His name is Prince, and he is funky. The opening night for the Musicology Tour was astounding, and the Artist, the Symbol, the Artist Formerly Known As, and without doubt the New Power Generation were in full effect.
We got to sit in the section of the Staples Center where the stars were, next to Paul Stanley from Kiss, Gwen Stefani, Hilary Duff, Babyface and the ever reclusive Eddie Murphy. It was the first time I have ever seen a crowd give a standing ovation to an audience member. He came in, looking as young and about to crack wise as he did in the old days of SNL, talking about how he gonna go and “C-I-L-L” his landlord. People were practically fainting at the sight of him. This was my first time seeing him in person, although I worked briefly for his production company in the very first pilot I made, “Move the Crowd,” a vehicle for the comedy duo Ed Lover and Dr. Dre – the other Dr. Dre, which was a spin off of the enormously popular film “House Party.” I played a ’round the way girl, with a huge weave on my head stacked up to the sky, the heaviest gold bamboo hoop earrings and a tutti-fruitti-this- my-booty dress. Very “BAPS” – which was my cultural road map at that time. Kris Kross was the musical guest and we jumped – now who can tell me that ain’t old school?
The show started on the dot at 8pm, and as soon as the lights went down, it was on. I am glad the lights went down as fast as they did, because people did not dress for the occasion, which is my big problem with going out to see the legends play. The audience, at least from my perspective, is also there to entertain the performer, and therefore, should dress like the person they are about to salute, so they can rock them. I slicked back my hair and wore a purple metallic vinyl piano dress by Lip Service, and when I got in, I threw my pantyhose in the garbage because I was there to party. We only saw one guy in a “Sign o’ The Times” era military cap with chains draped across the front, but we are not sure if he saw us.
Prince is always a revelation and a revolution. He’s the type that Ava so delightfully says has “A cock in one hand, and the Bible in the other” – which is true and beautiful, because he isn’t preaching with the Bible, hitting you upside the head with it, nor is he turning any pages because his other hand is busy, but the man loves God, and in the realest way.
Remember the lyrics for “Controversy?” “I wish there was no black or white, I wish there were no rules.” I honestly think that God wants us to accept ourselves and not be taken over by the rules that society lays down. That God doesn’t make rules, only love.
God especially loves live music. Prince chortles after an impressive saxophone solo by Candy Dulfer, “We are live musicians, we play live music, we don’t believe in lip- syncing” – which draws a tremendous response from the wild audience. He’s an incredible live performer, as all those with the iconic and lasting A-list star power have in common. Bowie is a fair comparison, although Prince seems to retain his image with more recurrent motifs. There is always going to be lace, there is always going to be a slim flared pant, there is always going to be some type of asymmetrical thing happening, whether it is a one legged trouser or a half tailcoat-sportcoat, which symbolizes the asymmetry of Prince, or to reach even further, the symmetry of Prince, for he is neither androgynous or butch, top or bottom, alien or human, black or white, mansion or ghetto, Symbol or Artist, but easily equitable and at odds with all there is to be.
My most cherished and mesmerizing images of Prince was when his backup band was the Revolution. I loved the brocades they wore, straight out of upholstery glam lands like Michael Levine’s downtown, reminiscent of Louis XIV, 2 inch court heels and all, with Wendy Malvoin and Lisa Coleman, who are impressively gifted stars in their own right, and now work with another enduring favorite of mine, Neil Finn – known to do his own renditions of Prince songs now and again. I have a Wendy and Lisa t-shirt, and in Neil’s dressing room at the House of Blues, Wendy held me tightly to her, saying “Thank you” over and over.
Prince has always worked with the best musicians, and with women in particular. It is a powerful feeling to watch a woman like Wendy play guitar next to our Prince. The years when we were ruled by our Prince, after the release of “Purple Rain,” the film and album, were empowering not only in the beauty of the music, but in the equality that needs no soapbox, for it is heard in the arrangements and the chords themselves.
There was an overwhelming moment onstage during the acoustic portion of the show, where its just Prince, and he’s sitting on a stool playing guitar, and the crowd is unable to stop screaming. He just stopped for a moment. His eyes welled up with tears, as he looked out into the massive crowd of worshippers, kids who were now adults who had grown up with him, the purple light cutting into the blackness of the Staples Center. It seemed he hadn’t played a show like this in years, to so many fans, and possibly that he’d forgotten how much he was loved. Maybe Paisley Park is an isolated place where they practice and record and work and then leave for the day, and that he just didn’t remember, that it was Prince we all screamed for, and that love for him was a tidal wave of nostalgic bliss, and we loved him now as we always did and always will.