Prince famously said that he would always live in Minnesota because “it’s so cold it keeps the bad people out.” On Monday night in downtown Minneapolis, as the temperature plummeted into the single digits, over 5,000 fans and three brave bands proved that this is the place where good people tough it out in the name of honoring Prince.
Billed as “A Salute to Prince,” the night included acts that worked closely with Prince at pivotal points in his early career: Sheila E., Morris Day and the Time, and the Revolution.
Although each artist has performed their own tributes to Prince in his hometown since his passing, it was the first time they’d come together on the same lineup — and remarkably, the first time Morris Day and Sheila E. had ever shared a stage. That was all thanks to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, original members of the Time and legends of the Minneapolis Sound, who were responsible for curating the 10-day lineup of free concerts called Super Bowl Live.
Speaking backstage before the show, Sheila E. said that she is still feeling Prince’s loss deeply, and that it was difficult for her to return to Minneapolis and have so many reminders of her decades-long friendship with Prince.
When showtime came, however, Sheila hit the stage like a bolt of lightning, powering through her short set with an unbounded energy. Each song she chose had a special connection to Prince, starting with the 1985 single they co-wrote, “A Love Bizarre”; a track from his 2006 album 3121, “Get on the Boat”; and one of the first songs they made together, “The Belle of St. Mark.” Each song flowed quickly into the next, and then everything came to a dramatic halt: the show was about to be broadcast live on ESPN, and Sheila was just getting warmed up.
With cameras rolling, Sheila sprinted triumphantly through her biggest hit, “The Glamorous Life,” then welcomed Morris Day and the Time to the stage for “D.M.S.R.” and “The Bird,” plus a collaborative superjam on “America” and a satisfying little chorus of “My Name is Prince.”
Of all the artists on stage Monday night, it was frontman Morris Day who has known Prince the longest. The two were in a band together when they were still in high school (Grand Central, which also featured another act on the Super Bowl Live lineup, André Cymone), and Morris became one of Prince’s very first proteges when he was tapped to front the Prince-produced band the Time in 1981.
The Time brought it back to 1981 for their set, opening with an extra funky rendition of “Cool” that grooved just as hard as it does on their debut record. These days, the touring lineup of Morris Day and the Time only includes three of the band’s founding members — Morris, keyboardist Monte Moir, and drummer Jellybean Johnson — but for this performance they also added Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Jerome Benton to the mix, bringing six of the seven original players together on stage. (The only one missing was Jesse Johnson.) The band stayed in that early era for another pair of hits, “The Walk” and “Jungle Love,” before leaving the stage for good.
During a long, long wait between the energetic openers and the night’s headliners, the Revolution, audience members jogged in place to keep their toes from going completely numb and stage hands set up extra heaters on stage and tuned, re-tuned, and re-re-tuned the band’s frozen guitars. After nearly 45 minutes, the final act filed onto the stage dressed in puffy parkas to deliver a crowd-pleasing set of seven of Prince’s biggest hits.
“These are your songs now; we’re just your pit band,” Wendy Melvoin declared, echoing the sentiments she expressed at the Revolution’s first reunion show at First Avenue in September 2016. Melvoin refrained from playing many of the songs’ most recognizable guitar parts, too, like the solos at the end of “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain,” and took a break from playing at all after fumbling the opening riff of “When Doves Cry.” Instead, she relied on drummer Bobby Z., bassist BrownMark and keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Dr. Fink to keep the momentum pressing ahead, while guest vocalist Stokley Williams of Mint Condition bounced around the stage in a furry hunting cap and worked the crowd into a frenzy.
Even as she tried to hang back, however, it was Wendy’s iconic chord changes on “Purple Rain” that flooded the streets of downtown with nostalgia and bittersweet comfort, providing a final warm embrace on a bitingly cold night. “It’s your lead vocal. Sing like you’re in the shower,” she commanded — and every civilian, Super Bowl volunteer, and security guard in the two-block radius did exactly as they were told.
Morris Day and the Time with Sheila E.
Morris Day and the Time