Why shouldn’t somebody celebrate “Purple Rain” this summer at First Avenue?
While Prince is adverse to celebrating anniversaries and looking back, his former drummer Bobby Z toasted the 30th anniversay of “Purple Rain” in a big way Saturday at First Avenue at his third annual Benefit 2 Celebrate Life for the American Heart Association.
Bobby Z, drummer for Prince & the Revolution, found an array of local guests – and one out-of-towner, “Purple Rain” co-star Apollonia – to play songs from “Purple Rain” as well as some of their own selections.
Four years ago, Bobby Z suffered a near-fatal heart attack. So he has organized an annual benefit to raise awareness about heart health. He gave a little speech and showed a quick video but the “educational” highlight was when one of his doctors, Dr. Uma Valeti, said: “It’s easier to save a man’s life than to put up a show like this.”
Amen. The scheduled opening act didn’t arrive on time. So, the music began with a surprise guest, pinch-hitting for a stuck-in-transit performer. Yes, Bobby Z called on Brian Setzer, Minneapolis’ most overlooked guitar hero, to open the show with the house band – which the pompadoured guitar man dubbed Bobby Z’s Purple Hearts Club Band.
And, apparently without rehearsal, Setzer and the the band tore through a rockabilly number and two Stray Cats classics, “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town.” Indeed, Setzer did rock this town. And to show you what kind of guy he is, he usually let Cory Wong from the house band take the first guitar solo - - and there were solo opportunities for the other band members, as well.
Then the expected kickoff act showed up: hip-hop hero Slug, of Atmosphere, just back from Milwaukee. He threw down a rap/sing version of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and then it started raining “Purple."
“American Idol” finalist (from Season 5) Paris Bennett declared “Baby, I’m a Star,” with some star-like testifying at the end. Her mother, Jamecia Bennett, raised the bar by taking “When Doves Cry” to church with the help of Sounds of Blackness. The Grammy-winning choir stuck around for some of their own selections, including “Optimistic.”
Then it was star time with Apollonia offering “Take Me with U,” which apparently Apollonia 6 recorded before Prince reclaimed it for himself for “Purple Rain.”
Dr. Fink, formerly of Prince and the Revolution, showed why he has a PhD in keyboards, as he played “Do Me Baby” as a wedding march and offered “Father’s Song,” composed by Prince’s dad John Nelson for the movie soundtrack.
Then it was time for a little Purple detour, with G Sharp of Dr. Mambo's Combo, who does the best vocal impression of Prince of anyone in the Twin Cities, delivering “Dirty Mind.”
Paul Peterson took the stage next to ask: What time is it? If you can’t have Morris Day, then Peterson, a Time replacement member for “Purple Rain,” sang the Time’s “Cool” and “Jungle Love” that were featured in the movie.
The show concluded, of course, with the entire cast (save Setzer) doing “Purple Rain.” Wong’s guitar defined the song as several vocalists took turns. But, in the end, when Jamecia Bennett wailed and Wong’s guitar kept rising, there were chills like when Prince himself performed “Purple Rain” at First Ave.
What do you do for an encore? Show “Purple Rain,” the movie, in its entirety on First Avenue’s big screen.
For her encore, Apollonia headed to Paisley Park where Prince and 3rdEyeGirl gave her a private concert at 3.a.m. plus a tour of his complex. She hadn't been in the Twin Cities since she filmed "Purple Rain" here in 1983.
At 4:42 a.m. Sunday, Apollonia posted an item on her Facebook page but it was later taken down. Still, Consequence of Sound republished her post, which said, in part:
"They play loud and HARD. Heard new music that was dope! He had a cool chair for me on the stage at his side and I sat there transfixed on every note, every move, every vocal. After every song I yelled and clapped my ass off. It was so amazing it made me sweat. These ladies are so talented and beautiful. I was charmed. And Prince….my heart still skip’s a beat. Paisley Park is a fun place. He showed me all my images painted on the walls. 'Hey thats me!!!' I said, he just laughed in that cool way he that does. The biggest room will be The Purple Rain room….he will have us painted there, huge murals. 'My big head gonna be up there?' He just laughed and laughed."