Friday, October 14, 2016

The Official Minnesota Prince Tribute Show - Nothing Compares 2 Prince

Special Report From Minneapolis:

When Prince died last April, I felt so far away and so homesick for my Minneapolis people I could hardly stand it. So when I heard there was to be a special hometown tribute show to our dear Prince, I knew I had to be there with all my purple-clad folk. Well, it all went down last night in a 5 hour marathon extravaganza that no one will ever forget ... and highlighted just exactly how big of a loss Prince really is, as no one could even come close to his greatness.

It was a huge day for Minnesota, as it was both officially Prince Day (with an official proclamation from the Mayor) and we heard the news that native son Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for literature. There was a LOT of hometown pride in the air. Once again, the landmarks in downtown St. Paul around the XCel Energy Center were lit up in purple ... the lamp posts were purple, the people were all in purple, and you could feel the love and loss and admiration for Prince everywhere.

We had a lot going on so missed the whole outdoor pre-party, where I understand the people watching was excellent. People had come from Europe, Australia, all over the United States (Venice!), and all of Minnesota to be together in celebration of our favorite son. Elaborate outfits and hair-do's and hats were everywhere, and the lines for commemorative merch were long. The show started late, which was an omen of what was to come .... LATE.

A screen over the stage read "Don't look for credit. We're supposed to look out for each other." - Prince. That's right. That's who he was. The lights went down and a video came on with all sorts of testimonies to Prince's philanthropy that no one ever knew about. Van Jones said that Prince always said, "If you've been blessed, you have to give back." Prince was certainly blessed, and he certainly gave back. As Jones said, 85-90% of the people he helped had no idea it was him, and that's how he wanted it. From being one of the first donors to Black Lives Matter to creating Yes We Code to teach kids computer programming, Prince was always making the world a better place, and not just through his music. The whole arena was applauding his good deeds as much as any song, and when President Obama came on the screen, simply saying "Thank you, Prince." - you really felt the impact of his loss.

The show began with the Minneapolis funk of Mint Condition, who tore it up from the get-go with "America", "DMSR" and "When Doves Cry". I don't think I've ever seen an entire arena where EVERYONE was up and dancing - real dancing - from little kids to grannies. It was awesome, especially for me, finally being back with my people, where it all began. "We're gonna keep the Minneapolis funk going all night long!" was yelled, and they meant it ... it really did go all night long.

Real Prince tunes were played between sets, so he was there, but it also put a spotlight on just how much better he was than anyone else there. Just truth. His loss was all the more devastating after this show, because you couldn't even compare anyone to him - there would be no point. He's just that much better, and it's gut wrenching that he's gone. Other people are fun, but just not Prince. Like Morris Day and The Time, who were up next. There was Jerome and his mirror held up to Morris. There was "The Bird" and "Jungle Love" ... and it was fun.

Bobby Z. from The Revolution gave a nice speech, but said that Lisa and Wendy couldn't be there. Lisa and Wendy couldn't be at THE Prince tribute? No one would even know who they were without him, and I thought it odd that they couldn't get a night off from soundtrack work for the event. But ok. Instead, they showed classic Prince clips and interviews on the video screen, and his loss was felt even more when you saw his genius yet again. Bobby Z. remarked how incredible it was that on the night Prince died, everyone around the world felt the same. How rare is that? Landmarks lit up around the world in purple in his honor, and I've just never seen that for an rock artist. Ever. Then they played the Rock Hall of Fame clip of his "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" solo, and again WE weeped.

The NPG came out as the house band for the night, and Andre Cymone (who had been on my plane to town!) took lead on "Uptown", and he is always great. In fact, I'd say Prince's childhood friend was the best of the night, with the added bonus of having really known him well his whole life. It felt real. Shelby J. took on "Erotic City". Liv Warfield took on "Hot Thing". Marva King took on "Kiss", and all were gamers ... just not Prince. Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson sang a little a cappella song and thanked us all and thanked her brother. It was sad. Ex-Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger was there for "Nasty Girl" and "Baby, I'm A Star" and it was ok. Luke James (?) sang "Do Me, Baby" and hit all the high notes on that and "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World", but I wasn't moved. I don't think I was alone in that we all really just wanted the real Prince. One more time. We weren't ready!

Instead there was another video, where Prince said, "I pray every night. I don't ask for much, I just say thank you." That was his way. If only we could all be more like that, right? Judith Hill gave a heartfelt version of "The Cross" and then sat down at the keys for "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" that was sufficiently funky. I choked up when Cymone came back for "The Ladder" and did not when Elisa Dease (?) sang "Cream". Cymone took on "The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker", and was then joined by Doug E. Fresh for "Pop Life" with rapped lyrics. When Fresh yelled "Prince was the greatest!" there was zero opposition in the house. We got some Fresh beat-boxing on "Housequake", and the place was fired up.

