Local Current Blog

Shelby J. opens Prince memorial week, releases ’10’ at the Dakota

Shelby J. performs at the Dakota Jazz Club back on March 18, 2017. Photo by Emmet Kowler for MPR.

You know how the internet encouraged people to wear safety pins for a hot second, so anyone who met a pin-wearer in real life would know they had a safe person to talk to? That’s how I feel when I see Prince’s love symbol. I didn’t chat with anyone wearing the symbol on Wednesday, but I didn’t have to. Just being in the Prince Army’s company, I felt so at ease.

Yesterday and today, “fams” from all around the world have been gathering to observe the Twin Cities’ informal Prince memorial week. The icon died on April 21 of last year, triggering a series of dance parties and tribute concerts; as the one-year anniversary approaches, his fans are returning to his home. Shelby J. of the New Power Generation threw one of the first shows on Wednesday at the Dakota.

As we filtered into the Dakota, old friends tackle-hugged each other in the club’s skinny aisles. People lipsynced the Prince jams that played before the show (“Uptown,” “1999”). Out on the street, I spotted a car with love symbol bumper stickers and North Carolina plates — hey, Shelby J., I thought, excited to be in her presence once again.

Starting at around 10:25, Shelby J. performed for about 70 minutes, including two encores. Aside from a couple of covers and a song from her band Black Gypsy, she played material from her debut album, 10, which came out the day of the show. “It celebrates my favorite number, 10,” she said, “and the 10 years I had with Prince.”

Always staying positive, Shelby J. reminds me of the sparkle in a smile — bright, a little extra, and lovable for it. When the crowd is with her, there’s nothing she can’t do. And during “Superpower” and “What This Feels Like,” she barely had to ask before people got out of their seats to dance. Shelby’s band, including childhood friend Sonya Bennett-Brown (vocals) and longtime roommate David DiGiantomasso (percussion), mirrored her in its pizzazz.

The part that makes me giddy is that Shelby’s show was just the beginning. She’s got another Dakota show tonight. But on a larger scale: it’s been a long year in Minneapolis, with grief, unrest, and a whole lot of other discouragement weighing us down. This week, we stand in purple light.

Setlist:

Give The People What They Want (O’Jays cover)
Move On
Good 2 Know
Superpower
Run
Who U R
What This Feels Like

Encore:
Yes We Can Can (Allen Touissant cover)
My Thank U (Interlude 3)
Y Come (Black Gypsy song)

Encore 2:
Musicology (Prince song)