Inside Paisley Park on the anniversary of Prince’s death

Fans head into Paisley Park at the start of the four-day Celebration 2017. Photo courtesy of Paisley Park Studios/Steve Parke

CHANHASSEN, Minn.  – Of all the eerily beautiful moments while spending time in Paisley Park on the anniversary eve of Prince’s death, the most bittersweet was provided by the man himself.

On a massive screen inside the massive soundstage Prince frequently used for performances, a clip played from a 2014 concert with 3rdeyegirl.

George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic rock the soundstage. Photo courtesy of Paisley Park Studios/Steve Parke

As he steered “Purple Rain” through its moody intervals, Prince paused to tell the crowd, “If you come to my house, you have to take care of it…at Paisley Park we sing together, we dine together, we love together.”

It was a fitting comment at that moment, with close to 1,000 fans from across the world assembled in the Paisley Park audience, all staring in the dark at video footage of the performer who died on April 21, 2016 just a few hundred feet from that screen, and exactly a week after thrilling crowds at the Fox Theatre at what became his final concerts.

While the mourning process continues for many – Matt Fink of The Revolution said earlier in the week that he still grieves for his former boss – this weekend at Paisley Park is supposed to be about rejoicing in Prince’s musical contributions and preserving his legacy.

The four-day Celebration 2017 kicked off Thursday with waves of fans who spent between $500 and $1,000 to bask in the Prince-ly aura, wander through parts of the Paisley compound (the Atrium houses Prince’s ashes – out of reach – in a “symbol”-shaped urn, guitar displays and, on the second floor, his white doves in a white cage), attend panels with members of The New Power Generation and soak in a surprise performance from George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.

A gambler would have lost some cash that Clinton, at 75, would outlive Prince, who died at 57.

The legendary George Clinton. Photo: Paisley Park/Steve Parke

But there Clinton was, a tamer, less-colorful, shorter-haired version, barking through “Atomic Dog” in a silver-sequined military hat and long silver jacket, a dozen or so musicians in varying degrees of costumes whirling around him.

For more than an hour, Clinton and P-Funk bulldozed through one seamless groove that included “Get Up for the Down Stroke,” “Flashlight” and “Give Up the Funk.” Clinton alternately led the adrenalized crowd through arm calisthenics and slumped in a purple chair in front of the drum riser, content to direct his ace musicians as they paid tribute to Prince with their funk-steeped rock ‘n’ roll.

The afternoon concert – which would be repeated for a second round of Celebration attendees that evening – was the first live music event at Paisley Park since Prince’s death.

Because cell phones are prohibited at Paisley Park – a Prince rule even before his death – and were placed in Yondr pouches upon entry into the building, fans could experience the music uninterrupted by camera screens and glaring Facebook pages.

Damaris Lewis, who joined New Power Generation in 2012 as a dancer, served as lithe hostess and told the assembled throng after P-Funk’s set, “Live music. Real musicians. Real music. Nothing like it.”

NPG members members Levi Seacer, Morris Hayes, Tony Mosley and Damon Dickson. Photo: Paisley Park/Steve Parke

Inside the soundstage, a giant lighted Prince symbol hung from a back corner, while a banner of Prince’s face, silhouetted against a moon, looked toward the stage, his guidance omnipresent.

That same stage was the setting for a panel featuring NPG members Levi Seacer, Morris Hayes, Tony Mosley and Damon Dickson, who offered hilarious accounts of their time with Prince, as well as stories about his notorious work ethic.

“We would pull three-day straight sessions,” Hayes said. “He was so dedicated to the creation process. If you start it, finish it.”

Throughout the weekend, Celebration 2017 will present performances and panels from The Revolution, Morris Day & The Time, 3rdeyegirl and Paisley Park mainstays.

If there was a message to receive on Thursday, Seacer provided it: “Prince was all about raising the bar.”

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