Amanda Kravat says it’s “impossible” to pick the best concert performance she has seen, so “I’ve stuck ‘em all in a jar and am blindfolding myself and picking one out.”
The winner? Prince … and it wasn’t even his gig.
“It was Sheila E. at the Ritz, and I was too young to be in the club,” Kravat recalls about the concert in New York on Sept. 13, 1984. “And somewhere mid-set or at the end, he walked onstage, sat at the edge of the stage three feet from me with a wide-brimmed hat on. With his head down, he strummed an acoustic guitar, sang—and the weather changed. There was a magnetic force.”
Renowned music critic Jon Pareles apparently had a same thought as Kravat, who is writing songs for a full-length album next year after releasing an EP entitled AK last October.
In his review in The New York Times in September 1984, Pareles said Prince “upstaged his protege.”
Sheila E., though, remembers the show for different reason. In her book, The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir, she says the crowd “was going wild” at the sold-out show after Prince joined her on stage. “You couldn’t squeeze a fly into that room. It felt like 120 degrees, and everyone was soaked from the funkiness and the heat.”
Prince “was playing his heart out,” but all eyes were on her, Sheila E. says in the book. “I finally realized why. One side of my lace blouse had fallen down, and my boob was out in the open and having a good time.”
Kravat was apparently too mesmerized by Prince to notice.
“Apparently Sheila E.’s shirt fell off or something else that would normally call for rubbernecking,” says Kravat, the former leader of the '90s band Marry Me Jane who is returning to music as a solo artist. “But all manner of normal life slipped away when Prince sat down in front of me. I think that’s what the definition of a black hole is—space, time, light, radiation, no escape, you’re stuck. Everything and nothing, I couldn’t hear or see anything else.”
Reminded that Prince only played two songs that night, Kravat admits that the concert wasn’t the best one she has seen.
“I’d call it more like the biggest mindblower of a concert I was at.”
But best concert? Kravat remembers a Spacehog show in lower Manhattan with “about 10 other people” in the audience. “It was completely musically, sonically outrageous from the first note, and it truly truly knocked me right out of my socks.”
Then she remembers a Crowded House gig on March 22, 1987, at the now-defunct New York club, The Bottom Line, and that’s her top choice.
“It was perfect,” Kravat says. “I never in a million years expected a great live show. The songs were gems — every one on that first album was truly a good song. Neil Finn, with that river of a voice, sang them impeccably. And then those harmonies — they were just perfect. I hadn’t ever seen or heard a live band harmonize and rock at the same time. I know it wasn’t a full-on rock concert. It was what it was. Everyone in the audience felt lucky to be there. Paul (Hester) stood up and played his snare with brushes, I wish I could hear that for the first time again.
“They had the whole package,” Kravat exclaims. “Wow. Blew me away. I didn’t know all that was even possible. From my seat in the middle of that club, I wished I was The Beatles, and I needed to have male harmonies around me — rockin’ out or not. Hence, I’ve always had gorgeous male voices around me on stage. Electric guitars and male harmonies are really where it’s at for me. Crowded House sealed my fate!”
Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler sang background vocals on a song on Marry Me Jane’s second album, Tick, and concerts of the Boston-based supergroup have been the most influential in Kravat’s career.
“As the luckiest person on the planet, my old band, Marry Me Jane, opened for a leg of Aerosmith’s Nine Lives tour in fall 1997,” Kravat says. “I had never seen them in concert before. So the first night, after my set, I snuck out to the soundboard and watched theirs.
“In all seriousness, the whole deal — if I were to judge rock bands like they do in the Olympics and go through all the categories — hands-down, they hit all the bells. The band sounded fantastic, including all those luscious harmonies and gorgeous guitar hooks. They had the luxury of Russ Irwin with them who killed it on keys and vocals. Showmanship? There’s really only Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler when it comes to rock stars who have that prance.”