A lifetime of watching Prince taught Marshall Charloff one thing above all others about channeling him in a tribute band: “In a word, ‘passion,’” Charloff said.
“He was energy. He was music. His passion about musicianship and music was almost beyond mortal,” Charloff said in a phone interview last week.
As leader of The Purple Xperience, it’s Charloff’s job to evoke the musical and performing spirit of Prince, who died last year. He and his band open the Three Rivers Festival concert line-up Friday. Special guests are Good Night Gracie and The Meat Flowers.
“You’re going to hear the hits, but you’re not going to hear necessarily album versions. We do a little bit of that,” Charloff said of the show. “The hard-core fan is going to be satisfied because they get a live version.”
He and The Purple Xperience gauge on the fly how audiences respond, and they’re likely to steer their performance accordingly. The question is, “Am I playing to a casual listener or a hard-core fan?” he said.
Since Prince’s death in April 2016, the nature of audiences has shown a shift, as longtime fans bring newer listeners into a legacy that they’ll never know from Prince himself.
“More kids are coming out,” Charloff said. “Folks are bringing out the next generation. There’s more purpose just in general. There’s some healing going on. There’s also a little community developing.”
Although Charloff never actually played with Prince, he’s on Prince’s “94 East” album, in which Charloff recorded bass guitar and keyboard tracks that were incorporated into the final product with Prince’s lead vocals. More important, an array of connections helped ensure that Charloff watched Prince closely for almost as long as he can remember. Charloff, 10 years younger than Prince, grew up in Minneapolis, where Prince lived. Both were discovered by Pepe Willie, the Brooklyn-born musician who married Prince’s cousin and who brought the teenage Prince into a recording studio for his first sessions.
By the first time Charloff met Prince, in 1985, “he was the biggest star on earth. Prince was really at his peak.”
Charloff got an unforgettable taste of the power of Prince’s legacy immediately after Prince died.
The Purple Xperience was scheduled to play a date near Chicago on the night after Prince died. He assumed that the show would be cancelled, but the band wound up making the show.
“I did it under protest. I didn’t think we had any business being there,” he remembered. “Up until the second I walked on stage, I was under protest. Then there was a lifting of the darkness I felt.”
“I thought it was going to be sad, it was going to be somber. But it was a celebration,” he said.
Also onstage for the festival
Other shows in the Three Rivers Festival lineup at Headwaters Park include:
* Saturday – Rock of the ’80s Tour with The Romantics, The Smithereens, The Motels and Bow Wow Wow.
* July 13 – The third annual Heart and Soul Affair featuring The Original Lakeside, with special guests Ty Causey, followed by The Music Lover's Lounge.
* July 14 – ZOSO - The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience, with special guests Fuzzbox Voodoo and The Union Project.
* July 15 – Terrifying funk from beyond the grave with Here Comes the Mummies, with special guests Sweetwater All Stars and Seth Cook.
Detailed information about these concerts is available at Three Rivers Festival website, www.threeriversfestival.org. Tickets also can be purchased day of show in Headwaters East.
Other shows include:
*Sunday – The STAR 88.3 Music Stage 2017, featuring Jasmine Murray, Chris August, 7eventh Time Down, Citizen Way and DJ Promote. For ticket information, visit STAR 88.3 at star883.com/events/star-stage-2017.
* Tuesday – $2 Tuesday, featuring Brother with special guests The Wailhounds and Trichotomous Hippopotamus. Tickets available during Three Rivers Festival.
* Wednesday – Rock 'N Reggae, featuring Unlikely Alibi with special guests U.R.B. and Left Lane Cruiser. Tickets available during Three Rivers Festival.