Six rows from the front of the stage, I sat in darkness. A spotlight and suddenly a little red blur appeared, not 30 feet in front of me: Prince!
It was Thursday about 11:30, New Orleans or, as the locals say: Nawlins, my first Essence Music Festival. 70,000 colored folks, at least 75% black women (no, not what you might imagine because when that many sistas get together, men are an intrusion on a massive fem bonding weekend).
For most of my adult life I’ve been hating on Prince. Mainly it was jealousy. Every single women from 18 to 50 that I have ever known has lusted for the pint-sized rocker. I could never figure it out. At best he’s androgynous, but honestly I thought he was gay and frontin’ with all those women.
So I sit in the audience skeptical with all my resentment that all these women love this 5 foot man. Well, after that concert, I can say this. If he is 5 feet, he’s 5 feet of dynamite!
Prince rolled on stage wearing a red pimp suit! Yeah baby, he was pimped out, as were the members of his band. And he said something after the first couple of songs that really got me:
“I’m old school! And proud of it!”
Hard to believe that Prince is old school, but he is. He’s like 44 years old. If he ain’t old school now, when the hell will he be? He went on:
“These kids today can’t sing and dance at the same time!”
He’s right! And many of today’s so-called artists can’t sing or dance. They are studio artists.
He didn’t stop there. Prince brought out Maceo Parker. Yeah, James Brown’s sax man. Maceo’s gotta be pushing 70. He’s over 60 I know that, but man, he’s still got it. Then Prince brought out Cool and Gang’s trumpeter another oldster who can still blow. He let them riff and said:
“Real music by real people.” He kept saying this all night. And it gets better. Out comes Doug E. Fresh to lay down some smooth rap, seamless with the jazz, rock and soul riffs from Prince.
Then out comes Miss Chaka Khan! Damn, old girl lit it up, “Feel For You.” By then the audience was singing with her. Hell, I was singing with her. “Real music by real people!”
(How great was Chaka? The next night Mary J. Blige headlined. After three songs, I walked out, bored. After Chaka Khan, she sounded like Mini Mouse. Chaka’s snoring sounds better Mary J. Wanna Be’s singing. Note to Mary J: Dress up for your concerts. Don’t come out in beat up jeans. Don’t nobody wanna see that. Mr. Ray Charles sometimes wore a green lizard skin tuxedo for his concerts.)
And finally Prince brings on Sheila E! Oh yeah. Can anyone say reunion?
One thing I realized from all this: Prince is black, really despite all that so-called multi cultural stuff, his influences are all old school black and beautiful. He brought a dozen sistas up on stage to shake that thang (and unlike those anorexic LA clothes hangers/girls, these sistas had thangs to shake). He danced with them. It was something.
It was the greatest concert I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of concerts.
As Alicia Keys said in a taped intro: There are many kings, but there is only one Prince.