The 1st time I appeared on stage with Prince was on March 29th, 1993 at the original Montreal Forum. Little did I know this would mark the beginning of a trifecta of onstage appearances with Prince in concert, spread out economically—decades apart. Back in ’93 Prince was going by this new stage name: — a sign that combined both male + female symbols with what many fans regarded as a horn seen cutting across. The phonetic version of said unpronounceable moniker soon became ‘The Artist Formerly Known As…’ courtesy of befuddled journalists trying to make sense of it all. This was the tour to promote the new Love Symbol record, Prince’s 2nd album to feature his newish backing group, The New Power Generation.
My ensemble for the concert was a navy blue snap-crotch body suit (they were all the rage at the time) and a pair of red denim boot cut jeans. I can’t recall my footwear, but I had hideous taste in shoes during my early twenties, usually cumbersome attention-begging pieces—all style (and that’s debatable) zero substance.
My Early 90’s Footwear. Yeesh.
The show was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Prince’s energy and showmanship was other-level phenom—the music, the outfits the d-a-n-c-i-n-g! Mayte, Prince’s then-girlfriend was his latest muse, and she was absolutely **electrifying** to watch at she gyrated, belly danced and hip-hopped her way across the stage. I didn’t think I would take to her as I was an enormous fan of Prince’s former dancing + rapping protégée CAT—but it was clear that Prince, an agent of change, knew what he was doing. This was incidentally my 1st time seeing Prince in concert, although I had been a devoted fan since December 31st, 1982. I was ten-years-old and staying at the Marco Polo Hotel with my family on Christmas break. It was New Years Eve and although I wasn’t allowed in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, the double doors were wide open exposing my senses to a glittery 80’s mise-en-scene that was permanently etched into my mind’s eye. The DJ played ‘1999‘ at midnight and I started to dance outside those doors in a way I had never done before. The fat, gristly sound of that drum machine, the layered keyboard synthesizers and that electric guitar riff! I was forever changed in that one moment. But back to my 1st time on stage with Prince in concert.
So there I was, a couple of rows up from the floor in the reds, stage left—perfect seats! About midway through the concert members of the NPG started to randomly pull audience members up onto the stage. Without hesitation (nor apparent concern for the safety of others) I aggressively flung myself over the rows and onto the floor, clawing to have one of the members hoist me up. And one did. The adrenaline rush that surged throughout my body as I looked out into the massive sold-out crowd was mind-blowing. There were about 10 fans pulled on stage in total, all dancing in a benignly complaisant semi-circle of sorts. As for myself I was like a terrier on a speed ball, running all over the stage, maniacally jumping up and down and waving at my friends in the crowd. The last moment I remember was running over to Prince, grabbing his hand and kissing it, before being ushered off the stage like a crazed lunatic. I recall Prince looking apologetic at Mayte after I kissed his hand as if to say “sorry honey” as if my unsolicited hand-kiss had soiled the purity of his commitment to her somehow?
The 2nd time I appeared on stage with Prince was even more exciting as the odds for doing so were literally stacked against me. It was July 6th, 2001 and Prince was playing 1 night only at Place Des Arts for Montreal’s famed Jazz Festival. I’m not sure if his appearance was a last-minute thing or not, but a group of my friends and I were abysmally late on procuring tickets. As we settled into our seats, an enormous weight of despair overtook me. Being that we were in the third balcony in the last row of seats, I might as well have been in space for this performance. Prince started off with an entirely new repertoire showing off his freestyle and impromptu jazz skills. It was tortuous to watch him from this far up—this particular 1st set is regarded to-date as one of his most coveted for bootleg copies. During the intermission, I had an unwavering sense that I would in fact be on stage with Prince that night. I was telling everyone this despite the fact that I was currently watching Prince from another planet in my nose-bleeders. I just kept on repeating it over and over—until I think I REALLY believed it! As we all sat back in our seats and the lights came up for the 2nd set, and the music swelled, I looked at my pals in last row lane and said “Later guys! I can’t do this anymore! The view is too painful from up here.” It was a kinetic pull if there ever was one, as I started my descent like Moses coming down from the mountain, guided by Prince’s singing—like a compass! It was through crafty manoeuvering, and sheer chance that I ended up sneaking into the 2nd floor and then finally the back of the 1st floor. This venue had built-in seats, so every space is accounted for and security was tight. I somehow managed to weasel myself to the front of stage left as many people were now standing and dancing as opposed to sitting passively for the experimental 1st set. Like kismet, not 5 minutes into reveling in pure bliss due to my approximation to Prince, did he start to pull ladies up on stage! I went into a hyper-physical state of arms-a-flailing, jumping up and down sending waves of desperation into Prince’s air space. I was the human version of a blinking neon sign as he grabbed my hand and members of the audience helped to hoist me up on stage like I were a city monument. I was one of 4 ladies pulled up on stage. One girl was dressed head-to-toe Rhythm Nation black, except with a belly baring crop top and a on her baseball cap. Another girl was dressed, I’m not kidding, EXACTLY like me!? We were both wearing a white one shoulder tank top with light faded blue jeans. Being that we were both brunettes, the audience must have thought that we were part of the show!
