Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Take Me with You

You know what is sadly impossible? Seeing Michael Jackson perform his songs live.
You know what is not only possible, but REALLY FREAKING AWESOME? Seeing Prince cover Michael Jackson live. And Wild Cherry. And Sly and the Family Stone.
And play all of his own hits, old and new.

I first saw Prince live in 1984 during his Purple Rain tour. I was young, and I’m sure I didn’t appreciate what an incredibly talented musician he was. I just knew that I loved the album and the movie, and seeing him do all of those songs live has always ranked right up there as one of the best concerts I have experienced. Purple Rain is the only album I’ve bought four times: on vinyl, cassette, CD, and as a digital download.

1984 -- I'm on the left. My friend, Shelley, is on the right.

Sunday night, I saw Prince for the third time since 1984 when he played his third show of the weekend at The Palace in Louisville. When I told my 23 year old son I was going, he said, “I thought that guy was dead.”
Sigh…. Somewhere along the line, I’ve failed as a parent. I have not, however, failed at choosing my friends. The proof is in the convoluted way I found myself funking out at The Palace.

Merely a week before, my friend, Linda, and I had a conversation about Prince playing in Louisville and expressed our sorrow that the tickets would sell out before we had a chance to get them. Linda’s husband overheard our conversation. He called a friend who also loves Prince and asked if he had a line on tickets. Coincidentally, his friend did. He had, just that very day, gone to have his teeth cleaned, a rescheduled appointment that he had missed a couple of weeks before. Thank god he missed that original appointment. His dental hygienist had, just that very day, talked to a friend with extra tickets.

So to recap: Linda’s husband’s friend’s dental hygienist’s friend sold us his extra tickets.

31 years later -- still on the left. Linda on the right.
Linda has made the comment before that being her friend is a good gig. I can’t argue with her. She still hangs out with me even when I break her wine glass and spill her wine all over the table and myself before the concert. If you know how seriously Linda takes her wine, this is no small thing.

My pants were black and the wine was white, so I had that going for me. Not to mention that I was still way ahead of where I was in 1984. Then, we “pre-gamed” in the dorm after eating dinner in the school cafeteria. Being a grown-up means you get to drink good wine in a nice restaurant with cloth napkins. When you spill it, they bring more.

The street outside The Palace was hopping.

The usual ticket scalpers were not as abundant since Prince has adopted the system where you have to present the credit card you purchased the tickets with to physically get them and get in the door. This meant we got to meet the dental hygienist and her friend. Lovely people, both. I see the benefits of this new system, but I saw some things at the entrance that would indicate there are some holes in it as well.
The dental hygienist’s friend did us right. The Palace is an intimate venue, and there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Our seats were great. We were in the third row of the balcony and found ourselves looking almost directly down on The Purple One himself.

I only took two pics. He made a plea at the beginning of the show for the audience to be in the moment and not on their phones, and that is exactly what most of us did. Midway through the show, he told us to get out our phones. We did for several minutes, and then we were directed to put them away. Again, most of us followed those directions willingly. For those who didn’t, security was johnny on the spot and added some extra encouragement.
I am as addicted to my phone as anyone, but for those two hours, it was just fine in my back pocket. Prince had it right. Live music is about being in the moment, and those moments were worth savoring.
The man is a phenomenal musician. After teasing the audience with the opening riffs from “Little Red Corvette” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” he played several of his new songs. I didn’t know them, but I liked them. His sound is even funkier now than it was in the 80s. It was made for dancing, and no one was in their seats. Prince’s music dictates that you get off your butt and move!

He did eventually move back around to his familiar work. The slowed down, funked-up version of “Let’s Go Crazy” was gritty and dirty and awesome. He played all the great ones. He would say, “Wait! I’m out of hits!” and then play the opening guitar lick to “Kiss.” With the older songs, he let the crowd carry the lyric, and buddy, we carried it.

He played the crowd like he played his guitar. He would stop, let the energy build and then yell, “I like this one!” and suddenly he’s playing Michael Jackson. I’m telling you right now. Prince covering Michael is something to behold. I might have screamed wildly in Linda’s face, “Oh my god, he’s playing Michael!” and she might have smiled blithely and kept dancing.
He played three encores which included “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” and wait for it... Wild Cherry’s “Play that Funky Music” and “Thank You” by Sly and the Family Stone just because he likes them. I like them too. The whole crowd liked them.

This pic came from the dental hygienist's friend. They had better seats. LOL!
The best part of hearing great live music is sharing the joy of it with the artist and with the crowd. It’s the best energy in the world. Everyone is happy. Total strangers high five, hug each other, and dance together. If it were possible to harness that energy and focus it at a specific place, we could solve the crisis in the Middle East, fix things in the Crimea, get that crazy guy in North Korea to lighten up.

No one can stay mad when 2,600 people are singing “I don’t care where we go. I don’t care what we do. I don’t care pretty baby, just take me with you.”