The King of Princes

Ever resilient, "Purple Reign" re-emerges still in tip-top form

Photo by Tom Donoghue

Photo by Tom Donoghue

Pardon my petulant streak.

Briefly, I considered typing this column using only symbols on the keyboard’s top row. What was good enough for Prince—with that silly thingamabob that replaced his already pretentious name—is good enough for me.

However, Prince pivoted back to his Purple Rain-era moniker long ago, and Purple Reign tribute performer Jason Tenner deserves a review with an alphabet.

Rare is the show as hell-bent on survival as this one, which has bounced around town for 17 years, from its inception at UNLV-area clubs to The D to Hooters Hotel to Planet Hollywood—with a national stop on Late Show With David Letterman in 2008—and now, recently returned to The D.

Nailing the Purple One’s guitar gymnastics—and whipping the mic stand with so much force that it approaches James Brown levels—Tenner can still pull off something tricky: lending a caricature-like twist to a performer who built his career on being a savvy caricature already. (But undeniably talented, so don’t stone me, Prince fans.)

While the Prince-ly glare beams out his eyes, so does Tenner’s mischievous glint. Haughtiness and a sense of superiority roll off the stage from Tenner, but then he can bust through it, chatting and smiling at the audience—a wink-wink to puncture Prince’s snout-in-the-air ’tude.

At the show this critic caught—bursting with rabid Prince worshippers—the crowd was on its feet and moving far more than it was seated and attentive, encouraged by Tenner and his four-piece power band that generates the musical electricity of a group three times its size.

Hits? Present and accounted for: “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Kiss,” “Sexy M.F.,” “When Doves Cry” and on and on.

Though Purple Reign hardly requires an energy boost, it gets big ones from several sources. Impersonating Morris Day of The Time, the Prince-associated band, Drew James is kick-ass funny with his dead-on Day-ness and scissor-style moves. Complementing his calculated outrageousness is Kendrick Harmon as backup dancer and sidekick Jerome Benton, rousing the crowd and fetching a mirror so James’ Day can admire his mug. Spilling off the stage onto the showroom floor, their banter amounts to pithy sketches peppering the concert.

Dancer Jennifer Romas, formerly of the Sahara’s Striptease The Show and Planet Hollywood’s iCandy Burlesque, is a sizable asset, a shake-a-licious jolt of sensual choreography—and adept quick-change artist, outfits switching with every tune. Gyrating around Tenner, she slathers on the sex appeal like butter soaking into an ear of corn.

Purple Reign has traveled from lounge act to balls-out tribute show over the years, but the dance-club vibe still rules. Go in prepared to rock out.

Having proven its durability 10 times over, the show deserves a stable stand somewhere, and its boomerang return to The D Showroom—a snug fit for its small-scale explosion—hopefully will stick.

Yet if it’s destined to play venue hopscotch, I’ll cave to the urge to write the next review in symbol gibberish. In fact, I’d like to say for the record that &#$ & )@$+ $& &!@)%%.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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