CHANHASSEN, Minn. — Grief may be the most punishing human emotion.
It attacks you when you’re not looking, grabbing hold and pulling you into complete emotional darkness. It doesn’t give any warning and it doesn’t vacate without an immense battle. But, for fans of musical superstar Prince Rogers Nelson, who died a year ago Friday of an accidental fentanyl overdose at age 57, grieving comes easier in numbers.
Roughly 2,000 dedicated Prince followers from across the globe walked the remarkable halls of Paisley Park Friday as part of the sold out, four-day Celebration 2017. At $500 to $1,000 a ticket, fans who made it through the memorabilia-laden atrium of the Prince home-turned-museum and into the giant soundstage room were witnesses to panel discussions and performances from the star’s closest collaborators.
“We’re all here for the same reason this weekend,” said Wendy Melvoin, guitarist for longtime Prince backing group The Revolution, during an afternoon panel. “We all held onto this comet that was fast … we all held on tight and he’s gone now. Now it’s our job to land the comet … we’re grieving right along with you.”
Addressing onlookers with other Revolution members, discussion steered from grieving The Purple One to less sobering topics. Melvoin reflected on the legacy of the Purple Rain film, saying it “took the punk scene and new wave scene and made it beautiful.” The Revolution keyboardist Doctor Fink reflected humorously on a time when he and Prince were arrested on a plane in Memphis for stealing a bullhorn as a prank.
On a serious note, the band ensured Prince’s legacy would continue with the help of his followers.
“They still celebrate Mozart in Vienna,” said Bobby Z, The Revolution drummer. “This will be happening 100 or 200 years from now.
The Revolution united for a roughly hour-long show at Paisley Park Friday; surprisingly, it was the group’s first at the complex. The performance proved the emotional high point during Friday’s entertainment. Fans clapped, shouted and showed unadulterated elation while the band tore through 14 tracks of iconic 1980s Prince numbers such as 1999, Let’s Go Crazy, Raspberry Beret and America.
“Now no one could sing this like him, right?,” Melvoin said. “You’re going to sing this with me.”
Members of the crowd unapologetically wept while belting the 1984 song’s swaying chorus. Included in the tearful audience was Patrice Files, of Detroit. Files said she can feel Prince’s spirit each time the track is played.
“We, as his purple family, had to be here today,” Files said. “We all need to find some release … and let go.”
Also featured at Celebration 2017 Friday was an exclusive 45-minute viewing of Prince during his last Paisley Park performance, Jan. 21, 2016, as part of the Piano & A Microphone tour. The video featured a playful, theatrical Prince, who magically delivered stripped down versions of I Wanna Be Your Lover and Something In The Water. Tammy Sharpe, of Brooklyn, said she traveled to Paisley Park in 2016 to see the intimate tour.
“It’s surreal to be here on this day,” Sharpe, who returned to suburban Minneapolis for Celebration 2017, said. “We still can’t wrap our minds around it.”
While Sharpe and the rest of Prince nation may never fully recover from the idol’s sudden death, they’ll be able to continue grieving at Paisley Park this weekend. Celeration 2017 continues Saturday with a performance from Morris Day and The Time, a Minneapolis-born funk group known as longtime members of Prince’s inner circle. The event wraps Sunday with appearances from Prince backing groups New Power Generation and 3RDEYEGIRL.