Fresno music fans were shocked and saddened by the news of Prince’s death Thursday, describing their feelings as “devastated” and “sick.”
“Losing my mind. I saw him seven times. First for my 15th birthday on the ‘Purple Rain’ tour at the fabulous Forum,” said Stacy Privett Pederson of Clovis, who remembers Prince wearing a leopard thong and then a purple paisley suit with ruffles during the concert. “It was the greatest day of my teen life.”
Many fans shared memories of seeing Prince live in Fresno. He played here four times, in 1983, 1997, 2004 and 2011. For many, the 2004 show was a high point.
He classified Prince as being in the upper-upper echelon of musicians.
“He was always doing the things that you weren’t expecting,” Osegueda said. “He never got comfortable, safe. He was a boundary pusher, someone who always wanted to be doing something different. Everything he did had coolness and funkiness.”
Some people are just cool and Prince was one of them.
He remembered the 2004 Prince show as an important moment for Fresno’s Save Mart Center, which had been open only a year.
“It was a big deal he was coming. He was an undisputed icon when he came in 2004,” he said. “Save Mart Center was in its honeymoon stage. This was one of the shows that made people go, ‘Wow.’ It signaled that Save Mart Center did big stuff. We were able to draw Prince now, it was surprising.”
And the show did not disappoint.
“I remember the setup. I remember that it was different, the stage was in the middle. Prince just did things differently than other people,” Osegueda said. “He came up in an elevator, rose onto the stage. I remember thinking that’s how Prince makes an entrance.
“What stood out to me was the aura, how he was able to carry himself over 2 1/2 hours and make it look easy. He did things unexpected. He covered Beyoncé. He didn’t just play two hours of hits. He did something different, something a little bit cooler, funkier.”
That show ranks as one of the top three attended concerts at the arena, said Steve Tadlock, the regional manager for SMG, which operates the Save Mart Center. At the time, it spoke to the caliber of artist that the arena was able to handle – from a production standpoint – and that the community would support, he said.
“His ability as a songwriter, as a musician and performer puts him in that upper-tier category as one of the foremost musicians of our time,” Tadlock said.
Tadlock said he feels honored that the arena was able to host Prince twice. Prince was known for doing “surprise” concerts, Tadlock said. He would announce a show and then, a week later, show up and play to a packed house. That’s what he did for the 2011 Save Mart Center concert. That was the kind of draw he had.
“He certainly will be missed and celebrated in the industry,” Tadlock said.
Amy Elliott, a Fresno medical assistant, said she was devastated when she heard Thursday’s news.
“I loved the funkiness of his music. I got his photography book ‘21 Nights.’ It came with a CD. That is probably my favorite album. It’s pure funk and I love it!”
She saw the 2004 Prince concert on her birthday.
“The show was awesome. I loved every bit of it. I can’t pinpoint one song I love more than another. I loved it all.”
For many fans, Prince’s music mirrors the stages of their lives, so they feel a personal connection.
“Purple Rain was the soundtrack of my childhood,” said Zara Arboleda of Clovis. “His Fresno show was one of the greatest live concerts I ever saw. My heart breaks.”