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You Can Call it The Unexpected or U Can Call it Wow!

Photo by Sara Savoy


So - a bit like Inception or Pulp Fiction or one of those films that goes out of sequence - I'm going to have to skip ahead a little bit in the story of my visit to Minneapolis, because something amazing just happened....

I just had the most incredible afternoon and evening for lots of reasons..  I was planning an easy day of relaxing and writing when I got an invite from Sara to join her on a trip to her sister's place and we would take in the spot where Take Me With You was filmed and try and find "the lake" where Prince convinced Apollonia to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

I drove up to Sara's place about midday where I was greeted by her enthusiastic dogs and I had a good old look through Sara's amazing vinyl collection while she got ready.  We were a little on edge that something might happen that night but nothing had been announced so it was seeming less and less likely.



Photo by Sara Savoy
Photo by Sara Savoy
We headed out and drove into through proper Minnesotan countryside - the colours of the trees were just stunning - fiery, reds ambers and yellows, contrast against silver bark in places and rich evergreens.  Passing farmland with livestock and cornfields.  The place where Take Me With You isn't somewhere you'll find on a map.  Sara can remember the road being closed off for filming while she was in school.  We drove up this winding  road and - you can just recognise the place!  We stopped like mad people and took photos in the middle of the road - totally geeking out while Sara's passers by probably wondered what these nutters were up to.

Once we had driven around looking for "lake Minnetonka" and I had vowed to return here on a motorcycle, we head out to this big market store that sells candy, fruit, a massive range of sodas and the best homemade pies around.  We then stopped by a very historic meat market in Nicolete.  While we had been driving my phone had been playing up and I had been receiving one or two messages but I couldn't reply to them.  Eventually I decided to switch my phone off and on again because it didn't seem quite right.  When it came back on my phone started going crazy!!  I looked at twitter and my notifications were through the roof.  As I started to read through some of the messages I started to crack up laughing and Sara is like "Whaat?"  I see a that someone has taken a really terrible picture of me from my Facebook and created a poster and a hashtag campaign #letmarcusintopaisleypark.  Thank you so much everyone that got involved with this - it was really fun and heartwarming!

I met Sara's sister, nephews and their partners - all so friendly and welcoming.  Its so nice to really see a place - by meeting a family in their home - thank you so much for that Sara & family!!  I think it must've got to about 6pm so we started to head back.  Talking to other friends we heard that there was a gathering at a friend's place as there wasn't anything planned for today.  So we drove back to Sara's as her husband and daughter were staying in and we head out in two cars to go to another friend's place for a gathering.  So we're driving about 20 minutes or something and then just as we're getting near the friends place I get a phone call - it's Sara - "Did you hear?"  "NO!! What?"  "Paisley Park is opening at 10pm - talk to you in a minute" - by now its about 9pm.  We eventually get to the friend's place and I meet these wonderful people, wishing me happy birthday and they're all suddenly getting dressed up and I'm like I need to go and get changed!!  I had just enough time to get back to my hotel.  Get changed in 10 minutes and get back out to Paisley Park.



So now I'm dressed up and I'm driving into Paisley Park and parking my car.  As I pull in I can see there are about nine cars in there and it looks like people are just sitting in their cars.  I call Sara and ask if it is OK to park in here and she says its all fine.  So i get out - no idea how this works so I start walking around and there's someone out of their car so I go up and talk to her and she's really cool and explains how her daughters are coming in with her tonight.

Photo by ontheone
Then the friends that I was with earlier turn up and after a little while we are all out chatting.  I'm meeting people that I've seen online or been chatting to online and it feels like a big family get together.  Then word goes around, its $20 to get in so we head over and I'm chatting to people like - is this really happening?  Just  a couple of hours ago it seemed like the last place that I would be!!

