TOUR DE FORCE

THIS WEEK WILL MARK SIX MONTHS SINCE PRINCE’S DEATH. HERE, MU­SIC IN­DUS­TRY IN­SID­ERS RE­CALL HIS FI­NAL VISIT TO LO­CAL SHORES

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - By CAMERON ADAMS

A be­hind-the-scenes look at Prince’s last ever Aus­tralian tour, as in­sid­ers re­veal his heart­break at the loss of his for­mer girl­friend.

Prince’s Aus­tralian pro­moter Paul Dainty was par­tic­u­larly blind­sided by the su­per­star’s shock death on April 21. When the news broke, Dainty was al­ready in ne­go­ti­a­tions for a re­turn tour – the singer should have been back in Aus­tralia next month.

Prince had pre­vi­ously cho­sen Dainty to launch his Pi­ano & A Mi­cro­phone tour in Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary. “We had no clue any­thing was wrong,” says Dainty. “As soon as he left there were emails racing back and forth from his of­fice about com­ing back in Novem­ber. We had dates on hold and bud­gets drawn up… There was no sign of any trou­ble.”

Dainty, who has toured the likes of ABBA, David Bowie and Michael Jack­son, had brought Prince here three times be­fore – in 1992, 2003 and 2012. He was used to op­er­at­ing on “Prince­time” and

the last-minute call to ac­tion: Dainty was given just three weeks no­tice to or­gan­ise the tour that started in Melbourne on Fe­bru­ary 16. He quickly booked two nights at Melbourne’s State Theatre and “lucked out” se­cur­ing the Syd­ney Opera House. He also locked in two shows in Auck­land – the singer’s first trip to New Zealand.

“Prince said, ‘I want to do two shows a night,’” says Dainty. “We worked out 6.30pm and 10pm. But on the last arena tour, he’d do three-hour shows then go back to the ho­tel, shower, get changed, go out to a club and play for an­other two hours there. So it wasn’t that un­usual.”

What was un­usual was the down­siz­ing of the tour – Prince ar­rived in Aus­tralia with just three other peo­ple: a body­guard, a sound man and a busi­ness man­ager. Then, just hours be­fore his first gig, Prince learnt his ex-girl­friend Van­ity (real name Denise Matthews) had died in the US, aged 57, due to re­nal fail­ure.

The pair met in 1980, with Prince nam­ing her “Van­ity” as he felt look­ing at her was like look­ing at the fe­male ver­sion of him­self. He also cre­ated a band around her, Van­ity 6, and gave her the fe­male lead in his 1984 film Pur­ple Rain, although the role was re-cast when the pair later broke up. Van­ity went on to date Adam Ant and Billy Idol.

The news of her pass­ing shat­tered Prince. “He found out a few hours be­fore he was due on­stage,” says Dainty. “One of the guys around him said, ‘Oh, we’ve got a prob­lem.’ You wouldn’t have been sur­prised if you’d got the call say­ing he needs to post­pone the show for 24 hours, he’s too much in grief. But he went on. He was very emo­tional on­stage.”

Dur­ing that evening’s show, Prince stated: “I’m try­ing to stay fo­cused, it’s a lit­tle heavy for me tonight,” and later, “She loved me for the artist I was, I loved her for the artist she was try­ing to be.”

Van­ity’s death also cur­tailed Prince’s usual af­ter­par­ties. “He was griev­ing,” ex­plains Dainty. “He turned up, he did the shows, he went back to the ho­tel. The sec­ond night in Melbourne he went to a club, but he didn’t per­form. He danced a bit un­til 3am, then left. Oth­er­wise he was at the venue 30 min­utes be­fore show­time. We had the dress­ing room set up beau­ti­fully for him. I think he maybe sat in it for 10 min­utes.”

Pho­tog­ra­pher Jus­tine Walpole met Prince in Bris­bane on his 2012 tour, to take the snaps Prince’s se­cu­rity stopped both me­dia and fans from tak­ing. Where other rock­stars were deep in de­bauch­ery back­stage af­ter a con­cert, Prince would be ap­prov­ing pho­tos of him­self taken that night. “That is un­usual,” ad­mits Walpole. “You don’t nor­mally shoot a con­cert and give the pho­tos to the artist or their PR peo­ple.”

