As a true testament to Prince’s fan base, a diverse crowd of 17,000 celebrates music royalty during five hour tribute concert in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The music will be there forever. The music will be there a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now. He’s Mozart. But they may not remember, that same guy was spending just as much time every night on the internet, finding problems to solve, and sending help to people; but he did”. -CNN’s Van Jones on Prince.
Prince’s reciprocated hometown love was shown on Thursday, October 13th when people from all walks of life flocked to Prince’s native Minnesota for his sole public memorial, the Official Prince Tribute: A Celebration of Life and Music. Prince, who passed away six months ago on April 21st, spent his life in and around his hometown creating his own funk style that would become known as The Minneapolis Sound.
[The crowd at the Xcel Center, bathed in purple light.]
A whole day of celebrations took place to honor The Purple One as St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Chris Coleman declaring the day as “Prince Day,” with several of St. Paul’s biggest landmarks illuminated in purple. There were various Prince events to attend including Prince’s movie screenings put together by fans, and various parties. Before the concert, there was a public outdoor pre-show where many gathered in purple to honor Prince. There was also an after party, Dance On ‘Til Dawn, put together by Prince’s family following the concert and lasting until 4 AM at the Muse Event Center. There was not only food and drinks, but a live band with performances by many of the performers from the tribute show. Attendees who visited the lounge at the Xcel Center before the concert were able to eat like Prince! Indulging in some of his favorite vegetarian dishes, prepared by his very own personal chefs from Paisley Park.
About thirty miles west of Prince’s Paisley Park complex (that opened for public tours this month), at the St. Paul arena, the concert got underway at around 7:30 pm. The 17,000 concert seats ranged in price from $19.99 (no coincidence there) to $152.50, and sold out in minutes when tickets went on sale.
[Photo: Xcel Energy Center]
The show kicked off with a video tribute to the artist, and a short unexpected message from President Barack Obama.
“Thank you, Prince … for all the great work that you’ve done,” Obama said, a fan of The Purple One who had invited him to play at the White House.
You’ll be in our hearts forever.
Video packages featuring Prince’s family during the first half of the show emphasized a key theme of the night; wanting people to get to know the real Prince.
I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that music, I believe, was put on the earth to enlighten and empower us and make us feel closer to our center.
Prince’s voice says through the arena’s sound system, over a clip of him performing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” during his 2004 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
[1989 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan perform during the Official Prince Tribute. Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images]
Dozens of artists from multiple genres performed to a sold out crowd to honor the musical genius. Performing more then forty-five tracks from Prince’s immense three-decade catalog, icons like Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan paid tribute to another icon; Prince.
Aside from marquee names in music, the Official Prince Tribute was also full of artists that Prince had huge respect for including Morris Day & The Time, Judith Hill, Liv Warfield, and Portuguese Fado singer Ana Moura (who Prince regularly featured in his international performances.) Also present were Aussie Twin sisters Maya and Nandy McClean (who toured with Prince as The Twinz), and Prince’s childhood friend and early bandmate Andre Cymone (who played with The Revolution at the Prince Tribute Shows last month at the famous First Avenue).
The house band for the night was the NPG (New Power Generation) including Shelby J, Elisa Fiorello Dease, Kip Blackshire and original members Michael B, Sonny T, Tommy Barbarella and Morris Hayes as the musical director.
[Shelby J alongside Prince’s
3RDEYEGIRL bandmates Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen.]
In an interview with USA Today, NPG singer Shelby J said that there is 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,” says J. “He was a gentle soul and he was a vessel … put here to teach us how to love and respect each other.”
[The Revolution’s Bobby Z speaks to crowd during tribute concert.]
The NPG were welcomed on stage by The Revolution’s Bobby Z, who shared a story about first meeting Prince and watching him play different instruments at Moon Sound Studios in 1977. The Revolution should have been one of the most obvious choices to perform at the tribute, but Bobby Z explained that Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were tied up in Los Angeles, as they do compositions for the television industry. Another notable name missing from the lineup was Sheila E., who is heading up a tribute at Orchestra Hall on October 23rd.
