When Prince died suddenly of an accidental fentanyl overdose aged just 57 in April 2016 it left millions of fans reeling.
Jimi Love, frontman of Prince tribute act Purple Rain was so shocked he seriously considered stopping the band.
‘I still can’t quite believe it,’ he tells The Guide. ‘To think we won’t see him live again, or have that new album every year, it’s horrible. Prince never seemed human, it was almost like this ethereal figure who didn’t age, he was just always going to be around. It was such a shock because he wasn’t old, and it’s such a horrible loss to the music business.
‘My first reaction was to give it up because it would be too weird, but we got so many nice messages from people saying we still want to be able to dress up in purple and go and sing and dance, and it’s kind of been like therapy for us because we are such massive fans.
‘It’s still pretty emotional when we play, but it’s a real sense of togetherness. Prince called his fans family, and they are such wonderful people. It’s about having a good time, a party and love for one another.’
Purple Rain has been going for 12 years now, celebrating the music of the prolific artist (he released 39 official albums during his life).
Still playing Prince’s music has kind of been like therapy for us because we are such massive fansJimi Love
But it was his godfather who turned him onto the musical wizard when he was 10.
‘I was in his car, he had the cassette of Purple Rain in there, we got about 30 seconds into Let’s Go Crazy, and I was just like: “Wow! Who is this? I listened to the rest of it, and then I spent the next few weeks to try and earn the £10 to buy it, and that was the first album I bought – Purple Rain on vinyl.’
Jimi, who developed into a talented guitarist himself, played in numerous bands, but it was a challenge from a friend that led to the creation of Purple Rain.
‘I was in this covers band and one night we did Purple Rain. I knew the guy who ran the venue and at the end of the gig, after a bit of banter, he made me a bet that I couldn’t put together a Prince tribute band for new year’s eve, which was six weeks away. I went to another mate, who was a big Prince fan and pulled together a few other musicians, the night went well, and it’s carried on from there.’
Jimi says he can imitate prince’s guitar style, but he wouldn’t dare compare himself to the man.
‘Doing the whole lot together, the singing and playing all of the other instruments, that’s where he was just at another level. Which is why I don’t consider myself an impersonator, because no-one else can do that really, can they? It’s an hommage to a hero.’
And like Prince did in his often epic live shows, they try to keep the sets varied.
‘There’s so much material it’s unbelievable. We’ll do a two-and-a-half hour set and there will still be a whole list of songs we wish we could have put in. And then someone will still always say you didn’t do this or that.
‘There’s certain songs you kind of have to keep in, the hits, but not everyone is going to know all of these other tracks. There’s a few fan favourites, some of the more cult ones, and we rotate those so that there’s always something fresh for us to play as well.
‘It’s kind of the same thing as Prince used to do – he played at the O2 Arena for 21 nights [in 2007] and he didn’t play the same set twice.
‘I went to the opening one, it was the first time I’d seen him live and he opened with Purple Rain.
‘To see him come up on the lift, with the smoke, and the symbol guitar, all the hairs on the back of my neck went up, and I think there may have been a tear in my eye.
‘To see him in the middle of the O2 with 20,000 people in the palm of his hand, it was just something to behold.’
Tuesday, November 14