On the late evening of April 19, I had a most wondrous experience…
I saw the artist that I’ve always known as Prince perform live in Seattle at a small club tucked into the pocket of Pike Place Market. It was an intimate venue that barely holds 1,200 people, but it was filled to the brim and the air was heavy with humidity and expectation.
I never thought I would see a massive musical legend from my childhood in such close proximity. Capturing glances of his smirks, his ominous stares, and his serious side turning to smiles when the crowd reacted to his amazing musicality and off-the-cuff commentary. It was a dream come true, and although he mostly played newer material which I did not recognize, his dedication and versatility were nothing short of jaw-dropping. Flitting from guitar, to microphone, to keyboards like a humming bird sampling all varieties of melodic nectar, he showcased the wide range of talents which first catapulted him to stardom in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He wore a scarlet and gold ensemble (with matching headband) that strongly invoked the memory of Jimi Hendrix – particularly during the vast guitar solos which reached out far and wide like dragon wings.
Then, the powerful stage lights dimmed, and a back-lit Prince sang “Purple Rain” through a lavender haze created by two stage columns that doubled as fog machines. He dedicated the song to the memory of those lost during the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week. The ballad united the room and everyone sang along like a heavenly choir bound to the Earth by gravity alone. He extended the coda several times and the experience seemed to last almost 15 minutes. Shortly after, he teased the crowd with snippets of hits that would not be seen tonight, including 10 seconds of the introduction to “I Would Die 4 U” which elicited a roar of excitement. However, once I heard the opening chords of “When Doves Cry” – that violent scribble of guitar – I prayed that he would play the entire song. I never thought I would get to sing a long with a live Prince to the lyrics:
Dream if you can a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses, they feel the heat, the heat between me and you…
But I did. And my friends and I danced like witch doctors purging a poison from our bodies. It was celebration in its purest and most primal form.
I’ve always been fascinated by the power of music and its ability to alter emotional states and invoke memories. Tonight, however, brought it to a higher octave of understanding: It brought me back to my youth when I would watch Prince on Friday Night Videos while perched on the carpet of our living room floor. It put me back into the car rides to school when his songs would be on the radio and my sister would be driving with her fingerless gloves and the frost of the Iowa winter decorated the windshield with frozen spirals. It recalled school dances, the summer county fair, and every other event cataloged by my mind where Prince was the soundtrack of the moment.
It made me appreciate the gift of someone sharing their talent with the world. A talent which gave me some of the most beautiful bookmarks for my memory.