It was a very unusual night at Prince’s Paisley Park studios on Saturday.
Not because he talked to the crowd but did not perform.
Not because he spent 45 minutes huddled with 10 handpicked media members who were attending the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Minneapolis.
Not because there was a greater percentage of black people in the audience (mostly conventioneers) than at probably any previous Twin Cities performance by Prince.
Not because people actually took verboten cellphone photos inside Paisley Park and no security guard escorted them out.
Not because Paisley Park seemed unnecessarily warm with nearly 900 bodies dancing.
Not because dance-party goers had a chance to play ping-pong and pool in Paisley’s soundstage.
No, the most extraordinary thing about Saturday was that precious little Prince music was played. During the four-hour dance party, DJ Kiss, brought in from New York, offered about 2½ Prince songs.
After Prince’s minute-long speech, DJ Kiss spun a snippet of Prince’s “Kiss” and then she played two songs from his forthcoming album, “HitNRun,” due Sept. 7 via Tidal, Jay Z’s streaming service. Prince did tell the crowd that the music also would be available in a physical format.
The new songs, perhaps titled "Million Dollar Show" and “Shut It Down,” were very dense and mechanical, with lots of intriguing electronic noises. Although the music was presumably played by Prince and his band 3rdEyeGirl, it was less organic sounding than their previous album, 2014’s “PlectrumElectrum.”
There wasn’t much palpable reaction to the new songs partly because the crowd seemed to dissipate after Prince’s brief speech at 12:45 a.m. He welcomed the people, explained he didn’t have instruments set up (there were four guitars near the stage, by the ping pong table, but alas, 3rdEyeGirl is on vacation for August) and would play “for real” next time these folks come to Paisley Park.
Earlier at the party in an ad hoc session, Prince met with 10 journalists including Michael Wilbon of ESPN, Eric Deggans of NPR and Kelley Carter of Buzzfeed.None of them was allowed to take notes or record the conversation.
“He was deep, thoughtful and real,” said Bryan Monroe, now a Temple University professor and a longtime journalist with CNN and the Seattle Times. “He talked about the state of the music industry. He said he wanted to sit down with us because we’re the storytellers.”
Monroe, who has interviewed Michael Jackson, characterized Prince as “a straight-up communicator. He wasn’t stiff at all. It was very light. A real good conversation.”
Many of the out-of-towners at Paisley were having an eventful evening even if the music was a mix of oldies by Luther Vandross and Digital Underground and more recent tunes by Mark Ronson and Robin Thicke. Sales were brisk at the T-shirt table, and the partiers munched on mac-and-cheese, red beans-and-rice and cornbread. Admission was $20 for conventioneers (less than the usual Paisley fee) and $50 for the public (more than the usual fee for a dance party).
At 2 a.m., the security staff ushered revelers out of Paisley. One star-struck woman just couldn't leave without hugging Prince’s motorcycle from “Purple Rain,” displayed in the lobby. It was almost as if she were embracing the artist himself. That was about as close as she got to a true Purple experience.