Prince at Paisley Park

What’s it like to see the Purple One on his home turf? A first-timer finds out.

He was clad in a turtleneck tunic and a vest, with a tidy Jimi Hendrix afro and a smile. As he launched into “1999,” I found myself, well, beside myself. Prince was telling me to party like it’s 1999. In Paisley Park. I belted lyrics I didn’t even know I’d memorized.
I wasn’t the only one who’d lost my mind. With no cell phones to preoccupy us—to tempt us into trying to document the process—we simply gave in to the moment. It was Prince’s world, and we were living by Prince’s rules. Anything, anyone who wasn’t there could wait tlil tomorrow. I swear I saw one guy in front of me thrust his cane into the air.
“Ain’t you tired of tryin’ to please people all the time?” Prince asked. Clearly he was. So much so that he’d made all these anachronistic ultimatums as the price of entry to Paisley Park; the only ones who made it through were those ready to accept whatever conditions he was laying down.
One of the reasons for this concert was for Prince to reintroduce his veteran backup band, The New Power Generation, to fans. They proved to be impeccable. Songs tumbled out one after another. There were covers, new jams, classics. And we still wanted more. And between the tightly choreographed song transitions and audience interaction, it was clear that Prince was still the consummate performer, acutely aware of the audience experience. And that, even at 55, he could still move.
The fog kept rolling in until it blurred the ceiling, which is when the lights went violet and he launched into “Purple Rain.”
“This is your song, Minneapolis!” he said.
That’s when the guy behind me screamed exactly what I was thinking: “I’m listening to Prince sing ‘Purple Rain!’” and it couldn’t possibly get better than that.