»We could play this song or that,« Prince proposes to a singing, dancing and emotionally captured audience. »Vienna!« June 7, 2014, Vienna City Hall, Prince & 3rdEyeGirl. A subjective proletarian drum column on American astray.
The droplet mist is hanging in the huge hall. Height and width of the huge Hall D of the Vienna City Hall are reminiscent of the local Rapid Stadium or of the Euro Vision Song Contest. Up front, in the subdivisions of the standing room, hangs a canvas that shows an aquarium. Soothing music sounds. A whistling surges again and again. Waiting. Blue points light up. The ice cream vendor waves with the cones. »Mr. Prince himself probably doesn’t exactly know when he will appear,« says the ticket lady. Loud bawling as it gets dark, but still pink coral fronds and yellow fish in front of the stage. »We want to see your eyes and not your iphones«, says a friendly female voice. A sudden sound quake shakes the hall, great confusion till the curtain suddenly is jerked upwards. It’s bombastic: yellow lights, fire, gigantic drums. Prince, all in white, is strangling his guitar. The hall is immediately rocking in this song. The young drummer (it is not Sheila E.) raises the arms high above her head, 1 2 3 4! In a hard dry sound the American Hannah Ford plays with both arms on the snare. Maximum sound.
Blue sky and desert on the film canvas behind Prince. »Come and touch,« he yells like crazy, ooh! He has always been better than Michael Jackson. The drummer plays straight on, without paraphernalia, and strong. Prince reminds me of the concert of Linton Kwesi Johnson at the Austrian Wiesen festival many years ago – the voice does it all! The song impresses through the voice. A certain undertone, something long-drawn, quite unique, and indefinable that everyone recognizes. Prince dances like Michael Jackson. Oh well, I have no comparison. How can a person develop so much power? He is bundle of energy. Searchlight. Take your time. The drummer crashes two cymbals simultaneously. Crash! She is such a dazzling person with her cap on long blond hair. Hard to believe this legend called Prince is over there on stage, still only 56 years old. The drummer is working full power with her arms.
All middle-aged people here.
His 3rdEyeGirl decision
Prince announces a hit from the ’80s, purple dots wander, the drummer is too hard on the road. »Baby you are just imagining, maybe you are just like my mother, sing it! Come on! Why do we scream at each other?« It’s the first song, which really is buzzing, where people go forward to the railing. His voice catches. The drums are now softer – much better. Let’s go! Some are dancing on the steps above – all middle-aged women. The drummer seems too straight forward, slightly more melodic and jazzy would fit better – but Prince decides! Vienna, you want to play with me? Perhaps he wants to raise his voice till it flies away on this staccato sound?
Synthesizer organ, old sound, very classic, hotel-in-Yugoslavia-in-the-’80s-sound. The drummer slaving away. She is a hard worker, a graceful hard worker on drums. (One day, the first drummer of Prince had health problems. Supposedly she played on high heels. I think that’s nonsense!) Hannah Ford plays on the rim of the snare – good wooden sound. The bassist shines and is great! »There comes a time.« Red light, feeling, actually simple melodies. Prince himself personifies the figure »Vienna«, and he plays with the audience: »Vienna, I want you in my life.« Everyone smiles. He plays the guitar. Are there minor sounds on the guitar? »We gonna be old school tonight,« he announces. Not as funky as they used to be on the drums. There is a lack of laid back extra beat to make the funk, the funkiness complete. Strange. Another era, a new generation. Then, as if at church, very high voice, 99, the sound hissing through the hall, he looks so fabulous with his Afro. He sends good energy to the audience and is always ready to flirt, as if he were a lover. »Baby, you got all night, we have to slow down, we are going too fast, SLOW DOWN.« Red spotlights slowly slide over the heads towards the ceiling. »Since you be gone« – all are overwhelmed, the hall in uproar. He sings alone, lighters are being flicked. The crowd is great and sings a lot! Black woman on the piano, Prince shakes hands with the people up front – phew, he knows his business! »Nothing compared to you. Vienna! You talk to me. What you want to hear?« He proposes several songs, the audience screams. »We could play … this or that. I wanna be your lover…This is from me to you.« And he continues with »You do not have to be rich to be my girl.« All are enthusiastic. Prince is having fun on stage, and he spins an ironic dialogue with the audience. Then he shows his naked brown buttocks. Coquettish, the old guy. Break. The people are so psyched that they continue to sing by themselves. »Happy Birthday,« it echoes through the hall. Thousands of people celebrate the birthday of Prince and their own middle-aged lives. »I am trying to get younger not older,« says Prince. He’s right. Why should you no longer have fun?
»Vienna, what about you?«
»Do you want me?« Screech. »Purple Rain«, a beautiful song, almost only guitar solo. Prince is beyond control, hopping, the guitar player runs across the stage, she no longer can control herself. »I love my guitar, I love Austria« …improvised text. DRIVE.
Now comes again the synth guitar? It almost sounds like the Dead Kennedys. Lights and thunder. »I wanna know for sure.« I can’t believe he plays so much fuzz tone! The audience sings by itself and Prince tops it all. »Purple Rain,« and it is raining purple paper scraps. »I want to be some kind of a friend. Vienna, what about you?« Prince brings consolation, so you don’t have to be alone. Glitter in the air.
»Do you want me to play harder, stronger?« Well. What kind of an allusion is that supposed to be? He leaves space, is careful with his imaginary counterpart, there is enough space next to him, he is not so overwhelming and dominant as others, but very lively. »I feel something about tonight. Do you feel it too?« Fiddle, fiddle, scratch, triumph! »Sometimes it snows in April, but it never, never lasts.« Everyone understands what is meant. Snow always melts. Misfortune passes. Consolation. (Note: Thank you, I know that’s not true.) »My name is Prince and so are you.«
No one wants to go home. Three times encore. The audience is again flipping out and shaking. The guitar sounds like John Coltrane’s Sax in his late phase or Miles Davis on the Poland-release of 1983. The drummer keeps going. She whirls around, still looks fresh. Drum solo! I take all my criticism back. She even smiles. At the end of a two-hour concert another solo. And what kind of a solo! »Vienna!« Police sirens, red light, very funky, »I know about pain and rejection, I know!« Prince screams. Tough! Whoa hardcore. Then it’s over.
At the entrance hall there are no more drinks. The audience is thrown out. That is also hardcore.
Music for writing: Linton Kwesi Johnson »Fight them back,« Miles Davis Septet, live in Poland in 1983, Prince and the Revolution / Parade.