) in Darling Nikki. And how he humped the stage so hard that Apollonia got upset and ran out of the theatre. In a kid’s mind, this was pretty cool stuff.

Shortly thereafter I went to the local record store to buy the tape. It was run by this super cool guy who sort of resembled Prince. Carlos had a permed coif accented with blonde highlights. I had a huge crush on him. So much that I would go into the store and rummage through records, stealing glances at his big dreamy bedroom eyes and moist succulent lips. But of course, I was too young to really know much about sex, except that it was grown up stuff and judging from what went down in Purple Rain…pretty damn confusing too. There was also a pretty girl who worked with Carlos, rocking a similar Afro-punk style. I felt like they were part of some secret society that knew all about the Purple Rain life except me. The tape he sold me was a bootleg. No cover art but I didn’t care. I played the heck out of that cassette, feeling like I had discovered a soulmate, a rebel, someone who understood how I felt. As an added bonus, Carlos included part of The Time’s LP on the recording. I loved how Purple Rain would segue into “Jungle Love” straight after the violins. That tape is now lost in the annals of time. The way it shaped my brain development though, will last a lifetime.

Fast forward to 1985, Long Island, New York. I am spending the night with this rather rambunctious girl named T and her mom. T is a huge Prince fan. She has the Purple Rain album. We play the record and sing along. I admire the album art, especially the flowers strewn amidst the liner notes. T gives her mom plenty of lip, virtually non-stop sass. I am amazed at just how much American kids can get away with when it comes to talking back to their parents. I feel sorry for her mother, who can’t get T to listen or cooperate. The yelling continues. T sprints away, only to run straight into a wall, breaking her hand in the process. Which means T’s track and field meet for tomorrow has just gone up in flames. Her agonizing screams are nerve shattering. T’s mother scolds her soundly, saying that if she had listened, this would not have happened. They go off to the hospital, leaving me alone in the apartment. I get to enjoy the Purple Rain LP in solitude. Nice!

That summer, I acquired “Around The World In A Day.” This time, it is a bonafide recording with cover art. I dig the colourful swirls and funky fonts but above all, I feel the music. It takes me to different worlds that I have never encountered, but Prince and The Revolution make them come alive in my head. I am especially enamoured with “Tambourine.” The tape does not fall apart, no matter how many times I rewind and repeat that song. Little did I know that several years later, my little sister would sneak into my room, bang that tape and subsequently fall in love with it. She confessed to having a similar obsession with Tambourine, a seemingly innocuous song about a musical instrument. Or so I thought back then…

around the world in a day tape

Rock of ages. Just won`t quit!

1992: I am the 108th caller on a radio contest, thereby winning a pair of tickets to see Prince in addition to The Love Symbol tape. Hardly believing my luck, I phoned my boyfriend and broke the news. “I’m not coming to watch you take your panties off and throw it onstage,” he declared. Seriously dude? Get your mind outta the gutter! “Chances are my panties will land on someone else’s head before it ever gets anywhere near Prince,” I reasoned. Surely he could see the sense in that? Nope. So I invited my aunt instead. She was ecstatic and we went to Maple Leaf Gardens. It was the first time I saw Prince in concert. The atmosphere was raw and electric. He performed sexy MF (he swore!) and Mayte Garcia was stunning. It was one of my happiest moments ever. Needless to say, my panties stayed on. The boyfriend became pop history shortly thereafter.

Circa 1997, my co-worker introduces me to his friend Ed. He thought we would get along because we both love Prince. He’s right. Ed is a Prince fanatic. In fact, we hit it off so well that we become raving buddies. Just imagine Prince brought 2 ravers together! I think Ed was relieved that he could wild out about Alexander Nevermind and I wouldn’t think him odd. Ed had bootlegs, videos, stuff that I’d never heard of or even known about it. Obviously he had the time and energy to keep up with Prince, who could easily drown you in a river of records. I was glad that someone else could take care of the legwork while I got to enjoy the benefits. That’s what friends are for!

Over the years, Prince has brought joy into my life with his music and unique presence. I was fortunate to have seen him perform a number of times. There is no question he is the most talented musician I have ever seen. It is hardly likely that there will be many more of his calibre in our era due to a shifting soundscape. With the advent of technology, there is less appreciation and effort made to produce recordings with live instruments. The beauty of Prince was his ability to marry tech (synths, drum machines) with a solid musical foundation of funk, pop, rock and soul. He owned his sound and his style. He drew attention to injustice within the industry during his infamous battle with Warner Bros. Back then, I didn’t understand what he was so upset about but I sure as hell do now.

Thank you, Prince, for teaching me so much about myself. Your passing gave me pause for consideration. It made me take an honest look at life. I felt sad, not just because you are gone, but because I never took the time to consider your pain as a human being. You were larger than life but you weren’t exempt from suffering; just better at transcending it than most. A true inspiration and shining example for humans to be their exceptional best. I Wish U Heaven.

Copyright © 2016 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

Rave Reviews: Prince’s Welcome 2 Canada Tour, Toronto

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PRINCE WELCOME 2 CANADA TOUR

Air Canada Centre, November 25th 2011, Toronto.

             Arguably, Prince is 1 of the greatest musicians alive. Some of you might wonder what does Prince have to do with raving? The fact that he wrote “Rave unto the Joy Fantastic” qualifies him as rave material in my opinion. Purple Rain was the quintessential soundtrack of my angst filled adolescence, stealthily sowing the seeds of youthful rebellion. So when world renowned Prince fanatic Ed informed me that His Royal Badness was coming to town, I got my Prince disciple pal Monty to snag tickets.

