January 22, 2016

That time I went to a Prince concert instead of going to bed like a regular grownup

There were plenty of reasons for a responsible adult like me to skip this concert: It was a weeknight. We have kids. It was the same night as an important work event. I like going to bed at 9 p.m.

Sam and I tend to regret the adventures we don’t take more than the ones we do, and we’ve lived in Chanhassen for 6 years and never seen Prince. We enlisted a neighbor to watch the kids, and we bought tickets for the 11 p.m. show (so I could still attend the work meeting. I am responsible, after all.)

After an hour of waiting on a bus, in which I began to question my ability to stay alert through this endeavor, we were dropped off at Prince's home/studio/concert venue Paisley Park, aka the white buildings with purple lights that I drive past on my way to the gym. We were briefed and re-briefed on the Paisley Park Rules:

1. No cell phone use

2. No photography, video, or audio recording

3. No alcohol

4. No tobacco

5. No meat

The first thing I noticed was the smell; it was luscious. I later noticed employees subtly walking around with sticks of incense.

The second thing I noticed was how strange it was to see a crowd of people and not a single person staring at a smartphone.

The crowd was diverse, and generally older than I expected. People were wearing everything from evening gowns to Minnesota Mom sweaters, and a full quarter of the crowd was dressed in purple. Most of us looked like we needed to be at work tomorrow, but needed to be here tonight more.

We were shepherded into a huge room. The high ceilings and broad, empty space reminded me of a warehouse, if warehouses could be swanky. Plush purple couches and cocktail tables lined the edge of the room in roped-off VIP areas, where gentlemen in suits and ladies in sequined dresses sipped non-alcoholic drinks. In front of a few rows of folding chairs, a stage rose up with a purple grand piano. Sam and I jostled for a spot with a view of the stage, and we stood and waited.

In a cloud of smoke, against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic light show and his iconic glyph, Prince appeared. He wore fuchsia silk pajamas and platform wedge shoes that lit up when he tapped his foot.

As promised, all of the music came from a piano, a microphone, and The Artist himself. I grew up listening to Prince, and always thought of him as a quirky pop star with a distinctive voice, but it wasn’t until tonight that I realized just how ridiculously talented of a musician he is.

There was something beautifully pure about the music, as if he was playing the very heart of each song. I wondered why anyone bothered with other instruments. Did Purple Rain ever have more than a piano in it? I’m sure I heard the most complete version of the song tonight, all the way to its emotional core.

Unlike the shouty, beer-sloshing rock concert crowds I’m used to, the audience was transfixed. Silent. When two women chatted during a song, everyone in the vicinity turned and cast a “Who is talking?” look over their shoulders, which is Minnesotan for “Shut the hell up.”

When a popular song was played, people cheered but were hesitant to sing along. We had to be coaxed into a sing-along medley of Raspberry Beret and Starfish and Coffee, and our performance was lackluster compared to the amazing voice on stage. No, I can’t hit those high notes. Neither can you.

“You’re staring at me,” he said, and of course we were. In the brief moments of banter, larger-than-life Prince seemed vulnerable and surprisingly human. Those moments were tiny, and he seemed most in his element when he was playing, singing, and creating a transcendent experience for an audience of sleep-deprived suburbanites.

There was a collective sigh of disappointment when the house lights came on and we realized the show was truly over. The room smelled like strawberries. We would have to brave the cold January night and return to places that didn’t smell like incense or fruit, and we’d have to take our kids to school and ourselves to our offices, bleary-eyed and aching with nostalgia for this thing that just happened. Of course, this is the price of every adventure.

I’d like to quote a stranger who was standing behind me tonight, who was talking to her friend as we waited for the music to start:

“You shouldn’t waste your entire life worrying you’ll be tired the next day.” 

I did not take this photo. I followed the rules. I'm hoping Paisley Park After Dark doesn't mind me lifting this image for my non-money-making blog with only a sprinkle of followers.


Dawn Pfiel said...

Very cool Monica

Emily said...

❤️ Love this so much. Your words make the pictures less necessary.