Purple Reign (Happy B-day to Me!)


Since tomorrow is my birthday, rather than laboring over a detailed blog post on some serious health issue, I decided to write a light-hearted review of my sister's gift instead. Last night we celebrated by attending the BPO Rocks concert paying tribute to the music of the late pop/R&B/ rock icon Prince, just past the first anniversary of his untimely death, with singer Marshall Charloff backed by a rock band and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans (the world renowned music hall that I mentioned in my book The Lost Son: A Rock 'n' Roll to Redemption was designed by the father-and-son architectural team of Eliel and Eero Saarinon, the latter also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis). I have attended several BPO Rocks concerts over the years, including music of The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who and last year, shortly after his shocking death, David Bowie. These concerts are always first class and highly enjoyable, under the direction of conductor and arranger Brent Havens and the contribution of the BPO, one of the best orchestras for a mid-sized city in the U.S.

Shortly after taking our seats, which were in the center of the 16th row, the house lights dimmed and the stage lights turned purple, bathing the already seated orchestra and backing band in a soothing aura. The familiar keyboard intro of "Let's Go Crazy" gave notice that the show would start on a truly rockin' note and Marshall Charloff began the proceeding by reciting the song's opening sermon, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..." from offstage, entering from the side door in perfect timing, with guitar in tow, to walk to the microphone stand front and center, slip the mic into the holster and hit the first power chord at just the right moment. Charloff was striking in his physical resemblance of the Purple One, thin as a rail, beard ultra-trimmed appearing almost as if it was drawn on with charcoal, wearing skin-tight black pants, ruffled below the knee, a lacy black shirt, unbuttoned down to his navel, revealing a thick mat of chest hair, and on his head, a black doo-rag covering his pate, topped by a purple fedora. His singing (and his speaking) voice was impeccable in its mimicry of Prince. The band tore through "Let's Go Crazy"- the only minor disappointment being Charloff's guitar solo at the end of the song, which paled in comparison to the lightning fast outro of the original, but then again very few guitarists are as talented as Prince, so I let it slide. That really was the only negative for the entire show. Prince's first commercial hit, "Little Red Corvette" followed, and featured a dueling guitar solo between Charloff and George Cintron, a guitarist I had seen at several previous BPO Rocks concerts- I vividly remember him performing an excellent extended solo at the beginning of "Spanish Caravan" at The Doors tribute show a few years ago.

After the second song, Charloff told the sold-out crowd that their "pass was over" and instructed everybody to get out of their seats and dance to the falsetto-drenched funk/ pop classic "Kiss." Many of the people in the first ten rows obliged, but then ushers told the revelers to sit down for the sake of those behind them who did not want to stand. Charloff responded by stating, "I guess how this works is that either nobody stands up or everybody stands up" before ripping into "Delirious." For the rest of the show, a small but enthusiastic minority of audience members up front continued to gyrate and sing along vociferously, while the majority of the crowd sat passively but still fully absorbed in the performance. Other highlights of the first set were "Cream"- which Charloff, who was born and raised in Minneapolis, met Prince, and now tours with his own Prince tribute band called Purple Xperience (they just played a show at Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls last weekend) along with Prince and the Revolution keyboardist, Doctor Fink, introduced by informing the audience that Prince wrote the song after executives at his record label heard the Diamonds and Pearls album and loved it but told him that it needed a "radio-ready hit single" and so he consciously composed it as a reflection of his prodigious talent as a sign that "cream always rises to the top"- and the psychedelic pop hit "Raspberry Beret."

Following a brief intermission, the ensemble kicked off the second set with "Take Me With U," which allowed the BPO's string section to shine. George Cintron then took center stage to play an extended guitar solo that segued nicely into "When Doves Cry." Charloff gave his back-up singer, Ann Marie Castellano, a co-starring role in the Prince-penned song "Nothing Compares 2 U," which became a mega-hit for Sinead O'Conner, in a gorgeously orchestrated version. The ultimate party song, "1999," brought the entire crowd to its feet in joyous nostalgia, which was followed by the raucous one-two punch of "I Would Die 4 U/Baby I'm a Star." Of course the show ended the only way proper, with Prince's signature masterpiece, "Purple Rain," with Charloff playing out the song's closing guitar solo in convincing fashion (it is a much slower and easier-to-pull-off solo than "Let's Go Crazy"). All in all, a great show. Charloff was very impressive both as a singer and impressionist of Prince's dance moves and mannerisms, the backing band was spot on, and the BPO was first class as always. A terrific way to kick off my birthday weekend (which also includes attending a show tonight by Iron Priest, an Iron Maiden/ Judas Priest tribute band- a much different musical experience- at a local nightclub, and then dinner on Sunday with my only sibling).

#birthday #Prince #MarshallCharloff #BuffaloPhilharmonicOrchestra #TheLostSon #KleinhansMusicHall #EeroSaarinon #LetsGoCrazy #LittleRedCorvette #WhenDovesCry #NothingCompares2U #1999 #PurpleRain #IronPriest

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© 2017 by Peter McNeela.