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Backstage: Bobby Z & Princess (Maya Rudolph, Gretchen Lieberum)
She wore a trenchcoat and sported a curled lip. He wore a tie-and-a-suit and carried a pair of drum sticks. Together, they partied like it was 1984 at First Avenue.
Perhaps think of it as a collision of “Saturday Night Live” and “Purple Rain” as “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph and her Prince tribute band, Princess, headlined the second annual Benefit to Celebrate Life Saturday night at First Avenue, organized by Prince & the Revolution drummer Bobby Z.
After suffering a near-fatal heart attack two years ago, Z has staged benefits to raise funds and awareness for the American Heart Association. Last year, he reunited the “Purple Rain”-era Revolution minus Prince. This year, he reached back to pre-“Purple Rain” sidemen Andre Cymone and Dez Dickerson. But they were dessert after the main course of Princess.
Don’t overlook the appetizers, however. Because never has a rock ‘n’ roll benefit table been set up more spectacularly in the Twin Cities.
Minneapolis soul crooner Alexander O’Neal kicked off the evening, fittingly, with “A Broken Heart Can Mend.” He may have been singing about a heartbreak from romance but the words took on a new meaning on this occasion.
Then came the Twin Cities own finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” Nicholas David, who went all talent-show at First Avenue by doing a solo piano/vocal interpretation of “Over the Rainbow.” A band joined him for Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” and O’Neal returned to the stage mid-song for a soulful vocal exchange with David, which provided the night’s first goose bumps.
Concertgoers can go months or years between goose-bump moments but on Saturday at First Ave, they came back to back, as Patty Peterson, herself having a near-death heart experience because of aortic dissection, lit into “The Greatest Love of All.” And, she sang her heart out.
The final serving of the all-local hors de oeuvres was Stokley Williams, backed by a mini-edition of his Twin Cities band Mint Condition. They got things back into a soul groove with a trio of numbers, seasoned with the soaring rock guitar work of Homer Odell.
Then it was time for the imported entree – Princess, fronted by Rudolph and her friend since college Gretchen Lieberum. In the past year, they’ve done about 10 gigs, including a cameo Thursday at Carnegie Hall as part of an all-star tribute to Prince. But, Princess’ dream gig at First Avenue -- where “Purple Rain” was filmed – was a full 45-minute set.
Clearly fans of Prince and “Purple Rain,” Rudolph and Lieberum played it pretty straight. To be sure, they danced playfully in unison andrecited dialogue from the movie (the scene about purifying yourself in Lake Minnetonka) with a mixture of homage and humor. But they sang it like they meant it – from “Controversy” and “Head” to “Lady Cab Driver” and “The Beautiful Ones” to “Darling Nikki” and the encore of “Purple Rain,” another goose-bump inducer thanks in part to Cory Wong’s guitar.
As with many sumptuous meals, the dessert was too much in both size and richness. It was reunion time for Bobby Z, Dr. Fink, Cymone and Dickerson, all members of Prince’s first band after the release of his debut album in 1978. Z called them the Rebels on Saturday. They rocked out on classic oldies (Hendrix, Grand Funk) and early Prince pieces (“When U Were Mine,” “Why U Wanna Treat Me So Bad,” “Dance Electric”) with Cymone and Dickerson demonstrating fine falsettos and Questlove from the Roots and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" helping out on drums (he accompanied Princess, too).
Then, just like the end of a “Saturday Night Live” show, the entire cast assembled onstage. But instead of hugging each other while the credits rolled, everyone joined in a celebrative rendition of Prince’s “Party Up.”
Where was Prince? Who knows? But he did sit outside of First Avenue in a limo Friday night while Questlove was inside doing a DJ set.
Gordon Locksley (left) and George Shea in front of their Mount Curve mansion in Minneapolis. (1969 photo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune files)
When it comes to Andy Warhol, Minneapolis was way ahead of the pack thanks to savvy art mavens Gordon Locksley and George Shea, who staged the first Minnesota show of the artist's work in 1975. Besides inspiring a legendary bacchanal, the show introduced Warhol to a lot of high-profile Midwesterners whose portraits he later painted in his signature silkscreen-on-canvas style.
Fans of that glamorous moment will want to shake out their wallets for "Andy Warhol in Minneapolis," a week-long show and sale of about 70 paintings, silkscreen prints, drawings, photos and Polaroid snapshots by the Pop superstar. The art is all from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which is selling it to benefit the foundation's grant-making programs.
Christie's is really emphasizing the Minneapolis connections for the event, said Amelia Manderscheid, a Warhol expert at the New York auction house.
Prices range from $4,000 for a Polaroid photo of a toy airplane to $250,000 for a silkscreen portrait of publishing executive Gardner Cowles, whose family formerly owned the Star Tribune. Other local celebrity subjects include Fred Weisman, namesake of the University of Minnesota's Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, his son Richard and former wife Marcia. Studies and/or drawings for Warhol's portraits of Locksley, Shea and Miles and Shirley Fiterman are also featured.
