It wasn’t the kind of purple hue that Vikings fans hoped for during Super Bowl week in downtown Minneapolis, but hometown pride still overtook Nicollet Mall on Monday night as Prince’s friends and fans honored the little giant ahead of the big game.
Three acts closely associated with the Minnesota rock legend — none of whom had played together since his 2016 death — showed their singular dedication by performing his songs outside in single-digit temperatures for the Super Bowl Live concert series.
“Prince, we already miss you!” his California protégé Sheila E. said after opening the 2 ½-hour tribute with “Glamorous Life.”
Prince’s “Purple Rain”-era bandmates the Revolution and his childhood friend Morris Day of the Time also performed on the stage outside the IDS Center at 8th Street and Nicollet Mall, where free concerts by mostly all Minnesota acts are happening each day through Sunday.
More than 5,000 fans stretched down both Nicollet Avenue and 8th Street, bobbing their tassel caps and clapping their thick gloves to the music.
Foot traffic was congested around the stage, but otherwise attendees flowed steadily through the nearby blocks and skyways, which were heavily staffed with a fleet of volunteers and law enforcement officers helping smooth things along.
Managing to fit her “Purple Rain” sweatshirt over several other layers of clothing, Nancy Greene of Rosemount described the show as “one of the most Minnesotan things ever.”
“This is almost as exciting as going to one of his concerts,” said Greene, who — also in very Minnesotan fashion — had only one complaint about the Nicollet Mall setup: “The beer here didn’t need to be so expensive.” (Going price for a Budweiser: $9.)
Out-of-towners were hard to find in the audience, but those who did brave the cold seemed to know what they were getting into.
“You don’t have to be Minnesotan to know how to dress warm,” said Jim Cartwright, an engineer from Atlanta in town for business other than the Super Bowl. “It’s so cool you guys love Prince as much as you do here,” he said.
The TV camera operators on hand certainly seemed to love the ever-ostentatious Day, who took the stage with Sheila to the tune of “D.M.S.R.” and danced with her through “The Bird.” He returned with his modern-day Time lineup to give new meaning to 1981’s “Cool.”
Monday’s tribute concert was a feather in the fedoras for Day’s former bandmates Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis, the veteran pop and R&B producers hired by the local Super Bowl Host Committee to help organize the Super Bowl Live series in their hometown. The duo showed up during the Time's set fresh off the Grammy Awards — where Bruno Mars gave them a shout-out — and then introduced the Revolution and said some words about their former boss.
“We know [Prince] is looking down on us and partying, having a good time,” Harris said.
The Revolution went on a half-hour late and suffered sound problems throughout most of its set. Great acoustics weren’t required, however, to get the crowd singing along to the heavy dose of “Purple Rain” material the band filmed and/or recorded a few blocks away at First Avenue in 1983.
“Greetings, icicles!” said guitarist Wendy Melvoin before launching into “Mountains” and then “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Melvoin and her bandmates were allowed to go well past the 10 p.m. curfew, giving them time to kick up a funk jam with “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby, I’m a Star.” Their set culminated with “Purple Rain” set to purple lighting and images of Prince being illuminated eight floors up onto the neighboring Macy’s/Dayton’s department store building.
More Prince music is expected in the free outdoor series Wednesday night, when his 2000s-era bandmates in the New Power Generation are scheduled with André Cymone, one of his earliest bandmates. Cymone will be back on Thursday alongside New Power Soul and fDeluxe, aka the Family, which recorded the original version of the Prince-penned megahit “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Other performers in the Super Bowl Live lineup include Dessa and Mint Condition (also Wednesday); “Crush on You” hitmakers the Jets with synth-groove bands King and ZuluZuluu (Friday); and rockers Soul Asylum, the Suburbs, the Jayhawks and Bob Mould (all Saturday).