Legendary artist still in top form at last show
(This story was originally published June 2, 2016)
It was a clear departure from his previous live performances over the years, but his Thursday night concert in Atlanta is one Kenya Taylor will never forget.
“The minute he walked out on stage, everybody lost it. He sat down at the piano and started singing,” recalled the Peachtree resident of attending Prince’s last concert performance April 14. He was resuming his new “Piano & a Microphone” tour, making up for a April 7 show that was cancelled due to what had been reported as flu-like symptoms. The musician-songwriter-legend was found dead at his Paisley Park home just a week later, April 21.
“I hadn’t seen him in a while. The ticket was not cheap. I wasn’t in the front but I was glad to be there,” said Taylor. “None of my friends wanted to go to the concert with me because it was on a Thursday — a work night,” she explained in a MSR phone interview. “I found out about tickets [online]. It was only a week advanced notice. I was one of the lucky people to get my ticket within that hour they still had tickets available.
What a performer, she noted of Prince. “His stage presence and how he engaged with the crowd” while on stage greatly impressed her, said Taylor, who also confided the MSR that she’s still coming to grips with the singer’s sudden passing.
The Atlanta concert was her fourth time seeing Prince live over the years, she continued. “The first time I saw him was in St. Louis in a big arena theatre” in the late ’90s. She later saw him in Chicago during his “Musicology” tour in 2004. “That was one of the best [shows] for me because I had third row seats. I got to see real up close, his shoes and everything. That probably for me was the best concert. He had the full band — he played the guitar; I loved him playing the guitar.”
Seeing Prince sans his usual musical entourage on stage that night in Atlanta “was great but different,” said Taylor. “He’s 57 and he may not sound like he used to, [but] his voice was superb, clear. I don’t think I ever went to his concerts and heard a bad note. His voice was on point. It was a very intimate [show] and I loved it.”
Months earlier in October, Renee Montgomery also had a memorable night with the late icon. She and her Minnesota Lynx teammates had captured the 2015 WNBA championship against the Indiana Fever in a historic five-game series in front of a packed home crowd, which included the Minneapolis-born Prince.
While in the locker room afterwards, amidst champagne popping and flowing, the newly crowned champs were offered the option of going to a local restaurant nearby for a late night private post-game dinner, or accept an invitation to a private concert at Prince’s Paisley Park home several miles away.
“I know there were set plans but those plans went out of the window,” recalled the Lynx veteran guard. “When Prince invites you, no matter how big or small, this is Prince the icon that he is. We’re going to Paisley Park!”
Because all phones and any form of recording devices had to be turned in at the door, Montgomery couldn’t recall exactly how long she was there or how long their host performed: “My phone is my everything. I didn’t have any idea about time. People did leave before me but it was late,” she pointed out. “I think I got to bed before the sun came up.”
Nonetheless, it didn’t matter that it was well into the wee hours, “I was partying with Prince!” Montgomery recalled proudly. “It was awesome. It’s a memory for a lifetime.”
Added Montgomery, “I didn’t know how big a Prince fan I was until we went there, and I knew way more songs than I actually [realized]. He would be playing a song and I’d say, ‘I love that song!’ You realize how great someone is when they can stand the test of time. To know his songs to me [means] he’s great.”
“I am a die-hard Prince fan,” admitted Taylor. “I have all his albums. That doesn’t include his maxi-singles and other things he used to do.” When asked to rank her Prince favorites, she stated that would be hard to do. While Sign O’ the Times is her all-time favorite, she also gave a special mention to Around the World in a Day for its boldness. “It was released a year after Purple Rain came out,” she recalled. “It was a total departure from Purple Rain. It was not what people expected. People wanted him to come out with Purple Rain part two.
“Some of the songs on that album that [are] my favorites are “America,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Condition of the Heart,” she stated.
“I hope people go back and look at some of those albums that they may have forgotten about and realize how much influence he had then and now,” said Taylor of Prince’s legacy. “His artistry, musicianship and also the impact he had on the music industry, as well. Some people only know Prince from Purple Rain.
“Unfortunately, when people pass away, we look back, but it also gives us the opportunity to look back and really remember the influence the person had,” said Taylor on Prince. “His music represented the backdrop of my life. He was an amazing person.
“I’m glad and just thankful I was able to see him because I hadn’t been to one of his concerts in a long while,” said Taylor, when asked how it felt attending Prince’s last show. “I’m also sad that I’ll never be able to witness his genius on stage again. There is no one like Prince and the music world will have a void where his creativity and brilliance once reigned.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.