Long before Prince even made his material presence in New Orleans, the mysterious presence of 'The Purple One' was already in the air. Prince was set to headline the Essence Festival's 20th anniversary Independence Day night show. On the evening of July 4th, 2014- the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was lit up in purple. Almost every festival-goer in the building wore some color of purple, rather eggplant or a deep, rich violet every shade of the singer's iconic trademark color was on display. In fact, it was said that Prince himself requested that everyone wore purple to the anniversary show.
Prince started his set with the iconic words, "We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life." This was the point that the Dome crowd went into pure hysteria. Prince showed over 60,000 people that he was in New Orleans at the 20th celebration of the Essence Music Festival to own the weekend.
The first beats of "Let's Go Crazy" echoed throughout the Superdome to let everyone know the party has began. It was the second time the crowd got a taste of this song. Earlier in the evening, Prince made a surprise appearance during Janelle Monae's take at the same song. Speaking of surprises, he also popped out during Nile Rogers performance of "Let's Dance", a song that Rogers pinned for David Bowie, to hit a super stellar guitar solo. These surprises let the festival-goers know that they had a night in store for them. In fact, at one point in the show Prince even teased the crowd with, "this is your party now, any requests?".
Ten years ago, Prince headlined that ESSENCE anniversary as well, joining up with some of the major musicians of his beginnings such as Morris Day and The Time, guitarist Wendy Melvoin and past protégé Sheila E. Although he shut the house down back in 2004, he fueled even more energy into this year's 20 year anniversary performance.
Prince set the the festival's main stage on fire with a litany of his hits, including "Kiss," ''Raspberry Beret," ''When Doves Cry," ''Controversy," ''1999," and a slowed-down version of "Little Red Corvette" and "Nothing Compares to You."
Throughout the show, there were many purple visuals: there were confetti cannons, multiple costume and hairstyle changes by Prince, high-energy dancers twirling light-up batons, and even a large bunch of purple balloons which Prince himself released into the skies of the Dome.
After making the crowd beg in a chant for it, Prince ended his show with an emotional performance of his iconic track "Purple Rain," enchanting them and completely appeasing to their every satisfaction. He was full of connection and engagement. "Look at how beautiful you look," he said. "You can sing along if you want."
After rocking out 2014 Essence Festival and proving why he's a living legend, 'The Purple One' left the Superdome stage after 1 am, telling the crowd, "Good night, New Orleans."
(Photo courtesy of Essence Music Festival, used with permission)