Come along with me to Paisley Park After Dark...
Despite single digit temps a good-sized crowd turned up at Paisley Park last night for tours and a 90-minute screening of Prince's 18th show on September 13th, 2007 in his 21 Nights in London: The Earth Tour at the 02 Arena.
Let's get this out of the way: With Prince no longer here, a visit to Paisley Park whether it be for a tour, dance party, or for a screening of one of his thousands of amazing concerts, it cannot possibly compare to the experience fans enjoyed when Prince served as host. Nothing could EVER come close, end of story. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Paisley Park being open to the public at this time, or ever, or whether they approve or disapprove of the way things are being handled is beside the point. I think it's safe to say no matter your opinion everyone wants to see Paisley Park survive and thrive because it is inexplicably connected to Prince and his legacy.
It's worth noting that since my last visit to Paisley Park in early December I saw some positive improvements. They've relocated the urn to an elevated location in the atrium in a special plexiglass alcove that is painted to blend into the cloud-covered wall. It's so much more appropriate and tasteful, in direct line-of-site with Prince's two doves, and it felt right to know he was looking down on us from up there in the clouds, so to speak. I was also glad to see protective rugs (in purple, with the Paisley Park logo) covering the carpets in the lobby and up to the atrium. The merchandise has been moved to the back lobby where the "fence" and Super Bowl performance video is on display. The latter half of the NPG Room now serves as seating for guests who want to sit for a spell or order something from the Paisley Park Kitchen. The former merchandise tent still has the beautiful Prince photos and quotes, so on your way out you can pose for photos. It all flowed so much better than before.
My experience with the Paisley Park staff I routinely come into contact with there is that those who worked for Prince or those lucky fans that have been hired since are absolutely wonderful, knowledgeable, and so respectful of fans and Prince. The majority of the remaining staff are equally nice and polite, but in-depth knowledge of "all things Prince" is still greatly lacking. That is one area I really wish they would address, and soon. There is a LONG line of local, loyal Prince fans that would make excellent tour guides. Enough said.
A quick shoutout to Trevor Guy, who worked for Prince and happens to be married to the amazing Donna Grantis, 3rdEyeGirl guitarist. I've been to Paisley Park eight times since October 6 and I have spotted him there every time. Among many other responsibilities, he sets up and runs the screenings in the soundstage and does a great job, but most importantly, he is humble and represents Prince beautifully. I will say the exact same for Kirk Johnson, who pops up frequently and is an absolute gentleman. I once saw him go out of his way to stop and assist a visitor who clearly had no idea who he was. Nothing but respect for this man.
Now, to the concert screening: Despite the video not being of the highest quality, the energy was absolutely electric in the soundstage once the screening started. Throughout the 90 minutes you felt every emotion possible; joy, excitement, sorrow, regret, amazement, pain, you name it. For Prince fans in the crowd it was a chance to imagine you were at the O2 that September night nearly 10 years ago and let yourself be transported to a time when he was alive and well and the thought of a world post-Prince seemed unthinkable. Those were the moments of joy. We sang along to the songs and did not hold back. And it felt good.
Some highlights: Prince started off old school with Let's Go Crazy, his hair glittering, perfect in a white suit and the Twinz doing their thing. The guitar solo on LGC was blistering, and then it was 1999, I Feel For You, Controversy, and Shhh (so hot)! "London, I am here, where are you?" he asked the crowd. Dancing hot and sweaty, he shed his jacket during Musicology and acknowledged Elton John in the audience (I swear Elton blushed).
Mike Phillips (sax) belted out a beautiful rendition of What a Wonderful World accompanied by Renato Neto (piano) and at one point we saw celestial images on the screen...the heavens...and suddenly you became acutely aware not only of Prince's absence from the O2 stage at that moment but his absence from the Paisley Park soundstage, as directly in front of us sat his Bentley and Prowler. Instant lump in the throat and the tears flowed.
When Prince returned in a fresh suit he sat at a keyboard center stage and what can only be described as a prelude to A Piano & A Microphone ensued. Under the Cherry Moon and then a close up of his face as he smiled, looked up to the sky and it left you wondering who was on his mind as he sang with great emotion Love is a Losing Game. More tears flowing and I wasn't the only one. Shelby J joined in and stood beside Prince for a memorable duet. Then he took us to church with Satisfied, Diamonds and Pearls, and when the first notes of The Beautiful One were played he was instantly 25 years old again, no lie. Then we were plunged to the depths with Sometimes it Snows in April. No words needed here, you can imagine what happened.
Nowhere to go but up from there with classics such as Cream, U Got the Look, Take Me With U, and a blistering solo on Guitar. Kiss and Purple Rain rounded out the set. I'll say this: I wanted to dance! But we were sitting down and it that is really hard. I've been to two screenings and I think next time I'm gonna stand to the side and dance my heart out. I will be bold and I know others will follow. You cannot sit down at a Prince concert.
A third wardrobe change and the next set included Elton John on stage singing The Long and Winding Road with Prince on guitar. As Elton left the stage Prince said "You know who that is? Sir Elton John!" No disrespect to Sir EJ but no matter how big the star, they cannot shine as bright as our Prince.
Another moment came when Prince sang Nothing Compares 2 U wearing a stylish hat, and then laying down on his back while singing his heart out (he knows living with him is sometimes hard) and you're right down there with him, telling him he can have as many tries as he needs because, come on, it's Prince. He left the stage but then came back saying "London, I can't go home yet. Can I do one more for you? Can we take it old school?" If I Was Your Girlfriend followed, and he sat down and sampled some Sign O' the Times, When Doves Cry, Alphabet Street, Darling Nikki and Raspberry Beret.
Whether he was somewhere here on earth or now somewhere in the heavens...he gets us satisfied. At the end he said "I love you", blew kisses to the crowd and disappeared in a puff of smoke. Prince never fails to touch you in a deep and sacred place. He did it in London on September 13, 2007 and he did it again last night in the soundstage at Paisley Park.
Lori, Admin - People of Paisley Park