When attempting to pay tribute to Prince, one of the most creative musical artists of our time, it only makes sense to do so in the most unexpected way possible.
A master at recreating himself as a performer throughout his career, the “Purple Rain” star would have approved of 4U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince, a tour featuring a production of the late rocker’s catalog that comes to Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater Thursday, Sept. 13.
By the time the tour rolls into North Carolina — it’s slated to take the stage in Charlotte Sept. 12 and Asheville Sept. 14 — the production will have only happened four times, so there’s little for anyone to go on when it comes to prognosticating what the show actually encompasses from Prince’s storied career. That being said, there are a few interesting things we’ve gleaned from press releases that point toward Thursday being a night to remember for folks who remember when the song “1999” referred to the future.
It’s promoted by industry heavyweights
While Live Nation Urban and TCG Entertainment are two of the heavyweights in the world of concert promoting, Live Nation Urban may be the most interesting factor to the entire production. An arm of Live Nation that is a little more than a year old, Urban was formed from a partnership between LN and Shawn Gee, manager for such acts as The Roots and Jill Scott. The venture is an attempt to bridge the gap in hip-hop and R&B demand online and the live performance opportunities available to those same artists. At the time of Live Nation Urban’s launch, Gee told Billboard, “If you’re an alt-rock or EDM act, you can pretty much set up 20-30 festivals to play. But you can name the number of [urban-centric] festivals on one hand.”
What audiences will see
There may be some potential audience members confused about the actual setup of the 4U experience, so to clarify: it is a full symphony orchestra, playing alongside a live band with vocalists.
This may be the area where TCG Entertainment lends its biggest strength, as they have revolutionized the concept of symphonies accompanying acts that most wouldn’t immediately associate with the French horn. A Night of Symphonic Rock featured such classic rock luminaries as Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Teri Nunn of Berlin, while A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop featuring Wyclef Jean was the first large scale tour to meld the worlds of hip-hop with orchestral music.
The Prince Estate
If there was one thing that Prince wasn’t known for during his lifetime, it was acting nonchalant toward his catalog of work. Upon his death, the vault where the artist kept his unreleased work was inaccessible to the actual estate, as Prince made sure that he was the only person to know the door’s key code. Upon drilling it open, the estate’s archivist reportedly found enough songs inside to release a new album every year for a century.
The show promises to draw from all ends of Prince’s vast catalog, as the press release timed for the announcement of the tour highlighted the inclusion of “many of his hits, which captivated generations of fans, alongside lesser-known gems.” Both the set list and orchestral arrangements were curated by Questlove, drummer and joint frontman for The Roots, who brought his bonafides to the job. At the time of Prince’s death, the musician answered a random fan’s Facebook post asking for opinions on the late singer’s albums with a complete album-by-album guide to the 20 records made for Warner Brothers, which ran for thousands of words.
In other words, don’t just expect this to be the “Purple Rain” soundtrack with “Little Red Corvette” thrown in for variety.