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Prince and me: 21 is the number of the feast

When he’s 64…

He would have been celebrating his 64th birthday today, but it’s 21 that seems to be the recurring number in my history with Prince Rodgers Nelson.

Take the time he and I briefly ‘met’, outside the American Embassy in London on 21 March 1995.

Prince (for it was he) had a little visa problem at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, and delighted in not saying Hello as I was walking past. That didn’t stop me shoving a copy of Crankin’ Out, a David Bowie magazine I was publishing at the time, in his hands. They were tiny.

Ullo Prince, got a new motor?

The second time I encountered his Purpleness was on his now fabled 21 Nights residency at London’s O2 Arena, appropriately enough on 21 September 2007. It was good but better was to come. Much, much better.

The third time was when I took Mike, my then partner, to see the diminutive one’s Piano & A Microphone solo tour de force when it stopped by the purple-lit-especially-for-the-occasion Sydney Opera House on 21 February 2016.

The featured image is the aforementioned Mike Robme taking a pic of the illuminated incomparable Australian landmark as we travelled into Sydney’s Circular Quay for the Piano & A Microphone solo concert on the Manly ferry. The pint-sized Purple One was cocky, coquettish, moving and in absolutely incredible voice. And coming just six weeks after David Bowie‘s demise and, as we would soon learn, six weeks before Prince‘s own, it looms large in my memory as one of the most poignant performances I‘ve witnessed.

It was so telling in this multimedia spectacle age how just real talent shone through a stage show that was one man, one instrument, a couple of lights and a few candles wafting in lavender smoke could be all that was needed to create a magical and electrically charged concert.

What an incredible contrast to the Madonna concert a month later, which was all empty artifice and hollow retreads.

Mike and I had a tempestuous relationship with frequent arguments, but we both managed to agree it was one of the greatest shows we’d been lucky enough to witness. Just an hour after leaving the venue Mike almost lost his life due to a horrific accident when we returned home.

One day I might be in a position to write that up. Two months later on 21 April Prince wasn’t so lucky.

Sometimes it snows in April too.

Steve Pafford

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