The energy immediately flagged when Ana Maura (Portuguese fado singer) had a too-long set that culminated with a slow "Little Red Corvette". This is when bathroom lines were extra long, but we're told she was one of Prince's favorite singers. She was good, sure, but brought the energy way down. So Chaka Khan brought it back up! She looked and sang great on "Betcha" and "Sweet Thing" then brought out, rather anti-climatically, Stevie Wonder (!) to join her on harmonica for "I Feel For You". They blew up "1999" together, after a sloppy start. Right when things were on full steam party mode, they chose this time for an intermission that no one wanted or needed - it was already almost 11!

I'd never really gotten a chance to get into Prince's 3rdeyegirl phase, and I still really haven't. They threw down an underwhelming set that included "Wow". but just wasn't. Bilal came up and brought some WOW with his cover of "The Beautiful Ones" with pretty good faux-Prince screams while writhing on the ground ala The Kid. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" was pretty good too.The NPG and the Funk were back with "Musicology" that was extra-funky with Michael Bland on those drums, and they were in extended jam mode, but it was not really the time or place for that, as it was getting real late, the energy was flagging, and people were leaving. I had to BEG my friends to stay, as we HAD to have our "Purple Rain" moment together with everyone, and you knew it would be last (it was).

Though kind of strange, the Mayte Garcia belly dance with sword balanced on her head performance was one of the most touching moments to me. It felt like she was dancing just for Prince, and we were watching. It morphed into "Seven" and I'll admit to tears here. I can only imagine how she feels.

This story is going to get as long as the night, so I'm gonna rattle off some tunes or we'll both get bored. Andre Cymone lit up "Computer Blues". "I Would Die 4 U" - Marva King. "Sexy MF" - Tony Mosely (with Mayte shaking that ass). "Gett Off" - with Doug E. Fresh putting on a beat box extravaganza that also felt like stalling for time a bit. Now why they'd give "Sometimes It Snows In April" to Elisa Dease who we'd never heard of, I don't know. Where were all the superstars?! I thought they'd be lining up to HOPE to play at this. Hmm. She did fine, but that's a special one that I think deserved more. "Girls and Boys" - Marva King. "Controversy" - Cymone. Then Fresh did his own "La Di Da Di" that was superfresh, but again felt like stalling. Plus it's not a Prince tune.

Morris Hayes was the bandleader and said that even if they played 50 tunes (and they did), there would still be 50 more people couldn't believe they didn't play. That's the thing with Prince tributes, they really could be endless. And at this point, it felt like it would be. Phew.

Pop star (?) Tori Kelly did a workable version of "Let's Go Crazy" that got us all dancing again, then slowed it down with "Diamonds and Pearls". I think pacing was definitely an issue. Stevie Wonder came back out to join Kelly on "Take Me With U" that was great, and "Raspberry Beret" that we all sang along to, which was a good thing as Wonder forgot the words. As Christina Aguilera, John Mayer, and Anita Baker had all dropped out (Why? Dumb.), they added Jessie J. who I don't know, but I do know that she way, WAY over sang "Nothing Compares 2 U", and only reiterated that really no one DOES compare to Prince Rogers Nelson. And probably never will.

Stevie Wonder came back and said, "It's an emotional night for me {me too, Stevie}, and I'm just trying to keep it together, because I'll miss him forever ... We had so many plans to make the world a better place." He then sung a truly emotional version of Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free" that was lovely - but not a Prince song - and then his own "Superstition", which is definitely not a Prince song. I'm all for Wonder songs, but this was not that night, and when he turned it into an EXTRA-extended jam, I actually wanted to punch him. People were EXHAUSTED, and not at all in the mood for a ten minute keys jam. It felt real self-indulgent by then, and I almost don't blame them, as most on that stage won't be on that big of a stage again.That sounds a little bratty, but C'mon.Then they made us wait for an encore! It had been FIVE hours, and all anyone wanted was "Purple Rain".

By then the XCel was half empty, but those of us hard cores heard those opening chords and stood up. Tears welled as we heard PRINCE say "Did you have a good time? I did." and then a recorded version of "Purple Rain" played us out. We all sang, we all cried, we all rejoiced that we'd lived in the same time as Prince, and had been able to be there for the real thing in our lifetimes. Purple glitter rain fell from the ceiling as the Prince symbol filled the screen. Everyone was totally spent, but we had come together to give our Prince the proper tribute we needed - and he deserved. The music of Prince will live forever, and that's something to celebrate, even as we will also feel his loss forever.

I'm so happy I could be there. The Minneapolis Sound LIVES!

Thanks and so much love to everyone there ... Always.

*Performance photos ripped from Google (Star Tribune, Wall Street Journal,, and ABC TV, respectively) due to strobe light impossibility. Thank you!

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