Prince Live: "Excuse me, grandma, I'm working!"


I had an opportunity 2 C Prince perform 3 times. 

The first time was 1988 on the Lovesexy tour.   At this time in my life, I was obsessed with Prince. Lovesexy was his 10th album in 10 years.  (Actually, it was his 11th album if you include The Black Album.)

I remember the day of the concert, October 18, 1988, I picked up the 12-inch of I Wish U Heaven -- extended three-part suite which runs over ten minutes.  The first part is a stripped-down version of the Lovesexy album song, remixed with a dance beat.  Part 2 is a gospel rendition of I Wish U Heaven with new lyrics -- "Tell me who in this house knows about sweet heaven?"   On Part 3 Prince does his best James Brown meets Morris Day impersonation and deviates a lot from the original song as he sings, "Take my coffee -- but don't U touch my cream...make me holler -- make me scream."  It's one of my favorite Prince moments.  

During the show, Prince grooved into I Wish U Heaven.  I had great seats and was sitting just a few rows from stage in the first chair of the row with the aisle to my right.  Just as he began to sing a woman came down and stood right next to me. She was dancing like nobody's business. As the song played I realized he was performing the 12-inch version and as the song segued into Part 2 the woman ran down to the stage and joined Prince.  That woman was Patti LaBelle.  

My second Prince show was at the Tower Theatre on Jan 7, 1997with my old friend and fellow Prince freak, Bob Andreano.  At this time, Prince was known as "Artist Formerly Known as Prince" but during the concert -- which started at midnight -- he characterized himself as an indentured servant during his 18-year tenure at Warner Bros. Records, and used performance to announce that he's now a free man, in control of his destiny.  It was a theme he returned to again and again but we didn't care as we danced for almost two hours to songs from new album Emancipation, a medley of old hits, and lots of old skool James Brown.  

Guitar playing Prince backing Tamar at Philadelphia's Electric Factory.

Guitar playing Prince backing Tamar at Philadelphia's Electric Factory.

The third time I saw Prince was March 1st, 2006.  My second Prince show was at the Tower Theatre on Jan 7, 1997Who else but Prince could announce a show with less than a week's notice, sell it out instantly and have fans lining up in the cold after midnight on a Wednesday? And here's the kicker: Prince wasn't even the headliner.

Part of a renegade theater tour intended to introduce audiences to his latest (in a long line of) protege, Tamar, Prince opted out of the main spotlight Wednesday night at a packed The Electric Factory when he and his band took the stage just after midnight (my second midnight Prince show). Rather than sing, Prince handled lead guitar duties, allowing the glamorous Tamar, and a duo of identical twin backup singers, to front an old-school R&B-style review that kept us dancing until well past 2 a.m.  My brother, Stephen, and I worked our way to the front of the stage and watched Prince attached his guitar from 10-feet away.  I lost my hearing for a week. 

The first half of the show was basically Tamar's soon-to-be but never released, album.  Prince did his best to stay in the shadows and let the spotlight shine on Tamar. At one point--after playing a riff from the extended "Kiss" 12" -- Prince even said, "No, no, no, it's not my show." 

The second half of the show was a guitar funk party. Prince and Tamar treated the crowd to "Play that Funky Music," Aretha's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," and a searing "Rock Steady" (what it is, what it is, what it is), Michael's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and Janet's "What Have You Done For Me Lately?", Sly's "I Want to Take You Higher." The only time Prince took the microphone on his own was with a full-out funky vocal on "Party Man," through which you could practically hear him laughing. With a stage filled with dancing audience members, Prince stopped his "Party" just long enough to tell a grabby older woman, "Excuse me, grandma, I'm working."

Some Random Purple Thoughts

  • People started to call me Paul Baby when I worked at WMMR. Many of us were name+baby.  There was Dar Baby, Stu Baby, Erin Baby, etc.  The nick name comes from the baby cooing sound effect used at the very end of "Delirious."
  • Best Prince impersonation is Beck's Debra from Midnite Vultures (1999)
  • Only with Prince's passing did my wife realize Prince wrote explicit songs about sex
  • Prince's Sign o' the Times was his "White Album"
  • The first time I saw the movie Purple Rain was in Munich, Germany.  It was dubbed in German except for the music.  "Das ist nicht see Minnetonka."
  • "Kiss" was the best single of the eighties.
  • I fell in love with Prince while working at WMMR in the mid-eighties. I still remember taking Erin Riley's bootleg cassette of his Black Album and making copies for everyone at the station.
  • Prince was my springboard to James Brown, Sly, EWF, and all things funk
  • "Sexy MF" is my favorite Prince song.  
  • Because I worked in radio, I had advance copies of Parade, Sign o' the Times, LoveSexy, Graffiti Bridge, Diamonds & Pearls and the Symbol CD weeks before their release.
  • Prince "jumped the shark" with the Batman soundtrack.