With such clarity, I recall hearing the opening beats to ‘Housequake‘ starting to play and I thought I was going to lose my mind from excitement! Just as I leaned in to show this crowd + Prince how great my dance game was, I noticed someone in the first row was snapping my photo? As I took a 2nd glance, I realised it was a friend from Los Angeles I had made earlier that month who was in town producing a Ben Affleck movie. I couldn’t believe my luck! This was pre cell phones and digital cameras era. What were the chances that I would know anyone in the front row, let alone someone with a handy camera in tow! My side-show twin and I got so close to Prince and we were all dancing just inches from one another. She did some sort of desperado back-bend how-low-can-you-go limbo disaster as I just free-styled. I looked wayyyy cooler. Way.
Getting Down with Prince. *Click to see larger + ‘scuse the blur!
Thinking that nothing could top this moment, someone in the band passed me a gorgeous black + gold tambourine and I was allowed to stay on stage for another ENTIRE song. I was slapping that thing on every orifice on my body and just relishing in this unicorn fantasy of a moment.
Shake, Shake, Shakin’ + Slappin’ that Tambourine Bottom Right
After the song ended I was being ushered off stage, waving to my friends in the last row balcony and smiling THINKING that I would be able to keep the tambourine. And just like that with pure precision, a stage-hand ripped it from my hands as soon as I hit backstage—the timing perfectly executed! I swear I wouldn’t have sold it on eBay, but instead spooned it nightly in bed! Womp, Womp! Back on the floor, but barely back to earth, I listened in the after-glow as Prince played ‘Purple Rain.’ As always it was nothing short of a religious, cosmic experience. The audience chiming in on the melody, the never-ending meditative loop of his hypnotic wailing guitar. I was dizzy with gratitude and bursting with love. This was a magical, serendipitous night I would never forget.
The 3rd time I was on stage with Prince was incidentally my 4th time seeing him. His 2-night engagement was on June 24th + 25th 2011 at Montreal’s club Metropolis during the Jazz Festival. I attended the 2nd night, but to my knowledge he did not pull anyone up on stage both nights. It would have been too dangerous as it was standing room only and packed to the gills—fans sardined up all the way to the stage. I believe the concert lasted well after 3am (for 4 HOURS!) as Prince cooed “I can stay up all night!” Prince closed off with ‘Purple Rain,’ as I joined in on a communal gospel with the whole club singing as one, on what always feels like a spiritual rite of passage.
But I digress, if its even possible my 3rd appearance on stage with Prince, trumped them all. Barely 6 months later, on December 2nd, 2011 at the Montreal Bell Centre. I was 1st row reds, perfectly adjacent to Prince’s runway portion of his theatre-in-the-round ‘Love Symbol’ stage. I was smack-dab to the right of the female portion of the symbol, and had free rein to go on the floor, albeit prudently outside my seat.
Further inward were the VIP seats, spread out in all corners of the floor with private bar tables + stools. I was technically not allowed in that area…but since when does the word ‘no‘ stop me when it comes to my IDOL? Prince sang ‘Purple Rain’ fairly early on in the performance, beginning by talking over those famed chords saying; “I never get tired of playing this song for you…” and I’m insta-covered in head-to-toe goose bumps. The initiated in the audience chime in with the higher-register “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh,” even before Prince starts off his 1st verse. It feels like a slow IV drip of musical prayer when Prince utters those first words “I Never Meant to Cause You Any Sorrow…” White sheets are cascading down from the ceiling and sparkly confetti is falling magically on my head. En masse, the audience sings the chorus, the musical quivers of his guitar mastery howling over and over. Prince sings “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh,” in an octave so high—car alarms are probably going off in the parking lot. I’ve always said you have not LIVED until you have heard Prince sing ‘Purple Rain’ LIVE. #Truth. If that weren’t transformative enough, Prince ended off by throwing one of his guitar picks into the audience, one that landed right in front of me on the floor which I quickly scooped up!
You can’t write a better ending…but alas there’s more. The rest I will let be told via this radio interview I did the ‘morning after’ on CJAD radio with Andrew Carter.
