There's Taking Things to the Next Level, and Then There's Prince

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. His sports column on runs every Wednesday. Send your questions to
Life can get overwhelming for all of us. There are blocks of time when--and even when you are ultra-aware of it and its reproductions--stress and tension and work and family obligations take us out of ourselves. Some of us have religion, yoga, exercise, and creative art to relieve life's weight. But sometimes we need a little something more. For me, seeing Prince play the Inglewood Forum during his multi-week stand was just what the doctor ordered.

I have been a die-hard Prince fan since the early '80s. When Controversy came out in 1981, a punker friend of mine in Seattle demanded that I listen to it. Prince was unlike anyone else.

When 1999 came out in 1982, the record transformed my insides. I was going through a tough break-up with my first real long-term girlfriend and was heartbroken. 1999 somehow became my psychiatrist, and I held on to that record for dear life as I slowly got my feet back under me.

When Purple Rain hit, I was free and starting to take life by the balls. That record was the soundtrack to my life and gave me the confidence to move to L.A. at 19, with nothing more than belief in myself. Prince's music can do that.

Flash-forward to 1992. GNR were playing stadiums around the world. My life, again, was getting confusing and unfocused. In an attempt to contain things, I was going into studios in different cities, and making a record on my own, trying to get some of that "Prince-ness" back into my life.

I was in Berlin on a day off of the GNR tour, and Prince was playing the arena there on his Diamonds and Pearls tour. I went, of course.

Because I was an ersatz and begrudging "A"-lister, I was ushered backstage in a rush when I got to the gig. I had no knowledge or hint that I was going to meet Prince that night, but I was suddenly shown into a backstage room, and there it was, just me and Prince. I was completely tongue-tied and overwhelmed. I didn't know what to say, and what I DID say probably sounded like dumb-ass babble.

I mean, how was I supposed to tell the guy that he and his music had gotten me through so much stuff, and that he was maybe THE reason I was now in a band that, had he not inspired in me the confidence to move to L.A., may not have happened? How was I to really tell him how his music had gotten me through so many rough spots, and helped me to celebrate my triumphs? How? In truth, I don't remember what I said to him at all. Dumb-ass.

My wife Susan and I went and saw Prince again in Las Vegas a few years ago for my birthday. He was doing a residency at the Rio Hotel. The gig was magical. Every time I see him I get inspired and just plain feel better about myself and others.

There are other bands and gigs that do this for me once in a while, but Prince is just next-level shit to me. Actually, much further than next-level.

I was getting ready to tour last week. It is always stressful to get everything organized and together. Not to mention going to New York that week for my book business. I also hate to leave my family. And it seems like everything in my house is broken and in need of repair. My car died last week, too. My back hurts, and I can't find a belt that fits me right. My feet were starting to slip out from underneath me . . .

I wanted to do something with Susan and my daughters for my last night before I left for a tour of Europe. And I wanted to see Prince at the Forum before I left, too. I decided to combine the two things. We went as a family to see him.

My girls really had no idea who Prince was, and I think really only went because they knew it was my last night and it was something that their dad wanted to do.

I told my older daughter, Grace, that she was about to see maybe the best pure singer on this planet. I told Mae that Prince was magic, and that intrigued her, I think.

So there we were. The house lights went down, and the first chords of "Little Red Corvette" sounded. I was suddenly in a different space. All of the things that had been overwhelming me suddenly evaporated. Prince played all of his hits that night, and it was an uplifting barrage to my soul. It was like church, I suppose. It was religious.

I'm just not sure how this dude does it, but Prince is a better performer, singer, and guitar player than ever. If he is in fact getting older, a person would be hard-pressed to recognize or spot any tell-tale signs of his time. No, like I told my daughter Mae, I think he has some serious magic working in his corner.

Prince is a pure genius. I am changed. It WAS just THAT good.

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