Gurney's Inn
July 18, 2007

Prince Rocks The Crowd At The Ross School

The night was bathed in opulence.

From truffle tartlets to a flowing sea of champagne, the scene was set for royalty – and for undisputed rock icon Prince.

Even in the Hamptons, where the rich and fabulous vie to host the most sought-after soirees and socialites spend whirlwind summer days surfing charity benefits, Saturday night's event at the Ross School in East Hampton was a cut above.

Billed as the event that would forever alter the face of entertainment on the East End, the Prince show was the first of five concerts featured in the Hamptons Social@Ross series. Social is a company dedicated to offering the ultimate rock 'n roll fantasy destination – to those who can afford the passport.

Tickets to the upscale event were priced at $15,000 for the full series of five shows – featuring headliners including Prince, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Tom Petty – and $3000 for an individual concert. A portion of the profits benefit the Ross School's scholarship program.

The goal of Social is to provide up to 1500 guests with entry into a new world of headliner entertainment in an intimate setting – aimed at providing "complete comfort without compromise." After walking through a tented tunnel, glitterati emerge in a world of luxury, where everyone is a VIP and no velvet ropes are needed – nary a townie need apply.

Saturday night's event brought forth a bevy of the scene's most beautiful people, dressed in casual summer attire. After leaving their vehicles in a parking field on Daniel's Hole Road, guests were transported in mini vans to the venue, located off Route 114 at the Ross School's soccer field.

Once at the site, concert-goers were guided into an expanse designed to create a new entertainment experience. No arena setting or nosebleed seats in sight. Seating options included sling-back beach chairs near the stage, tables covered with crisp black linens and bedecked with candles and purple flowers under tents, and black couches with plump pillows for lounging.

The beauty of the event was its intimacy; how often is a concert-goer able to walk up to the stage and stand within reaching distance of a rock icon? On the other hand, some concert goers complained Prince, the only act to perform, played only about 90 minutes.

And forget the supersized cups of watered-down beer most are familiar with – open bars offered top shelf liquors. Appetites were sated with an expanse of sumptuous food prepared by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian featuring sushi, Asian specialties, salmon and salads; those hankering for a picnic fare chose from chicken, boxed burgers from Pop Burger and hot dog carts. Adding to the carnival atmosphere were cotton candy, popcorn, and martini glasses filled with gourmet jelly beans.

The night had all the trappings of an exclusive party as women held bottles of champagne high and couples slow danced in the aisles.

Celebrities revealed when it comes to a concert, they're just as star struck as the everyday Joe. Christie Brinkley was in the audience and Edie Falco, who arrived with "Sopranos" castmate Aida Turturro and others, said she's a "huge Prince fan;" her favorite hit is "Raspberry Beret."

Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos said they were looking forward to "getting their freak on and dancing all night." Ripa said she's loved Prince since the late '80s when she first saw him live at the Philadelphia Spectrum for the Purple Rain Tour. "Our seats were so far away," she laughed. "We couldn't see anything. We have better seats tonight."

From the moment he took the stage, Prince delivered. "Are you ready to have the best time of your life?" he asked the crowd. Unlike retro bands whose sets echo same-old, same-old refrains Prince has continued to evolve and reinvent. Much of the early part of his set was devoted to newer material before he launched into such favorites as "Satisfied," "U Got the Look," "If I Was Your Girlfriend," "Pink Cashmere" and "Controversy," with hits such as "Let's Go Crazy," "Kiss" and "Purple Rain" as an encore. Fans were also treated to a rare public performance of "Take Me With U."

A highlight of the show included Prince's rendition of "Play that Funky Music White Boy" – a tongue–in-cheek choice no doubt – as he invited audience members to groove onstage.

Despite lesser crowds than anticipated, high voltage sound and screaming fans brought the decibel level up a notch. Normally reserved guests clapped, danced and waved their arms in the night air. Two fans engaged in a tug of war over a black towel tossed off the stage.

Police reported no major incidents, and traffic flowed freely after the show. But for wary locals primed to fight the traffic and the decibel levels it's one down and four to go.

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