So we go in this door (not the one right at the front) and pay are $20 at the desk to get in.  We pass right by the bike from Purple Rain - Well actually, I stopped to get a proper look at it  We then go into this room that is setup with some really amazing velvet seats.  Looking around you can see there's a stage setup in the centre front of the room with a little drum kit setup on the floor. Behind the stage is a massive screen showing Finding Nemo and there is also another screen up playing to too.  There's the front of a car hanging up there (looks like the one from Sign 'O' The Times, and a motorcycle from Purple Rain up there beyond reach above one of the doors.  You turn around and behind you there's a massive Prince symbol hanging up there and there's a DJ spinning Prince tunes and then there's a moment when it hits you and you look down and you realise that you are in the NPG Music Club Room (As that is what is written in the carpet on the floor).

We were dancing away to some amazing tunes including some Black Album cuts which was nice.  At one point the dance floor started to kinda empty and people start heading towards the reception area.  Hmmm I'm thinking as I walk over.  The music from the DJ is still playing, but as I approach the reception area I can hear some other music seeping through the wall.  I'm trying to work out - is this a record or live, it SOUNDS live - hmmm.  As a few people have now come over to this area we are now asked to return to the NPG room, so I head back.  As I get back into the centre of the room I recognise Trevor to my left and he has this Zen smile on his face and his arms out to the side.  Behind him, these big doors on the left have swung open (see there's a door that you can walk through, where there used to be a wall) and we can hear some guitar screaming - I start walking but quickly start to run as the reality of what's happening starts to sink in!!

I was so not ready for what I was about to witness that when I first got into the room I saw Ida, Donna and Hannah on the stage in the opening bars of Lets Go Crazy (Reloaded) and then someone runs on the stage with a guitar wearing all white and a beanie and I didn't recognise for a split second.  It was Prince, onstage at Paisley Park!!  This is really happening!!  The stage was setup with two keyboard setups, one on the left of the stage and one on the right with Donna to our left, Ida to our right and Hannah holding it down in the centre at the back.  There was an enormous screen behind them displaying psychedelic style changing patterns as they played.  When I go to see Prince I can very rarely remember what was played - my mind is to busy being blown by the experience.  This time, I really wanted to try and remember as much as I could about how everything looked, sounded and felt - so I made a mental note of the first letter of each song.  Haha - Sounds crazy I know!!  The setlist cannot really explain what an incredible performance it was, but I'm finding that it serves as reminder for other special details that bring the memory to life.

This whole experience was part of the competition prize for Dorothy Anthony, who had won the Paisley Park Flyaway contest which was available to US Citizens that preordered the new albums Art Official Age and Plectrum Electrum from the Warner Brothers website.  I couldn't think of a nicer person to have won the competition.  Dorothy Anthony was cool.  Seriously.

There were just under 40 of us in the room and the atmosphere was electric. Pretty much as soon as we came in Prince gave Dorothy a shout out, saying something like "This is Dorothy's party"  and we all went crazy for her.  How cool to have Prince shout her out like that.  This happened a couple of times during the show - at one point Prince said "Are you happy Dorothy?".  Very cool.  I'm sure everybody felt the same - so happy for her.

During Let's Go Crazy Prince was calling out adjustments to the sound mix, and didn't seem to be getting it how he wanted.  The band kept playing, as Prince came down from the stage and walked behind us to adjust the sound himself before running back on the stage and carrying on.

Next Prince launched into a blistering version of She's Always in my Hair, followed by the amazing reloaded version of I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.  Just SO good and sublime.  Then we're into a high energy rendition of Guitar and the enthusiasm of these small crowd is infectious.  Next up - one of my favourite 3rd Eye Girl live tracks - Plectrum Electrum.  I love how this track always gets the crowd going - even people that haven't heard it before.  It has such an incredible impact in the live setting and is probably the best track Prince has ever had to show off each of the members of the band in the context of a really great instrumental track, rather than the less interesting approach that some bands take of doing solos.

FIXURLIFEUP was a blast and it was fun moment when some of my new friends gave me a nod on the line "London you're sure to be toast" and then we head into the transcendental territory of Something in the Water (Reloaded).  This was the first song that I heard Prince & 3rd Eye Girl play live this year, back in February at the soundcheck before the shows at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London .  It's one of my favourite songs that Prince does with this line up and this performance didn't disappoint.

