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Remembering Prince through his Australian shows

Meg Crawford

Time Out Melbourne's music editor reflects on Prince's unforgettable Australian live shows 

We’re still grieving Bowie and now, somehow, Prince has passed away at the age of 57. It doesn't quite seem real.

Prince, the walking purple contradiction that he was, was a dirty, sexy, God-fearing musical genius. I saw him play live at Rod Laver arena in 2012; it was a three-hour transcendental experience. No one moves like Prince or slays the guitar in quite the same way (do yourself a favour – revisit Purple Rain and ignore the sexual politics for a Prince 101). He played a 16-minute version of ‘When Doves Cry’ and a medley with a brief nod to ‘Dear Nikki’. That song was proper filth but he trailed off with a wink before he “could say she was a sex queen”. 

Generally speaking, an encore is an overplayed hand, but Prince pulled out three that night and he played us like a violin. We would have rioted if he hadn’t returned to the stage – but he did and we screamed like he was all of the Beatles.

Then there were his secret, not-so-secret Australian gigs that have become a thing of legend. Famously, in 2003 he played Melbourne’s now-closed Bennetts Lane for pocket change (tickets were $20) and at Sydney’s Basement, jamming for three hours. In 2012, Prince ruled the stage at the Ivy with Flavor Flav. Melbourne wasn't so lucky that year; fans waited for hours outside Max Watt's (formerly the Hi-Fi) in a queue that stretched all the way from Swanston to Elizabeth Street, only to hear Prince play a very brief DJ set before he split. Afterwards, pundits claimed it was our fault because we didn’t play nicely – too many drunken punters baying for for purple blood, crowding the dude and trying to take pictures.

Finally, in February this year, Prince dropped in for the most intimate shows of his life with only two weeks’ notice: two shows at the State Theatre in Melbourne, two at the Opera House and one at Sydney’s State Theatre. At those shows, Prince was mourning his friend and one-time lover Vanity. But grief aside, it was like Prince had invited us to Paisley Park for a party – casual chats and some cheeky winks between musical brilliance. The shows were only one-hour long that time round: short, but perfect – just like Prince. 

We're not the only ones mourning Prince today. Our grief is shared, nationwide, worldwide. 

Australian musicians remember Prince 

Anna Go-Go, the otherwise upbeat leader of Anna's Go-Go Academy in Melbourne, changed the whole course of her life because of Prince. In 2003, Anna had a Prince-related epiphany after dancing next to him at one of his fabled after-parties. "Something snapped in my brain and I resolved to change my life," she says. She was inspired to start Anna's Go-Go Academy and has taught people to shake it like a polaroid picture all over Melbourne every week since. 

"I'm now 13 years along that path and I've experienced more happiness than I ever thought possible, because of Prince," Anna says. "In the darkest days of my life, it was Prince’s music that helped me to go on for another day. In the brightest and most joyous moments of my life Prince was there, and, in a weird way, many of those moments of joy happened because of him. His music has been the soundtrack of my life." 

Understandably, Prince's passing has knocked Anna for a particularly personal six. Anna recently saw Prince at the State Theatre and cried her eyes out, speechless and stunned by his gift. Then she had a chance meeting with the great man again.

"We danced next to him for hours at another after-party, him smiling at us, us smiling at him," she says. "I was struck by what a profound impact he has had on my life, on all our lives. In a way I owe everything I am now to him. He inspired me to do what I was sent here to do. But it’s not just me, he inspired everyone I know, everyone who’s ever performed or played an instrument or danced. He was brilliant and beautiful. I can’t believe he's gone. He was right. Sometimes it snows in April." 

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