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Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009

Perple Rain’s Purple Rain

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It only takes a song to snap us back to the past. The emotional chord that music strums within us is the reason we connect certain tunes to significant moments in our lives. They become our anthems, our soundtracks, and when we hear them later in life, they take us on a vivid trip down memory lane. Whether or not it’s intentional, cover bands capitalize on this connection. It’s a symbiotic relationship in its most basic form: Tribute bands can depend on a built-in audience and showgoers know what they’re going to get.

This Friday, Perple Rain will be bringing Prince’s Minneapolis sound to the Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Bingo Casino. Fronting the tribute band is Gabriel Sanchez, who has been impersonating the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer for almost five years. “Audiences can expect a high-energy performance, complete with costumes, props and choreographed routines,” Sanchez says. The frontman has been working out twice a day to prepare for the physical demands of the hour-and-45-minute show.

Backing the Prince look-alike is vocalist Gwen "G Minor" Miner, Nathan Kaddatz and Lisa More on keyboards, Brad Wilson on guitar, Jon Ianni on bass, Mike Gourlie on drums, and dancers Jennifer Bollinger, Keshia Williams, Nevaeh and Kaitlin Daugherty. Perple Rain is dedicating the Potawatomi show to their costume designer Rozzy Alexander, who passed away in 2006.

It’s easy to understand why Sanchez and his band pay tribute to Prince. The 51-year-old singer, songwriter, musician and actor is considered one of the greatest artists of all time. They can pick and choose from his massive library of several hundred songs that span the musical spectrum, from New Wave, folk and rock to R&B, soul, funk, blues and hip-hop. His purported five-octave vocal range, complete with a mean falsetto, is a challenge to sing, as much as his intriguing character is to impersonate. Simply put, embodying Prince makes for a fun night.

Perple Rain will cover an expansive selection of Prince’s early career, ranging from one of his first hit singles, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" from the self-titled album Prince, to “Cream,” off Prince’s 13th album, Diamonds and Pearls. In addition to playing all the hits, the tribute band will play the entire Purple Rain album from 1984, which spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard 200. Songs like “Let’s Go Crazy,” "Little Red Corvette," "Raspberry Beret," "Kiss," "Gett Off" and even "Batdance" have a life beyond the studio where Prince recorded them because his fans have taken them as their own.

Seeing a tribute band like Perple Rain isn’t a replacement for experiencing the real thing, but it does offer its own unique advantages. One, it’s free. Two, the audience gets to witness true fans participate in the sincerest form of flattery: impersonation. Perple Rain’s 9 p.m. show at the casino promises to be, as Prince says, a party that’s meant to last.