Then something kinda special happened (within an incredible special event anyway!).  Prince called over for Josh to come up, it seemed like he must've been behind us.  Maybe he didn't hear - anyway, while Prince was waiting, he was on the keys and started playing the intro to Muse 2 the Pharaoh.  It took a moment to sink in - OMG I would love to hear that live again!!  Still playing it, and as Josh hadn't come up, Prince turned to Hannah and said "Hannah, where's your husband?" and Hannah laughed and called "Husband!!" - then audience members started calling Josh as well.  He came up with his laptop and set himself up at then keyboard station to the left of the stage, while Prince was on the right.  Josh pressed a button and we were hearing the opening sounds of Clouds!!!!  It's always exciting to hear the new material live - so I loved this and so did everyone else.  I'm guessing this is the first time this song was performed live in front of an audience.  The sounds from the laptop were minimal with the Hannah, Ida & Donna playing on the track, Prince doing vocals and keys and Josh also on keys.  All of us were singing along and then we took the lead when it came to the bit where Lianne La Havas' vocals are.  What a treat - to hear a new song tried out live!

After this was another dose of fun with Pretzelbodylogic.  Not one of my favourites but it is a fun live track and served as a palette cleanser before what was going to be a sublime close to the set.

Stratus has been a live favourite for quite a while now and often serves as a way to stretch out and try new things.  In this case, Prince was doing some funky, glitchy, improvisation on keys while Ida, Donna and Hannah laid down the groove.  Prince seemed to be challenging Josh to keep up as they were keeping in almost constant eye contact as they were both playing keys on this one.  At one point Prince signalled Donna to take centre stage and she unleashed one of the most incredible performances I have seen from her.  It was not just rhythmic or melodic playing - she was teasing incredible sounds out of the guitar in a similar way to what Pink Floyd did in Meddle - but completely her own style and completely in line with the groove of Stratus.  Breathtaking stuff.  As she was playing, Prince had the biggest grin on his face, like a proud teacher - that was really cool to see.

After Stratus, Ida started playing one of my favourite bass lines to hear live ... What's My Name.  This show just seemed to be getting better and better and we all went crazy for this one.  Prince improvised some new lyrics to this which I was so sure I would remember - but its a little hazy but it was something like this (in the style of I Wish U Heaven pt3):

Take this squirrel, I don't need it
I've got plenty others and they're so fine
I've got this girl, she's been around the world 2 times
James Bonds crazy, rewind!

Whaaaaaaat??  lol - so crazy and so brilliant - loved it!!

Then back with the funkiness for Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), which felt like a real celebration to all of us.  It was a super funky performance and the choir was in full voice.  Prince left the stage first, well moved to the back and then the band members slowly moved off stage during the jam, one by one.  Prince had moved to the back and was playing some percussion that sounded like bongos - just sounded so wicked.  Kinda reminiscent of moments from the The War, also one of my favourites.

As the show ended, the lights did not come up - so it was very dark.  I was on cloud 9, as it began to soak in what had just happened.  I'd seen Prince perform at Paisley Park.  WOW!  I caught up with Kathy and just tried to process it all and take in the scene.  Kathy pointed out things around the room that I totally would've missed in my euphoric state!  To the left of the stage there were ping pong and pool tables and you could see all the guitars racked up.  Right at the back of the room behind the soundboard is a raise area with plush seating, similar to that in the NPG Room and on the tables there are some ornate table decorations that look like sculptures of flowers.  We walked out into the lobby and Hannah was out there talking to a fan and I said Hi to Donna as she passed by.

It was such an incredible experience so Thank You Prince & 3rd Eye Girl for an amazing show and Dorothy for sharing your wonderful treat with us.  Thank you Kathy, Sara and Jesse and everyone that shared in this experience.  It was all the better for sharing it with you.

Setlist

Let's Go Crazy (Reloaded)
She's Always In My Hair
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (Reloaded)
Guitar
Plectrum Electrum
FIXURLIFEUP
Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) (Reloaded)

Muse 2 The Pharaoh (intro only)
Clouds (crowd singing female vox)
PRETZELBODYLOGIC
Stratus (including killer guitar improv - Donna)
What's My Name
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)


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