By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
There are times when I absolutely feel that I’m in a privileged space.
I had the pleasure of catching Prince in Concert at Madison Square Garden recently, and I was totally blown away by this brother’s talent and presence. I know in writing this that I’m preaching to the choir - even mentioning his agility and stage presence is an understatement, because this brother is definitely larger than life! Prince is the consummate entertainer. He is unparalleled in his ability to literally make magic. I was totally enchanted.
It’s been quite some time since I had seen Prince live and in living color - and I do mean living color - so for those of you who have become accustomed to the pinache and pizzazz that is Prince, please indulge me for a moment, while I say WOW!! I basically think I’m fairly sophisticated when it comes to the entertainment industry. I’ve been on stage, back stage, and in the green rooms of many an artist. But Prince in Concert is an indelible experience in and of itself. Two weeks later, and I find myself still humming “Me and My Red Corvette” without realizing it. Or “You Need Another Lover.“ He doesn’t just stick in your mind, he sticks in your soul.
By the way, he was totally rocking a purple suit when he sang “Purple Rain” (my personal Prince favorite). I felt like a kid in a candy store. I couldn‘t get enough. And neither could the audience. He delighted those fortunate enough to be down front by bringing them up on stage to dance with him. (Yes, I was slightly envious).
But Prince was not there just for the “kids.” He spoke of old school music, and featured saxophonist, Maceo Parker, formerly with the late James Brown, out to accompany him in executing some of his riffs. His reverence for the artists who had gone before was emphasized throughout, as he frequently referred to music as old school and intra-active, choosing to play songs from “back in the day.” He pointed out that his band played “real instruments.“ After all, the brother is a musician, not an amateur. He uses electronics to enhance what he does, not substitute for lack of talent or ability. He comes from a family of artists (but you know that already, don't you? Like I said, preaching to the choir...)
I need to interject here that I'm a fan of Prince for more than just his music and movies. I also like the brother's heart. I will never forget reading how he had made a generous contribution to Fisk University when it was nearing bankruptcy. It barely made the news - in fact it was buried on the back page of the Daily News, barely noticeable. I was already impressed with his genius. But you know my penchant for bad Black Brothers with Brains. It moved him from being just another GBM (goodlooking Black Man) to the status of FBM, (Fine Black Man). Along with his money and fame is a real concern and tie in with his people (us).
Over the years, the King of Creativity (which is what I call him - I’ve long since elevated him from Prince to King), has amassed a huge body of work. Even He quipped at one point, “I don’t know where to begin, I have too many songs.” At one point, he stood in the middle of the stage and asked the audience what they wanted to hear; then held up the mike as everyone shouted their favorite songs at the same time. When the pandemonium died down he said quietly, "Okay." And then picked up his guitar and began playing his own choice.
Not a problem for me, though. If he had decided to sing every one of his songs, I would have hung right there from beginning to end, singing along with the rest of the audience, those lyrics that we have come to know and love: “1999”, “Controversy”, “When The Doves Cry,” “Diamonds and Pearls”…I’m not going to try and name them all here, it would take up the rest of this column.
Also on stage were the Twins - two beautiful, but leggy ladies who performed throughout the show., and back up “soul sisters” (I didn’t get their names) who harmonized with Prince, strutting from one end of the stage to the other. One minute he was in the center of the stage; the next he was leaping on top of a grand piano brandishing his guitar, throwing one of those sexy, smouldering looks out at the audience (of course each of us females was fantasizing that he was looking right at us). A smooth step here, a leap there, a dip here - Prince did not disappoint.
His sense of humor was in rare form - at one point the had the house lights turned down and then told the audience to turn on their cell phones and wave them like candles. You suddenly saw thousands of lights throughout the vast garden, coming through the pitch black darkness. Then he said in that deep, sensual voice of his, with just a little touch of wry humor: “Now throw them up in the air.” The he danced around with his guitar while the audience broke up in laughter, realizing that he had just pranked all of them simultaneously.
Prince never does the same show the same way, which is the mark of a true Gemini, and a great entertainer. Many who saw him in London said the show there was great, but the show at the Garden was “off the chain!“ He did four - count them - four encores!
The MSG show, part of his “Welcome 2 America” Tour, was on a Tuesday night - not generally known for sell out concerts -, but Madison Square Garden was packed as though it was a Friday or Saturday night.
From the moment he stepped on the stage he had the crowd on their feet singing along with him, line for line, note for note pause for pause. Such is the power of this brother. If you missed this one, no worries, he’ll be back on February 7, 2011. And personally, I can’t wait to see how he’s going to top the other one. It will definitely will be the show of the century!!