The show was announced – just Prince, a piano and microphone. Three weeks later the show happened. In that time I wondered how I could get there, if I could get there. I concluded, pretty swiftly, that there was no hope. I had never seen Prince. And never would. This was the only time he was playing New Zealand it would surely be the last.
I knew enough about life not to complain too much – we had a young kid and one main income. It wasn’t going to happen. I mentioned that to Katy – said it was a bummer, but “oh well..”
She smirked. And said that maybe, just maybe there was a chance I would get to go. She – as is always the case – knew more than me.
The day the tickets went on sale – I was nervous. Even though I figured I was not going. For a start there were no comps (there also the issue of travel to Auckland). And I didn’t have a credit card, I wasn’t planning on sitting online, lining up to try to purchase. But I was still nervous. I anticipated a Facebook feed of fairweather fans and friends popping off about how they had scored tickets to one – or both – of the only ever New Zealand Prince shows.
And then at about a minute past 12pm I got the most amazing group Facebook message. Yes, like you, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “the most amazing group Facebook message”. But there is. There most certainly is!
In this message I was told that I had been gifted a ticket to Prince – Katy and some friends had banded together, contributed the money for the weighty ticket price, a flight, sorted child-minding duties. It was all sussed. I was going. That skinny motherfucker with the high voice was going to be singing for me. For a few hundred/thousand lucky others too.
But I had a golden ticket!
I don’t handle gifts/do gratitude as well as I should. This was the best thing any group of people has ever done for me. The best friends. It was amazing. An instant feeling of elation.
That stayed – across the weeks in the buildup and I listened to every bootleg and b-side as well as the hits (and handful of misses). It was Prince. All Prince. On the bus out to the airport I listened to Purple Rain and The Gold Experience and Around The World In A Day. I had a drink in the airport, my headphones still in. It was Prince on the plane too – pumping through my brain.
I arrived in Auckland about 90 minutes before the show – it was timed to perfection.
The show was incredible. Of course.
There was this feeling of elation ahead of time – we all knew, us lucky strangers, that we weren’t to talk in the theatre, that cellphones had to be turned off, so we chatted in the foyer, made friends with fellow freaks. Dribbled nonsense about the importance of it all.
(We flashed our wrist-tags, whether we knew we were doing it or not. Lining up to get them was Confirmation).
And then he played. He walked on like Willy Wonka with his walking stick – I thought he was going to do a tumble before he headed to the piano. Instead the music – almost all of it – tumbled from him across 90 minutes. It felt like three hours. It felt like 25 minutes. It felt like everything it needed to be and more.
Near punch-drunk I left the theatre, stumbled to a cab, still elated. Still taking it in.
The next day I was on Jesse Mulligan’s show on RNZ talking about the gig and what it meant to me. I stayed on in Auckland for nearly a week – interviewed Dave Dobbyn and Jim Wilson for my podcast – saw a pretty shit-hot Sleater-Kinney gig too.
And flew back to Wellington with a new sense of purpose. An extra commitment to my work. A feeling that I had seen (some of) the bottled genius of Prince. The musician I most cared about, had listened to the longest (outside of The Beatles and Dylan).
Two months later I woke up to a text very early in the morning. Very early. Prince was dead.
Stubs is an occasional feature here at Off The Tracks – looking back through the ticket-stub box and remembering how the show went down.