In Minneapolis, Prince still reigns over Super Bowl LII

Travel Super Bowl Minneapolis
A mural honoring the late Prince adorns a building in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. Places connected to the late singer and Minneapolis native are among the attractions awaiting Super Bowl visitors heading to Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Rose Schreiber of Shamong, N.J., flew here from Philadelphia this week, but she had no intention of going to the Super Bowl. She was there for the music, to see friends perform. And this week, a lot of that has been about Prince, whose presence lives on in his hometown of Minneapolis.

“If he were alive, he’d be ecstatic,” Schreiber said. “It’s his town. He’d be having a hell of a lot of parties.”

Prince’s exuberant performance at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, in a literal pouring purple rain, arguably the best Super Bowl halftime show in history, plays on a loop at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, just outside Minneapolis, where Prince’s recording studio has been turned into a museum and shrine.

Tours are booked this week and prices are rising through the weekend. Justin Timberlake performed there Thursday night in a private “listening show.”

The New Power Generation, Prince’s backing band for many years, was performing outside on the Nicollet Mall on Wednesday night amid Super Bowl festivities and has two more shows planned in town. Questlove is DJing a Prince set Friday night at the Dakota jazz club (perhaps similar to the one he performed last summer at 58th and Baltimore in West Philly).

On Wednesday at the Dakota, there was a family reunion of sorts, literally of the Family, a band formed by Prince in 1984, which debuted his “Nothing Compares 2 U” before Sinead O’Connor. Original band members Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton, and Susannah Melvoin were there, and Susannah’s twin sister Wendy, a guitarist in the Revolution, was pulled up on stage to play at the end.

Super Bowl week in Minneapolis has been a beautiful and sad week for fans and friends of Prince, a Minneapolis native who died in April 2016. At Paisley Park, they’ll tell you Prince mostly liked to watched basketball, the Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx, on a flat screen in the Little Kitchen (when he wasn’t playing ping-pong up in Studio B).

But he was a fan of the Vikings, whose purple colors may or may not have been ingrained on him as a child growing up in Minnesota. In any case, purple can evoke the Vikings or Prince in these parts, or both.

For Andre Tippett, the NFL Hall of Famer with the New England Patriots, this was a week for football, of course, but also for touring Paisley Park.

“You can’t be in Minneapolis and not want to capture a piece of Prince and his beautiful music,” said Tippett, a hardcore fan since his days at the University of Iowa. “It’s a shame he’s not with us. How sweet would that have been. He’d be having a party. I’m sure the NFL would have figured out how to involve him. What a shame. We lost something special.”

In  a particularly lovely moment, Tippett, wearing a Super Bowl ring, laid down some vocals for “Raspberry Beret” inside Studio B and took them home on a purple flash drive as a souvenir. This longtime Prince fan remembered the last time Minnesota hosted a Super Bowl, in 1993, when Prince turned up at the First Avenue nightclub for a surprise performance.

A performance like that by Prince is one of many to win the hearts of locals, who awaited word of his legendary late-night appearances, usually made accessible to the people of the Twin Cities, including one after-party where he played for three hours for the 25 people who stayed long after Madonna had left.

First Avenue is hosting a Purple Party on Saturday night and a tribute to the Minneapolis sound. Prince sites like his favorite record store, the Electric Fetus, are another stop.

In Minneapolis, Prince was family, people grew up with him. There’s no debate here whose halftime performance was the greatest of all time (apologies to any Philly fans partial to Bruce), and people do not seem offended like some Prince fans about Timberlake’s renting out Paisley Park. The Muppets once did, too.

Annette Schultz,  who went to the Dakota to see fDeluxe, remembers in high school driving over to the purple house where Prince lived during the Purple Rain era, also in Chanhassen, where they assumed the place across the street was “old man Johnson’s farm,” referenced in the lyrics of “Raspberry Beret.” “It is completely weird without Prince,” Schultz said. “We glom onto any attachment to Prince.”

Before the late show, a funk dance party which ended with an ethereal “Nothing Compares 2 U,” where at least one man could be seen wiping away tears, Jellybean Johnson put it this way:

“I miss him, I love him, he made me famous. You know, we’re just moving on, trying to keep his name out there.”