Manic with raspberry blues

prince with horns Musicology tour with Candy Dulfer, Maceo Parker, and Greg Boyer.

Typically, Monday’s at my office were anything but manic. We started the day early with an owner’s meeting; then faced the drudgery of catching up on all that we hadn’t accomplished during the prior five business days. A memorable exception arose in the middle of a Monday afternoon in May of 2004.

I got an intra-office call from my business partner, Joel. His wife, Dee, who bought tickets to almost every noteworthy musical event, held extra passes to a concert in Anaheim that night after two of her friends crapped out at the last-minute. Joel asked whether Jane and I would like to go.

That was pretty short notice and not an event I thought Jane would be excited about attending. While I’m the kind of guy that would stand-up and shake his ass to the beat of two rocks being pounded together and Dee likes to dance at the edge of or on the stage whenever it’s permitted, Jane always takes her music sitting down. That afternoon, Jane surprised me and enthusiastically agreed we should go. Although I much admired the headlining performer, we went with little anticipation of the insanely frenetic … well … manic time that awaited us.

That was May 24, 2004, and Prince Rogers Nelson was approaching the mid-point of his Musicology tour. Robert Hilburn, the then LA Times premier rock music critic, had introduced me to him back in 1982. It was through Hilburn I learned that in October 1981, just two days after George Thorogood and The J. Geils Band opened for the Stones at a concert I attended in San Diego, Prince had been added to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum lineup and been booed off the stage.

In his November 21, 1982 review, Hilburn wrote in part:

But there’s more to Prince’s music than it’s superficial naughtiness. He’s a serious artist and
skilled craftsman who may become the biggest black star in rock since Sly Stone.

Intrigued by that 1982 review, I picked-up the shocking rocker’s then current album, 1999. Over the next two decades, I played the hell out of that vinyl and, like so many others, made the title tune the centerpiece of our New Year’s Eve 2000 celebration. Based on that album, his follow-up hits, and his movie, Purple Rain, I thought I knew what to expect when Jane and I walked into Arrowhead Pond that Monday night in 2004. But this would be a much different Prince than I had heard on that record, seen on MTV and in the theater, or rocked to on radio.

He took the stage backed with brass, including two saxophonists I admired—Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer—and moved the packed arena with a sensational set of rhythm and blues that book-ended a solo, acoustic rendition of his hits. Prince blew our minds. As proof positive early in the set, I witnessed my sedate and reserved wife jump out of her seat, clapping, dancing, and shaking her ass, a visual display the likes of which I had never seen in our prior thirty years together or since.

If I hadn’t realized to that point what an amazing musician and songwriter this diminutive star had become, Jane’s reaction made me understand what a truly gifted man stood on that stage. Sure Hilburn had offered trusted musical insights, but watching Jane that night converted me to a new barometer.

Anyone capable of moving Jane to her core, inspiring her to act so free and uninhibited had to be one of the greatest performers of all time.

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