At Prince’s Grammy Tribute Concert, Old Friends Meet Rock and Soul Superstars
Foo Fighters, Beck, John Legend, Gary Clark Jr, St. Vincent and Mavis Staples join the Revolution and Sheila E. to honor musician at the Recording Academy’s latest Grammy Salute show
Prince’s death in 2016 spurred a global outpouring of sobering grief coupled with an attempt to celebrate his legacy via musical tributes. Four years later, fans and musicians continue to look for ways to properly send off the legendary musician. On Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Convention Center, modern guitar heroes and the Hall of Famer’s past collaborators coalesced for Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince, an all-star memorial featuring H.E.R., Chris Martin, Foo Fighters, Earth, Wind & Fire and John Legend.
Befitting for one of the greatest guitarists and showmen of all time, Prince’s tribute show was filled with guitar heroics. Gary Clark Jr. and St. Vincent shredded and grooved over Prince’s iconic lines, while the Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin’ performed her “Purple Rain” solo that evoked the same spine-chilling reaction that Prince himself caused in 1984. But like one would expect for a proper Prince tribute, exemplary guitar work was just one portion of the show, matched equally by light falsetto vocal tones, showman-caliber dance moves and vibrant shades of purple orange and blue across the whole venue throughout the concert.
The musician is the latest tribute in the Grammy Salute series, which has previously honored other musical icons such as the Beatles, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Longtime Prince percussionist Sheila E. served as the evening’s musical director, with the event showcasing her singing and dancing skills alongside her chops behind the drum kit. (The percussionist’s group served as the house band for the evening.) The show is slated to air in April near the four-year anniversary of Prince’s death.
Fans had already gotten a polarizing taste of the tribute during the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday evening, when Usher went through a medley of “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss” alongside FKA Twigs, who danced onstage but didn’t sing. (Twigs tweeted later that evening that she hadn’t been asked to sing but would’ve liked to, while Shelia E. told USA Today that Twigs was approached about singing but didn’t want to.)
Maya Rudolph hosted the star-studded tribute and performed as one half of Princess, the Prince cover band she started with singer-songwriter Gretchen Lieberum. “When it came to performing, Prince still had everyone beat,” Rudolph said to kick off the show. “Prince is music. To love Prince is to love music.”
Clark Jr. and H.E.R. traded blistering solos to start the night with an electric rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy,” while a blue suit-jacketed, shirtless John Legend crooned on “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Dave Grohl belted out heavy metal whelps as part of Foo Fighters’ cover of “Darling Nikki.” Before performing, Grohl reminisced with the crowd of his chance to jam with Prince years ago “in an empty arena playing ‘Whole Lotta Love,” a moment Grohl said was one of his greatest musical memories in his life.
Martin played a dainty piano alongside Bangles frontwoman Susanna Hoffs to sing a duet of “Manic Monday,” and Beck very aptly performed Prince’s trance-y hit “Raspberry Beret,” with his White Gibson Dove strapped in his brownish tan getup that looked straight out of the renaissance. The video’s famous animations played in the background, transitioning into a trippy sky by the end of Beck’s performance.
Miguel, Common, Juanes and Mavis Staples – the latter releasing two albums under Prince’s Paisley Park Records – also performed, with Staples singing a moving, yet reserved, “Purple Rain” with the Revolution.
As expected, the venue’s set design screamed Prince. Many songs were performed in front of a digital Minneapolis skyline, and the whole stage was decked out in purple. The lights on the convention center walls were made out to look like stars, and when the lights dimmed for showtime, the audience was in outer space.
The tribute was as much a TV show taping as it was a concert, causing the inevitable fits and starts as artists gamely tried to keep the momentum going to varying degrees of success. But as a fitting tribute to one of music’s most iconic artists, the show celebrated Prince and let some of his closest collaborators have another chance to remember him. Sheila E. became emotional as she capped off the night, noting this was the first time in a while that the Revolution played together. “This is family,” she said.