- Courtesy of Prince
I asked a few of Indy's musicians and music fans for permission to share their stories of the Purple One and his impact. This blog will be updated with more tributes from writers and musicians as the night goes on. I welcome you to leave your own tributes in the comments below. As for me? I never saw Prince live. And now I'm so, so, so regretting that. Time is a gift.
On Facebook, Steven Hayes remembers a secret show at Birdy's that he talked himself into:
Like many other folks I know, I got the rare honor of seeing him perform an after-party show at Birdy's (live music club in Indy - capacity a bit over 400). He had played earlier that night at the Murat Theater and this was a fan club-only event. Like many others, I got wind of the event that night and just showed up at the club and got to see it. The events of the night, including how I found out, got in, and stayed in the club, are a story unto themselves, better shared at a different time.Here's the setlist from that night.
The place was packed when Prince and his band arrived and hit the stage. I recall it being around 1 a.m. when he actually began performing, though I could be way off on the time. I assumed he didn't do shows like this just to reel off a few greatest hits. I was right.
The only word I've ever come up with to describe what I witnessed over the next couple hours is 'jazz,' in the best connotations of that word. It was a group of musicians spiritually tethered to their leader and all directly tapped into whatever force it is in the universe that makes our species create. And Prince was the centerpiece, guiding the journey and contributing his own mastery to the proceedings.
It was like being invited to watch Picasso paint.
When the show was finished, I knew I had experienced something I'd never be able to match. It was a night that compacted everything good about music - the creativity, the spirit, and the joy of shared experience - and put it on display. I'm not sure there are many artists that could take us on a ride like Prince did that night.
As I noted earlier, there are a lot of moments and details of that night that roll into one giant, fun memory. But actually getting an intimate look at a master at work was really what's stuck with me the most over the years.
When I think of Prince, that night is what I'll think about.
Former News Editor Rebecca Townsend reviewed Prince's show in Chicago for NUVO in 2012.
As the last night of a three-night, consecutive run, how was the concert? The short answer: He blew the roof off the joint. A more nuanced answer follows, but, to truly understand it, one must first understand that Prince is throwing a series of parties for us — and him — all of us.Read the rest here.
Through this experience, not only is he refilling beleaguered souls with the transformative sounds of some of the planet's most talented musicians, Prince is working to remind us that there is no "I" in team, that when we proudly recite the words "freedom and justice for all," we remember the all.
Musician Andy D weighed in on Prince, who "wrote the style guide for the story I wanted to tell."
Prince BECAME an inspiration for me. I'd always been aware of him and his work, always liked his hits through high school and college, but it was my wife Victoria who truly got me to delve deep into his body of work, and it was so wonderful because I got to fall in love with his music while I fell in love with my wife, and the fact that she brought this one artist's work so much more fully into my life is really indicative of how love works - it deepens and enriches all things. Prince pretty well provided the sound track for our courtship and early relationship. Prince and Bowie, and that continues through our years touring and into the present day. Music can be a very intimate language between people, and Prince's music was our language. His songs are the grammar of our pidgin language of love.
As a performer, he already wrote the style guide for the story I wanted to tell. He delved into the tensions caused by love and sexuality and our culture and his religion, and made truly great art from this. Some times he flirted with mediocrity on purpose for fun, to mess with his label, and what we often joke are his unworthy fans, but Prince at his worst was better than most artists at their best. We're reeling from this today, truly, emotionally, devastated. I said back when Bowie died that Prince is the last truly monumental artist whose passing would wreck me, and it's true. The worst part, besides the obvious loss of a rich human life is the loss of potential. Both Bowie and Prince had just seemed to recently get inspired, making good relevant albums in the past few years. The world is poorer today, and it hurts.
Also: if you can't see the love of Prince in Andy D music, you really just aren't paying attention. We're pretty obvious about it. Playing "First Avenue" for the recording of Electric Six's live album a few years ago was the closest we'll ever get to walking on hallowed ground.
Another discovery: Star photographer and DJ Mpozi Mshale Tolbert remembered that same Birdy's show on the Okayplayer.com message boards:
I missed the main show at the Murat (editing pictures till late), but it turns out the man was playing a word of mouth only after party at this rock and roll cheap beer road bar called Birdy's up on the north side of town...Note: Read tributes to Mpozi, who died in 2006, here and here.
the place was packed by about 12:30, and people were pretty mellow, no drama, it was like 30 plus bucks to get in (i wasn't payin a DIZZLE! i had a hand full of flyers for various parties, so i guess i got the promoter comp), and dude went on about 1:30 or 2...
i don't know enough of his music to give a set list, but suffice to say, that this cat who has played on some HUGE stages took to this little tiny stage like it was madison square garden...
they riffed off of atomic dog (the tune playing when they took the stage), then moved into what seemed like just a really fun (for them) free form jam... i respected the fact that he's step aside and let his musicians (bass, drums, trombone/flute, tenor sax) take the lead....
needless to say, that dude can PLAY a guitar.... makes it look crazy easy!
oye como va (versioned out) turned into an extended drum solo that would have made a certain afro'd drummer proud!
best of all, the audience stayed hype, and non pretensious, giving the whole affair a positive vibe....
Dan Coleman of Spirit of '68 remarked on Facebook that a Prince show was the best he's ever seen live. I asked him to explain why:
The show was in the round and he must have played for close to 3 hours. His band in incredibly tight because his band leader is Maceo MF'n Parker. In the middle of the show he does an acoustic set with this just him and his guitar doing stripped down classics and leading the crowd in sing alongs. It was incredible.
I mean, just look at this set list.
It's the same reason I can never see Radiohead. I saw them at Bonnaroo in 2006. They will never play a better set list than this. I'm good on them forever, it will taint the memory.
I was lucky enough to catch Prince three times.
President Obama weighed in on Facebook, too:
Today, the world lost a creative icon. Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince. Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer..
“A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince once said — and nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band, and all who loved him.
93.9 FM is spinning Prince right now. Listen live.
Purple tears going up at Indy CD and Vinyl
DJ and teacher DJ Metrognome remembers Prince:
Prince embodies the spirit and definition of what being an artist is all about. He didn't hesitate at the idea of conflict or controversy, always expressing himself the best way he knew how. He was fearless and showed the world what courage looked like in the form of music and musicianship. Dismissive of rules, I feel like he understood that he could pass that power on to the listener. But his power, to me, also was rooted in his own enigma. And while this is terribly sad, it's also somehow fitting that his personal life was never exposed or uncovered... just the way he liked it.