I had tickets to the final Prince show and I couldn’t go.
It was at the top of my bucket list. I had seen Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones. AC/DC. Robert Plant. KISS. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The Beach Boys. John Fogerty. U2. R.E.M. Pearl Jam. Metallica (but Metallica during that weird two-date stretch where James Hetfield had undergone back surgery and Kid Rock was their lead singer). James Brown. Jimmy Buffett. James Taylor. Paul Simon. I had seen everyone.
But not Prince.
On March 29 my friend Greg sent me a text telling me that Prince had announced two shows for the “Piano and a Microphone” Tour at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Tickets for the shows at the 4,500 seat venue, set to take place one week later, would go on sale the next day. So yeah, of course. Whatever we have to pay, let’s pay it. We’ll figure out who owes who what later on. Fight the complicated ticketing system now and sort out the details later.
Somehow, through the help of friends, we found ourselves with more tickets than we needed to this show that sold out in minutes. And this would be the year that I finally saw Prince. And I wouldn’t just see Prince, these tickets were on the 16th row.
But Prince got the flu.
Greg had flown in to meet me for the show, and at noon that Thursday, I had parked at the place we were meeting to leave for Atlanta when I got the text: “Show’s off. Flu.”
He knew then that he’d have to settle for the refund. I held out hope — there was only one day this thing could be rescheduled for that I wouldn’t be able to make due to a prior obligation, and as long as it was not that day, I was going to figure out some way to be there.
It was rescheduled for that day. Thursday, April 14. I was beside myself.
Our friend Daniel made it, though. And this Thursday, April 21, after the news of Prince’s death had broken, I called up my friend and asked him to regale me with stories of what I missed — the stories that I was previously too jealous to want to hear.
“It was electric,” he told me. “I didn’t see a single open seat. The crowd stood for the first half and at least the last quarter of the set. He didn’t even have a bottle of water in front of him. He nailed every note, every falsetto. And looking back on it now, other than walking off the stage a few times between songs, there was nothing that made me think that something was going on. It’s Prince — you expect him to do weird things. And he walked off stage a lot. And every time he walked off, it was to an insane standing ovation.”
“He started playing ‘Chopsticks’ at one point and shared how his dad taught him about music,” he continued. “How with funk, it wasn’t about the notes that you played, but about the notes that you didn’t play. Then, he started beat boxing. Of all the things that I thought I could see that night, Prince beatboxing wasn’t really an option. And that doesn’t seem like a thing you do if you’re that sick, either.”
Greg had seen Prince before. It happened on a quick run of the Carolinas that Prince did in 2011. Greg was living in Atlanta at the time, and he made the trek up to Greenville to catch the show. Prince didn’t leave this earth without Greg having a chance to see him perform.
But I’ll never be able to see Prince perform live.
“When he came back for the encore, he says, ‘I don’t know what y’all want me to play, I’m out of hits,” Daniel said of the night’s conclusion. “And the crowd laughs because at this point, there’s like 20 more he can play. He plays the encore, the venue turns on the house lights and everyone just stands there chanting for more. Security had to physically begin pushing the crowd toward the door.”
Prince meant a lot to me. My favorite Prince song was “7,” which is a little bizarre, but I think that’s because that was the first time that I had heard rock music performed a cappella. I didn’t know that could be a thing. And now, because I chose to be a team player at my day job rather than go the rescheduled show on the same date as one of our biggest annual events, I’ll never have a chance to see him.
Here’s the thing: the worst consequence of my going on to the show anyway would have been getting fired, and I wasn’t going to get fired. I would have been reprimanded for my insubordination. I would have been slapped on the wrist. I wouldn’t be out of a job.
The lesson is, buy the ticket and go to the show. If you think there’s a chance you’re going to really regret not going to a show — any show — later on, there’s a chance you’re going to be right.