Christina Turner is production assistant and researcher at Tamarack Productions. She is a recent Journalism graduate from Seneca College, Seneca@York in Toronto. Like so many of us, Ms. Turner was moved by the recent death of Prince. As we chatted about it, I was startled to learn that Turner went to her first Prince show at age 12… with her mother. I asked her to write about it. Enjoy.
by Christina Turner
I wish I could remember the first time I heard Prince. I think he was always sort of a common household name, especially during the ‘90s, when his success hit the top of the charts with songs like "Cream", "When Doves Cry" and “Kiss”. In my first memory though, I was only a child, probably about 9 years old. I remember hearing "Little Red Corvette” on the radio while sitting next to my rockabilly-loving Dad on our usual Saturday morning outings. I immediately told my Dad, "that's Prince!” pointing at the radio in amazement. This wasn’t the music that my generation was listening to, and at that time in my life I had no idea that Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” was the code for a one night stand, but also a start to my life long love for purple.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2004. By this time, I am twelve years old, in the weird awkward stages of hitting puberty and not knowing how to style my hair. I was already streaming whichever music videos I could find online of Prince, had watched Purple Rain many, many times and kept my TV on channels like Much More Music and VH1 for any '80s tribute, Prince music video, or possibly re-run of a previous interview. Now, I am hooked, intrigued and magnified by the artist who hid like a chameleon in so many ways, but had exceeded the talent from any artist that I had seen.
July 27th, 2004. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing that day, but I do remember my mother calling from her office than she said level-headed, “Guess what? We’re going to see Prince tonight!”.
It was the Musicology album tour at the Air Canada Centre. The show started at 7:30 PM. We arrived for 6. We waited outside in a huge line with tons of people flocking around. We were all told we had to wear something purple or we wouldn’t get in. I remember seeing a man dressed in purple head to toe, covered in lace and wearing a purse. Middle aged women who were (now looking back) probably mentally stimulated by Prince's high pitched voice and sexual demeanour. And who had come with a date or a group of friends... But I was probably the only child in the crowd, as far as I could see.
My mother and I walked to our seats, somewhere in the 30-40th row up, to find both our seats closed off, with a camera man sitting and filming. It felt like it was slow motion, as you can imagine thinking back 15 years ago, the cameraman said, "Sorry, we have to move you somewhere else," gave us two tickets in the 8th row. My mom had a delighted look in her eyes and I was a little girl in a little girl who was shocked, stunned, excited and slightly nervous all at the same time. I mean, we were 20 feet away from the purple one... wouldn't you be too?
The concert opened with the very charming Nelly Furtado, which was probably tied into Prince’s open love with Toronto and Canada since his affair with Vanity, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and his marriage to second wife Manuela Testolini, who was Toronto born. When Testolini and Prince had married, they resided in a prestigious and luxurious street in the city called The Bridle Path. Prince recorded the album Musicology at Metalworks studio in Mississauga, a small city about 20 minutes east from the city and was notorious for showing up to Toronto Raptor games and spontaneously appearing at clubs to preform.
And when the lights went down and Prince came on, it nothing less than electrifying. Screaming fans, people chanting songs. What I liked most about his concert was Prince’s musical genius taking in full effect. His band was fully orchestrated with keyboards, trombones, saxophones, guitars and drums. There were about three girls and five guys in the band, with a mix of races and dress sizes. This is who Prince was. This is what he imagined. Just like the lyrics of Controversy, “People call me rude. I wish we all were nude. I wish there was no black and white, I wish there were no rules.”
Everything people believe and imagine Prince doing, he did, and for a good three hours while at that. Him, his group and the stage were dressed in white. A very elegant and sophisticated touch to a much more mature and musically developed Prince, than the one that many remember from the '80s. His songs ranged “Sign O’ The Times” to “Let’s Go Crazy” and included many musical interludes ranging from Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, the much beloved “Housequake", and various other musical solos from each musician.
The performance end the only way Prince could with “The Beautiful Ones”, accompanied by over 20 attractive and beautiful women from the crowd to come and dance with him.
I remember sitting quiet in the car the whole ride home. What started there, set me up for a lifelong ride of the magical Prince - the man who taught me true music and eccentricity and unconventional morals. He also demonstrated how to love and be yourself no matter what others think. He pushed the buttons but never crossed the line. He was sexually submissive. He never raped, exposed or demeaned women. He was a talent but never wanted to be a slave to the man. He stood up for his rights, the rights of others and the rights of Black lives. He was ingenious, gentle, charming and aggressive all at the same time but most of all confident. Confident in who he was and what he stood for. He will be missed in this life, but you know what? If the elevator tries to break you down, go crazy…