When music icon Prince died in 2016, he left behind a legion of dedicated fans still hungry to hear his songs in a live setting.
WHERE AND WHEN: Sept. 2. 7:30 p.m. $40. Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College. 7300 College St., Irmo. harbisontheatre.org.
PHONE: (803) 407-5011
When music icon Prince died in 2016, he left behind a legion of dedicated fans still hungry to hear his songs in a live setting. In similar situations with other hitmaking bands and musicians, the natural outlet to satisfy this would be a tribute band.
In the case of Prince, there was already an act that paid tribute to his legacy, and it came with the bonus pedigree of musicians who grew up in the same Minneapolis scene, many of whom played with Prince himself. That act, Marshall Charloff and the Purple xPeRIeNCE, plays the Harbison Theatre in Irmo this week.
Marshall Charloff’s connection to Prince goes back to his teenage years
“I was in a band with Prince’s first cousin and met Prince when I was eighteen years old,” he told the Chronicle. “He let us come to his band practices, mentored us and gave us a foundation in the industry, and in how he looked at life.”
Pepe Willie, a Minneapolis legend, signed Charloff to a development deal at 19 and suddenly he was producing and writing music with Dr. Fink from Prince’s band The Revolution. Fast forward to 2010, and Charloff, along with Fink, performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Little Anthony for his induction into the hall.
“I was on guitar, Fink was on keys, and we did a couple of Prince songs at that show, which got us thinking about doing more,” Charloff said. “This was 2010, Prince was very much alive, but not touring that much, and not at the club level, for sure.”
The two secured Prince’s blessing to put together what became The Purple xPeRIeNCE and began playing shows across the country.
Then 2016 came, and Prince was gone.
“The audience changed, younger people were coming, kids were coming, and a lot more tears were happening,” Charloff said. “Dr. Fink was still with us, and people just wanted to experience the legacy, I think.”
Seeing Charloff in action with the Purple xPeRIeNCE is about as close to the real thing as you’re likely to get. A multi-instrumentalist himself, Charloff performs on guitar and piano and sings in the same range as Prince.
“It’s not top of mind for me to sound or look exactly like Prince,” Charloff offered. “I channel the spirit and the energy through the music. But I’m a musician and producer in my own right, and nothing in the show is tracks, prerecorded — I think that’s why it connects. The band is full of the best musicians you’ll ever see, and it’s extremely theatrical and engaging with the audience.”
Charloff understands that many show up at his shows looking to hear their favorite song. But he tries to not just please but also challenge audiences.
“The Prince Army, these are folks that bleed purple on a level that I don’t know any other artist to be celebrated to this degree,” he said. “So how deep we go with the vast Prince catalog really depends on the audience, for me. There’s a solo piano section I do by myself where I can gauge how far to take the rest of the night, and I get the audience involved in that decision.”
For Charloff, his favorite song to perform is “Purple Rain.”
“It’s very far from my favorite Prince song, but it is an anthem, and it brings an audience together,” he said. “There is a palpable energy you cannot recreate outside of this, and I feel lucky to be a part of bringing this many people together, sometimes singing arm in arm.”
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