I came in 20 seconds into the first tune — “Purple Rain”. Those are 20 secs that I’m devastated to never get back after hearing how great it sounded. Who opens with Purple Rain anyway?? A band that’s got their s*** way together for an ambitious show with tons of special guests. This opener featured the Waterboys and a crazy cool electrified fiddle solo. FYI it’s appropriate to use terms like ‘crazy cool’ when talking about a Prince themed evening.
Questlove is the guru and bandleader behind the drums. If you ever get to watch him in practice – working and talking, you can just tell that he kinda knows everything. On this night Questo is wearing the same T-Shirt that he wore at the Bonnarooo Superjam: Prince & the Revolution & the band members including Wendy who was featured throughout this night.
Song 2 started with Fred Armisen absolutely nailing Prince’s “Dearly beloved…” intro to the song ‘Let’s Go Crazy’.
From the very start this show is so good and guest-laden that I initially thought I should be taking and posting photos every 2 seconds. However, it far exceeded any level allowing for such a distraction from the music itself. Thus, I couldn’t be bothered and I just gotta sit back and enjoy.
Eric Leeds: the mustachioed super sax man from the Bonnaroo Superjam is back. He did stints with Prince’s band and was in the Family. He. Can. Play. The band is basically The Roots augmented throughout by Leeds plus Wendy Melvoin (of the Revolution) and her sister Susannah Melvoin who was in the Family with Leeds. They are awesome.
Next, Captain Kirk Douglas’ solo in “Nothing Compares 2 U” was beautiful. It’s kinda crazy that that Prince asked to use Kirk’s beautiful guitar on the Fallon show then completely smashed the sh*t out of it (tossing a guitar into the atmosphere and then walking away is a Prince signature move). The craziest thing is that Kirk tweeted that the only reason he even had the guitar that at the studio that day was because he was rehearsing for the Prince Tribute (#weirdirony). In fairness to Prince (his people, definitely not him personally), actually arranged to have the axe fixed and did a great job.
The set list and show has Ahmir’s fingerprints all over it. He’s generally got the best taste in cover choices and played everything from the classic hits to unreleased gems like ‘Moonbeam Levels” which Elvis Costello came out for). He’s also got a serious knack for selecting guest musicians and knowing how best to utilize them. Evidence: that Superjam.
Before I get too deep into this – I need to take a moment to give a shout and thank the forces of nature that brought us to this show and put us in the best seats in the house. Very cool of you/them.
…And back to the music itself: This show provided some next level funk. The tunes were partially re-imagined in a really inventive way that blended elements of comedy, poetry and jazz into a funky, soulful stew. Case in point: “Little Red Corvette” – which was unreal and left me wondering ‘was that Sandra Bernhart?’ She started off with a spoken riff on NY, mentioned Korean salad bars and then exploded into the tune. Who is Sandra Bernhart exactly? No one is really sure.
Was that Booker T and 70+ kids doing ‘Raspberry Beret”?! Prince got a high ass voice and sometimes it takes nearly triple digit preteens to fill the vocal void.
Quickly realizing that this is the kind of show where there’s literally no time for one to go to the bathroom.
Next, DeVotchka crushed it and the Roots got a break.
Not sure who the guy was doing an amazing, slowed down take on “When Doves Cry”…
Another emotional moment came from mystery girl Kat Edmonson accompanied by only piano – There’s been some tear jerkers / emotional moments so far. This one was pretty serious.
Now they got the Blind Boys out with Fred Armisen on drums?! That’s weird. A lot of Bonnaroo vets on this.
Cope, Alice Smith (his wife) and Wendy on ‘Pop life’ – video
Damn I shoulda thought of doing this show at Bonnaroo. Now I’m pissed at myself!
Now Chris Rock is out and doing a take on “If I was Your Girlfriend”. Who thunk up that? I’d like to shake their hand.
Bettye Lavette’s out for ‘Kiss’ and her voice is outstanding and she’s clearly having fun atop an imaginative arrangement
Elvis Costello with the Roots and Maya Rudolph
Then to top it all off D’Angelo’s is now out singing and dancing and just generally killing it as he always does anytime I’ve seen him (and I’ve never even seen him with his own band!).
D’Angelo with with Wendy, Susanna, Maya Rudolph and Eric Leeds – “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night”
The benefit for children’s education ended with the band jamming and D fronting ‘1999’ with everybody in town back out with him for a majorly grand finale.
Chris Rock threw out the line: We raised a lot of money for Prince!