Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On Friday I saw Prince at RBC Center with Mr. X. It was an experience that left me completely astounded -- not at Prince's performance, though my respect for him as a guitarist is renewed now that I've seen him live. No, I was astounded at the completely chaotic, in fact downright anarchic, traffic situation at the venue.

If you've been to the RBC Center, you know the place is massive with acres and acres of parking lots surrounding it. I've seen two other concerts there, AC/DC and Backstreet Boys (my friend had to write about it and wanted moral support during the show). During both shows, as well as several Carolina Hurricanes games, I was able to drive right on up and go in with minimal fuss. The only problem I've had there is trying to find my seat once I was actually inside.

The show was to begin at 8 p.m., so we left my house at 7:30, thinking we'd have plenty of time. We took 40, and planned to exit onto Wade Avenue. About a mile from the exit, traffic started slowing, then creeping, then finally coming to a full stop. Mr. X was a little nervous. He's seen Prince before, and knows that he doesn't include supporting acts, and is notoriously punctual about starting his shows on time. As the minutes ticked by, our mood went from mildly agitated to downright panicky. He called his friend Joyce, who was having a slightly easier time of it -- though not by much -- approaching on Hillsborough Street.

When we realized that after 45 minutes we had only traveled a few hundred feet, we consoled ourselves with a bit of insider info: After the show, Prince was going to go over to the Lincoln Theatre where he was going to jam with Corey Parker, son of his horn player, the legendary Maceo Parker. People are still talking about the Prince's show at the now-defunct Plum Crazy, where he went after his Walnut Creek performance six years ago. If we missed the show, I reasoned, we'd still get to see him in a relatively intimate setting. That was just about the only comforting thought I had as we finally pulled into a parking space, two hours after leaving home and an hour after Prince hit the stage. The ultimate indignity was having to pay $7 to park. I'm still not sure what the hold-up was. Say what you will about Walnut Creek's Nazi-like security, but they have parking down to a science.

So, about Prince. ... I've never been a big fan of his, but after seeing him live, I might just have to add him to my list of favorite guitar players. The amazing thing about Prince is that he is a complete package: He's a killer guitarist, he writes intricately catchy hooks that somehow appeal both to the masses and music snob critics, and he's a showman who knows how to mesmerize an arena full of people. I was looking forward to seeing how he'd work a small club crowd.

Well, he never showed up -- at least not while I was there; from what I understand, he spent the wee hours holding court (and not playing) at The Office. There was an announcement after the concert that the after-party would be at The Office, but we went down to The Lincoln Theatre anyway -- along with hundreds of other people who had heard the same thing.

The evening wasn't a complete bust, though. Opening for Corey Parker was a local Michael Jackson tribute band called "Who's Bad." The singer, being a black male, obviously looked more like Terrence Trent D'Arby, but he had Michael's moves down, and if you closed your eyes he sounded approximately like him. The backing band was full of young guys who probably weren't even born when Thriller was released, but they played passionately and without a hint of irony.

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