It’s been nearly a month since Prince passed away. Like many of his fans, over the past several weeks I’ve been listening to Prince’s music non-stop, reading magazines and books about his remarkable career and celebrating his unparalleled musical journey.
I was fortunate enough to see The Purple One live on his Musicology tour in Philadelphia in August 2004. My cousin, Chris, and I were 10 rows from the stage, Prince was in the round and seeing him perform “Purple Rain,” as well as 27 other classic cuts, was an incredible experience. It was the only time I saw him live but I’m glad I made the time to see him. Prince was a one-of-a-kind talent that was best experienced live.
Across the world there have been numerous events held in honor of Prince since his passing. Over the past couple weeks, I attended three terrific Prince tributes here in Philadelphia. The first was a screening of Purple Rain at the Prince Theater – cleverly titled “Prince at the Prince.” The second was a special Prince Tribute concert performed by Philadelphia’s greatest drag queen, Martha Graham Cracker. And lastly, I went to the “Reelblack Tribute to Prince Rogers Nelson,” where they showed a two-hour video compilation of classic Prince performances throughout his career. “Prince at the Prince” was a terrific event hosted by the Philadelphia Film Society. Fans attending the show had an opportunity to collectively grieve over the loss of a musical icon who touched all of our lives in some way. When the movie started, a thunderous round of applause erupted from the crowd and as it washed over me I got chills. It was an emotionally charged evening, right from the opening credits. Throughout the movie fans were singing along, responding to classic moments and just having a good time. During the classic scene were Prince and his band perform “Purple Rain,” people had lighters in the air and were singing at the top of their voices. As everyone, including myself, sang the final notes of the song over Prince’s wailing guitar, I was overcome with emotion and got choked up. It was a beautiful moment of which I’m glad to have been a part and a testament to the unifying power of music.Before the Purple Rain screening I had the opportunity to meet the best-dressed fan in the building, Kelly, whom I had to get a photo with (see above). While I was merely wearing a purple sweater, she was purple from head to toe, with a glittery Prince mask and feather to boot. Meeting fans like Kelly is another reason why these tributes are special – they give people a way to connect over something that makes everyone happy: music.
After the Purple Rain screening, a great cover band – American Deluxe – hit the stage to play a handful of Prince songs, including “The Beautiful Ones” (see above) and “Purple Rain” (see below).
These guys did a fantastic job. By the end of their performance, the stage was full of fans dancing to a myriad of Prince hits, as you can see in my Instagram video below.
A week after “Prince at the Prince” my fiancé and I attended Martha Graham Cracker’s Prince tribute, which sold out within hours of it going on sale. For those that don’t know who Martha Graham Cracker is, check out this profile of her in Philadelphia Magazine, as well as the numerous videos of her performing that I’ve included in this post. Johny Showcase kicked things off, with amazingly soulful (and humorous) renditions of Prince classics. He set the mood for what was a fun-filled night of exceptional music and emotionally-charged performances.
Martha started off her set with “When You Were Mine” followed by “Starfish and Coffee” and an unrehearsed and abridged version of “Pop Life.”
Things quickly heated up when Martha got on top of the bar to belt out “Darling Nikki,” followed by “Controversy,” “Kiss,” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (as a duet with Johnny Showcase).
Martha was then joined on stage by Hot ‘n’ Crusty for “Take Me With U” from Purple Rain. The set was rounded out by “Baby I’m A Star,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Shortly after the terrific Martha Graham Cracker tribute, I attended the “Reelblack Tribute to Prince Rogers Nelson.” This laid-back event consisted of a two-hour fan-made video compilation of Prince performances. Nearly all periods of Prince’s career were touched on in this video presentation and the 200 fans in attendance for both screenings – they had to had a second screening because of public demand – left the West Philly venue singing and smiling.
All three of these events were immensely enjoyable. They provided me with an opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of Prince with hundreds of fans. While Prince may be gone, his music and influence will live on for generations to come. His purple reign is one that will never be duplicated.