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The Prince Experience! A Night Filled With the Music of Prince

I love Prince! While I might not have been his biggest fan, his music was a big part of my life. Purple Rain is one of my favorite movies of all time. The soundtrack ranks in my top 5 albums.

The Prince Experience marquee
The Prince Experience came to the TLA on South Street in Philadelphia on Saturday night.

I am not the most emotional person, but when Prince died, I cried. In fact, I cried a lot. To this day, I can’t listen to any of Prince’s music without feeling a little tug in my heart. To read a little more of how the untimely passing of Prince affected me, check out this article I wrote a little over a year ago:

When I saw that a show called The Prince Experience was coming around, I thought it might be fun to check it out. When a Groupon came out for the show, I jumped on the opportunity. Did seeing a Prince tribute band give me a chance to relive some of my favorite songs? Or, did it just disappoint because it didn’t live up to the real thing? Keep reading to find out!

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THE VENUE

The Theater of the Living Arts (aka the TLA) is located on South Street in Philadelphia. The venue as it is today opened in 1988, but the building dates back to the 1900’s as a nickelodeon.

After several incarnations, a group of former employees (later becoming the TLA Entertainment Group) purchased the building in 1981. The building was converted into a concert venue in 1988. Live Nation purchased the venue in 2007, and has operated it ever since.

The venue is all general admission and has a capacity of about 1,000. There is a main floor as well as a balcony area upstairs.

The building is old and could definitely use an upgrade. The floor is pitted (I kept stepping in a little hole all night at this show) and is usually sticky. The bathrooms are small and pretty dingy. But, that all adds to the character (and history) of the building.

Tip #1: If you don’t care about being up front for a show, I find a good place to stand is back on the ramps near the sound board. The ramps are slanted, so if you are short you can get a little height advantage over those in front of you. It’s also easy access to the lobby (including the bathrooms) and the bars.

Tip #2: There are lots of food choices on South Street where you can grab some food before (or after) the show. My favorite is Brauhaus Schmitz, which not only has a great selection of German beer, but amazing food as well!

Food at Brauhaus Schmitz
Brauhaus Schmitz has great food and even better beer!

Tip #3: Try and grab parking on the street. However, be sure to pay attention to the signs. The parking authority walks through the area often and they will give you a ticket. You have to pay the meter until 12 a.m. typically. Be sure to time your meter right for the show, or use the meter app so you can add time from your phone.

THE SHOW – THE PRINCE EXPERIENCE

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Gabriel Sanchez is the man that plays Prince in the show. What started as Sanchez playing Prince in a small local production of a live stage version of Purple Rain, has turned into a 2 hour concert with a full band.

The Prince Experience is based out of Milwaukee. They mentioned several times during the show, that they were really starting to gain some traction outside of their immediate area.

In addition to Sanchez, the band features other musicians that add to the Prince “experience”. That includes a female back-up singer (Tamara), a keyboard player dressed in scrubs like Doctor Fink, and a saxophonist. The entire band dresses in the style of Prince and his long-time band The Revolution.

THE PERFORMANCE

The stated start time on the tickets was 9 p.m., and The Prince Experience took the stage right at 9. With no opener, the room wasn’t very full at the start of the show, but quickly filled up as Prince fans made their way into the venue.

The Prince Experience
The room may have been slow to fill up, but it was a packed house of Prince fans by the end of the show!

The Prince Experience kicked off the show with the Prince mega-hit from Purple Rain – “Let’s Go Crazy”, followed by a great version of “Raspberry Beret”.

While the majority of the show was filled with Prince hits, we also got a few surprises. Lesser known songs from the Purple Rain soundtrack like “The Beautiful Ones” and “Darling Nikki” made the die hard Prince fans in the audience very happy.

The Prince Experience has a pretty talented cast of musicians. Drummer Junior Gomez has been with the band for its entire 15 year history. He was featured in a really good drum solo, that included the back tracks of a mash-up of some big Prince hits.

The Prince Experience
The drum solo was pretty impressive!

As talented of a singer and songwriter as Prince was, I think his greatest talent was playing the guitar. So, when a Prince tribute band takes the stage, some of the guitar solos that Prince made famous are probably pretty intimidating to the guy in the band playing guitar. The guitarist for The Prince Experience – they called him Hambo – did a good job of staying true to some of Prince’s original work.

No Prince tribute band would be complete without a female back-up singer. While Prince typically had two female singers – either Wendy and Lisa, or the twins – the Prince Experience just had Tamara. She did a great job taking lead on “The Glamorous Life” and was featured on several other songs like “7” and “The Beautiful Ones”.

The Prince Experience
Back-up singer Tamara was a great feature to the show.

As for Sanchez himself, he does a great job. I think he sounded like Prince on some songs more than others. With the wigs and costumes, he definitely looks like Prince (at least from further away). Sanchez also seems to be a talented musician. In addition to singing, he took over the drums on “The Glamorous Life” and played the piano and the guitar several times during the show.

The Prince Experience
All of the musicians did a great job depicting the whole “Prince vibe”.

I had the chance to see Prince a couple of times live, and he had amazing stage presence and energy. I saw him in a little club in Vegas where he had a short residency many years ago. Prince didn’t take the stage until after midnight, and played until the wee hours of the morning. It wasn’t unusual for him to take a quick break and then pop up in a coffee shop somewhere in the casino to play an acoustic set as well.

Sanchez also had a lot of energy. He came down on the floor during “I Would Die 4 U” and danced and sang with the crowd, including running up the stairs to the balcony.

All in all, this wasn’t like seeing Prince. That just cannot be replicated. But, it was a great chance to relive all of Prince’s hits. I danced and sang. I might have even cried during “Purple Rain” (but don’t tell anyone)! If you are a Prince fan and The Prince Experience show comes your way, it’s worth checking out!

The Prince Experience
I may or may not have cried during Purple Rain.

Set List (click on any link to purchase the song directly on Amazon – all original Prince versions): Let’s Go Crazy, Raspberry Beret, P. Control, Pop Life, The Glamorous Life, Kiss (with Sexy M.F. intro), 1999, When Doves Cry, The Beautiful Ones, 7, Darling Nikki, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Little Red Corvette, Purple Rain, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m A Star, Diamonds and Pearls, Alphabet St.

The Prince Experience
While it’s not like seeing the original, The Prince Experience is a fun night of Prince hits!

Are you a Prince fan? What do you think about seeing a Prince tribute band? Let us know what you think by commenting below or e-mailing me at tips2livebywriter@gmail.com.

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