Booby Z went on to speak about Prince, telling the crowd “boy, did he love laughter,” “no one can touch Prince’s guitar playing” and that Prince “could reach deeper and touch people like no one has ever done.”
[Judith Hill, one of the last in a long line of Prince protegees, sang “The Cross” from his 1987 album Sign o’ the Times.]
Prince believed that faith shouldn’t be based on fear. “I believe in God. There is only one God. And I believe in the after-world,” he said during an MTV interview video clip that played during the concert. “And I just want people to know that I’m very sincere in my beliefs. And I pray every night and I don’t ask for much, I just say ‘thank you’.”
DJ Dudley (who toured with Prince and the New Power Generation) also appeared on stage, as well as saxophonist Michael Phillips (who has recorded and toured with Prince as well as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson).
[Nicole Scherzinger performs in Prince-inspired suit. Photo:
Rounding out the performers were St.Paul’s own Mint Condition, Doug E. Fresh, Bilal, Tori Kelly, Jessie J, and Nicole Scherzinger.
“I will remember him as my dear friend,” Scherzinger said. “A brother, mentor and my inspiration.”
Mint Condition started the night with
“America,” “D.M.S.R” and the timeless “When Doves Cry.” Morris Day performed “The Bird,” and “Jungle Love.” Luke James did a medley of “Do Me Baby” and “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” while Bilal performed “The Beautiful Ones,” the song he performed during the Prince Tribute at the 2016 BET Awards, and with The Revolution last month at First Avenue.
[Mayte Garcia. Photo: Agence France-Presse]
Touching highlights from the show included Prince’s first wife Mayte Garcia recreating a segment of his 1993 Act I tour by performing a belly dance with a sword balanced on her head to “7.″ Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson (who along with her friends sometimes joined Prince’s first band as dancers) sang “Thank You” a cappella. Tyka expressed her gratitude to the concert’s organizers (Randy Levy and Londell McMillan) and her siblings.
“And of course, thank you to our brother, Prince,” she said as she looked up with tears in her eyes.
[Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson gives thanks.]
Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder turned Prince’s “1999” anthem into a duet, along with her 1984 hit “I Feel for You.” British singer Jessie J performed Prince’s 1979 single “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and received an ovation after her take on “Nothing Compares 2 U” (made famous by Sinead O’Conner) alongside Kip Blackshire.
“I feel so honored to be here tonight,“ Jessie J said before beginning “Nothing Compares 2 U. “This is for you, Prince.”
[Jessie J wears a Prince inspired purple suit during concert.
Photo: Joe Lemke Photography/Xcel Energy Center]
Stevie Wonder returned to the stage alongside Tori Kelly (who performed “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Diamonds and Pearls”) to perform “Take Me With You” and “Raspberry Beret” together.
Before Stevie performed his timeless number “Superstition,” he dedicated a cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free” to Prince.
“It’s an emotional night for me, and I’m just trying to keep it together,” Wonder announced. “He had so many plans, just to make the world a better place to live in. As much as you loved him, he loved me and I loved him even more. So I was praying, and I wanted to do a song that I felt would be appropriate. We’re dealing with a lot of craziness in this country and the world, as you know, and truly, he had love for every human being. So I just hope that for the rest of my life, every single day of it, I will continue to heal in the spirit of this man.”
[Stevie Wonder performs with Tori Kelly who adorns a vintage Prince t-shirt.]
Prince’s spirit is something that is not always acknowledged as much as his immense contribution to music, so it was wonderful that the night featured heartfelt speeches like these from his peers in order to showcase Prince the person.
Multiple videos of Prince played across the arena monitors in-between appearances; not only showing clips of Prince’s out of this world guitar playing and showmanship, but interviews where he talked about race, religion and spirituality.
[Various video screens during the five hour concert. Photo: Caroline Kimani]
This was also the first tribute that was able put a spotlight on Prince’s often unspoken humanitarian endeavors.
