The darkened auditorium crackled with anticipation as thousands of fans waited for the Purple One to appear.
Suddenly, the lights came up and there the diminutive, sexy genius sat behind a white piano clad in a white suit and white heels. A white guitar sat in a corner of the round intimate stage.
Fans screamed and called his name as he stood, took a bow, returned to the piano bench and launched into the title track of his latest album.
It was Prince’s Pittsburgh stop during his “Musicology” tour.
It was one of the many times that I got the chance to see “My Princey” as I affectionately called him. Little did I know that it’d be the last time I’d ever get to see him in concert?
My love for the singer started when my brother gave me his well-used “Purple Rain” album when I was about 12 years old.
I was fascinated with Michael Jackson back then and didn’t know anything about Prince.
I took the album and marveled at the curly-haired man perched on the purple motorcycle. I put the record on the turntable and was instantly hooked. Even at 12 I knew Prince was something special.
My love for his music, style and grace increased over the years. I purchased every album he released after that. When his “Lovesexy” album hit stores in 1988, there was a big ta-do about the cover art of him naked and it could only be purchased by an adult.
My mother took me to the mall and purchased the album and cassette for me.
That year, Prince came to Pittsburgh for the “Lovesexy” tour.
I did everything I could to get enough money to afford a ticket to the show: cleaned my cousin’s house, washed my dad’s car. Finally, I had enough money to buy a ticket to the show!
My best friend and I stood in line for hours to get tickets. Once we got them, we scoured the mall for the perfect outfits: Black skirts and purple tops and another friend painted “Lovesexy” on my nails and my mother, who was a hair dresser, coifed my hair like Prince’s in the movie, “Purple Rain” to complete my look.
It was the first concert that I was able to attend without adult supervision.
It was AMAZING!
When the lights came up this time, we were treated to Prince wearing pants and black midriff-bearing top. A basketball hoop was set up on stage as well as a piano. His band members, which included the incomparable drummer Sheila E, stood ready to strike up a jam at Prince’s que.
And jam they did! He performed hits from “Lovesexy” like “Alphabet Street” “When 2 R in Love” and the title track in addition to hits like “Soft and Wet,” “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Controversy” and of course, “Purple Rain,” which had the whole audience wiping tears. He even showed off his basketball prowess by shooting a couple of baskets with both his right and left hands.
When he returned to Pittsburgh in the summer of 1997 for the “Emancipation” tour, my parents knew what I wanted as a college graduation gift.
Prince was just as enigmatic and energetic on stage then as he was when I saw him years prior.
He performed songs from “Emancipation” and even did a cover of schoolmate and friend, Morris Day’s “The Bird.” He performed lesser-known gems like “The Cross” and “Starfish and Coffee” from the “Sign o’ the Times” album before throwing in snippets of “1999” “Little Red Corvette” and “Pop Life.” He couldn’t leave his devoted Pittsburgh fans without an emotional rendition of “Purple Rain.” He did it during an encore along with “I Would Die For You.”
When I received the phone call on Thursday, April 21, about Prince’s sudden death, I thought it was a hoax, a late April Fools Day joke from a friend.
Many of my friends had played Prince-theme April fool’s jokes on me in the past so I was used to it. I didn’t believe her. It couldn’t be true. Then the news reports started coming in. Reality hit me like ice water in the face on a cold winter’s day.
My Prince was gone.
But his music, fashion, hairstyles and seductive smile will be missed but never be forgotten.
Rock on in heaven, sweet Prince.
Prince died Thursday, 21 at his home. Officials still don’t know the cause of death. An autopsy has been scheduled to find out the cause. His family cremated his body last weekend.
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