CHANHASSEN, MN – If this weekend is any indication, Prince’s legacy is assured. 2,000 Prince lovers came out to Minnesota to celebrate the man and to see where he lived, worked and sadly, died at the age of 57 last April.
Morris Hayes onstage at the Celebration.
“Being here with all the different members of the New Power Generation and the Revolution and seeing all this love and purple energy and all of the Purple fam, it’s so much love,” says NPG member Shelby J. who just released her debut, 10, named after the years she was in Prince’s band.
“Prince was our common denominator and we were all connected through him, so it helps us heal together.”
“Fams” as Prince referred to his fanbase, paid between $500 to $1,000 for four days of events at Paisley Park, with included daily performances, panels, and exclusive video footage. The weekend was a nod to the parties and performances Prince hosted there while he was alive, including a previous Celebration weekend held at Paisley Park June 7-13th, 2000.
Panels included one on the history of Paisley Park, which opened on September 11, 1987, a Live panel with sound engineers who talked about working Prince’s live performances, a Engineers panel with Susan Rogers, one of Prince’s best known recording engineers and others, a Fashion panel with hairdresser Kim Berry and Prince’s longtime tailor and designer, and a Photography panel that included actress Yara Shahidi’s father, Afshin Shahidi, who photographed him for the 3121 album cover.
Panelists talked about how demanding Prince was, but all of them said it was because he wanted them to be better and often saw things in them they didn’t see in themselves.
Red White, who ran Paisley Park for ten years, said that there were times when he wouldn’t get to go home for 3, 4 days, but if he had to do it all over again, he would.
Music wasn’t the only way Prince found members of his various bands. Kip Blackshire, who sang with the NPG, said that he joined the group after being invited out to Paisley by NPG member Morris Hayes to watch a rehearsal.
At that time, Paisley had a basketball hoop inside a rehearsal room and Blackshire was just messing around on it when he was interrupted by Prince. When he went to hand him the basketball, Prince ball checked him and the next day, after playing 2 on 2 basketball, Prince told him he’d heard him singing in the bathroom and wanted to hear more.
Funny, bittersweet and revealing stories abounded on the panels, but the performances and exclusive video footage showed the full scope of Prince’s genius. George Clinton kicked off the performances on Thursday. The Time, featuring three of their original members including Morris Day, and some talented new members, performed their classic hits.
The Revolution performed with Stokley Williams of Mint Condition doing lead on songs like “D.M.S.R.” A reconfigured NPG Band that included Andre Cymone and Blackshire, Shelby J. and Livv Warfield on vocals, musicians Hayes, Levi Seacer, Tony M. and model/dancer Prince homie, Damaris Lewis, who also hosted the event, ripped through classics from Sign of the Times and the Symbol and Diamonds and Pearls albums as well as deep NPG cuts like “Call The Law.”
Prince appeared via video magic during the show, first in audio added to the NPG performance of “Kiss” and through video of him playing Purple Rain from his 2011 tour. The effects made the footage seem eerie, though some fans loved it. It was the only off-putting note of the weekend, though.
Other Prince video performances were shown daily and included 45 minute clips from “The Piano and a Microphone” tour kickoff at Paisley Park on January 21, 2016, a show with 3rdEyeGirl in Amsterdam in 2014, the last tour date on the Purple Rain tour in Miami on April 7, 1985 and a Nude tour clip from Tokyo in August of 1990.
According to organizers, fans traveled from the U.S. and 28 countries including Vienna, Belgium, Australia, the U.K., and more. Joel Weinshanker, part of the Graceland group that is now also in partnership with Prince’s family to run Paisley Park, says that it will continue to thrive despite any of the estate’s ongoing legal issues.
Paisley Park is already, Weinshanker says, on track to become the second most visited music destination in the world after Graceland and plans are to ultimately expand Paisley exhibits into other venues. Next year’s Celebration is scheduled for April 19-22, though no programming info is available just yet.
Prince’s legacy will continue to thrive in other ways as well. Paisley Park’s director of archives, Angie Marchese, who spent 28 years at Graceland, says that they are still cataloging over 7,000 wardrobe items and photos. She says there is video footage of almost everything Prince ever did on tour and on television, including all of his interviews. Much of the footage is on VHS, so matching footage to contemporary HD quality will be a challenge, but it’s a veritable treasure trove for future documentarians and Marchese says they haven’t even found or logged all of the footage yet.
Now that the celebration is over, tours at Paisley, which includes rooms themed around various albums and eras as well as his studio, will resume. For more information, click HERE.
Check out more content celebrating the life of Prince HERE.
PHOTOS: Steve Parke for Paisley Park Studios