As a person that loves all music tied to Prince, I have never seen an entire event devoted to the music he wrote for himself, performed by anyone other than him and his bands. That changed last night when I attended my first Prince tribute.
Saturday was the 2nd night of the 3 night series celebrating Prince’s birth month: Controversy, The B-Sides & Deep Cuts, and, MADHOUSE: The Genius of Prince’s Jazz. While other Libro Musica contributors have previously been exposed to the Next Level Events / Venkman’s Prince tribute experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect — but I was pleasantly surprised.
This was not a tribute to Disc 3 of The Hits/The B-Sides album released in 1993, in fact only three songs were played that had been included in that collection — “Erotic City“, “17 Days“, and “She’s Always In My Hair“. This was also not a tribute exclusively to Prince’s b-sides and deep cuts.
There was a mix of both, along with a healthy dose of Prince’s hits, plus a handful of little-heard but extremely recognizable favorites off his hit albums (such as “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker“, and “The Cross“, off Sign ‘O the Times, 1987), and many Prince-confetti jam session moments.
Prince’s B-Sides & Deep Cuts Tribute | The Band
- Jill Rock Jones, vocals
- Maya Neiada, vocals
- Heratio Valentino, vocals
- Lola Cole, guest backing vocals (a Libro Musica spotlit artist)
- David Whild, guitar
- Allen Smith, keyboards
- Larry Newson, drums
- Khari Cabral Simmons, bass / Musical Director
I decided to play my own version of the classic game, “Name That Tune,” while the band performed. I wanted to see if they knew their music. They did, and then some, though there were multiple times where the singers — in particular, one — did not have the lyrics down. The hardcore Prince audience sang along through and past these moments, going along for the ride, especially when fun, clever, shifts of direction were intentional. Yet, it’s not the usual experience to know lyrics better than a performer and that can’t be swept under the rug. Not not awkward.
While I enjoyed the night overall, there was a standout performance — one that had many audience members losing their minds. The performance that had me looking at my friends and saying, “She did THAT!” was “She’s Always In My Hair”, sung by Jill Rock Jones, with her earthy, soulful voice.
She has a new fan: Me.
So while there weren’t as many b-sides as I’d hoped for and cuts that went as deep as I’d hoped for, overall it was a very enjoyable setlist. While it’s been noted that these are the last Prince events this year at Venkman’s, I am looking forward to hearing this crew many times over.
For my own selfish reasons, I would love to hear the Batman soundtrack performed (hint, hint, Craig M. Garrett and Khari Cabral Simmons). But, last night was an immense night of music…
Prince’s B-Sides & Deep Cuts Tribute | Set List
- 17 days, b-side to “When Doves Cry“, Purple Rain (1984)
- Elephants and Flowers, a rock version, from the Graffiti Bridge (1990)
- the above included a chorus from “Electric Chair“, Batman (1989)
- Love 2 the 9’s, Love Symbol (1992)
- Calhoun Square, Crystal Ball (1986)
- Noon Rendezvous, from Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life (1984)
- The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, Sign O’ the Times (1987)
- the above included a touch of “It“, also off Sign O’ the Times
- Mutiny, The Family’s The Family (1985)
- the above included hints of “Baby I’m a Star“, Purple Rain, “Controversy“, Controversy, 1999, 1999
- Sex Shooter, from Apollonia 6’s Apollonia 6 (1984)
- DMSR, 1999 (1982)
- Kiss, Parade (1986)
- Another Love, from 3rdeyegirl’s PlectrumElectrum (2014)
- the above included a little “Little Red Corvette“, 1999
- Moonbeam Levels, recorded in 1982, but released on the posthumous release, 4Ever (2016)
- She’s Always In My Hair, b-side to “Raspberry Beret“, Around the World In a Day (1985)
- Erotic City, b-side to “Let’s Go Crazy“, Purple Rain
- Let’s Work, Controversy (1981)
- When Doves Cry, Purple Rain
- 1999, 1999
- Glam Slam, LoveSexy (1988)
- Forever in My Life, Sign O’ the Times
- Pop Life, Around the World in A Day
- Diamonds and Pearls, Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
- The Cross, Sign O’ The Times
- Darling Nikki, Purple Rain
- Little Red Corvette, 1999
- Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain
- Thieves In the Temple, chorus sung a capella, from Graffiti Bridge
- 7, chorus sung a capella, from Love Symbol
The 1st Night of the 3-Night Event & the NLE Formula
We weren’t able to attend Friday’s event, Controversy, nor tonight’s MADHOUSE: The Genius of Prince’s Jazz, however Next Level Events did post video of the entire night on their Facebook event page. It’s worth a listen. Though uneven, the great moments are great. And like their previous Prince tributes as I understand them, and this Saturday night event I’ve attended, the title of the event relates somewhat loosely to the ultimate content of the evening.
The band started out with the songs of the Controversy album as expected, but even within that preliminary set section there was creativity — Maya Neiada’s great medley “Sexuality / Get Off” as an example — and the singers shifted “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” from the Ronald Reagan political plea, to the unfortunately ironic, but jamming, “Donnie, Talk to Russia.”
By the way, it must be mentioned that Jill Scott Jones KILLED “Do Me Baby”, and Maya and Horatio Valentino’s “Let’s Work” was superb.
Then after completing the album’s cuts, they attacked an enormous amount of additional Prince songs. No one wanted it to end, and it didn’t, not until there was simply no more steam left at all. The voluminous extra performances past Controversy‘s eight songs included:
- Dirty Mind, Dirty Mind (1980)
- When You Were Mine, Dirty Mind (also sang by Cyndi Lauper, and featured during NLE’s Prince tribute event, Ladies of Prince)
- Partyup, Dirty Mind
- Raspberry Beret/Pop Life, rock fun versions, Around the World In a Day
- 1999 / (the rap from) Lady Cab Driver, 1999
- Housequake, Sign O’ the Times
- Sex Shooter, from Apollonia 6’s Apollonia 6 (featured during Ladies of Prince)
- Erotic City, b-side to “Let’s Go Crazy”, Purple Rain
- Thieves In the Temple, from Graffiti Bridge (with a hint of Morris Day and The Time’s “Jungle Love“)
- I Wanna Be Your Lover, Prince (1979)
- Girls & Boys, Parade
- (an oddly timed piece of) The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, Sign O’ the Times
- Sign O’ the Times, Sign O’ the Times
- Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain
- (a hint of) Darling Nikki, Purple Rain
- The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, Sign O’ the Times
- Darling Nikki, Purple Rain
- 777-9311, from The Time’s What Time Is It?
So really, NLE’s Prince tribute events are in large measure improvisational jam-session dance parties. I’m not complaining. Yet, in addition some day, if they’re willing, I love to see a night of truly all b-sides and really… really… deeeeeep cuts. In the meantime, I’ll look out for the future’s opportunities to dance along, and to sing along, with Next Level Events.
[Photography provided by Libro Musica photologist, Kari Leigh London]