The long-awaited tribute to pop icon Prince opened in his native Minnesota with an unexpected speaker — US President Barack Obama.
Obama, a fan who invited Prince to play the White House, sent a brief video that opened the tribute concert at the 20,000-seat XCel Energy Center in Minnesota’s capital Saint Paul.
“Thank you, Prince, for all the great works you have done. You will be in our hearts forever,” Obama said.
Former White House adviser Van Jones, who revealed after Prince’s death that the pop star had turned to him for advice on how to make anonymous charitable contributions to various causes, said that fans would be surprised how much Prince funded.
“I don’t think Prince wanted to save the world. I think what Prince wanted to do is make sure that people’s gifts… had a chance to sing,” he said in a video.
The music kicked off with Morris Day, Prince’s childhood friend in Minneapolis who played his rival in the classic 1984 film “Purple Rain.”
Day, wearing a striking orange suit before a sea of fans clad in purple, joined his band The Time in kicking into funky tracks from “What Time Is It?,” the group’s 1982 album recorded at Prince’s studio.
Soul legend Stevie Wonder was to headline the sold-out show, although another headliner, pop star Christina Aguilera, canceled at the last minute.
In contrast to fellow pop star Michael Jackson, who was often seen as his rival in the 1980s and had a star-packed tribute in Los Angeles, Prince proudly remained in his native Minnesota and most fans at his concert appeared to be locals.
Prince died on April 21 at his Paisley Park compound outside the Twin Cities from an accidental overdose of powerful painkillers.
Prince was cremated privately and his family has described Thursday’s concert, nearly six months after his death, as the only official event in his memory.
© 2016 AFP
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