Prince flew to Syd­ney for shows on Fe­bru­ary 20 and 21 at the Opera House, where Walpole would again pho­to­graph him. Mean­while, af­ter get­ting goose­bumps at his pre­vi­ous shows, Dainty had or­gan­ised to record Prince in Syd­ney. “I set it all up and the day be­fore I was told, ‘Prince doesn’t want to do it any­more,’” he says. “I’ve said it a thou­sand times since: if only we could have filmed that show, how valu­able would a record­ing of that be?”

Af­ter re­turn­ing to Melbourne, Walpole was sum­moned for what would be the Pur­ple One’s fi­nal photo shoot. Prince did his own hair and make-up; he was fussy about his im­age and how it was used. “He was in­cred­i­bly con­trol­ling of images of him­self. If he didn’t like it he’d say, ‘No. Delete it,’” says Walpole.

Prince then flew to New Zealand to play two shows in Auck­land on Fe­bru­ary 24. Things got in­ter­est­ing be­hind the scenes. A show was an­nounced for Perth, but it wasn’t Dainty’s do­ing, rather ri­val pro­moter Live Na­tion.

It’s al­most un­heard of for one artist to play shows for dif­fer­ent pro­mot­ers on the same tour. Vice pres­i­dent of Live Na­tion, Luke Hede, had been talk­ing to Prince about do­ing a show in West­ern Aus­tralia. “He wanted to go to Perth as he’d never been there,” says Hede. “We an­nounced it on Fe­bru­ary 11 for a show on Fe­bru­ary 25. It was on sale for lit­er­ally less than two weeks. That’s the fastest turn­around I’ve ever worked on.”

There was just one prob­lem: the to-prince’s-ex­act-spec­i­fi­ca­tions pi­ano, that had been found in Melbourne and flown to Syd­ney and Auck­land, couldn’t make it to Perth within the 24-hour turn­around. “Prince could make the show on a pri­vate jet, he flew straight to Perth af­ter the show in Auck­land, but they couldn’t fit the pi­ano on the jet,” says Hede. “So they got his pur­ple pi­ano from his stu­dio at Pais­ley Park [in the US] and sent it to Perth for that one show.”

Some fans be­lieved the rea­son Prince was sit­ting at a pi­ano on this tour was due to long-ru­moured hip is­sues. “We knew he was hav­ing some hip pains,” says Dainty. “But that didn’t stop him do­ing two shows a night.”

Hede saw no vis­i­ble hip ail­ment in Perth. “Prince was jump­ing around on­stage and lit­er­ally danc­ing on the pi­ano,” he says. “Af­ter the con­cert, we got a call to take his pi­ano to Crown Perth… He’s renowned for do­ing these late-night shows/af­ter­par­ties. At around 1am he got up on­stage, got the venue to turn all the lights off and did remixes of his songs on the key­board. It was in­cred­i­ble. That was tech­ni­cally his last Aus­tralian per­for­mance.”

Prince re­turned to the US for a string of solo shows – un­be­known to those who were at his con­cert in At­lanta on April 14, it would be his last. Just one week later he was trag­i­cally found dead at Pais­ley Park, fol­low­ing an ac­ci­den­tal over­dose of the opi­oid fen­tanyl. He was 57.

Walpole hadn’t no­ticed any dif­fer­ence in Prince’s be­hav­iour dur­ing their time to­gether in Aus­tralia two months prior. “He was the same Prince I’d al­ways known. I was in to­tal shock,” she says. “He still had so much en­ergy.”

In July, Dainty won a Help­mann Award for Best In­ter­na­tional Con­tem­po­rary Con­cert for the Prince tour. “The word ‘ge­nius’ is used too loosely,” says Dainty. “But there is no other word for Prince.”

THE NEWS OF HER PASS­ING SHAT­TERED PRINCE: “HE FOUND OUT A FEW HOURS BE­FORE HE WAS DUE ON­STAGE. BUT HE WENT ON. HE WAS VERY EMO­TIONAL”

PUR­PLE REIGN Prince had au­di­ences in the palm of his hands dur­ing his Aus­tralian shows in Fe­bru­ary; (right) in con­tem­pla­tive mode at the pi­ano.

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