Prince died nearly six months ago, but his spirit lived on Thursday night.
Prince may have died nearly six months ago, but his spirit lived on in the Twin Cities on Thursday night.
Marquee names in rock ‘n’ roll, funk and pop music all took the Xcel Energy Center stage during a nearly five-hour tribute to the late Minnesota-born music legend. Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Jessie J(a last-minute addition), Tori Kelly, The New Power Generation and many others paid respect by providing more than 45 tracks from the multi-decade catalog of His Royal Badness to the thousands attending.
“It is an emotional night for me and I’m just trying to keep it together because I miss him,” Wonder, a 1989 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, told the crowd during the final hour of the show. “We talked about so much … so many plans just to make the world a better place.”
The celebration kicked off with back-to-back 10-minute performances from Minnesota-famed groups Mint Condition and Morris Day and the Time before the stage turned over to the evening’s house band, The New Power Generation. With the exception of a 15-minute break at the show’s half-way point, the band held down the stage well past midnight, serving as a backing to the revolving door of entertainers fronting Prince classics.
Members of The New Power Generation, alongside longtime Prince collaborator André Cymone, also fronted a bulk of the night’s extensive set list. Tracks like Uptown, Computer Blue, Erotic City, and Musicology were all delivered by Cymone or a member of the band.
Tenured NPG singer Shelby J discussed Prince’s legacy before taking the stage Thursday night. She said there’s one thing fans can take away from Prince’s music: love.
“If you listen to his music, it’s a road map to teach us how to love one another,” Shelby J told USA TODAY. “He was a gentle soul and he was a vessel … put here to teach us how to love and respect each other.”
As the night progressed, things turned stranger. There were shining moments, such as Luke James’ soul-warming rendition of 1981 track Do Me Baby, Judith Hill’s tearful take on The Cross, Doug E. Fresh’s version of Pop Life and the one-two punch that was Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder performing 1999.
There were odd moments, like Prince’s first wife, Mayte Garcia, dancing across the stage while wielding a sword and Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura’s somber rendition of Little Red Corvette.
And there were unexplainable moments, like the pauses in music and stalling while crew set up for Tori Kelly and Stevie Wonder.
Off-stage mishaps surrounding the show, which announced its lineup less than a month ago, included losing appearances from A-listers John Mayer and Christina Aguilera. Mayer dropped out of the show earlier this week and Aguilera, citing doctor’s orders due to a vocal illness, scratched Thursday. The show sold out in advance, an estimated 17,000 tickets, but empty seats could be spotted in the upper sections of the venue.
The booming vocals of Grammy-nominated Jessie J replaced Aguilera. Performing I Wanna Be Your Lover and a triumphant take of Nothing Compares 2 U alongside Kip Blackshire, she received an ovation while leaving the stage.
“I feel so honored to be here tonight,” she said before beginning Nothing Compares 2 U. “This is for you, Prince.”
A master of visual as much as he was aural presentation, multiple videos of The Purple One rolled across the arena monitors in-between appearances. Each paid tribute to Prince’s life and career differently, including his philanthropic endeavors, guitar playing, stage presence and songwriting. The pop culture icon and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member died April 21 of an accidental drug overdose at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minn.
Most notably, President Obama dropped in a brief message to the fans celebrating Thursday night. His message came before Mint Condition kicked the show off.
“Thank you, Prince … for all the great work that you’ve done,” Obama said. “You’ll be in our hearts forever.”
Returning to the stage alongside Tori Kelly — who performed Let’s Go Crazy (nailing the “We are gathered here today…” line) and Diamonds and Pearls — Wonder and the rising star performed Take Me With You and Raspberry Beret together.
Pausing to address the crowd, Wonder then dedicated a cover of Donny Hathaway’s Someday We’ll All Be Free to the fallen superstar, explaining, “I wanted to do a song that I felt would be appropriate.”
He lastly delivered a pre-encore close with a bit of his own material: an extended jam of the timeless number Superstition.
Wonder, the band and other key performers from the evening returned to the stage a final time for a chilling, one-song encore: Purple Rain, sung by Prince from a past live performance and pumped through the arena sound system.
Purple confetti descended from the ceiling as Prince’s symbol reigned down from the video monitors. The late legend’s voice filled the arena one last time.
“I love you,” the recording proclaimed, as fans departed the celebration of his life and career.
Source: USA Today