I almost skipped going to Prince’s concert. First, I wanted to recover from the consecutive (almost) sleepless nights due to earlier after-race concerts. Second, I thought I will not appreciate it because I’ve not followed his discography and I’m not from his era. Third, I was still very, very high on the preceding night’s mindblowing concert of Linkin Park. Lastly, I was discouraged by the possibility that I won’t be getting a decent spot because we came past the opening of the concert arena gate. We have watched the finals of the race (congratulations to Sebastian Vettel for being the 2010 grand prix world champion).
But despite the hesitation, this reasoning mattered more: there must be something that the organizers let Prince wrap up the amazing weekend of grand prix and after-race concerts. And I am so glad that I went.
(This group beside us was among those interviewed by Flash Entertainment, the brain of the line up of performers for this year’s after-race concerts. This guy talked about his fascination about Prince, that he’s one of the many followers that traveled to Abu Dhabi to see him perform, to glance at the race was second priority.)
Of the three DJs who did the pre-entertainment for the three after-race concerts, DJ Bliss was the best. Considering that the crowd comprised of different generations, he did an excellent mix of songs from old school, to hip hop, reggae, and more. And 15 minutes before the start of the concert, he did a re-cap of peformances from Beyonce, Jamiroquai and Aerosmith from last year’s after-race concerts.
(The sight of this unpronounceable symbol silenced and thrilled the crowd as the concert kicked off. This read as O(+>, which is a combination of symbols for male and female which was otherwise known as Love Symbol.)
I am glad that I did a pretty fair preparation before coming to this concert. Well, I think that’s a must for people like me who used to be less-acquainted with Prince’s songs other than Kiss and Purple Rain. I’ve put up a playlist of songs from the album The Very Best of Prince, Musicology and other songs which gained him nominations and/or wins. And the last minute consultation from Wiki about his stage name’s evolution from Prince (he being born as Prince Rogers Nelson) to the unpronounceable symbol in 1993 helped a lot. Otherwise, I probably had stared blankly at its significance during the concert.
In order to use the symbol in print media, Warner Bros. had to organize a mass mailing of floppy disks with a custom font. Because the symbol was and is unpronounceable, he was often referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”. On May 16, 2000, Prince ceased using the Love Symbol moniker and returned to using “Prince” again, after his publishing contract with Warner/Chappell expired. In a press conference, he stated that, after being freed from undesirable relationships associated with the name “Prince”, he would formally revert to using his real name. Prince still frequently uses the symbol as a logo and on album artwork and continues to play a Love Symbol-shaped guitar.
In a black suit with red detail costume, Prince started with Let’s Go Crazy. The Yas (concert) Arena literally rocked (it exceeded its capacity) when he sung next a charmingly and brilliantly made-up song (chant) of few lyrics (words) “Ooooooh Abu Dhabi”. Wow. That was so remarkable. That moment I realized that indeed he is a unique performer. Throughout the night, I concluded that his charisma as a performer is hard to resist, that it was tailored for different people, per geography – and at the end of the day, whether you’re well-versed with his songs or not, young once and ones alike, there will only be a lone result, that you will definitely be mesmerized by him.
And how could it get any better? Let me count my random concert-related graces. A night before the Kanye West concert, I was given two extra tickets which I shared with my friends. While queuing at the concert arena gate for Linkin Park’s concert, I was among the few who were approached randomly by the organizers and handed a VIP access. And during the first 30 minutes of Prince’s rocking, this gorgeous lady approached me out of nowhere, (while I was taking photos, with much zooming) and said, “Hey, how are you? I have something for you.” (Then, discreetly gave me the VIP wrist bands. There, the fanatic groups screamed, “what about us?!!!”)
I know that we can not always be lucky. But personally, I think that it’s a state of mind. I feel that I am lucky everyday because of so many ways and things – sometimes they come in a pretty form, sometimes in an ugly approach. But believe me, we are always graced (I’d rather term it like that). But measurable luck is of course indescribable. And I love the serendipity of being in the VIP section. Wohoooo. Thank you, thank you, you know who you are (honestly, I did not get the names of the random acquaintances).
It was reported that there were celebrities within the VIP section. But I paid the least of attention. Simply because I hardly recognized them and Prince was more than an attention magnet. He was really funky, hip, freaky in wonderful way – all rolled into one. He performed with this certain intensity that was only possible with his kind. He also sung Delirious, 1999, Little Red Corvette, Controversy, Sexy Dancer, Le Freak, Nothing Compares to You (I did not know he wrote this song), Uptown, Raspberry Beret, Cream, U Got The Look, Shhh, Love Thy Will Be Done (it was performed in a very solemn and prayerful way), Purple Rain, Kiss, The Bird, Jungle Love, A Love Bizarre, Dance, Baby I’m A Star, Sometimes It Snows in April, and Peach.
The back up singers were eye and ear-catching as well. Combined altogether, expect an enigmatic performance.
And if you thought the that crowd was at their craziest during the Purple Rain number, let’s try to find the adjective to describe a higher level for craziest. That was when Prince sung Kiss. The other versions that I know are upbeat, but his and hearing it live was meaningful that each movement, glance and falsetto, and the entirety drew us.
And the unexpected happened. To begin with, he was full of surprises. “I need someone to dance with me,” he declared. And members from the crowd were randomly selected to join him on stage. I noticed that even the unselected braved to go up. We can not blame them and we shall not stop them. How can you beat an adrenaline rush?
And who would have thought that Nicole Scherzinger (of Pussycat Dolls) would join him during the second encore? While surrounded by the randomly picked lucky ones, they sung and danced together to Love Bizarre (a funky cum disco song). Nicole was there because her boyfriend Lewis Hamilton competed at the Grand Prix.
With three costumes, four encores (seriously!… Prince saying, “Too many hits, not enough time.”), how’s that for a two-hour concert with at least 30,000 people who still did not want to leave and being reciprocated by the energetic Prince who has shown the desire to perform more to rock, to boogie, to soul, to funk, and all. Who would have thought that he is indeed already 52?
As we left Yas Arena, people sung out loud literally (and those who found comfort singing inside their heads) “Ooooh, Abu Dhabi”. That will forever be a last song syndrome in the Gulf. Whether Prince came up with it last minute or conceptualized while he was inside the place… well, it was a very beautiful chant.
Alright. I’m not a huge Prince fan. I can just imagine what a real fanatic thought about that night. I am convinced that he is a phenomenon. By definition, a performer like him comes by only once in a generation.