TORONTO — Pop superstar Prince, who died at his home in Minneapolis Thursday, had a special relationship with Toronto. It’s a city where he once lived — and where he performed one of his final shows.
“It was amazing. He is such a showman,” said Mark Hammond, the CEO and director of programming at the Sony Centre, where Prince played twice in late March to rave reviews.
“Toronto audiences are so amazing. They gave him so much that night. And he gave it all right back.”
Hammond, like many of Prince’s fans, was completely shocked by news of the music legend’s passing.
WATCH: Toronto fan’s emotional response to Prince’s death
He said that the artist seemed “totally fine” at his Toronto concerts. “He was bouncing off the stage, literally.
“There was absolutely no indication there was anything wrong, and maybe there wasn’t.”
“He was 100 per cent there — 110 there.”
The 6,400 tickets for the two shows went on sale just 32 hours in advance and were quickly snapped up, Hammond said.
One of his Toronto setlists included 57 songs and five encores.
A high point for many seemed to be when he covered “Heroes” in tribute to fellow music legend David Bowie, who died of cancer at the age of 69 in January 2016.
“He has a way of getting in the crowd behind him in five minutes. And they stay with him,” Hammond said.
WATCH: The details of Prince’s Toronto past
The notoriously private ’80s icon married Toronto native Manuela Testolini in the early-to-mid 2000s, settling in the ritzy Bridle Path neighbourhood.
The pair divorced in July 2006, but the “Purple Rain” singer apparently never lost his affection for the city.
During the time he resided in Toronto, Prince was occasionally spotted at local clubs and a Toronto Raptors game.
He was known to take to various stages on a whim and play unexpected shows.
“I love Toronto,” he told The Canadian Press a decade ago.
Praising the city as “cosmopolitan,” he spoke about the city’s diversity as well as its eclectic food and arts scene.
“It’s a real melting pot in every sense of the word.”
One of his guitarists also hailed from the city — Donna Grantis of 3rdEyeGirl, who also played with New Power Generation.
A repeat episode of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ from 1996 featuring Prince will air on Saturday, April 23 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET on OWN Canada.
With files from The Canadian Press
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