Prince was famously private, but his secret legacy of giving was revealed when he unexpectedly passed. Watch the clip on Vimeo that played during the tribute about
Prince’s philanthropic work and those that had directly benefited from his philanthropy including Dream Corps (a non-profit Prince helped to start), and #YesWeCode (an initiative enabling youth in underrepresented backgrounds find success in the tech sector). Also appearing in the clip was former Obama adviser Van Jones, whom Prince sought for logistical help on his discreet donations.
“You know, that’s a part his legacy I want to make sure people remember,” says Jones during a pre-recorded clip that plays during the concert.
“I don’t think Prince wanted to save the world. I think what Prince wanted to do is make sure that people’s gifts… had a chance to sing,” Jones goes on to say about his friend.
“The music will be there forever. The music will be there a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now. He’s Mozart.” affirms Jones. “But they may not remember, that same guy was spending just as much time every night on the internet finding problems to solve and sending help to people; but he did.”
[Stevie Wonder and Prince’s half-sister get emotional during Prince tribute. Photo: Joe Lemke Photography/Xcel Energy Center]
Stevie Wonder, the band, and many of the performers from the evening returned to the stage a final time for the poignant finale. It was of course “Purple Rain,” sung by none other than Prince. His live vocals from the Welcome 2 America Tour played over the NPG as purple confetti fell from the ceiling. Tears fell from the eyes of many in the crowd, and on stage. Prince’s symbol reigned down from the video monitors as his signature voice filled the arena, one last time.
After five hours, the performers would still only barely crack the surface of
Prince’s massive catalog of songs. “Too many hits,” Morris Hayes joked at one point. The night ended with a recording of
the Minnesota-born legend saying “I love you.” We love you 2 Prince.
D.M.S.R. – Mint Condition
When Doves Cry
– Mint Condition
– Morris Day and the Time
– Morris Day and the Time
NPG House Band and Guests
Uptown – André Cymone
Erotic City – Shelby J
Hot Thing – Liv Warfield
Kiss – Marva King
Anotherloverholeinyahead – Kip Blackshire
Nasty Girl – Nicole Scherzinger
Baby I’m a Star – Nicole Scherzinger
Do Me, Baby – Luke James
Most Beautiful Girl in the World – Luke James
The Cross – Judith Hill
How Come You Don’t Call My Anymore – Judith Hill
The Ladder – André Cymone
Cream – Elisa Fiorillo Dease
Ballad of Dorothy Parker – André Cymone
Pop Life – André Cymone and Doug E Fresh
Housequake – Doug E. Fresh
[Prince’s onscreen rival Morris Day performs during first half of tribute concert.]
Walk in Sand
Little Red Corvette
– Ana Maura
Betcha – Chaka Khan
Sweet Thing – Chaka Khan
I Feel For You – Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder
1999 – Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder
PRETZELBODYLOGIC – 3RDEYEGIRL’s Donna Grantis and Ida Neilsen with Shelby J
PLECTRUMELECTRUM WOW – 3RDEYEGIRL’s Donna Grantis and Ida Neilsen with Liv Warfield
The Beautiful Ones – Bilal
If I Was Your Girlfriend – Bilal
Musicology – Shelby J
– Dance performance by Mayte
Computer Blue – André Cymone
I Would Die 4 U – Marva King
Sexy MF – Tony Mosley
Gett Off – Doug E. Fresh
Sometimes it Snows in April – Elisa Fiorillo Dease
Girls & Boys – Marva King
She’s Always in My Hair – Kip Blackshire
Controversy – André Cymone
La Di Da Di – Doug E. FresH
[Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan headline tribute concert.]
Let’s Go Crazy – Tori Kelly
Diamonds and Pearls – Tori Kelly
Take Me With U – Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly
Raspberry Beret – Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly
I Wanna Be Your Lover – Jessie J
Nothing Compares 2 U – Jessie J and Kip Blackshire
Someday We’ll All Be Free – Stevie Wonder
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Instrumental jam – Stevie Wonder
Purple Rain – Prince