Prince's death adds emotional weight to tribute show Friday in St. Charles

A Friday concert at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles was just going to be another gig for the Prince tribute band The Purple Xperience. But with the unexpected death of the influential pop and R&B star on Thursday, the concert will take on extra emotional weight for Prince fans and especially for members of The Purple Xperience.

The band is led by Matt "Doctor" Fink, a former member of Prince and the Revolution whose reminiscing to reporters Thursday will spill over into Friday's tribute.

"We'll talk about the song 'Purple Rain' and how (Prince) came to us in a rehearsal and said, 'This will probably be the title track to the film.' He presented the chords and we just started jamming on it," said Fink, known for wearing surgical scrubs while performing on keyboard for Prince's band from 1978 to 1991.

Fink was at work in Minneapolis Thursday when he got alerts on his phone about a death at Paisley Park, Prince's studio residence. The confirmation he feared came a short time later. "I'm so far in shock right now," Fink said during an interview while he was being driven from the airport to St. Charles Thursday night.

"He had a great sense of humor. Much more outgoing and fun to be with than people were led to believe," Fink said, pausing at the coincidence of driving past Prince Crossing Road in West Chicago. "His work ethic was incredible. There were a lot of times we'd be there 10 or 11 in the morning till 8 at night, the group would be there, and then he'd go into the studio and work till 4 a.m."

Ron Onesti, the president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and the Arcada Theatre, said he booked The Purple Xperience long before Thursday's news "because I'm such a huge fan of Prince as a musician and as an artist. They were so passionate about carrying on the 'Purple Rain' era of Prince. I thought that would be amazing to bring to the Arcada."

As recently as Wednesday, the Arcada Theatre emailed out a "Ladies Night" promotion for The Purple Xperience offering a limited block of free tickets to women and $10 tickets for kids. "Those tickets are now all gone," said Onesti, adding that he resisted suggestions to jack up ticket prices in light of Prince's death.

Onesti said the Arcada is putting together a tribute to Prince to coincide with Friday's concert. One of Onesti's personal memories of Prince is seeing him in concert in 1996 at the Park West in Chicago and at the club Excalibur following the show. Onesti was taken by Prince's diminutive appearance.

"He was so small of a person, but so powerful as an entertainer," Onesti said.

Because of Prince's death, Onesti has been fielding all sorts of calls tied to The Purple Xperience's Arcada concert. Onesti said the extra publicity isn't something he has sought.

"It is a coincidence and I do not consider myself fortunate at all about this," Onesti said. "I'm a lot more bummed."

Pop superstar Prince dead at 57

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