            Welcome 2 Canada was Prince’s first Canadian tour since 2002. Despite the many thousands of mostly middle-aged fans in attendance, hundreds of empty seats remained compared to the full house of the Musicology concert in 2004. Monty and I were almost banished to Bleacherville, which was a disappointing deal for  $117.75.  A giant, luminous rendition of Prince’s unpronounceable symbol served as the stage with a piano poised daintily on the coiled arm. The band was strategically positioned in a recessed pit located on the glyph’s head. Prince’s background singers kicked things off at 9 p.m., shortly before the Purple One emerged on a hidden platform which arose from the centre of the stage amidst enthusiastic screams and rapturous applause, while the perimeter pulsed with multi-coloured light. The Maestro from Minneapolis looked somewhat conservative in black pants and loose fitting tunic surmounted by a metallic necklace, but his slick, James Brown inspired footwork soon put all those rumours of gimpy hips to rest. NPG’s line-up had changed yet again, with mature female singers and musicians such as Ida Nielsen comprising the majority. John Blackwell (drums) was the only face I recognized. It seemed Prince had modified his band to reflect his aging demographic, which I found refreshingly down to earth though the man himself did not look a day over 35. Indeed, the band was tight as Prince proudly proclaimed, yet some essential spark seemed to be missing as the overall tone of the show seemed rather subdued compared 2 the flashy, raunchy antics and energetic dance numbers of Prince’s semi-scandalous past.

            “Gimme a light – let me bask inToronto’s love!” the diminutive diva stated as he swaggered, playfully slicking his coiffed hair. Those cocky, I’m-2-good-for-this-show facial expressions proved priceless. Legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker thrilled the audience with effortless skill during a lively version of  Musicology. Prince blazed a mean guitar streak on A Million Days and surprised me with a cover of Let’s Go! by The Cars. By now, I was being suffused with happy vibes courtesy of the vitamin e I’d popped earlier, unlike some of the semi-retired fans sitting idly in their seats.

            Halfway through his set, Prince changed into a gold satin shirt and performed a medley of greatest hits such as Nothing Compares 2 u, Let’s go Crazy (which had the crowd going wild), 1999 and Yesterday by The Beatles. After a scorching guitar solo on Purple Rain accentuated by bursts of purple confetti, Prince disappeared beneath the stage, his upraised hand grasping a glittery plectrum which closed into a fist as the classic, violin heavy ending went on like a funerary dirge amidst tumultuous applause. Assuming the show was over, some people shuffled out but us diehards remained, expecting  the musical monarch to bestow more jewels upon us. Skipper lived up to our expectations as he returned in yet another wardrobe change, his heels lighting up as he strutted around the darkened stage. “What’s my name!” the artist proclaimed as the lights came up to reveal him swaying seductively behind a sampler featuring a LED display. When Doves Cry heralded the start of yet another medley of the Prince Hit Parade, which segued into Nasty Girl, Sign O’ the Times, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Hot Thing, I would Die 4 u and Housequake while the intro to Darling Nikki was briefly glossed over. I was really hoping to hear him sing that classic line about “masturbating with a magazine” – no such luck. Drat!

 Despite keeping the lyrical content chaste, Prince’s deeply sensuous persona was especially prominent during this part of the show. A white sleeveless vest displayed well-defined arms, rounded off with two-toned black and white trousers and glittery gold platform wedges. Those who got fooled into walking out truly missed out. After 2 hours and 30 minutes, it seemed as if Prince was just getting warmed up. “If I was your Girlfriend” certainly proved my suspicions right. The Prince of Funk outlasted even his audience as he returned, encore after encore like an unstoppable Terminator. The smaller the crowd got, the more animated Prince became. It was obvious that he loved to jam and thrived on working  with an intimate audience. Some lucky people were invited up onstage for Fly and Jungle Love, and the band rocked the house with a rambunctious interpretation of Play that Funky Music.   

“Ain’t nobody tryin 2 go home!” Symbolina asserted as he stunned us with yet another encore. A brilliant slice of Disco Beat by Sylvester was served up in style, but it was the tribute to Michael Jackson that took everyone by storm. Don’t Stop til you Get Enough brought the crowd to its feet as Prince exhorted the audience to get up and clap for Michael. This gesture of reverence towards an artist long considered to be his rival was truly touching, and demonstrated how much The High Priest of Pop has matured over the years.

“Toronto, I got 2 many hits 4 me 2 go away. I don’t think u understand how many hits we got!” Prince proclaimed with encore number 5. The band launched into 80’s ol skool joints, which managed to coax some of the older heads out of their chairs. This was turning out to be some kind of endurance contest between Prince and his fans. It was an inspiration to see this musical genius, still in fine form at 53, pouring his heart and soul into his music. Indeed, Prince made a point of proclaiming throughout the night that this was “real music” and “You didn’t come here to hear a record being played,” in what could be interpreted as a rebuttal to Jay-Z and Kanye West who’d performed at the A.C.C. the night before. The man also known as Alexander Nevermind closed things off with “Baby I’m a Star” before disappearing triumphantly into the stage cavity, nodding confidently with a smirk of satisfaction on his face as his acolytes screamed their approval. The house lights came on, indicating the musical marathon was officially over. The funk locomotive had finally puffed out after 3 hours and 15 minutes. Prince certainly proved that he’s got staying power and he ain’t going away anytime soon. If His Royal Badness is coming to your town, I highly recommend that you get on board and see this gifted luminary while you still can. Despite the understated nature of his latest offering, Prince is most definitely worth seeing. A hardcore raver indeed.

Copyright © 2011 Frankie Diamond. This article may not be copied in part or whole and posted to another site or reproduced without the express permission of the author.