Gabriel Sanchez will pay tribute to the Purple One
The Purple One will live again when Gabriel Sanchez presents The Prince Experience, 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, Dec. 26-28, at the Egyptian Theatre.
For the past 13 years, The Prince Experience has entertained Prince fans all over the country. The demand spiked when Prince passed away in 2016.
“Not only were we playing more, we would have people thanking us for keeping his music and show alive,” Sanchez said. “They told me that the show helped with their own healing and dealing with the loss.”
Sanchez promised a high-energy performance straight out of 1984.
“We started this in 2004, and back then, Prince had stopped doing some of his fun and suggestive songs, so we play the songs really close to the recordings,” Sanchez said during a phone call from his home in Milwaukee. “We also reenact some of the scenes from the movie ‘Purple Rain.’”
Sanchez, who composes and performs original material on his own, never thought about doing a Prince tribute show until a friend of his asked him to portray Mr. Paisley Park for a theater production of “Purple Rain.”
“It was a small theater, and I told him to tell me when he would present productions because I would like to buy a ticket to see them,” Sanchez said. “They had done Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ and that was cool. Then he told me they were going to do ‘Purple Rain.’”
Sanchez really wanted to see that musical.
“I think Prince is awesome, and I loved the movie,” he said. “In fact, I had seen it so many times that I could quote it.”
Then came the kicker.
“My friend told me that the director wanted me to play Prince,” Sanchez said. “That took me by surprise, because I didn’t think I looked like him or sounded like him.”
Others, however, thought he looked like The Artist.
“Strangely enough, I had just gotten my hair cut and some girl told me that I looked like Prince,” he said.
After thinking about the role, Sanchez thought it would be fun.
“When I was younger, I wanted to act,” he confessed. “I had written scripts and my cousins and friends had acted them out. But I never did them for real. So, I thought I should try being in ‘Purple Rain.’”
After agreeing to do the show, Sanchez had second thoughts.
“My friend said he wanted me to sing like Prince and dance like Prince and play guitar like Prince,” Sanchez said. “I thought, ‘Oh, man. What did I get myself into?’”
While Sanchez does have a four-octave vocal range, he didn’t know if he could match Prince’s delivery.
“I thought even if I hit those notes, I had to sound like him, and that made me nervous,” Sanchez said.
Then there was the guitar playing.
“Back then I was strictly a rhythm guitar player and didn’t do solos,” Sanchez said. “I told the director that I could probably learn the solos, and she said if I couldn’t do them, they’d have someone backstage playing so I could just fake it.”
That’s when Sanchez went all in.
“I realized then that if I was going to do to this, I needed, for myself, to do everything,” he said. “So I learned the solos note for note and watched the movie again for hours to make sure I moved like him.”
That has helped Sanchez develop as a musician.
“I’m also always trying to find things that I can do better,” he said. “For example, we do a piano scene in the show, and keyboards have always been my weakness. So I’ve been concentrating on that more. Because once I get better on the keyboards, there are so many other songs I can try, because Prince was an incredible keyboard player.”
Sanchez is also singing better than ever because of Prince songs.
“I’m singing higher today than I ever could and I’m also singing lower than I’ve ever done,” he said. “I would love to thank Prince to helping me become a better player and singer.”
Sanchez said there is nothing easy about paying tribute to Prince.
“But I think the one thing that I had to overcome was separating myself from him,” he said. “When Prince was on stage he was very sensuous, which is something that I’m not. I had to learn how to act like that, because I couldn’t just go on stage as myself.”
After performing the show all of these years, the Purple One’s idiosyncrasies have found their way into Sanchez’s stage presence.
“These days when I go on stage with my own band, some of those movements come out,” he said, laughing.
Audience responses to the show did more than turn Sanchez’s head and ear.
“I couldn’t believe the reaction, so I thought maybe I should do something like this all the time,” he said.
Sanchez called a bunch of local players and put together a Prince tribute band.
“I had to find people who played on a higher level than me so I would have to work hard,” he said. “I also wanted to weed out a bunch of people who weren’t super professional, because I wanted to put together the best Prince tribute ever.”
The meticulousness paid off and The Prince Experience has gained many fans over the past 13 years.
“We have so many people tell us that they couldn’t see Prince in the 1980s, and we filled that void,” Sanches said.
These moments are the reason why Sanchez takes The Prince Experience on tour.
“The happiness of the audience drives me,” he said. “That’s why I love playing music anyway, and if they keep happy, I’ll still do this.”
Sanchez has two favorite Prince songs – “Purple Rain” and “Beautiful One.”
Sanchez likes “Beautiful One” because it challenges him.
“There are two different vocal methods in that song and you have to approach the notes differently,” he said. “It’s still hard to do. “
“’Purple Rain’ is hard for me to do because I can’t cry and sing at the same time,” he said. “Even before Prince died, it was such an emotional song for me, because the guy who did the costumes for the show became a great personal friend and he passed away. So when I sing the song now, I sing it for him as well as for Prince.”
Gabriel Sanchez will present The Prince Experience, a Prince tribute show, at 8 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday, Dec. 26-28, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Since 2002 Sanchez has tipped his hat to Prince with a production that features the songs “Purple Rain,” “1999” and “Raspberry Beret,” to name a few. Tickets range from $34 to $50. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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