Just one day shy of the anniversary of Prince’s death, live music returned to his favorite place to play.
“Paisley Park is alive again,” TV personality and one-time Prince dancer Damaris Lewis proclaimed on stage after one of Prince’s heroes, George Clinton, performed Thursday afternoon.
Clinton and his legendary P-Funk crew helped kick off the four-day Celebration series at Prince’s studio-turned-museum in Chanhassen around 2:30 p.m. — typically way too early for both Prince and his fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but to fans from 30-plus different countries, it seemed long overdue.
About 2,000 Purple People — divided into five-hour afternoon and evening shifts, at $500 to $1,000 per ticket — got to enjoy the music alongside tours, concert footage and panel discussions from Prince staffers and bandmates.
The concert clip, filmed at a 2014 gig in Amsterdam, set a dramatic tone for the event. It ended with Prince himself inviting the European fans to come to his party palace in Chanhassen.
“I’ve been coming to your house; why don’t you come to my house?” he said on screen, his image prompting tears from some fans. “In my house, there are no crazy people. Well, maybe just one.”
Everyone who made the trek was clearly crazy for the Minnesota icon and his music. That point struck home as the purple-clad Paisley-goers traded stories of their first and last times seeing him, and talked about how hard the news of his death hit them last year.
About 30 percent of the audience was international, while only 10 percent was from the Twin Cities.
“No other person affected my life like he did,” said Todd Hall, making his first trip to Minneapolis from Guam just for the occasion. “I’m still a little numb, so this feels good.”
Several of Prince’s siblings were there for the healing and partying, too, including his sister Tyka Nelson, who worked her way through the crowd hugging and comforting fans as much as they comforted her. “Thank you for being here,” she repeated to visitors.
Prince’s brother, Omarr Baker, looking stylish in a purple straw hat and black-and-silver sport jacket, soaked in the scene of the Celebration. “It is what it is,” he said matter-of-factly.
When Prince was in charge, no one on the payroll could talk publicly about him or his eccentric but electrifying ways. On this day, however, you couldn’t shut up his former bandmates during panel discussions.
Guitarist/bassist Levi Seacer Jr., for instance, recounted how upset Prince was that the print media could not properly type the unpronounceable glyph he adopted for his name in the 1990s. “How much would it cost to get [the glyph] put on every keyboard in the world?” Seacer remembered his boss asking him.
Not a lot of out-of-town media covered the Celebration’s first day, save for reporters from Rolling Stone France, USA Today and a few others. More are expected on Friday, the actual anniversary. Media access was limited, and cameras and cellphones were prohibited. In fact, Lewis proudly recalled a mantra from the building’s proprietor.
“I’m going to hear, ‘No cellphones’ for the rest of my life,” she said.
A mentor who recorded at Paisley and worked with Prince on 1990’s “Graffiti Bridge” movie, Clinton did not offer any memories, instead sticking to his ringleader duties in such funk classics as “Atomic Dog” and “Up for the Down Stroke.” One of his many P-Funk hypemen, however, said at the end, “We want to thank Prince. He was there for us when we needed it.”
Prince’s spirit was certainly in Paisley’s soundstage, where Clinton played and the Revolution and Morris Day & and the Time will perform later this weekend. With chairs in the giant room for the first time and no place to dance, however, it had a conspicuously different vibe.
“I like that they’re having live music in here,” said Samantha McCarroll, 23, a Paisley regular. “But I keep looking and — yeah, he’s not here.”