Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life… at Los Angeles’s legendary Hollywood Forever Cemetery (the final resting place of Rudolph Valentino, Jayne Mansfield, and two of the Ramones), where on Friday night, chillwave/soul artist Twin Shadow covered his late hero Prince’s Purple Rain album in its entirety.
“On the day that Prince died, I rushed to my studio — to write a song, or to cover one of his songs. I felt obligated as an artist to dedicate something to him,” Twin Shadow, aka George Lewis Jr., told the crowd at Hollywood Forever’s 150-capacity Masonic Lodge. “And as I was doing it, I realized that the magic inside of his recordings cannot be replicated, and it certainly just has to stand on it own. And I thought, why not do something that is momentary — like life — and just perform a few shows? So this is one of two [Purple Rain concerts], and we’ll never do them again — unless someone gives me a million-dollar check. Then I’ll buy Paisley Park.”
While it’s true that Prince’s magic cannot ever be replicated, Lewis did a fantastic and respectful job paying tribute to his purple idol. Highlights included a glitchy industrial take on “Darling Nikki” that almost sounded like it was mashed up with Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”; a bonus cover of a “deep cut” from Sign O’ the Times, “Starfish and Coffee” (after which Lewis reprimanded spectators for being largely unfamiliar with the song, and guided them in an instructional singalong, saying, “If it’s the last thing, I’m gonna teach you motherf—ers that one!”); and a surprise encore of the 1999 hit “Little Red Corvette” with L.A. sisters HAIM joining in.
Despite the obviously sad reason for the homage, and the somewhat gloomy setting, the mood at the Masonic was jovial, and Lewis kept things light-hearted — especially when he revealed how he had first discovered Prince. Dig, if you will, this picture:
Lewis explained that when was 16, he left home, dropped out of high school, and moved in with his girlfriend and her mother. “[The mom] was the squarest lady you’ve ever met in your life — until you looked into her VHS catalog,” he quipped, “S— got real, real, real.” While Lewis admitted that he’d thought the mother’s copy of Under the Cherry Moon was “wack,” he became obsessed with her videotape of Prince’s classic rock film Purple Rain, repeatedly watching “this little freak, being a freak” while babysitting his girlfriend’s little brother.
Then, one day, the mother, with whom he had rarely interacted despite being under her roof for months, walked into the living room. “I was watching Prince videos… she came in and sat on the couch, and she looks over at me and says, ‘I would f— him.’ And she started looking at me like I was T-bone steak! And I hooked up with her! Because I’m a freak!” Lewis confessed to the whooping Hollywood Forever crowd.
On a more serious note, earlier this year in the days following Prince’s shocking April 21 death, Twin Shadow, who is Dominican-American, told Fuse TV: “I’ve always had a hard time defining what I do, and I had a hard time growing up defining what race I was. My whole life was like, the black kids asking me if I was white or black, and the white kids being like, ‘You’re definitely not white.’ That was my whole growing up, and I always felt like I belonged to everything, or that I belonged to nothing… Prince from the get-go was just this guy riding these lines of black-white, gay-straight, woman-man. Everything he touched was that line.”
Twin Shadow is scheduled to perform another, final Purple Rain tribute show at New York’s Meadows Music and Arts Festival next month.