The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Music Live: Prince Tribute

By Thomas Fawcett, March 18, 2017, 10:50am, SXSW

If, like most of us, you didn’t make it into Prince’s marathon set at La Zona Rosa during SXSW 2013 – and you weren’t snacking inside IHOP when he popped in for a late-night breakfast – Friday night at Auditorium Shores may be the closest many of us will ever come to seeing the late Minneapolis legend perform live.

Free and open to the public, the tribute began with clips from a forthcoming documentary on Prince before a band led by Dez Dickerson, who played with the celebrant from 1979-83 and handled the bulk of vocals, launched into “Let’s Go Crazy.” A guitar lover’s dream, five axemen fronted the stage with a mess of effects pedals. Among them was Micki Free of Shalamar, sporting more turquoise than a trading post, and André Cymone, who rocked the Revolution 1979-81.

While Wyclef Jean got top pre-show billing, he joined on guitar for only two songs and remained mostly parked behind the congas for the night. The Fugees rap tycoon didn’t sing a single tune or even speak into a microphone until busting a trilingual freestyle to start the first encore. On one hand, it makes perfect sense for Clef to take a backseat to Prince’s closest collaborators, but to say the Haitian MC went underutilized constitutes laughable understatement.

“We’re here for one reason and one reason only,” Dickerson declared. “To make America funky again!”

“When You Were Mine” and “Uptown” from 1980’s Dirty Mind prepped “Controversy” and the joyride of “Little Red Corvette.” Cell phone flashlights dotted the sky and fans swayed arm-in-arm as closer “Purple Rain” poured into a sing-along. Two curtain calls brought the party, first like it’s “1999” and a second time to “Partyup.”

Cymone remembered giving Prince his first guitar when they were both 7 and got choked up talking about his old friend.

“Can’t nobody play it like him, nobody. He does what he does at a level that very few could ever do. I’ve known that brother all my life and he’s always here in my heart.”

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