Sunday, October 14, 2007

Purple Reign Over London, welcome to Soultown (Part 1)

In September Prince a.k.a Roger Nelson, a.k.a the Symbol or even a.k.a His Royal bad Funk Self rocked London O 2 centre for 21 days. It was the thing of which Legends are made. You see growing up in the late 70s and early 80s there were two camps that mattered in the world, did you moon walk for Michael part of a raging, hollering teen mob with hysterical sensations and Jheri curls tangled nappy hair. The other side was were you an edgy raincoat wearing tough, with emergent broken voice reading naughty auntie Sylvia with Prince music in the background. Parents worried about the latter, whether they would ever get out of the funky, edgy material full of dense sexuality and freaky past times. I was always down for Prince like I was for Eleniyan, Omo Reverend Asa Igbo, Fela Kuti. You see I was a DJ and cupped the Dirty Mind album before most and there it was this young freak in raincoat and underwear on the album cover or was it being stylistically naked riding a winged horse. There was a lot of rumours in Right On Magazine (you know I read that religiously) that he was a recluse but it confirmed something almost unheard at that time for a man 19 or less he had played all the instruments on his debut album. Michael to me was soppy seconds a crooner without the funk but Prince was the real deal. Even when Rick James played himself with his coked out feud with him there were those of us who stood at crossroads around the world offering all manners of sacrifice for untold reconstruction of his anatomy. Then came Purple Rain the film and movie. I watched it somewhere in Ealing Broadway with a Black British girl, Cynthia who took my refusal to snog her as evidence of my Suegbe nature and lack of street smarts. This was in spite of my black zoot pants, the ever present trouser chain (And you thought it was invented last year) and my lavish crushed silk trench coat (of course in black). No Sh****ng . That was my summer style that also rocked University of Ife all year and was promptly rewarded with invitation to the senate to defend allegations of possible gang affilations. Thankfully the truth out and being stylishly black thankfully did not end up being labeled a criminal.

Fast forward to earlier this year I was in Las Vegas on business and missed out on Prince in residence in spite of my best efforts even willingness to pay up to $300. I thought that life had dealt me one of those cruel blows that you only wish on relatives who have been pain in the butt to your parents and you have grown up to inherit. You feel me?

Now we are in September fast forward to the O2 centre. I had purchased two tickets for my crazy cool middle son and myself but there was the Missus demanding Conjugal rights. At the risk of not catching nooky for a while, guess who stepped with me. The opening act was Beverly Knight and she was something special. Never truly rated her until that night then her energy and powerful voice cleaned away the Thai Food replacing with an hunger to be funked out of my skull. By the time Prince came on the crowd was baying. Now this crowd was an exquisite mix of nearly four generations, i saw a man not a day under 60 with a Symbol tattoed to his arm. I was in the rafters away from the stage and the is a story about the flat fee for all tickets but not for now. Unlike most concerts this was a true Diversity the only thing missing was Hijab wearing sisters and they were sorely missed even though the room was dotted with brothers whose beard rivaled Samson's. Prince took the crowd into a musical experience turning them into rainbow children. I went hoarse, over 40 and the last time i had so much fun there was a four poster bed and many party games. He rocked and Funkdafied everyone. Most stood for the next almost two hours doing the between chairs bop. There was Maceo Parker blowing up a storm like James Brown never died and Fela was still giving Yabis at the shrine. In the end I shook my head at two things, one was the Justice of Providence, life is not a 100 meter Race but a marathon. Here was Prince who became the butt of many Jokes as the symbol and Michael who spent most of that period the King of Pop. In this century Prince is actually the King of this turbulent times, a musical genius and virtuoso of the stage. If only Americans understood when he says ' People say I am rude, I wish there were no rules, I wish there was no black and white.....' The second was this was the power of passion and excellence that people really need for the 21st century not wars and rumors of impending conflicts.

I walked away from the concert I promising I would be back with my son. If he wanted to play bass he had to see the best and never mind the you must have degree bullshit that i propagate all the time. Excellence is not about school but about how you use your talent and opportunities. Watching the man opened up a world of possibilities that i knew but never truly appreciated. Missus Ajadi was equally ecstatic had it had nothing to do with asserted conjugal duties. This pint sized man brought the Funk to a new level and rocked all our worlds right out its middle class, middle age respectability. I had to be back.

Then with my middle rocker son in tow we did London and my edgy Soho jeans shops before the concert. Now here was a 40+ with 14 year old in tow trapezing through the back streets of London seeking the perfect T shirts. It was a blast and we got a few 'antique' ones. By the time we arrived at the concert we had journeyed through life. As it is usual with my kids he took the opportunity to tell me I was confrontational in the best way of course. He attested to the fact that I always disrupt complacency. A little hard but most likely true. This time the opening Act was an ex from one of the British Female Groups she was laughable and forgettable. I know i love stretch marks on my women but i also like waist to hip ratio and a certain feisty disposition. She reminded me of days working the doors at the Ritzy club in Cheltenham on 'granny night' with newly initiated single mums worse for wear and make up in the quarter to the after stage. Her Tattoos stood out like angry effort at rebellion living a life of their own in spite of the skin that gave them home. The Royal Purpleness came to the rescue and we were at the front row. My son had never really been keen on Prince but he came to my conclusions. This man he said' Can stop wars'. From the mouth of babes and the young eh! It was another complete sell out and once again we stood throughout with rendition after rendition of classics and new songs. Now my son sees himself as the only Black boy that cannot dance but there he was shoulder rolling with the best all inhibitions shed like our jackets . We even rocked to ballads that had my boysquarters bed singing the songs of delight. it was a night of very little memories and rocking to the sound of now. Time passed too quickly and after a couple of encores we needed to catch the train home. Now for our life and those who were present there will always be the question about whether you saw the 21 days of Prince in London. As we say Who no Know he go know , Who no Sabi he go Sabi. He rocked.


Sherri said...

i feel like i was there..
i too have experienced his royal purpleness in nyc with chaka khan a couple of years ago.what an awesome night!!

thanks for this..

ijebuman said...

excellent post
and i know what you mean as i was there too..