Photos by Sneakshot. Please Support.
In some way, shape, or form, Prince has influenced just about everyone in some capacity. Whether you are an aspiring musician, a free thinker, sexually ambivalent, or all of the above, Prince has provided you with the soundtrack to a large chunk of your life. Who better to give a fitting tribute to the man but Me’Shell Ndegeocello. Her virtuostic shape-shifting puts her right on par with Prince, but make no mistake about it: she captured the essence of his songs fully, but had no intentions of being a copycat.
The DMV’s own Allison Carney opened the show with her sweet yet seductive concoction of hip-hop, soul, and jazz. Rocking her trademark side-swiped waist-length braided ponytail, she re-imagined hits like “Heartbeat,” “Don’t Let Go (Love),” and “It Takes Two.” Her standout originals include the beautiful ballad “Shooting Star” and “Japanese Candy,” a song about her lady bits: sweet, tasty, and hard to get.
Lesbopalooza ensued whilst waiting for Me’Shell. Props to DJ Jahsonic for rockin the soul/R&B classics until she came on. We were waiting in anticipation for Me’Shell, but I was secretly wishing that he coulda kept spinning for a little while longer.
As Me’Shell and her band took to the stage, I overheard the lady to my left exclaim “Me’Shell ‘bout to funk it up!!!” My girl Adrienne, standing to my right, just squealed with delight. She opened with “Pop Life,” and we all sang along, her band totally in the pocket with its go-go attitude and exaggerated bass line. The obscure B-side “Irresistable Bitch” sent many lesbians into a tizzy. I pretended that this song belonged to Me’Shell and not Prince, because she owned it.
Throughout this tribute to end all tributes, the music had an effect akin to opium smoke: thick, powerful, intoxicating, and overwhelming. The band played 14 songs that mostly came from some of Prince’s most seminal albums: Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, and Purple Rain. This was an exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction gone completely right.
For instance, the original “Lady Cab Driver” was already oxymoronic with its carefree funk bop and angst-filled lyrics, but Me’Shell turned it into a sensitive ballad, wringing every last drop of yearning out of the song. And because she was the one singing it, the moment becomes special and transcendent. Just before the song ends, the band kicked it into overdrive and Me’Shell finally picks up her electric bass, taking the song to a nirvana it never knew it had.
From there, the band goes into an acoustic version of “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Prince’s version had him using his upper octave range. If his was at about 7, Me’Shell brought it down to about a 2, ironically injecting it with a dose of masculinity, and just a lil’ hint of sexy stalkerism.
The band continued to keep it in the pocket, rocking out on “Dirty Mind” and riding the furiously fast funk groove of “All The Critics Love U In New York.” The latter has Me’Shell reciting the lyrics like poetry, and the crowd is in total shock at the adeptness with which the band plays, looking as if the stankiness was too much to bear. My girl Adrienne notified me that there was a little Flash Mob going on, and sure enough, I looked up to see the flailing arms of a few lesbionic patrons looking as if they were auditioning for Prince’s or Me’Shell’s next video.
To my surprise and delight, the band pulled out The Time’s “777-9311,” which ended up out-funking the original, followed by an acoustic rendering of “I Would Die 4 U,” which Me’Shell said reminded her of Sunday school music…pause… They ended the set with a punked-out version of “Let’s Go Crazy,” which featured some of the most beautiful, erotically charged drumming that I have ever seen. The orgasmic expression on the drummer’s face, for the entire length of the performance, was priceless. The crowd indeed went crazy as the band indulged in their greatness.
And as the rain fell outside the State Theater, the band came back for an encore, performing a Lilith Fair-inspired re-interpretation of, you guessed it, “Purple Rain.” I couldn’t help but watch two lesbians grind and grope on each other, and I was gingerly reminded by my girl Adrienne that the show was up on the stage, to which I replied in my best ‘Dwayne from What’s Happening’ voice, “nuh uhhh!”
As the people were exiting the theater, all the power and lights went out, and I thought to myself, that’s how you end a Prince tribute.