And here I thought five hours of music would be enough.
Last night’s Prince tribute at the Xcel Energy Center blew me away. Mixed bag or no, any concert where Luke James, Judith Hill, and Stevie Wonder can make me shiver is one for the history books; 3RDEYEGIRL slayed, the hits kept coming, and it all ended with Prince’s lead vocals piped in over “Purple Rain.”
Walking up the Xcel stairs, I felt content. It was a good five hours — not without its lags, but unique for bringing together so many of Prince’s friends, loved ones, and collaborators. And we got so much Stevie Wonder! But the family’s afterparty would show me I had so much more room for music appreciation.
I walked into the North Loop’s Muse Event Center around 1:30 a.m., with the walls’ bright glow and the ubiquitous formalwear giving off that prototypical upscale nightclub feel. I walked past the bar (which served Red Bull cocktails — for example, the Raspberry Beret) onto the easy-to-glide-through dance floor, weaving toward the front to approach the barricade. In front of me, G-Sharp and the Bizness, a recently formed band of experienced players, held down the stage.
From there, I just can’t boil down the music. It traveled, with few border lines to demarcate genres, surging through “Condition of the Heart” (1985’s Around the World in a Day) and an extended swing jam. André Cymone joined for “She’s Always In My Hair” and kicked up the blues later. G-Sharp called NPG bassist Sonny Thompson to the stage (“Hey, Sonny?” “Hey, what?” “Come play!”), and Thompson stayed there until the music stopped.
Just before 3 a.m., Prince’s brother, Omarr Baker, brought Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges onstage so she could read an official proclamation: October 13, 2016’s status as Prince Day in the city of Minneapolis. St. Paul and the state of Minnesota had also designated October 13 the same honor.
Then, the musicians — a parade of talented players, wielding everything from guitars to vocals to horns — continued to tease out sweet spots, sliding into different songs as one. When Judith Hill joined the party, the band rolled through “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” a snippet of “Delirious,” “17 Days,” the “Controversy” riff, “Take Me With U,” saxophone solos, “I Feel For You,” and more: a truly whirlwind performance. Time slipped by like it might have been maple syrup (and — why not — jam).
This is how I remember Prince. Hill’s performance, especially — a shy yet enthusiastic turn spent mostly behind two other vocalists, full of meek dance moves and powerful vocals — brought me back to my first show at Paisley Park, when Prince and Hill shared the stage in the smaller of the complex’s two main performance spaces. To me, Judith is magic in a small room. Prince was at his most magical in small rooms.
And then: 4 a.m. After a final chorus of Atlantic Starr’s “We Party Hearty,” [edit: this song could have been Sly and the Family Stone’s “Fun”] the party shut down and we headed home, but I still would’ve stayed for more. If anyone’s music could keep me going for eight hours, Prince’s could…and did.
Cecilia Johnson is a staff writer for the Local Current Blog. Emmet Kowler works with lights all day and takes photos after dark.