"The Best Gig I Ever Saw" is a weekly column that will see us ask a musician to chat about their favorite concert thus far. This week it's longtime Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens.
Sheila E. with Prince at the Ritz, New York, 1984.
The best gig I ever saw didn’t even advertise the guy that blew the roof off the mofo, but word on the street was strong that the Purple One would show that night. It was actually Sheila E.’s night, an NYC stop on her Glamorous Life tour. Now, it would have been damn near impossible for a mere mortal to upstage Sheila and her amazing band, but we are talking Prince. Not just Prince, but Prince two months after the film release of Purple Rain and months before his own tour.
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I was already a fan, having seen him at the exact same venue, the Ritz, in March 1981 on the Dirty Mind tour. I had no idea who he was at that time but was told by my manager, Bill Aucoin, not to miss him. On that night, as I went to find a place to stand in the balcony, I looked over at a table with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner sitting and thought, “Who the hell is this guy?” Three minutes into him appearing onstage, full man-panties and all, I knew what they knew: He was simply the greatest performer I had ever seen.
But on the night of the Sheila E. show, it was a different Prince I would see. As he walked onto the stage, it became a religious experience. He had arrived at the height of his powers. Dressed in full gold brocade suit with round hippie shades, every move he made and every note he sang and played were the stuff of legend. Girls were falling to their knees, everyone played air guitar as he soloed, and the place was intimate enough to feel like we had all just had sex with Prince. I knew it would never be this way again. A superstar about to head out and reap his just rewards, performing unannounced just for us.
After the show, my friend and I headed to an after-hours club. After about an hour of being there, we both turned to each other and said, “He’s here, isn’t he?” I swear you felt the energy in that place change the moment he walked in.
Billy Idol and Steve Stevens bring their Turned on Tuned in & Unplugged tour to the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Friday, March 15.