Two and a half years after the death of the Minneapolis kid, the show “4U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince” arrives in Paris in a lighter version. An homage piloted by Questlove that divides French fans.
Since Prince’s death on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57, initiatives have multiplied at a steady pace to maintain his memory. Among them, two quality recordings: the thrilling box set Purple Rain Deluxe – Expanded Edition , then Piano & A Microphone 1983 , thirty soothing piano-voice moments. Fans were also able to visit an exhibition in London, My Name is Prince , buy books, watch documentaries, attend tributes, see musicians on stage, including The New Power Generation (NPG) still on tour, waiting for the arrival in Paris of The Revolution, historical formation of the albums Purple Rain , Around the World in a Day and Parade . All in the mess since, inheritance taxes are not yet strictly fixed, everyone does what he wants in terms of motivations more or less mercantile.
Curiosity and perplexity
In this landscape continually soaked by a violet rain, the presentation in Paris of 4U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince awakens as much curiosity as perplexity. As its title indicates, the show consists mainly of a re-reading of its repertoire by a symphonic orchestra, a concept widely experienced in the field of pop, from Queen to Metallica. On paper, we are worried.
“We can make Prince’s repertoire of jazz, rock, hip-hop, samba” …
Yet some quality guarantees reassure. First, 4U is endorsed by The Prince Estate, the organization in which the deceased’s family – as much as possible – ensures the proper use of their inheritance. Then, Questlove takes over the artistic direction. The drummer at The Roots, a specialist in Prince’s work, says, “It’s very important to me, because I think Prince’s repertoire is one of the few in the history of music, which allows to be filtered through different genres. We can make versions of jazz, rock, hip-hop, samba, bossa nova … Since we also attach great importance to classical music, the replay of his repertoire according to this grid can demonstrate the richness of its interpretation and the depth of his compositions. “
A five-star cast … but absent
Regarding the choice of songs, the “curator” says he has drawn in the hits, the favorite songs of fans, the B faces, some more obscure references “and of course, Purple Rain”. As for the arrangements, they were designed with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, violinist already author of a symphonic reinterpretation of hip-hop productions of J Dilla, and with Brent Fisher, son of Clare Fisher that Prince regularly asked for his orchestrations of ropes. Pianist DD Jackson and bassist Anthony Tidd, regular contributors to The Roots, were also involved in the process. Beautiful people … who will not be on stage in Paris.
“The symphonic interpretation pushes the limits of Prince’s sound”
The European tour is provided by a group of four American musicians (violin, keyboards, bass, drums) and the fifty or so desks of the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, which have the task of interpreting the score of titles mainly from 1980s, while a giant screen displays footage of Prince’s career. 4U was created in early September in the United States. A member of the Purple OutCry fan site, Jetta Simpkins, along with 2,500 other spectators, attended the Charlotte, North Carolina concert. And she loved it: “First of all, for the fans, it’s a way to relieve their pain, and, for fans of classical, an opportunity to discover Prince’s music via a format that suits them better. Then, the symphonic interpretation pushes the limits of Prince’s sound, beyond what many people imagine. “She continues,” The Prince fans were accustomed to follow his musical adventures when he was alive. You knew that he would take different and original directions. This show is only a new facet. Have you ever wondered how such and such a song, whose melody you particularly like, would ring without words? Well, it’s time to find out. I could say it’s Prince reinvented, but it’s not really that. It’s Prince. “Finally,” The worst time is when you realize that is there before a symphony orchestra, because he is no longer with us. “
The French public hangs out
The enthusiasm of Questlove and American fans has not won the French public yet. While the date of December 13 at the Royal Albert Hall in London is already sold-out, the Palais des Sports struggles to sell seats between € 45.50 and € 95, despite an intense advertising campaign. Founder of Schkopi, reference site of French fans for almost twenty years, Raphael “Raphy” Melki is waiting to see, while he is a partner of the event: “At best, it’s a good surprise,” he says lamenting that this tribute – like the others – can be summed up practically in the albums between 1999 and Lovesexy , even if he is delighted by the presence of rarities like All My Dreams , an unpublished period Sign o ‘the Times . Fine connoisseur (he saw Prince hundred and eight times in concert), he observes that only Enghien’s casino programmed The NPG last year and that the date of The Revolution at La Cigale, February 11, n is still not complete, perhaps because of a split in the French-speaking public: “On the one hand, there are those who still do not recover from the death of Prince and who need this kind of palliative to find a little happiness that has been taken away from them. It’s their Subutex night. On the other hand, there are those who are still unable to listen to his music played by others, and so will not go to a show like 4U . I am one of those who have been missing an arm for two years, while thinking that it is necessary that Prince’s music continue to live. “
Last April, “Raphy” was in Minneapolis to attend Prince’s premiere : Live on the Big Screen , a show in which a band, whose musicians all played with the star, accompanies the singer’s voice appearing on a screen, filmed during several concerts among the last tours. A creation seems to be successful, which could well arrive in Europe in 2019. A new appointment for music lovers inconsolable, in the expectation that one day exhumed thousands of new titles that recorded by Prince during four decades, still sleep in a chest. This treasure, which Questlove and a pair of specialists are currently searching, will revive the flame more surely than any imaginable tribute.