Getting there: You leave Atlanta on I-20, merge onto I-95N, pass some cotton fields, take a deep breath and inhale a few lung fulls of horse manure and cow dung, blink and then you’re in Fayetteville. It’s a small military town with lush hills and where I rendezvousing with The Fabulous Bessie Afeku, my fellow Prince fanatic.
We spent the early part of the day before the concert running errands. I had to procure a pair of “statement shoes” (which I’m wearing now) from DSW, and had the fortune of sampling some (gratis) purple eye shadow from ULTA next door. We had the monumental task of nourishing ourselves before the event. For that, we went to Cheesecake Factory.
“I’m so full,” Bessie said.
“Heh. You better eat all your food. We’re in for a long night,” I replied, shoveling spoon-fulls of rice and chicken into my mouth. She followed suit, even though her stomach was straining under the unnatural burden. I nodded my approval when I saw that her massive plate was nearly empty.
It was time to go.
The Fabulous and I thought it would be good idea to blast some Prince tunes to limber ourselves up before we went to see the Purple One. In mid jam, she turned down the radio.
“No, no!” she cried. “We have to save our strength! We don’t want to be too tired when he comes on.”
Our conversation from then on came in spurts, as we reflected on what was to be in just 2 more short hours. The doors of the RBC Center in Raleigh where the concert was being held opened at 6:30 pm, and we were going to be there when they opened!
…Or so we thought.
Raped by RBC: Those focking people at the RBC Center, eh? They don’t know how to treat customers and guests kraaa!!! When we got to the venue, we were amazed at how much purple there was milling around the premises. People had on purple any and everything. Purple boots, purple dresses, purple t-shirts…purple, purple, purple! I had chosen to go minimalist and was wearing a white “wedding dress” with a purple flower in my hair. This was going to be my first union with Prince, and every item I was wearing meticulously chosen. I quick scan of the crowd revealed that we were all of like mind.
“Malaka, these are our people,” Bessie breathed. “Look at them!”
“Yes,” I breathed back. “I know!!”
There were women who looked like they spent the last hour before their arrival taping themselves back together before their evening out with the Purple Ones. The evidence of years of alcohol, drug abuse and sex with strangers in seedy clubs or back alleys was written all over their faces and bodies. More than twelve gay guys sashayed past me in the hour we waited outside. An elderly white man in Dockers and a purple Polo milled around with his wife in tow. They looked like they were both in their late 50’s. Odder than that, there were a number of dreadlocked, baggy jean wearing, gold tooth sporting hood rats who kept high-fiving each other and engaging in dap. They were accompanied by 2 girls, one in a leopard skinned dress whose micro braids had begun to fall out of her hair. In this diverse crowd, they seemed oddly out of place. But they had come to see Prince, so that made them part of our clan. Even the handicapped had come out to play. In fact, a woman with a cane and a measured gait came and asked if she might share our stoop where we were crowd watching. She inserted herself into our conversation, somewhat unnaturally, forcing us to flee to another location. That and the plumes of cigarette smoke were beginning to make both of us ill.
It didn’t matter. It was time to line up anyway. At 6:15, we approached the doors. My statement shoes were beginning to hurt my feet, but I was consoled by the knowledge that in 25 more minutes, I would at least me seated. It was not to be so. At 6:30, a short women with a mullet crudely yelled that due to “circumstances beyond their control” to doors would not open until 7:00. There was no apology and no further explanation. 7:00 came and went, until finally at 7:15 they began scanning tickets. The staff at the RBC center was unhelpful and rude, save for 2 ushers that we encountered. Let me tell you what it was like:
It was as though this was my wedding night, the night I had dreamed of my entire life. As my husband (Prince) readied himself in his dressing room for our first meeting, a thief stole into our chamber and raped me violently. But before he violated me, he fumbled around, sticking his phallus in unnatural places like my elbow and ear canal, leaving me battered, weeping and confused.
I hated those RBC workers with the passion that a woman who has been debased hates her attacker. But for Prince, I endured the abuse.
Welcome to the a$$ show: The Fabulous was eager to inform me, to my extreme delight, that we had procured floor seating. She was online AT 10 o’clock when the ticket sales had begun. As the usher walked us to our seats, I could feel my excitement mounting. The Symbol shaped stage was just within walking distance. I could see the very groves of the wood, we were so close. We walked and walked – but further and further away from the stage. We ended up 50 yards BEHIND the drummer and back-up singers. WTF?? I felt my heart sink and felt violated all over again.