Other art includes drawings of a Fiestaware pig, a Polaroid snapshot of a toy frog, and a series of athletes including ice skater Dorothy Hamill. There will also be two sunset-themed silkscreens from a series Warhol did on commission for the Marquette Hotel, then a Minneapolis landmark.
In addition, Locksley and Shea are lending eight drawings and four paintings by Warhol that will not be for sale.
The event runs from March 16-23 at Aria, an event-space in the former Theatre de la Jeune Lune in the Minneapolis warehouse district at 105 N. 1st St. Open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., free.
Distributor CBS films has paid $4 million for the U.S. rights to "Inside Llewyn Davis," the 16th feature by Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen.
The independently produced film was financed by Scott Rudin, who worked with the Coens on their 2007 best picture winner "No Country for Old Men" and 2010's "True Grit."
The new film is a comic drama set in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk-music scene. Oscar Isaac plays the title character, a ne'er-do-well singer-songwriter with a troubled career and love life, and a mutinous cat. Also in the cast are Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman and F. Murray Abraham.
The film features half a dozen songs performed live by the cast. Grammy-winner T. Bone Burnett, who produced the hit soundtrack to the Coens' "O Brother Where Art Thou?" does the same duties here.
While CBS Films' Vice President of Publicity Grey Munford said a release date was not yet determined. It seems likely that "Inside Llewyn Davis" will open next fall for consideration in the 2014 film awards cycle. "You can look at the filmmakers and draw your own conclusions," Munford said.
CBS Films has released nine movies to date, most recently "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," "The Words" and "Seven Psychopaths."
Kesha in Minneapolis in 2010/ Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace
Kesha is fully aware that her “Die Young” has become the post-game lockerroom dance track for basketball players. She acknowledged such in an interview with billboard.com during NBA All-Star Weekend, where she was part of the pre-game show.
No word on whether the pop star actually saw the Gophers dancing after their victory last week over Wisconsin but she clearly saw some team celebrating to her hit.
“I’ve seen multiple clips in the last couple of days of entire teams jumping around and dancing to one of my songs, “ Kesha told Billboard.com, “which is really erotic to a woman to write a song (and) have an entire locker room full of men feeling it. That’s pretty much the hottest thing that could happen.”
With all due respect to Bruce Springsteen and his “Dancing in the Dark,” there ain’t nothin’ like Prince funking in the dark.
That’s what happened at Night 2, Show 2 on Thursday at the Dakota Jazz Club. While he used modest stage lights for the evening's opening set (read review here), there were no lights shining on the stage during the nightcap – just a table lamp with probably a 25-watt bulb (behind his keyboards) and about a dozen lit candles scattered about. Prince, wearing sunglasses of course, and his band performed in the dark.
And the Purple One (who was dressed in all black) has never been in a nastier funk groove in his hometown than in Thurday’s second show. The six-man horn section (stationed off to the side of the stage) started in an old-school jazz groove with a Middle Eastern vibe before the rest of the players broke into Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” before traveling through Prince’s own “Days of the Wild” and the Time's “Wild and Loose” all the while the horn section continued on its jazz caravan.
During this 21-minute jam, Prince asked if the clubgoers approved of new drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. (RBJ to Prince). They cheered enthusiastically and the bandleader said, “I think so, too.” Prince also brought a female fan onstage to groove with him, high-fived a clubgoer and danced in the dark to the delight of all 275 Dakota denizens.
The rest of the 70-minute set included an incomparable duet of “Nothing Compares to U” with roof-raising backup singer Shelby J (somebody give Shelby her own gig at the Dakota, please), as well as some selections repeated from Thursday’s earlier set -- the gospel-funk “Act of God,” Lianne La Havas’ “Lost & Found” (sung by the three female backup vocalists) and a medley of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately” and Stargard’s “Which Way is Up,” which was way funkier in the late show.
Prince was chatty, tossed off funny lines throughout the set. He sang “Sherlock Holmes and his smarter brother Puffy told me more money will bring you problems.” After calling this "The Medicine Show, “ he said: “If you hear something you never heard before – lyrically or otherwise – don’t worry about it. Once it gets down in your system, it’ll be alright.”
He was feeling so good that, between songs, he commented, “It’s windy outside. It’s Windy and Lisa outside.”
Late in the set, Prince asked his horn section to do some New Orleans second-line music, and the players paraded through the crowd, after which he played a portion of “When the Saints Go Marching In” on bluesy guitar. In the first set, he strapped on his Telecaster once but never played it. At least the late-night crowd heard a couple of guitar workouts. They also heard an encore of “Controversy” — during which Prince asked for the house lights to be turned up so he could watch the crowd dance. But he was still funking in the dark.
Among the clubgoers were former Prince associates Bobby Z (drummer), David Z (producer/engineer), Kirk Johnson (drummer) and Paul Peterson (of the Family). Famous bass man Victor Wooten, who plays with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, and Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams and Rick Kinchen were in the house, as well.
Two more shows are set for Friday at 8 and 11 p.m., with Prince expected to unveil his new female backup band.