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21 December 2012

Sign o' the Times (Disc 2): K Nicola reviews Seattle's Tribute to Prince

This is Part II of a two-part story:

Courtesy of

“It's a bit of a humbling experience to cover a Prince song. Because, really, you can't do it like Prince.” -Gavin Guss

Gavin Guss, photo by Elke Hautala
“U Got the Look” by Gavin Guss
  This was, by far the most interesting performance of the night. It was done as a solo, not as a duet, with an
all-male band. But, honestly, I don't think Sheena Easton's soulful vocals and or Prince's androgynous “Camille” vocals would have a place in this version of the song. 
  The band took what is easily one of the funkiest grooves on the album and turned it into a straight rock and roll song. Now what kind of rock song, I can't tell you. I heard some parts that sounded like late 60s rock and others that sounded like Seattle's most famous export: grunge music. He did this one pose and hit a guitar riff that, I swear to God, reminded me of Chuck Berry circa 1955. Or maybe not. I'm not well-versed enough to tell you for sure and it's hard enough just trying to describe this genre-defying song. In roughly four to five minutes this song took you so many places that, as a listener, you were just trying to keep up. I thought it was a great tribute to a genre-defying artist like Prince.
  “It's a bit of a humbling experience to cover a Prince song,” Guss said before his set. “Because, really, you can't do it like Prince.”
  So, I guess he just decided to make the song his own. I appreciate the effort and I think Prince would, too.

“If I Was Your Girlfriend” by Strong Suit
  This, like all the other songs of the evening, was heavy on the electric guitars, but, I loved it. A lot of those keyboard grooves were doubled the guitar and I thought it sounded great. There was some great ad-libs by the lead singer and at the end and a really nice drum solo. There was a extended jam at the end where they really got the crowd involved.
  The band got together and only had “one and a half” rehearsals before performing that night, said Keith, the band's bassist after his set. And the band actually chose that song to perform.
  “We all love that song, that whole album,” he said. “Our singer chose that song, (it was) the first one, off the top of his head.

Eldridge Gravy, photo by Elke Hautala
“Strange Relationship” by Eldrige Gravy
This performance was definitely funky! The fact that it was done as a duet gave the already deep song an even deeper meaning. (Side note: I would love to hear Prince do this as a duet now). The lead singers were great, very soulful (probably the most soulful act all night). I love this song and I was definitely digging their version of it.

“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” by To The Glorious Lonely
Michelle Speir, a Prince fan in the audience described their performance as the “goth metal version” of the song. Maybe. It definitely didn't have the light pop feel of the original, it was much heavier, punk I would say, and I felt like they powered right through it. I'm not really sure how to describe their version of the song, and I thought Speir's description was interesting, so I'm going to stick with that.

Kim, of Lazy Susan, photo by Elke Hautala
“The Cross” by Lazy Susan
  This song was done by a female vocalist and, again, did not stray wildly from the original. There was plenty of kick drum in those first verses and her subtle emotion in her voice lent itself greatly to the song's very quiet opening. But, once the guitars and drums kicked in on the second part of the song, it was on.
  Her voice came across as being filled with rage at the conditions she is describing in the song, whereas, I always felt that Prince's vocals on the album were filled a strong sense of urgency (or maybe it was sublimated rage I wasn't capable of understanding).         At this point the band was playing with urgency and abandon. I loved it. The song's length was not as compact and to the point as the original, as there were several guitar solos throughout the song. There was no harmonies at the end, but, a nice, clean rock and roll finish with lots of guitar riffs and drums.

“It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” by Aaron Daniel
Aaron Daniel, photo by Elke Hautala
This performance was super ambitious. This guy came out, alone, with a guitar and a machine where he had pre-recorded background vocals, a drum beat and, I don't know if he had an actual vocoder, but, he there was something that altered his voice that made it sound like he had one. I'm standing in the audience thinking “where's the band?” but, decided to give it a chance.
  When you hear this song on the album it's a JAM. Lots of horns, banging drums, keyboards, layered vocals. It would have been hard to duplicate that, because Tractor Tavern is a very intimate setting. I like how this guy just came out solo like “I'm about to do this.” He was an amazing guitar player and also got the crowd involved. Since there was no backing band for the “confusion” segment at the end of the song, when he yelled “confusion” he just cued the crowd to go crazy. It was pretty cool. My one complaint is that it was hard to hear his vocals over everything that going on.
  The only thing missing was Sheila E.'s very fun and very funky “Transmississippi Rap” (which I spent weeks trying to learn in high school). But, if he would have been able to do that on top of everything else, I would have expected him to walk on water next...just saying.

Amsterdam, photo by Elke Hautala
“Adore” by Amsterdam
  This is arguably the best song on the album, in my opinion, and I had high expectations for whatever band decided tackled it.
  When Amsterdam hit the stage, I wasn't disappointed. They had a trumpet and saxophone player-- first brass instruments I had seen all night -- the drummer had on his 1999 T-Shirt and the female vocalist just stepped up to the mic and looked like she was ready to throw down.
  She had the chops-- with the falsetto right on point— and she knew all the lyrics (which I appreciated). However, she was a bit overpowered by the brass section of the band and toward the end of the song her voice got a little lost in the music. This, like Strange Relationship was the most faithful interpretation of the Prince's original and there was little room for error. I feel that the band more than rose to the challenge.
  It was fitting finale to a great tribute.


 For more information on MusiCares visit Check out Elke Hautala's video of the event  here:

Stay beautiful, Kristi


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  1. The only fault I can find with these reviews is they make me envious! Sounds like it was a great show and an excellent night.