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Prince’s memorable performances in Dayton

The death of music legend Prince — a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member who won seven Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million records — sent shockwaves through the nation and this community.

We spoke with some local concert-goers and superfans about their memories of Prince and the mark he has left on the world through a unique brand of music that blended funk, soul, R&B and pop.

LOCAL CONCERT MEMORIES

Prince has appeared in Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus several times throughout his career.

Dayton tour stops included an April 20, 1980 show at the University of Dayton Arena, a Dec. 27, 1981 show and a March 3, 1983 show at Hara Arena in Trotwood and a Sept. 19, 1997 show at the Wright State Ervin J. Nutter Center.

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Prince headlined a sold-out concert at Hara on March 3, 1983 as part of the 1999 Tour with opening acts The Time and Vanity 6, said Karen Wampler, marketing director, Dayton Hara Complex.

“It was one of the best dressed concert crowds we’ve ever seen,” Wampler said.

Prince announced his Sept. 19, 1997 show at the Nutter Center, part of his Jam of the Year World Tour, just eight days before the show date. News reports said dozens were camped out the night before tickets went on sale. At that time, Reba McEntire held the record for fastest sellout at the facility. Most expected Prince to break it.

Misty Cox, marketing manager for the Nutter Center, recalls that concert day. She had just recently started working there as an intern, and this was the first big show she worked on.

“We booked the show, put the tickets on sale and planned the show all within just two weeks,” Cox recalled. “It was crazy!”

And all that hype paid off with a sold-out, high energy concert at the Nutter that she will never forget, she said.

“It was Prince. It was electric,” she said.

Even more exciting was meeting the superstar while on the job, she said.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “He was very polite and soft-spoken, and he was wearing these big platform boots.”

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Cox said.

Carlos Holmes, manager of safety and security for Cox Media Group Ohio, also attended the Nutter Center concert.

“That was the 10th time seeing him in concert,” he said. “I camped out for tickets. I’ve seen him in several places – from New York to Detroit. His concert tour for the 1999 tour was the first concert I’d ever been to, as a teenager.

“My favorite song is ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover.’ He played that in Dayton. It was a nice crowd. He was just a phenomenal musician – I just watched Purple Rain two weeks ago.”

Here is an excerpt from a review of the Nutter Center concert that appeared in the Sept. 21, 1997 issue of Dayton Daily News, written by Ray Marcano:

“… Nearly everyone in the house stood during his two-hour show. And the show lived up to its billing — it was the Jam of the Year.

Sure, he played all the hits everyone knows — some in their entirety, some in medleys — but he showed, in two solo efforts, why he’s one of the most talented musicians. His solo work on the guitar was flawless and his piano medley that included Diamonds and Pearls and The Beautiful Ones was equally terrific.

He also showed why he’s the best popular music showman since James Brown, prancing and dancing along the stage and on top of his purple piano named “Beautiful,” and directing his band so the music matched every hip wiggle, hand motion and head movement.”

MEMORIES FROM A SUPER FAN

Anthony Shoemaker, political editor for Cox Media Group Ohio and devoted lifelong Prince fan, shares what the legendary artist means to him:

“I remember being 8 years old in front of the TV with the old brown cable box with a cord dancing around to ‘Let’s Go Crazy.’ That was my first memory of Prince. Knowing I’d heard something amazing, it never stopped. As a teen, I bought every album, loved every movie — even ‘Under the Cherry Moon.’ I remember one time my parents took me and some friends to the Ohio State Fair when I was around 15. I put my headphones on with my Walkman and ignored everyone because I had just bought ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ on tape. To put it simply, his music made me happy. I grew up with it. When I hear it, it changes my mood,” he said.

Shoemaker went to concerts in Dayton, Cincinnati, Chicago and Columbus as well as annual fan club convention in Toledo.

“Those were die-hard fans,” he said. “When he played Wright State in 1997, I DJ’d three hours of his music on WWSU.”

“Last August on my 40th birthday, (my wife) managed to get me in for a dance party at Paisley Park in Minneapolis. I remember walking in and the first thing you see is the bike from Purple Rain. It was odd to see it in person after remembering it from your childhood. We played on his purple pool table, danced around and then he came out and talked to the crowd. He welcomed us to his home and then walked off stage. He walked right by us.”

“For me, he was a great artist and entertainer, but the reality of it is he provided the soundtrack of my life. The music I loved as a child through now. I’m sad I’ll never see another concert, hear him live again or that he’ll create any new music. But he has so much unreleased work that he will be putting out music long after today.”

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