Local Current Blog

Salute to Prince at Super Bowl LIVE: Get to know the artists performing tonight

The Revolution perform at First Avenue in 2016. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

When a big-time event like Super Bowl LII comes to the Twin Cities, it’s assumed that Prince fans near and far are anticipating some type of homage to the late Minnesotan legend. As mentioned in our rundown of performances happening this week, Twin Cities producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were called upon to choose the lineup for a series of free concerts on Nicollet Mall. With a mix of local and non-local artists, they say they want to “celebrate the amazing legacy of Minnesota music.”

Understandably, that includes Prince: an artist Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis came up alongside, and with whom they formerly collaborated in the Time. Tonight, three acts closely associated with Prince will take the Super Bowl LIVE stage for a night billed as “Salute to Prince.”

Starting off the night is the iconic drummer, songwriter, and performer known as Sheila E. Starting her music career off in the 1970s as a percussionist and singer for the George Duke Band, she gained fame as the opening act for Prince’s Purple Rain Tour. Her Prince-produced 1984 album The Glamorous Life yielded a top ten hit with the title track.

Back in October, she visited the studio to talk with Tom Weber of MPR News and Andrea Swensson of The Current about her most recent album, Iconic: Message 4 America; her long professional and personal relationship with Prince; and how performing over the course of her career has both caused her pain and helped her to heal.

It’s appropriate that Sheila E.’s tribute will be associated with a major sporting event: speaking last month, she told us that sports was “a second passion” that she and Prince shared in addition to music. “That was one of the great connections [Prince] and I had together. I was very competitive and I’d always compete with him about basketball, football, ping-pong, pool. You know, what team was going to win in the Super Bowl. We would bet on things.”

Coming off of a memorable Prince tribute performance with Bruno Mars at last year’s Grammys, Morris Day and the Time are also slated to perform at tonight’s tribute. In the movie Purple Rain, the Time act as Prince’s rival band, which was somewhat true to life: the Time toured with Prince in the ’80s, and often threatened to upstage him.

Speaking to The Current’s Andrea Swensson at Paisley Park in January 2016, Day remembered the day he first met Prince (or, as he put it, the day “Prince met me”). “I was blown away,” remembered Day about seeing Prince and André Cymone play together. “I had never seen young cats play so well.” Eventually, Day auditioned to play in their band Grand Central.

I went by, set my drums up, moved Prince’s cousin Charles’s drums to the side, and my drums never left. [Prince] was true to form, even back then. He didn’t say too much to me. I’d be there practicing, and he’d stand in the doorway looking at me, trying to figure me out. It took a while before he really loosened up, but after that we was real cool.

Ultimately, Prince made Day the frontman of the Time, a group that evolved from the earlier band Flyte Tyme with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Closing off tonight’s tribute, the Revolution will take the stage. Prince’s main band at the height of his 1980s stardom, the Revolution were inspired by one of Prince’s biggest influences, Sly Stone, who had also formed a diverse ensemble including both men and women. The current lineup, which reunited after Prince’s death features Bobby Z. on drums, Matt “Dr.” Fink on keyboards and vocals, Lisa Coleman on keyboards and vocals, Brown Mark on bass, and Wendy Melvoin on rhythm guitar and vocals.

The Revolution’s recent shows in Minnesota include a trio of First Avenue performances in 2016, a return to the Mainroom last year, an outdoor show at last year’s Rock the Garden, and their Paisley Park debut for last year’s Celebration. Writing about the Revolution’s first reunion show in 2016, Andrea Swensson captured emotions that a lot of fans may be feeling tonight.

Prince is really gone. No one will ever play “Purple Rain” that way again, not even the ones who helped record it. No one will ever play guitar that way again. Everyone Prince touched in his life loved him so much, maybe more than he ever knew, and now that he’s gone we’re all just doing our best to love each other, and to find peace in ourselves. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, something tells me that we’re all going to be okay. And if you know what I’m singing about up here, c’mon and raise your hand.

Monday, January 29: Salute to Prince
Super Bowl Live, Nicollet Mall

Approximate set times:
8:00 p.m. Sheila E.
8:30 p.m. Morris Day and The Time
9:15 p.m. The Revolution