Fans remember Prince on opening day of Celebration 2017 at Paisley Park
CHANHASSEN, Minn.—While there were boxes of tissue on hand Thursday, opening day of Celebration 2017 at Prince's Paisley Park studio/residence in Chanhassen was less about mourning and more about remembering the immense talent of the Minneapolis native who died onsite of an accidental fentanyl overdose one year ago Friday.
Damaris Lewis, a backup dancer for Prince who served as the event's host, opened by telling the crowd she was going to ask for a moment of silence, but instead implored them to start the day with applause. Some 2,000 fans from around the world paid $500 to $1,000 to attend the four-day Celebration, which was modeled after a similar event in 2000 when Prince opened his studio for a weeklong party.
The day's surprise musical guest — Rock and Roll Hall of Famer George Clinton and his band Parliament-Funkadelic — helped keep spirits high with the sort of high-energy, jam-heavy performance the Purple One himself would have adored.
The event is structured in two five-hour shifts, with the same film screenings, panel discussions and concerts held twice each day. It allowed Paisley Park to sell more tickets while maintaining crowd control, although it did mean half the audience saw Clinton's first concert at the decidedly unrocking time of 2:30 p.m. "How you guys doing out there tonight," the 75-year-old Clinton shouted, before chuckling and adding "this afternoon, I mean."
A "purple party" is what Lewis called Celebration during her opening comments. "It is up to us to continue his legacy," she said. "If you love Prince, you are part of that legacy."
A screening of the final 45 minutes of a Prince concert from Amsterdam in May 2014 followed. Much has been made about Prince's legendary vault of unreleased songs and live performances, and the high quality of the Amsterdam footage kept the crowd transfixed. Professionally shot and edited — and remarkably intimate — the film started with "Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)" and "Pretzelbodylogic," with Prince backed by his final band, 3rdEyeGirl.
But then Prince took the stage alone for what felt like a trial run for his final solo piano concerts before his death. He performed a medley that included "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore," "Condition of the Heart," "Diamonds and Pearls" and "The Beautiful Ones." Prince asked the Amsterdam crowd to sing along and the Paisley Park audience followed suit.
Prince also reinforced the notion that he wanted Paisley Park to be a gathering place for his fans when he invited those in Amsterdam to come to his home: "We sing together, we dine together, we love each other." He wrapped with an emotional "Purple Rain" and earned cheers and a standing ovation from those watching him on screen.
From there, the large group divided into numerous smaller ones, with some taking tours of the studio and others sitting in on panel discussions featuring Prince associates and members of his New Power Generation band.
Thursday's musical guest was left unannounced, and Clinton turned out to be a fine addition to the rest of the Celebration lineup, which includes the Revolution on Friday, Morris Day and the Time on Saturday and New Power Generation and 3rdEyeGirl on Sunday. Clinton was an early supporter of Prince when he emerged in the late '70s, and Prince ended up casting Clinton in his 1990 film "Graffitti Bridge," releasing a pair of Clinton's albums on his Paisley Park label and continuing to collaborate with him over the years.
Clinton didn't speak about Prince from the stage, instead keeping the focus on his own funk, including "Atomic Dog," "I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody's Got a Thing," "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Flashlight." A colorful array of about 20 musicians, backup dancers and rappers joined Clinton for the raucous, joyful performance.