The opening act was Chaka Khan, who although prolific, is not one of my favorite artists. I would never drive to see her. I have never bought her CDs. In fact, if someone had a spare ticket to go to her show, I probably wouldn’t go. So when she got on stage (an hour and a half after the show was supposed to begin), I sat my weeping feet down to preserve my energy for the object of my affection. I probably would have been more welcoming to this icon, had the RBC Center staff not put me in such a foul mood. I was not alone. Half of the stadium was seated with their arms folded. I was even more vexed when I realized that not only could I NOT see Chaka Khan on the stage, I couldn’t see her on the screen hovering above me either. The angle we were at hurt my neck to look up. In fact, all I COULD see were the very ample a**es of her back-up singers and their weaves. I had not paid a day’s wages to see booty. I could see that at home for free. I was pissed, and so was out whole section. After her set was over, we went to guest services, where the operator wordlessly handed us tickets to another section. A BETTER section.
All Hail The Prince: Seeing as how the event manager/planner had FUBARed the whole show, Prince had to come out hard. The lights went off and his voice claimed the speakers.
North Carolina, he called. We rose to our feet in rapt attention, screaming wildly. He was here! He was coming!!!
His mic was cutting in and out. Seriously RBC? For real?
The lights came back on, and to fill the unexpected gap, RBC thought it would be a good idea to play a series of 80s music videos from long forgotten artists. The smoke that was supposed to signal Prince’s arrival still floated in the air, its presence premature as he was clearly not on stage. Finally, the lights went back off again.
North Carolina, he called again. You know how many hits I got? We go’n be here all night!
Bessie and I screamed and jumped as though our very lives depended on it. There was no one there to judge us, and no one else cared because they were doing the same. The woman to the right of us, who had told me before the show started that seeing Prince was on her bucket list, began to moan peculiarly. I couldn’t hear her, but Bessie said her moans and half empty, sloshing cup of beer was making her very uncomfortable.
Where do I even begin? Well, he came out dressed in a black suit with a red shirt and red boots. He did a medley of several of his hits. We screamed the words at him, each of us trying to get his individual attention. We each his ultimate fan. The seats that we had just garnered put us at eye level with him, but because of the lecherous brunette to our right, he could not bring himself to make eye contact with me. The NPG was just – amazing. There was a bald girl called Shelby J who was my friend by the end of the night. She winked at me as I waived my white hankie at her and I grinned foolishly back. As he infamously does, he sent a band member to call several people to the stage. One woman hand picked himself to come up. She was wearing all brown, and looked very unassuming. HOWEVER, once she got on stage, she smacked Prince on his bottom and danced like she was auditioning for the alpha female role on Flava of Love. He masterfully wiggled his way out of her barricade, after which she throw up the Delta pyramid. I couldn’t hear the ooo ooops over the hollering crowd.
We sang (or screamed) song after song until the show “ended” with all however-many-hundred of us swaying and crooning to Purple Rain. Prince and the NPG left the stage amidst a torrent of screams and ululation. We stood there for 15 more minutes in the darkness, refusing to budge, pleading with him to come back and give us more.
Which he did.
Another wardrobe change (he had one previous to this to all white – like he was going to Jerusalem) and he was back on the stage in silver/gold high heeled sneakers and a silk black suit with no shirt underneath. As he sang Kiss, he briefly flipped the sleeve of his left shoulder to reveal ripped abs underneath. Incredible. The women (and I’m sure a few dudes too) went wild. I surveyed the crowd, and two couples in particular were clinging to each other as he crooned the verses to Adore and Insatiable, but not before warning that someone was probably was going to get pregnant.
After the encore, he left the stage yet again. The drummer tossed his sticks into the crowd, the lights came on, and the show was over. All this while, my feet were soaked in fetid water, as a pipe had burst underneath my seat at the (focking) RBC Center. I’m sure that my feet will eventually blister and break out as the result of some ungodly disease, having spent 3 hours immersed in a mixture of beer, liquor, pizza crust and piss. The RBC Center’s futile attempts at mopping up the stagnant water with their already soaked mops only added more bacteria to the mix.
When 80% of the crowd has left, Bessie and I sat patiently waiting. I had already blogged that I was not leaving until the security guards themselves sacked me, and my feet were throbbing in agony. I needed to sit and digest all that had just happened. Suddenly, there was a flurry of movement! We saw that band return to the stage and a little man in black whiz by. It was him! He was back!
Bessie and I sprinted down the stairs and hurtled ourselves over the backs of two chairs. We were front row…front row!! We couldn’t believe it! If we had leaned forward just a tad, we could have touched him! Those who had begun to exit the building scurried back in, like starving Somali school children rushing for Halloween candy. I mean women in spiked heels and men in slacks running like there was a tsunami coming – a tsunami called Prince.
He belted out Noooooorth Caroliiiiina! A few times, held his nose and declared us all too funky and finally left for real. My near altercation with the (focking) RBC staff solidified that the show was over as they not so politely asked us to leave.
It all seems like a distant memory…like it never happened. Now I’m moving to South Africa and I will probably never see Prince again. All the same, after the customer service rape and torture at the hands of the RBC Center, I got to see the only musical genius left on earth.
It was well worth it. – nuthin’ a little salve won’t solve.