Memoir — From the December 2012 issue

I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love

A paean 2 Prince

( 3 of 6 )

“Sir?” the young black security guard said tentatively. There was a pause, followed by a barely audible response from the room beyond. All around, one could hear the grumblings of trunks being wheeled this way and that and of the gaffers and food-service people and sound engineers setting up for another show. The venue: St. Louis’s Savvis Center. The artist: Prince Rogers Nelson. The occasion: a 2004 tour for his album Musicology, his first to reach Billboard’s top five since , in 1992.

St. Louis was the twenty-sixth stop on the American tour for Musicology, which a number of industry insiders were calling Prince’s comeback after years of hassles with his former record company, Warner Bros., and of artistic floundering as well. He was re-emerging from under all that as an artist of present-day significance and clout, without which significance and clout he could become—as less gifted and less tenacious musicians of his generation already had—(at best) a legend who worked occasionally or (at worst) a creepy novelty act.

Outside, the May air was thick. Inside, the air was thick, too, but with anticipation—over what Prince might demand or suddenly require from the seclusion of his dressing room. His dressing room was located a floor below the auditorium proper, where, in just under two and a half hours, many, many people would converge with the happy expectation of demanding something from him.

is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His book White Girls will be published this spring by McSweeney’s.

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