Go crazy for ‘The Purple Xperience’ June 9

All the clues about an upcoming tribute concert at the Columbia County Performing Arts Center are contained in its title – The Purple Xperience.

“He owns a color,” said lead singer Marshall Charloff who “steps into the heels” of singer Prince during the tribute concert June 9. “Not many people are synonymous with a color.”

And it’s not just a concert, it’s an event – an encounter designed to be shared with others. It’s not something that people can get from a live stream or a YouTube video in the comfort of their own homes. It’s about being in the venue.

Marshall Charloff sings the songs of Prince.

One of the main things that sets this tribute apart from others its lead singer Charloff knew the man he pays homage to, and other musicians connected with Prince took part in fashioning it.

“I was in a band with his cousin, and I was able to meet (Prince) and allowed to come to his rehearsals,” said Charloff, who met Prince in the 1980s. He not only observed rehearsals, but many years later, he recorded with Prince on the album 94 East, playing both keyboards and bass guitar with Prince on the lead vocals.

Watching Prince in rehearsal in those early years had almost mystical elements to it. He synced with his musicians on a level Charloff has never seen.

“When he did communicate with the band, the one thing I picked up on right away was it was non-verbal. I don’t know honestly how he did it, but people knew through signals and body language ‘OK, we’re doing this song now.’ (or) ‘We’re taking a break.’  No one would say when it was back on. Things just happened. That’s not normally how it’s done,” he said.

He was most impressed with the quality of Prince’s musicality.

“He executed everything with perfection. He was never sharp or flat,” said Charloff, a singer, songwriter and producer who has performed as a soloist and with other bands during his career.

Prince taught him many things, he said. Among them were to always be a student and to realize there’s not a finish line; there’s not a destination. Prince kept evolving in his music, in his look, in his fashion, and that’s something Charloff has learned as well.

Charloff said Prince was comfortable in his own skin and wanted to inspire others to feel that way as well.

And he doesn’t take stepping Into the role of the iconic singer lightly. He’s taken what he learned from the master and brings it to the stage.

Marshall Charloff said one of his favorite parts of “The Purple Xperience” is a section where he plays the piano and delves deeper into Prince’s catalog of music.

The show is in its 12th year. Matt Fink, also known as Dr. Fink, who played the keyboards with Prince and the Revolution, was a driving creative force behind The Purple Xperience. Prince knew about the project and supported him in it, Charloff said. Prince even saw a performance with Charloff, but Charloff didn’t find out until after the fact.

Prince provided Fink with feedback.

“He wanted to honor the legacy at the highest level of musicianship and for it not be too heavily focused on imagery – costuming etc. He wanted the music to be first,” he said.

 And the mastery of the music is at the heart of The Purple Xperience.

The show will contain some of the songs Prince is most famous for and a selection of others that may be new to some audience members, but none of it is done using prerecorded backing tracks or prerecorded vocals.

“You’ll be at the show five minutes and realize musicianship is the highest priority,” he said. “We’ll be teleporting a little into a time machine.”

Not only will it have Prince’s sound, but Charloff will dress in the spirit of Prince.

 “A lot of those looks are iconic, but they’re not a complete replica of the outfits,” he said.

Because the show is all live, there’s plenty of room to improvise. It’s never the same show two nights in a row. If the audience feels the groove, a chorus may be sung another time, or another guitar solo may make it in.

Charloff said one of his favorite portions of the show occurs when the other four band members leave, and it’s just him, the piano and the audience.

By this point, he’s read the room. He knows what level of Prince fans are in the crowd, and he can go as deep into Prince’s catalog of songs as possible – the deeper, the better.

“There are casual fans who know the hits only, but then there’s the Prince Army, who’ll say ‘don’t just play Purple Rain or Little Red Corvette. Give us nutrition with the sugary treats,’” he said.

For the Evans’ concert, there may be some extra surprises as it occurs two days after what would have been Prince’s 65th birthday.

The Purple Xperience will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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