*N.B. I was off on the date of my 1st appearance on stage + I say I grabbed the microphone when Prince actually handed it to me, unexpectedly! Also, that picture in the video audio interview is in fact ME in full spotlight, microphone in hand belting out KISS while Prince is shrouded in darkness?!?! It feels illegal to possess such a photo. But I’m so thankful for the internet. Both pictures were sent to me afterwards! I called my mother right after the concert. Nothing was ever ‘real‘ until I told her 1st—despite having an entire stadium audience and my friends bear witness. She was going through Chemo, and this was one of the first times I had heard her giggle in what felt like a lifetime. “Whhhat? He let you sing? I don’t believe it. Actually with you I can,” she said in her gentle voice. Fourteen months later the Cancer had spread to my mothers brain. In her 1st week in palliative, I spontaneously told her that I was “going to interview Prince.” Still very lucid, she simply said “that’s wonderful,” knowing how much I adored him. Little did she know I didn’t have an assignment or an actual locked-down interview. I blurted it out through nerves, wanting her to know that life was going to move on just fine for me, sensing how worried she was about leaving her three daughters—despite us all being well into adulthood. I wanted to placate her somehow. Give her permission to go. This was my way, even though, I think I really believed it when I said it. It felt more dire than ever to put this plan into motion after witnessing the death of the person I was closest to in this lifetime. Life is precious and short. We need to put the wheels in motion to make all of our dreams come true. This is MINE. I was formerly a full time music journalist for almost fifteen years, interviewing the likes of Leonard Cohen, Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Crow, Lenny Kravitz, Adele and Chuck D. Iggy Azalea was my most recent, but my writing career is not what it once was, nor are the opportunities to get published—part of the impetus to start my online blog + brand. I still do the occasional freelance music interview but without question. Prince has always been my one DREAM interview ‘get’. He’s probably the most elusive artist to land and rarely grants them. I’ve always felt I could conduct a better interview than many of the ones I’ve seen him sit for, ask questions I’ve never heard him answer before. Perhaps all of his interviews are heavily vetted beforehand, the kibosh placed upon verboten topics—and I would certainly respect that. So here is my plea. I know you speak mainly through your music, but Prince…Can We Talk? I know all the rules; no cameras, no audio devices, no pen + paper. I promise not to fall to your feet in slushy adulation nor gawp at you, and I will fight every instinct to burst into tears. I promise not to ask cliché riddled questions that are perma-etched in the 1980’s that I know you are tired of answering. I know all about your two NEW percolating albums. One titled PLECTRUMELECTRUM with 3rdEyeGirl, and the other yet-to-be-titled-album that includes a collaboration with Rita Ora + “This Could Be Us,” inspired by a meme from Purple Rain, the movie.
I would be honored to discuss all of your new work with you. And it goes without saying that I would NEVER write anything that would hurt you or your beautiful legacy. If you’re not into an actual interview, I’m open to everything from a listening sesh at Paisley Park or even a Ping-Pong match (I’m a pretty fierce player!) I would truly just love to realise my dream of exchanging some sort of positive energy force between us, in person. A short chat, a drum lesson, a meal—I LOVE PANCAKES! Whatever you choose!
I’ve waited a year since my mothers passing to put this out into the ether as the timing *feels* right. I sense that you might choose to come to Montreal or Toronto soon, and considering that I’m bi-provincial, I’d happily meet you in either city. At the very least no-one needs to see me spastically beg to come on stage anymore. After 3 appearances, I can’t think of a more poetic ending than to finally meet you. It would be my own personal Magnum Opus.
I will wait with bated breath for your answer. In the meantime I would kindly ask all of my readers on various social media channels to PLEASE repost and retweet this piece so that it may go ‘viral‘ + reach Prince or his ‘People’.
I have no people—just a cat sitter, and many a social media inbox.
With humble hopes for manifest destiny,
The Pop Culture Rainman™ aka Renee Gold.
**UPDATE** (May 16th, 2015)
I can’t believe it’s been 10 months since I first posted this blog post/plea?!
What I never told anyone, was that after this blog went viral via Facebook & Twitter, I was contacted by someone in Prince’s camp who had heard about my viral story & wanted to discuss options. Long story short, he was trying to arrange an interview with myself and members of 3rdEyeGirl, but wanted to tie it to the launch of both Prince’s new albums which were released end of September. All’s to say, the interview never panned out, and I have to say I was happy it didnt? My goal was AND is to speak and or meet with Prince (no offense amazing ladies) and hopefully the time is RIGHT for this all to happen. I was waiting patiently to hear if and when Prince would come to Toronto (there was a false report that spread like wildfire) whereby I and hundreds of fans waited outside in the rain for hours before being told that it was a false report back in November ’14.
BUT Lo and BEHOLD….after hoping and praying, just today Prince announced a show in Toronto THIS Tuesday May 19th!!!! His Hit and Run Tour will be HERE! So my campaign is BACK and I’m even more determined than EVER to meet him! Please help by spreading this story via Social Media Channels & I Thank You from the bottom of my HEART! xoxox STAY TUNED!!!
The Toronto show was incredible. The venue was really small and intimate and as usual Prince mixed things up with some newer music; lots of intense, crunchy electric guitar, DEEP PURPLE rock with 3rdEyeGirl! He went on to later play some amazing 80’s hits, and I cried during Purple Rain as it is always a reminder of the passage of time, and is always a time to reflect on how I’ve changed and grow every time I see a new Prince concert. I was at the 8pm show which was 2 hours. I’m told the 11pm show went over 3 hours and I’m not surprised, as Prince is in his element late at night. Now while I was in contact with his official publicist (a lovely woman who shall go nameless) she was unable to grant me an interview or meet and greet in Toronto, as his back to back concert schedule was too hectic. BUT! Prince just announced one concert for Montreal, this Saturday May 23rd at the Bell Centre and I am still hopeful.
Here’s hoping Montreal is where everything can come to fruition! Will Update!