When Sheila Matterson-Grady, an executive assistant in Philadelphia, heard that Prince was performing a rare gig at his Paisley Park Studio on Saturday, she bought a $1,200 airline ticket for her first trip to Minneapolis.
She was among the 1,200 people who paid $50 to see Prince’s first advertised show at his Chanhassen complex since 2009. It was his ninth hometown performance this year — which may be a record for him — but his first in which his two current bands, 3rdEyeGirl and the New Power Generation, were combined.
Fans came in Twins caps and porkpie hats, with wheelchairs and walkers, sporting umbrellas and hoodies.
Matterson-Grady, who is in her 40s, was glowing in a turquoise dress with sparkly beads. She has seen Prince at least 40 times in four states, most recently at the City Winery, a tiny nightclub/restaurant in New York City that she said was her best Prince show ever.
“I grew up on Prince,” she said. “He’s like family to me.”
Matterson-Grady stood in the back of Paisley’s airplane hangar-like rehearsal hall with its impeccable sound system. She didn’t quite know what to expect. At these Paisley events, protocol isn’t always clear except for a cellphone ban.
By Prince late-night, I-don’t-wear-a-watch standards, the evening was relatively efficient. Doors opened a half-hour late at 9:30, music began at 10:10 with each of Prince’s three backup singers doing a set, and the star himself was onstage from 11:55 until about 1:35 a.m. — backed by his three singers and 16 musicians (including 11 horn players) who barely fit on the stage.
Prince played a handful of hits (including “1999” and “Purple Rain”), songs he wrote for the Time and the Family, guitar on only one song (Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”) and probably the jazziest hometown set ever, thanks to the dynamic and versatile horns.
He even had a 10-year-old — Brianna Curiel, whose sister Danielle dances in Prince’s new video — sing Etta James’ “At Last” to announce his arrival onstage.
The combined band was tight, but Prince was loose, walking through the crowd to and from the stage (with bodyguards) and even greeting a few fans personally.
“He’s still turning me on,” said Nancy Grist, of Minneapolis, who was seeing Prince for the first time, even though she’s lived in town for 23 years.
Terry Mitchem, of Lakeville, first saw Prince 30 years ago on the 1999 Tour and has attended more than 30 shows since.
“This was great,” he said while relaxing with his shoes off on a couch at the back of the concert space. “The crowd is diverse. Here, he’ll get the guys who like Soul Asylum and the Replacements.”
And guys like Lars Beck, of Chaska, who thought he knew Prince’s Paisley routine from so many impromptu late-night shows in the 1990s and didn’t show up until 1 a.m.
“Last time, he played til 4:30,” Beck said as 3 a.m. approached. “I can’t believe so many people left.”
A couple hundred people stuck around that late to dance to Prince hits. Then maybe three dozen got invited to watch the new video of “Breakfast Can Wait” in a small room — with Prince and his band.
Those lucky few were then shepherded into one of Paisley’s recording studios for an intimate, 15-minute instrumental jam with Prince, 3rdEyeGirl and saxophonist Marcus Anderson.
“At the City Winery, he played til 7 a.m.,” Matterson-Grady said afterward as she walked past Prince’s “Purple Rain” motorcycle in a Paisley lobby. “But after that [jam], this tops that.”