Jazz Fest 2016 Pays Tribute To Prince

The death of legendary singer Prince has left fans and fellow musicians devastated worldwide. And at Jazz Fest 2016, which started on Friday in New Orleans, many of the acts paid tribute to him.

According to Billboard, The Deslondes performed the gospel classic “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” in tribute to the 80s hitmaker on the first day of the annual festival held at the Sheraton New Orleans.

Later in the day, Kermit Ruffins, whose been described as “Louis Armstrong for the 21st Century,” performed Prince’s 1984 classic “Purple Rain,” for which he admitted that he didn’t know the lyrics of the song.

“It’s the instruments (a killer keyboard solo there, his trusty trumpet everywhere) that really did the talking,” said Paul de Revere of Billboard.

It was reported by USA Today that Janelle Monae’s performance had a big impact because she considered Prince a mentor and a friend. She performed songs off of her 2013 album Electric Lady while she shared stories about him.

“My entire set is dedicated to him. He was free. He was fearless,” said Monae. “He was music. He was rock and roll. He was on beat…. I am because he was. We’re gonna break boundaries, just like he did.”

Monae’s every move was described as “purposeful,” and even said that Prince “stood for the weirdos.”

“Emotion overtook Monae when she covered ‘Take Me With U’ from Purple Rain, and she was clearly trying to regain control of her emotions,” said Alex Rawls, who noted that Monae’s set ended 20 minutes earlier than expected and had to be removed off the stage.

Rawls continued, “The usually self-possessed Monae’s performance had a slightly unfocused quality, as if she wasn’t sure what to do with herself.”

Sharon Jones, with her band the Dap Kings, seemed to fare better during their set at Jazz Fest 2016, where they paid tribute to Prince with the number “When I Come Home,” according to Nola.

“I called him my little brother, said Jones to Billboard, referring to a concert where her band opened for Prince in 2011 at Madison Square Garden.

Jones continued, “Not only did we do the show in Madison Square Garden, we did the show in Paris and in Belgium that same year. That’s how much he loved working with us.”

“The greatest thing about Sharon Jones is that in every performance, she is giving you the very best of Sharon Jones,” said Cate Root, reviewing Jazz Fest 2016 for Nola. “She exudes pure, exuberant self in every performance – perhaps her most Princely quality.”

On the second day of Jazz Fest 2016, the Purple One had a continuing presence on the festival, as a plane left smoke trails that read “Prince” and “1999,” in reference to his 1982 hit song.

“Saturday didn’t have any Princely moments as monumental as Monae’s,” said Alex Rawls.

Billboard reported that Pearl Jam dedicated their set to Prince as they performed songs like “State of Love and Trust” and even referenced the track “Even Flow which was originally performed by Prince’s back up band 3rdEyeGirl.

“It’s nice to be in a place where colorful people aren’t just tolerated. They’re celebrated,” said Eddie Vedder, the band’s frontman.

Later in the day, R&B singer Maxwell performed his song “This Woman’s Work” replacing some of the lyrics with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” from Prince’s 1984 hit “Let’s Go Crazy.”

“We just lost the greatest musician in the world,” said Maxwell. “Everyone is up on this stage because of him.”

According to Fox News, high profile acts including Grace Potter, Steely Dan, and Michael McDonald also played at Jazz Fest 2016. Along with “impromptu” tributes to Prince, local musician Wanda Rouzan also paid tribute to New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, who died in November 2015.

[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]