This is the only photo I took at Prince’s 2008 Coachella show:
I don’t know why I didn’t take any photos or videos of Prince at the now-infamous Coachella 2008 performance. I think I was, perhaps, too transfixed- in the moment. He had, after all, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam & Sheila E. as guests, whipping out all of the classics, and THEE most beautiful rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” sung by vocalist Ledisi (I still get chills thinking about that performance)- it was all too much to take- hit after hit after hit! But then of course he slowly ramps his way into Radiohead’s “Creep”. I knew what it was after the first few bars but it took a few minutes for the crowd to realize what he was about break into- but when that sea change occurred, you could feel and hear the roll of excitement as the crowd got swept up into the magic. Everyone’s jaws were dropped, mouths agape, “oh man!”s, cheers, whistles and fist pumps rolling into a frenzy by the max-capacity crowd.
I had only seen him once before in person. Etta James was playing the House of Blues on Sunset and while hundreds of people were scouring for front row placement on the floor, I thought I would make my way upstairs. I sit at a table in a pretty empty balcony overlooking the stage, order my drink, then look over at the table next to me and it’s Prince. I smiled. He smiled back but he remained focused. Focused on the genius on stage- this time he was transfixed. Taking in everything this powerhouse vocalist in a wheelchair could give of herself. He wasn’t taking any pictures and neither was I.
I wasn’t until I saw this gif yesterday that I realized Prince released an album almost every year of his professional career- from the age of 18 onward. Do you know how much work that takes? The writing? The crafting? The demos? The studio time? The overdubs? Mixing? Mastering? To release an album every year? Mind blown. This is Dave Grohl-work-ethic on steroids. And his albums are not just bass/drum/guitar- they are musical masterpieces, layered, rhythmic symphonies with horn & string arrangements, background vocals, beyond jazz. Beyond genre. I can understand why he didn’t want to do interviews. He didn’t have time! He just let the music speak for itself. And to be 18 years old, landing your first major record deal and You tell THEM how it’s gonna go down? That you’re going to produce your debut album and no one else? BALLS. And self-assurance. And balls. God, I loved him.
And of course the memories: “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on constant rotation at Stacy’s house in 7th grade; dancing with Luigi + Luis to “Erotic City” in Blake’s foyer; High school dances to any song from “Purple Rain”; crying over some boy to “Nothing Compares 2U”. It’s all still there- I remember like it was yesterday and yet no pictures were taken in these moments. I think that’s what Prince was about: magical, musical moments fleeting into myth like a purple, glittery unicorn. I don’t think I took pictures at Coachella because I think I was just riding the wave of Pure Joy this beautiful artist gave his fans, never to be seen by the likes of humanity again.
At 1 a.m., well past the Coachella curfew of midnight, Prince admitted, “They’re telling me we gotta go, but I can’t leave,” adding, “Coachella, did we have a good time at this party or what? You deserve it. For now on, this is Prince’s house.” As the thousands who stuck it out waited anxiously under the stars Prince dropped the song they’d been thirsting to hear — “Let’s Go Crazy” — and obliged the title, jumping around in a frenzy until Prince thanked everyone for the last time and danced himself offstage for good. (Rolling Stone, April 27, 2008)
UPDATE: Here is audio from the Coachella 2008 show and it’s still spectacular!