One Year Gone: A Tribute To Prince

My connection to Prince goes way back to my childhood. For me, the one year anniversary of his untimely death is a time to look back on various experiences that involved him and his music. Internalizing this stuff does not feel right, so I will share some with you.

  • 1984 (age 10)- I rode my bike to the local record store with a pocket full of change to purchase Purple Rain on vinyl, as well as seeing the movie in the theater on a Saturday afternoon, are priceless early memories. That record and movie solidified the fact that I would be a Prince fan for the rest of my life.

 

  • 1987- Upon the release of Sign o’ the Times, I became so enthralled with that record, that I spent many hours in my darkened bedroom putting my own imagery to the sounds. Basically I was creating movies in my head based on the songs, complete with distinct characters, etc. Something about those songs kicked my 13 year old imagination into overdrive…and I couldn’t get enough.

 

  • 1997- Prince visited Cleveland for the first time since the Purple Rain tour, so this was my first opportunity to see him live. I was lucky enough to score a general admission ticket on the floor. I arrived at the venue extremely early, and when my ticket was taken, I proceeded to fly into the arena like a rocket, down the stairs, past the security guard that was trying to stop me from running, and I never stopped until I hit the barricade. When Prince hit the stage, I immediately started crying. There he was, close enough for me to reach out and touch him (I wouldn’t dare), after waiting for so many years to see him. Unforgettable.

 

  • 1998- He returned to Cleveland for another show at the same venue as the previous year, but this time, the after party would arguably be more memorable for me than the concert itself. After leaving the gig during the encore, I quickly made my way to the club that was hosting the party. I was one of the first people to arrive, and after forking over my $20, I was given a thorough pat-down and entered the club. After about a half hour, more concert-goers began to arrive. As I was watching people out on the dance floor, I turned to my right, and to my surprise, Chaka Khan was standing next to me. A short time later, I saw security guards scamper towards a door on the opposite side of the club from where I was. I quickly made my way across the dance floor to get a closer look, the door opened, and in walked Prince in his bedazzled glory, cane and all. Let me correct myself, it was much more of a glide than straight up walking. He moved right past me, no more than a few feet away, flanked by security. His presence was palpable and electrifying. He spent much of the night in an upstairs VIP area that overlooked the dance floor, occasionally reaching his cane down so people could jump up and touch it. Amazing night.

 

  • 2002- The One Nite Alone tour came to Cleveland, and I was lucky enough to get in to witness the astonishing soundcheck and Q&A session up close and personal. Prince was charming and unassuming, answering many questions about his guitars, lyrics, etc. This was one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced, and I distinctly remember not wanting it to end.

 

  • 2016- The day I wish I could forget. When I heard the news on the radio, I had the strangest sensation of my senses temporarily failing me. I felt as though I could not hear very well or see very well. I felt a sense of electrical shocks through my body. My first reaction was complete and utter denial…until I could not escape the news on every radio station, television network, and social media outlet. That feeling of shock, dread, and despair did not leave me for weeks, and I know I was not alone. What started to make me feel better was thinking about the years of personal memories I had, and how lucky I was to have shared 5 different evenings in the same building with him.

 

For quite a while after his passing, I was not hearing the music the same as I always had. The best way I could describe it is going from hearing the music in vibrant colors, to hearing it only in black and white. Something about the fact that I knew he was no longer here was making it not nearly as enjoyable to listen to. I have since broken through that, basically by coming to the realization that whether he is still with us or not, that music will ALWAYS be a part of me, and nobody can ever take that away.

Thank you, Prince…for everything.

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Review: John 5 and the Creatures @ Cleveland Agora

Many times, a concert is just a concert. Other times, you get more than you bargained for. That was the case last night as John 5 brought his insanely talented Creatures to the Cleveland Agora, and proceeded to give the near capacity crowd a show they won’t soon forget. More on that in a moment…

I have attended many, many shows over the last 30+ years, and I can only recall 2 times where I stood just feet away from a person playing a musical instrument and was legitimately emotionally moved by their playing. The first was Billy Sheehan absolutely destroying his bass with Mr. Big. Second was Prince, making sounds come out of a guitar that did not seem at all humanly possible. After last night, I can officially add John 5 to that esteemed list. After pondering for a while what the common thread was between these three experiences, I finally figured it out. All three individuals had not only the highest level of talent imaginable, but also the greatest amount of passion for their instrument. That combination is something magical, and John 5 squeezed every ounce of talent and passion he had, and left it on the Agora stage last night.

They tore through a set made up primarily of songs from 2014’s ‘Careful With That Axe,’ as well as the new release ‘Season Of The Witch.’ John 5 is well-known for switching styles at the drop of a hat, but in a live setting, it is even more stunning to behold. To witness him tear through a straight metal song with fingers flying at the speed of light, to deftly picking a banjo a few minutes later, is truly something to behold. Plus we got the whole bag of tricks, including the lava lamp guitar, the LED lit guitar, his guitar being handed to the crowd to play, really something for everyone. I even got a fantastic personal experience when during ‘Making Monsters,’ John 5 came to the front of the stage, grabbed me around my head, and proceeded to still crush the song being head to head with me. Oh, and the medley to close out the show? Mind blowing. There were homages to Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Alice In Chains, White Zombie, KISS, The Police, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Marilyn Manson, and many more.

So I mentioned earlier about it being “more than a concert.” To expand on that a bit, what I mean was I walked away inspired…inspired to really nail down what it is that I am passionate about and commit myself to it. When you watch John 5 play, you are seeing someone who never wakes up in the morning and begrudgingly forces himself to play guitar. He probably dreams about guitars (in between dreams about KISS, Mad Monster Party, Planet of the Apes, etc.). His passion and joy that he exudes while being on stage and playing for people is undoubtedly contagious, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

SETLIST

Guitars, Tits and Monsters

Flight of the Vulcan Kelly

666 Pickers

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

This Is My Rifle

Jiffy Jam

Hell Haw

Season of the Witch

Portrait of Sydney Sloan

First Victim

(solo)

Black Grass Plague

Behind the Nut Love

Making Monsters

Beat It (Michael Jackson cover)

Now Fear This

(Medley)