The general format and familial vibe were all the same as fans from all over converged on Paisley Park in Chanhassen on Thursday ahead of the second anniversary of Prince’s death.
One discernible difference in Year 2 of the so-called Prince Celebration: It actually felt more like a celebration.
“Everything was still a little raw last year,” said Kristy Fisher, back for another Paisley pilgrimage from Cedar Falls, Iowa. “It’s more upbeat this time.”
Prince’s longtime musical collaborator Sheila E. was the star attraction at the late Minnesota rock legend’s studio-turned-museum on opening day of the four-day festival, which included panel discussions and an afternoon and evening concert. The Celebration continues through Sunday with an all-star jam, an fDeluxe concert, more talks, concert film screenings and Friday’s “Prince: Live on the Big Screen” event at Target Center, with musicians accompanying video footage of the late star.
For many of Thursday’s attendees, the Celebration’s appeal seemed to be less about what’s happening, and more about where it’s happening.
“Being here puts everything about Prince into perspective,” said Rebecca Weigand, who drove up from Kansas City.
“I think fans will be coming to [Chanhassen] for years to come for this,” Weigand added. “This will forever be where Prince’s legacy is carried on.”
A Paisley Park first-timer, Japanese journalist Shoko Nagano planned to write about how warm and welcoming the fans were to each other during the Celebration.
“I understand why they call this a family,” she said.
Unlike last year’s Celebration, empty seats could be found at the back of the Paisley Park soundstage, but organizers said the $1050 VIP passes sold out. About 4,000 fans are funneled in and out of the studio-turned-museum daily over separate day/night segments during the event.
Also different this year, the panels turned more insider-y and downright nerdy at times. Prince’s Hornheads leader Mike Nelson and string arranger Brent Fischer talked “stems” on an “Arrangements” panel, while photographers Nancy Bundt, Allen Beaulieu and Steve Parke discussed lighting and art direction for the “Iconography” discussion.
Since their cellphones were confiscated to security bags upon entry, most fans at the Celebration were unaware of the other news of the day about Carver County closing its investigation into Prince’s 2016 death. Most fans seemed to be well past dwelling on the topic, anyway, as did the day’s headlining performer.
Performing a lively montage of Prince’s ultra-funky “Sign o’ the Times” tunes, plus her own hits such as “A Love Bizarre” and “Glamorous Life,” Sheila kept her performance upbeat until her dramatic song “Rockstar.” As photos of a young Prince scrolled across the backdrop screen and the tune segued into the guitar solo finale of “Purple Rain,” Sheila and many audience members wiped away tears.
“I don’t want to be sad anymore,” Sheila said afterward. “And I’m not sad anymore. These are tears of joy.”
The Celebration audience cheered loudly in approval. And then went back to dancing the way crowds had done in the Paisley soundstage area so many times before.
Although it’s the one “official” event sanctioned by the Prince estate, many other events are happening around the Twin Cities through the weekend, including concerts by Liv Warfield at the Dakota Jazz Club and New Power Generation members at Crooners, plus dance parties at First Avenue.