I saw Prince’s masterpiece film, “Purple Rain”, in the theater, when Bobby Miller was barely crawling. Only ten years old, I was already a sincere fan determined enough to convince a friend’s parent to buy us the R-rated tickets. The images, sounds, and emotions burrowed into my brain matter and it ended all too soon. Thirty-plus years later, and I’ve found Bobby dedicated to being Prince on stage. He and his band, Purple Madness, delivered two sold out shows in one night, in the final week of 2017, at Woodstock’s Madlife Stage & Studios.
The place was packed. I had to fight for my line of sight, while a bit distracted by people doing things in that venue that I never saw at an actual Prince performance. The room was, shall we say, aroused. Libro Musica’s editor once asked social media, “which is Prince’s sexiest song?” Thinking long and hard, I answered, “Take Me With You.” Apparently Purple Madness agrees. They opened with it, and set the tone for the night.
Georgia residents Bobby Miller, Brian Waits (pianist), Dylan Cornell (guitar), Ashley (background vocalist), LaMorris “Beatdown” King (drummer), Randy Dorsey (bass), have been together for nine years, starting out with their Michael Jackson tribute — with Bobby filling that role as well. He’s been practicing all his life, performing as Prince, Michael, or James Brown in any occasion available — at home, in talent shows, busking, honing what is at this point a distinct craft.
The passing of Prince created a demand for tribute performances Bobby was clearly born to fulfill…
“There’s so much genius in his music. He was an all-around entertainer. He could play any instrument. So inspiring to me.” — Bobby
…where before the world lost the icon prematurely, promoting a tribute band was a dicey endeavor in light of his purple highness’ litigiousness. Prince’s death left a cavernous hole. We can never experience the man himself live again, and yet, with a little suspension of disbelief…
“It’s believable. We gotta give you a real experience, the journey of Prince (and of Michael Jackson). We’re going to take you down a familiar road.” — Bobby
The music of Prince is tangled inexorably with the visuals of his performance style. His determination to present his personal style so dynamically, and with his unique fashion sense, was tyrannical and detailed. In fact he may have passed due to complications of medications used to deal with hip injuries acquired in decades of performances wearing high heels.
If anyone were to call in a tribute concert, they wouldn’t last. To properly honor Prince, and Michael Jackson too, the tribute performer has no choice but to leave it all out on the stage, gifting the audience with a moment in time representing many years of practice and refinement. With the support of a band that not only compliments the experience but also stays out of his way, Bobby satisfies.
Replete with a handful of costumes (including the one from the “Purple Rain” performance in the movie “Purple Rain”), and that film’s iconic white Cloud guitar Prince played in concerts for years, plus dance moves that again and again strike us deep in our nostalgic hearts, Bobby Miller is captivating, motivating, scintillating. It should be mentioned he absolutely shreds on that Schecter guitar.
No one can be The Artist we’ll have known as the alien/angel/demon Prince, but because Purple Madness brings it, not expecting anything less of themselves, we obediently go along for the ride.
“It’s a great honor to be able to impersonate Michael Jackson and Prince, two of the biggest icons.” — Ashley
In this concert, the band stuck to the chart smashing hits pretty much anyone not living in a cave the last forty-plus years would know, and if you’re anything like me, love. There were mostly songs played from the Purple Rain album, (daringly and crowd-pleasingly including * “Darling Nikki“), with the predominance of the remainder from prior albums, “Little Red Corvette“, “1999” (both from 1999), “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (from the album Prince), and “Do Me Baby” (from Controversy). Only two post-1990 songs were in the set, “Diamonds & Pearls” (from Diamonds & Pearls), and for the encore, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (from The Gold Experience).
* If you’re need a reminder of the genius passion that is Prince performing live on stage, check out the above linked video for “Darling Nikki.” These are the high-heeled boots we expect our tribute artists to fill. Parental Guidance concertedly suggested.
I might have jonesed for some later-career Prince songs (“Musicology” from Musicology, “Breakfast Can Wait” from Art Official Age, “Sexy MF” from the Love Symbol album, etc., etc., etc.), or some sweeter ones (“Starfish & Coffee” from Sign o’ the Times, “Mountains” from Parade), or any one of my additional Prince guilty pleasures (“Alphabet Street” from Lovesexy, “Pop Life” from Around the World In a Day), but Purple Madness is forgiven for crowd-pleasing in any way they see fit to crowd please. Just come back to town soon.
In the meantime, along with the Libro Musica team, I’ll be welcoming The Revolution to Atlanta, on February 24, at the Tabernacle (join us!). At this point, not knowing yet how they’re wrapping around a missing Prince, I have a feeling I’ll wish Bobby had joined them.