(Jon Bream, Star Tribune)
“Welcome to the new Paisley Park,” the building’s executive director Alan Seiffert said Saturday evening. “I say ‘new’ because we’re bringing it back to the way we think Prince would have wanted it.”
Seiffert is new (started in October) and so are several other things at Paisley such as you can bring in your cellphone, buy an alcoholic beverage and watch a concert series in the studio complex that became a museum in October 2016, months after Prince’s death.
On Saturday, Meshell Ndegeocello kicked off Paisley's first live music series, Musicology 2020, subtitled with Prince’s mantra of “real music by real musicians.”
At some point during her 90 minutes onstage, Ndegeocello explained that hearing Prince’s music is what sparked adventurous musical ideas for her.
The singer/bassist/bandleader’s goal at Paisley was “reimagining Prince,” and that she did, interpreting his songs her way, with the help of four other musicians and four singers.
Ndegeocello’s song choices were both obvious (“When Doves Cry,” “Pop Life”) and obscure (“Love 2 the 9’s,” “Tambourine”) – and the same could be said of her interpretations.
In front of random videos of Prince in concert shown on a giant screen, she and her band favored spare instrumentation, mechanical rhythms, a jazzy vibe, plenty of space in arrangements, a bit of droning, some down-tempo grooves, and a taste of funk.
When Ndegeocello sang, the readings were typically more out there. When one of the other five vocalists took the lead, the approach was more familiar such as Jonathan Hoard’s conventional version of “Sexy Dancer.”
More intriguing were Justin Hicks slowing down “If I Were Your Girlfriend” to space-age stoner soul, Deantoni Parks’ drum-and-keyboard instrumental solos and Ndegeocello’s dispirited and jazzy “Purple Rain,” with the band playing a counter melody to her languid and detached vocals.
Curiously, Ndegeocello didn’t not perform her treatment of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April,” which appears on her current album, 2018’s “Ventriloquism.” And, disappointingly, the 10-time Grammy nominee, who has released 12 albums of her own, did not offer any songs associated with her.
Sophia Eris, Lizzo's longtime DJ, spun tunes before the concert began.