Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan topped the bill at a tribute concert to Prince Thursday night, a show fans and his family hoped would provide closure after his death nearly six months ago.
Khan brought Wonder onstage at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to duet on I Feel for You, a 1984 hit for Khan written by Prince. Wonder, wearing a suit and purple shirt, got the sold-out audience cheering with his signature harmonica riffs before the two performed Prince's hit "1999," with the crowd clapping and dancing along.
On the outdoor plaza before the concert, fans wearing purple shirts, scarves and the occasional raspberry beret milled about and some danced. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman read a proclamation declaring Thursday Prince Day in Minnesota's capital. President Barack Obama delivered a taped message as the concert opened.
Sharie Tonsager, 46, who grew up in suburban Rosemount, looked forward to hearing the music of Prince — a star she never got to see perform in person.
"He was just original. He never cared what the media said. He just did what he did and loved what he did," said Tonsager, who was sporting purple-tinted hair.
Prince protege Judith Hill performs during the tribute show at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. (Craig Lassig/Reuters)
Prince's younger sister, Tyka Nelson, described the concert as a public memorial to Prince, who died in April at his Paisley Park recording complex.
"I want them to get some closure," Nelson said of Prince's fans. "It takes time to kind of get over it, and I see that they are grief-stricken." She said there "definitely" will be future concerts.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Khan said Prince's funky, syncopated music is a "brand that's going to live forever."
"There'll always be somebody that says, `Ooh, that sounds real Prince-like, you know what I'm saying? His name will come up throughout millennia," Khan said.
Tori Kelly and Doug E. Fresh also are included in the lineup. Prince's ex-wife, Mayte Garcia, has been added to the concert, and Prince will be represented by members of his inner circle, including Morris Day & The Time, Judith Hill and Liv Warfield.
Morris Day, who along with The Time appeared in Prince's 1984 hit movie Purple Rain, performed on Thursday. (Jim Mone/The Associated Press)
The Prince family-sanctioned concert originally was planned for the Minnesota Vikings' new U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, but was moved to the smaller Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.
Aguilera, Mayer not present
Prince's family initially announced the concert in late July, but details did not emerge until September. The wait frustrated Prince fans across the country who already had made travel plans without any guarantee of tickets. But organizer L. Londell McMillan, a longtime attorney for the late superstar, said it took time to put the details together because so many artists were involved.
Fans quickly snapped up tickets when they went on sale last month.
Prince died of an accidental painkiller overdose. The singer of hits including Purple Rain, Let's Go Crazy and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World was 57.
Just before show time, a concert publicist announced that singer Christina Aguilera canceled her scheduled appearance as she fights a "vocal illness."
A representative for Aguilera said she "has been advised by her doctors not to perform due to a vocal illness she has been trying to shake all week."
Pop star John Mayer bowed out of the concert earlier, citing a "change of schedule." Singer Anita Baker cancelled her appearance just before the event, but a publicist for the show did not know the reason.
Nicole Scherzinger performs during the Official Prince Tribute-A Celebration of Life. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)