A few more thoughts about Around the Purple World in a Few Days, aka unofficial Prince Week, as fans came to Minneapolis and Chanhassen to commemorate the second anniversary of his passing:
Live wire Liv: Liv Warfield was on fire for two nights at the Dakota Jazz Club. Her fabulously funky 2½-hour performance late Saturday was the closest we’ve come to replicating a late-night Prince jam as she and a parade of guests (NPG Horns, Donna Grantis, Shelby J, Xavier Taplin, Cora Dunham) rocked the house until closing.
Two of the many highlights were long medleys, one of which included Prince tunes, Sly Stone signatures and even “When the Saints Go Marching In” with some Fats Domino-inspired piano from Taplin. Leave it to playful saxophonist Adrian Crutchfield to improvise by banging a drum stick on a small metal pail in which French fries are served at the Dakota.
Funk masters: Big props to the Funk Soldiers, the new moniker for the group that backed “Prince: Live on the Big Screen” on Friday at Target Center. On Saturday, the Funk Soldiers settled into more familiar territory at Paisley Park as part of Celebration 2018. The difference is there was no Prince on video and Shelby J and Kip Blackshire handled lead vocals. Also, the funky group, led by drummer Kirk Johnson, did not repeat one song from the hits-heavy Target Center show.
There were enough familiar pieces (“Girls & Boys,” “Paisley Park,” “Black Sweat,” “Alphabet Street”) to please casual fans but the lesser known nuggets (“Big City,” “Chelsea Rodgers,” “All the Critics Love U in New York”) thrilled the hard-core Purple people. The Funk Soldiers are seriously good; they should become a touring endeavor. Real music by real musicians.
Guitar star: I’ve already raved about ex-3rdEyeGirl guitarist Donna Grantis and her jazz-rock fusion group at the Dakota on Wednesday. If you missed it, here’s the link to the full review.
The beat: At the four-day Celebration 2018, there were panel discussions focusing on various aspects of Prince’s career. At a panel on dance, fans got to ask questions instead of a moderator doing all the interrogating. Dancer Maya McClean explained Prince’s analysis of dance as “black people are behind the beat, white people are on the beat and you’re ahead of the beat.” She attributed it to having extensive training in salsa dancing.
Follow in mom’s dance steps? Someone asked dancer Mayte Garcia if her daughter, Gia, 5, who was sitting next to Mom with her face in a book, liked dancing. Gia piped up: “No.”
Black sweat: Maya McClean said Prince came up with the phrase “black sweat” when some hair coloring was rolling down his cheek.
Nothing compares 2 him: During a panel about the Family, aka fDeluxe, Susannah Melvoin explained what prompted Prince to write “Nothing Compares 2 U.” She said it was two people – Prince’s secretary and herself. The secretary had left town on a family emergency. Melvoin, who was dating Prince at the time, wasn’t around either. It was 3 a.m. and he needed something but neither of the two people he’d usually turn to were there.
“He wrote those lyrics in minutes and then said to Susan [Rogers, his recording engineer], ‘Roll tape.’” That was the demo given to the Family from which to learn the song to record. Prince’s version of the song, i.e. that demo with added backup vocals and saxophone by Eric Leeds, was released as a single last week.
By the way, the reading of “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Melvoin and St. Paul Peterson with fDeluxe at Paisley on Sunday was dramatic, emotional and perfectly poignant for the occasion.
Intimidation: On the Paisley Park tour, a videotaped interview with Prince has been added in Studio A, where the interview was shot. Says the Purple One: “Nothing intimidates me. Things inspire me but they don’t intimidate me.”
Sibling 6: It was encouraging to see the Sibling 6, i.e. Prince’s heirs, show enough solidarity to appear together before “Prince: Live on the Big Screen” at Target Center on Friday while displaying acrimony offstage.
Next year at Easter? New Yorker Joel Weinshanker, the Graceland LLC CEO who runs Paisley Park as a museum and heads up the Celebration, did faux focus groups at Paisley. His survey indicated that most of the fest-goers were from the United States but not the Twin Cities. There was a sizable contingent from outside the U.S. He asked the Celebrants if they’d come next year even though it might be on Easter weekend. Only a couple dozen hands indicated they would not.
Prince’s big screen tour: Weinshanker also asked if the Celebration-goers thought he should take “Prince: Live on the Big Screen” on tour. He threw out names of some U.S. cities and European and received warm response. If the show goes on the road, hopefully they’ll move Prince up front visually since he’s the frontman who everyone’s paying to see. (Read my review). By the way, the footage of Prince was taken from two concerts in the Carolinas in 2011.
If you missed it: Read my colleague Chris Riemenschneider's coverage of the first day of Celebration 2018 and my report on the keynote speech of the "Prince from Minneapolis" symposium at the University of Minnesota held last week.