Dig if you will this picture: Prince performing on a giant video screen, on the eve of the second anniversary of his death, accompanied by 13 live musicians on the stage below him. That was the scene Friday at Target Center.
About 7,000 purple-clad people turned out for what? Something bizarre? Cool? Creepy? Comforting? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
There are several ways in which to look at the 2¼-hour performance.
It’s been only two years. When you saw Prince on the big screen in his hometown, you wanted to cry rather than clap. It seems too soon.
But not to the people who put it on, the folks who run Paisley Park. They might point to Michael Jackson’s Immortal World Tour staged by Cirque du Soleil that hit the road a mere two years after he passed. But his image was not seen during the show. His voice wasn’t heard. He was represented by all kinds of artistic creations, but not live video.
Perhaps the more specific antecedent was Elvis Presley’s live video tour launched 20 years after he died. And the obvious connection is that Paisley Park, like Elvis’ Graceland home/museum, is run by the same organization, Graceland LLC. Their CEO, Joel Weinshanker, took the stage on Friday to introduce Prince’s surviving siblings and heirs. He said they were “tasked to allow his legacy to live on.”
Are they heeding the wishes of their brother?
Prince was vehemently opposed to using technology to duet with the dead. He was asked about that subject in an interview with Guitar World magazine in 1998.
“That’s the most demonic thing imaginable. Everything is as it is, and it should be,” Prince opined. “If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age.”
If the heirs didn’t know Prince’s concert motto, all the musicians onstage on Friday and all the fans in the audience did: “Real music by real musicians.”
But the lead singer, lead guitarist and sometimes pianist — you know who — wasn’t live.
Prince’s performance, taken from a tour of later vintage, was sufficiently exciting for a video. Or if we’d been watching this at Paisley Park with its killer sound system.
His live musicians, drawn mostly from his later NPG lineups, were solid, but not as crisp as Prince himself would have demanded.
The hit-filled set list of more than 30 songs (with some just snippets heard in a medley) was satisfying, with plenty of ’80s classics plus a handful of more recent tunes like “Musicology.”
The coordination between Prince and the live musicians was consistently good. It was particularly cool when Shelby J, who appeared live, showed up on video duetting with Prince on “U Got the Look” wearing the same outfit in both settings.
The biggest complaint would be that there were not enough closeups of Prince’s face, dancing feet and flying fingers on the guitar or piano, and there were too many live shots of his musicians on the two side screens.
Moreover, the setup would have been more effective if the big screen with Prince had been at the front of the stage instead of as a backdrop.
Tickets cost from $39 to $199, with two-for-one deals available. The crowd responded to instructions from Prince to clap, sing or wave their arms but, frankly, there wasn’t the kind of buzz at the end of the night that you get from real music played live by real musicians.