Along with my ticket, I was emailed parking instructions that led to the South West Transit Station. A sleek black bus picked up ticket holders and shuttled us one mile to the cubed, glowing purple estate.
Entering Paisley Park
A short line formed outside of the entrance as security put each person’s phone into a padded pouch. They were then given back to us. The device had a security mechanism similar to what you would see on items at a clothing store that could only be opened with a specialized tool.
The reason for this is because Prince created a ‘no photography’ rule in his building, and this rule still stands to this day. We shuffle inside and are greeted by a room stocked with Prince merch.
Everything is for sale from t-shirts and posters, to more exclusive items such as tambourines and chainlink veil replica hats. They even have Prince bottled water.
To the right of the entrance, a tall glass case featured Prince’s turquoise and orange outfit hanging from a headless, handless mannequin. As interesting as all this is, it feels a little eery and overly-exploitative.
I walked toward the door that connects to the Sound Stage, where stands a 20-foot section of chain link fence smothered by a collage of artwork on display.
It’s a small sample of the thousands of memorials left outside Paisley Park immediately following his passing on April 21, 2016. Paintings, crafts, photos, and messages such as “U Saved my life” reminded me how large of an impact Prince had on so many people.
The Sound Stage
I was immediately surprised by the Sound Stage room and its capacity. The area is much larger than I expected. Gymnasium-height ceilings with black jumbo-sized curtains drape down from top to bottom on every four walls. Hanging from the rafters directly above me, a car-sized Prince symbol slowly illuminated like an old antique hotel sign.
Unlike most music venues, this one is carpeted. On the back wall are two L-shaped catwalks that jut out toward the stage. Spread across these raised platforms are more of Prince’s performance outfits—Lavish, sparkling jackets that look like they could fit a 12-year-old. Numerous unique cuts and designs of his guitars are also exhibited.
On the right side of the room, another raised surface features a glossy purple grand piano that a normal-sized person would have trouble sitting down to play, as the keys sit roughly 24-30 inches from the ground, customized for Prince’s incredibly small stature.
Against the left wall are even more outfits and guitars, as well as three of Prince’s vehicles parked safely behind a felt black and silver velvet rope—a white 1996 BMW Z3, 1999 Plymouth Prowler, and a 2006 BentleyContinental GT.
The DJ spins an exclusive playlist of Prince hits as geometrical Windows Media Player-type shapes fold into each other projected onto a massive white screen stretched across the back of the stage.
Ladies & Gentlemen, Nooky Jones
At last, the MC took the stage to introduce Nooky Jones. First, he laid down some ground rules. Respect Prince’s house, no photography (I couldn’t if I tried), and no smoking, (vaping included). Although the absence of alcohol was also a preference of Prince’s, alcoholic beverages were, in fact, available.
Horns, drums, bass guitar, and organ got the crowd moving back and forth as eyes look for singer, Cameron Kinghorn to appear. Soon Kinghorn walked on stage with both hands in the air, smiling from ear to ear in his signature fashion— pulled-back ponytail, blacked-out sunglasses with shoulders sporting a glittery gold jacket.
Stage lights reflected off the backup singer’s matching metallic dresses. The rest of the band was fitted in all-black uniforms. Kinghorn’s soul/R&B vocals shine as he so eloquently sang the chorus melody to “Pardon Me.”
Kinghorn aggressively hand-gestured his way through the band’s instrumental parts as if conducting an orchestra, guiding horn swells and punching the air to emphasize abrupt staccato hits.
Kinghorn began a call and response with the crowd to “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Everyone seemed to be there with their significant other, and most of the attendees were middle-aged couples. I noticed the sensual vibe causing those in front of me to get a little frisky with their hands. After being married for 10+ years, I’m sure date nights are hard to come by.
Trumpet player Adam Meckler and trombonist Scott Agster synchronized their brass instruments as the backup singers harmonized and propped up Kinghorn on powerful choruses.
Keyboardist Kevin Gastonguay and bassist Andrew Foreman continued to fill out the band’s warm sound as Reid Kennedy kept snappy timing on drums.
The group dropped down the tempo with an unfamiliar Prince song of which I didn’t catch the name. Kinghorn reached into a high falsetto to pay respects to the Purple One’s vocal range. It was on point, and the crowd let him know it.
The group showcased the dynamics of their set with power and finesse, moving us from energized to more relaxed tunes. With a swift downward stroke of his fist, the band ended a song with an abrupt silence, followed by an upward swoop of his open hand, queuing the band to jump right into the next track.
The spectacular vocal runs in “I Can Ease Your Mind” received hoots and hollers from female fans in the room.
Each musician was given about a minute to strut their stuff, soloing on their instrument followed by respected cheers for each member’s impressive effort.
Boy, this whole ‘not taking photos or video’ thing is not easy.
Kinghorn began yet another call-and-response activity with the crowd that lasted about eight bars longer than a sober person would prefer. I shruged it off as a stylized decision specific to soul music.
Nooky Jones wrapped up their performance with muscle, as Kinghorn launched his voice into a soaring, Prince-approved vocal register, winning additional respect of already-adoring fans. The crowd was satisfied and graciously handed out loud applause as Nooky Jones departed the stage.
If you’re a fan of soul music, I would highly suggest checking out Nooky Jones’ new album, Like Candy, or catch them at their next show. Music and concert information can be found on their website, here.