Prince wanted to do something for Record Store Day. So on the night after, he invited record store owners to come see a free live performance at his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen on Sunday night.
With a slide of record-store bins stocked with vinyl albums as a backdrop, Prince and 3rdEyeGirl took the stage shortly after 11 p.m. “Do we have records?” Prince asked after tearing through a potent “FunkNRoll.”
He was selling his latest albums, “PlectrumElectrum” and “Art Official Age,” for $20 each – vinyl, of course -- at the merch table at the back of the soundstage. And, among the 300 or so attendees ($30 for the public), were folks from Electric Fetus and Know Name Records. Representatives from Treehouse, Down in the Valley, Discland and even Amoeba, which is based in California, were also on the guest list.
For about 45 minutes, Prince and his trio delivered heavy rock of recent vintage, including “Rock and Roll Love Affair,” PretzelBodyLogic” and “Stratus” along with a version of “Let’s Go Crazy” that was heavy on guitar work.
As soon as Prince and his band finished, a recording of Judith Hill’s “As Trains Go By” started playing in the soundstage, and Hill and her band immediately took the stage next door in the NPG Music Club.
It was their third performance at Paisley in the past month or so but the group is getting better and better. Hill played “As Trains Go By,” “Turn Up,” “Cry Cry Cry,” “My People” and other tunes from her Prince-produced album “Back in Time,” which was available as a free download for two days in March but hasn’t yet received a proper and full release.
Hill let two of her sidemen handle smokin’ covers of the Ohio Players’ “Fire,” Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and BlackStreet’s “No Diggity.” Hill handled vocals on Sly Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and, while at the piano, delivered a knockout reading of Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song,” which, on this occasion, probably could have been recast as “Don’t Play That Download.”
After nearly an hour of Hill, guess what? The crowd and the action returned to the soundstage. As always, there was a little dancing to recorded Prince tunes before he and 3rdEyeGirl took to the stage in the darkness (with no vinyl-bin backdrop), augmented by Hill and four horn players (one more than Hill had during her set).
It was jam time. Some eloquent jazz-rock guitar from Prince and some nifty saxophone from Marcus Anderson. Then the bandleader whispered into the microphone, “let me get this out of my system.” And the band swung into a Sly Stone groove for “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” with the horn section playing the chorus instead of Prince singing it.
He implored Hill to help him, so she joined in for Sly’s “Dance to the Music,” though she had to bend over to share Prince’s microphone in his short stand. Then he urged the crowd to sing the chorus.
As the freewheeling jam continued, Prince asked to the horns to “do that three more times for me, please.” Wow, a bandleader who says please! After they played it, he interrupted: “I changed my mind; one more time.” And no please.
Experiencing this jam between these players with obvious chemistry was like witnessing a master class. Bassist Ida Nielsen and guitarist Prince exchanged instruments. Before long, he called Hill back to the mic for her “My People” and “As Trains Go By.” Imagine hearing the same singer sing the same songs with two different bands in the same building in less than two hours’ time.
That probably happens in front of an audience about as often as Prince declaring “Y’all love Record Store Weekend.”