Is it the singer, or is it the song?
That was the question on the minds of both the eclectic cadre of performers and the sold out crowd at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Thursday night for a benefit show titled “The Music of Prince.” A bevy of the Purple One’s contemporaries and followers joined together to genuflect at his funky altar, with the proceeds from the show going to a number of music-related charities for kids.
This was the ninth year for the series, and in the past, several of the tribute centerpieces—including Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young—made surprise appearances at their own shows. Prince himself did not materialize last night, but there were so many fascinating interpretations of his work and explorations of his unique charisma that it was almost better without his all-seeing eyes watching over the proceedings.
The evening began relatively tamely, with the Waterboys busting out a faithful rendition of “Purple Rain.” Though he bears no physical or aesthetic resemblance to Prince, singer Mike Scott managed to nail the same kind of passion and pathos the song’s creator first sent coursing through its veins nearly 30 years ago. It was almost too perfect, and it set an uncomfortable tone early in the evening: Would this simply be two and a half hours of extremely well-executed Prince karaoke, overseen by house band the Roots?
Luckily, subsequent performers took many more liberties with Prince’s songs, and while that led to some awkward moments, their ingenuity was generally rewarded. READ FULL STORY