As soon as he uttered the famous words, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” you knew this show was going to be a special one.
Never known as an artist that would do much in the way of looking back at the past or being too nostalgic, Prince nevertheless gave a stirring, memorable performance of some of his biggest songs at the 20th Essence Music Festival at the New Orleans Superdome on Friday, July 4. Beginning with a heavy funk-laden, Hendrix-influenced version of “Let’s Go Crazy”, Prince closed out the second night of the festival with an epic, transcendent stage show after being perfectly set up by performances from one artist he’s greatly influence, R&B electric lady and futurist Janelle Monae, and another that clearly influenced him with disco/dance music legend and hit maker extraordinaire Nile Rodgers and Chic. Previous to his set, Prince came out on both Janelle and Nile’s sets to play back up guitar momentarily, with the entire Superdome crowd going bananas both times and getting a glimpse of what the show would entail.
Backed by his all-female band 3rdEyeGirl, Prince took the stage and played with a reckless abandon and raw power, yet an extremely meticulous precision that many of his most dedicated fans probably hadn’t seen in years from him, or any artist for that matter. A capacity crowd at the Superdome was treated to some of the biggest hits in the Prince catalog, from “Let’s Go Crazy” to “Raspberry Beret” to “ When Doves Cry” to “You’ve Got The Look” to “Kiss”, each containing elements of classic and mysterious Prince Rogers Nelson swagger and curiosity, but also updated with lots of new age funk, rock and jazz. Getting more into the performance himself, Prince at one point braggadociously but accurately implored with the crowd, “Yall know how many hits I got??” to which the crowd yelled at the top of their lungs for even more music. And did they ever get it.
One of the highlights of the show was a short yet sweet tribute to the late Michael Jackson when Prince and 3rdEyeGirl played a rendition of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”. Music history always pits Prince and the King of Pop against each other as rivals during their respective heydays in the 1980s, but at least for one moment, Prince displayed that they were instead musical brothers that respected each one another’s craft. Other songs covered by the Purple One included the Morris Day and The Time classics “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” and Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life”. Further proof that when it comes to some of the greatest performers, singers and songwriters of all time, Prince stands head and shoulders above many because of the fact that he not only outdid and outlasted many of his contemporaries, he actually created his own musical competition.
During his performance of the classic track about finding and being one’s natural self with “Controversy”, Prince yelled for all the lights in the Superdome to be turned off and instructed the crowd to lift their cell phones in the air and wave them from side to side, created a semi-laser light show and bringing the crowd right along with him in a classic moment that was not only a way to get the crowd involved, but was also part of a magical and musical tapestry that was Prince and 3rdEyeGirl’s performance on the evening of July 4.
And when all was said and done and Prince left the stage, the crowd of course began a stadium chant for him and his band to do his most famous ballad, “Purple Rain”, to which he mightily obliged. As the famous beginning guitar riff wafted through the stadium speakers, an emotional and heartstring tugging rendition of the song took hold of the crowd in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the album of the same name. Releasing a stream of purple confetti balloons to the crowd in celebration of them staying with him for nearly two hours, Prince then left the stage, only to come back and continue playing more hits and creating more memories for the Superdome crowd, reportedly until 2 a.m.
It’s safe to say that with all of the hype and promotion leading up to the 20th Annual Essence Music Festival performance, Prince and 3rdEyeGirl did everything but disappoint. No doubt that this show will be extremely difficult for Essence to top next year and in the future, because Prince left more than a few traces of Purple on the hearts and minds of New Orleans music fans for years to come.Google+