Purple Reign – The Songs of Prince
Presented by: Whitireia Music
Te Auaha, 20th Sep 2019
Reviewed by: Sam Hollis
With a set carefully curated from Prince’s enormous back catalogue, Whitireia Music students took us to purple church on Friday night under the musical direction of Faiva Brown and Phil Hornblow. Pop anthems and funky deep cuts rang equally true, teaching us two things along the way: Prince rules, and these students sure are talented.
As we entered, we saw Prince’s symbol glowing high above the stage. Countless microphones and amps were lined up, teasing the rich arrangements we were about to hear. I already knew this would be more than just a bunch of covers. Flashes of light and sound effects led us into the performance, setting the tone for an otherworldly performance.
The show was rehearsed to perfection. The band changed with each song, seamlessly leading from one to the next with some masterful interludes and precise timing. For a production with this many moving parts, there was never a delay or an ounce of feedback.
Through tight instrumental arrangements and an intense attention to detail, the musicians expressed an extraordinary amount of respect for Prince. Vocally there was no weak link. While I would have loved more solos from the confident horn section, the solos we did hear were appropriate and gave one reviewer a severe case of stank face. Highlights included Atlanta Luke’s pitch-perfect Little Red Corvette, Tyren Wilson-Liefting’s spacious shredding over Sign o’ the Times, Rangituehu Twomey-Waitai’s funky Musicology, and the crushing Nothing Compares 2 U sung by Rosetta Lopa. Josiah Nolan brought an effortless funk sensibility throughout the night, and his performance of Dear Mr. Man was, for me, the most unexpected and appreciated song of the night.
It became apparent that Brown was responsible for tying these elements together, playing keys, drums, and bass. He closed the night with an emotional Purple Rain. It was clear this show meant something to him, which translated beautifully to those in the audience.