By Charles Lefebvre on April 21, 2016.
“Prince dies at 57.”
The headline hit me like a punch to the gut when I checked Facebook on Thursday after getting home from a workout. Just like David Bowie’s death earlier this year, I looked around, hoping it was just a hoax, but quickly discovered it wasn’t the case.
I’m not alone feeling the shock and sadness of the sudden death of Prince at age 57, if the tributes pouring in are any indication. His work influenced a number of musicians, still sounds incredible 30 years after it was released, and his live skills were second to none. Seriously, go back and watch his Half-time Show performance at the Super Bowl in 2007. To this date, it remains the best Halftime show the game has had, and also served as my jumping off point to get into his music.
It’s the skills Prince has as a live act which inspired me to write this blog tonight, because on Dec. 13 2011, I was lucky to get a chance to see him on his Welcome 2 Canada tour in Edmonton.
I was home during winter break from Lethbridge College, and my mom, who agreed she had to see him live as well following 2007, had purchased a pair of tickets to the show at Rexall Place. We were in the lower bowl, with a good view of the stage, shaped like the symbol he briefly changed his name to in the 1990’s. The show was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. When the hour happened, there was nothing. A little fog on the stage, but no Prince or band members.
Some more time passes. Lights dim, more fog, and still no Prince.
By 8:50 p.m., my mom and I were getting anxious, saying it was unprofessional for him to not begin on time. I know he was known for not taking the stage on time, but it was ridiculous. Talk was made about staying for a little longer before we left.
Then, it happened.
Lights dim, the sound of thunderstorms, the synthesizer intro to “Let’s Go Crazy” begins playing, and then…the main himself comes on stage.
“Dearly beloved,” he says. “We have gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
And after that, he starts performing. “Let’s go Crazy” begins the set, with a brief “Delirious” interlude before wrapping up with the final notes on the first song on “Purple Rain,” shredding the guitar like he could.
After that song, I turned to my mom and said “What were we saying again?”
He kept the energy up through his set, where he sprinkled in hits like “1999,” “Take Me With U” and “Controversy,” along with covers of “Get Down Tonight” and “Play That Funky Music.” He moved around the stage with a swagger, bringing some fans up to dance.
His band included a trio of backing singers and funk music legend Maceo Parker, who has played with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, and were tight all night.
Prince sent the band off the stage briefly, moving to a piano at the side of the stage for his sampler set, where he played snippets of some of his hit songs, starting with “When Doves Cry.” When he played the intro on his guitar, the 10,000 plus fans roared. Bit of “Alphabet St.,” “Sign O’ The Times,” and “I Would Die 4 U” followed, along with the smallest snippet of “Darlin’ Nikki,” the song responsible for the Parental Advisory sticker. Prince even said after a few seconds, “I’m not playing that.”
His main set, surprisingly, concluded with “Purple Rain,” with confetti cannons shooting and Prince soloing on his guitar before exiting on an elevator, ending the set. One of the best performances I’ve heard.
The first encore, which he made people work for, included some more hits, including “Cream,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Kiss,” (prior to this song, he said he was all out of hits, along with an extended funk jam of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” It was good, but his second encore was more notable.
The house lights of Rexall Place went up, and people began to leave. I told my mom to sit down, as he will likely play another encore. We waited 15 minutes, all while we could see Prince behind the stage, looking like he was playing with a paddle ball. Then, he and one of his backup singers went to the piano, and the two of them performed a beautiful rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” with the house lights on. The show concluded with “D.M.S.R.” and another extended funk jam.
When my mom and I were walking back to the car, we both agreed the show was one of the best we had ever seen. It still is. For me, only Paul McCartney in 2012 and Arcade Fire at the Saddledome in 2014 come close to matching Prince. This will be my lasting memory. The man was a one-of-a-kind performer, and now, he’s gone.
Too many times in my life, I have wanted to see certain bands live. The tickets we’re always too expensive or I thought, ‘I’ll just catch them next time.’ There’s likely not going to be a next time.
Most of the classic rock era (1960’s-1970’s) is gone and the ones left are all up there in age. How long will the Rolling Stones keep performing? Will Neil Young still be Rockin’ in the Free World in the next five years? Can Bruce Springsteen still be Born to Run for a little longer? How long can Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour really last?
Make time to see your favourite bands. Because you never know if it will be the last time.
Reporter/Photographer, Medicine Hat News
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