Sheila E. on Prince tribute concert and his death: 'It's really hard'

Sheila E performs in front of the IDS Center for Super Bowl LIVE.
Sheila E performs in front of the IDS Center during a Salute to Prince concert hosted by Super Bowl LIVE.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

Sheila E., Morris Day and the Time, and the Revolution, together Monday night. An explosion of music at 8th Street and Nicollet Mall, which was part of a 10-day lineup of free concerts called Super Bowl Live (curated, by the way, by producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, original members of The Time).

But before the rocking started outside, Andrea Swensson from The Current and I sat down with Sheila E. and Day in separate interviews.

Here are my five takeaways from those interviews.

Sheila E and Morris Day perform together on a cold Monday night.
Sheila E and Morris Day perform together on a cold Monday night in front of the IDS Center in Minneapolis during a Salute to Prince concert hosted by Super Bowl LIVE.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

1. Sheila E. and Day had never shared a stage, until Monday night.

We were gobsmacked to learn this, especially given all the tributes to Prince that have happened since he died in 2016. Each of these three bands had taken part in their own tributes but this was the first time they were in the same lineup and the first time for Morris and Sheila E. ever.

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"This is the closest I've been to Shelia on stage and it was high energy. I was impressed," Day said. "We all came through that boot camp together and we were taught well, and it's the perfect opportunity for us to get a chance to do this together."

2. Sheila E. is all of us: She is still processing Prince's death.

We're going on two years since Prince died unexpectedly in his home at Paisley Park. An autopsy later revealed he died of an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl.

Sheila E. is still very much mourning his death. It's easy to say we all are, but her closeness to Prince was especially evident ahead of the tribute show.

Sheila E wears layers of Prince necklaces.
Wearing layers of Prince necklaces, Sheila E speaks with MPR's Andrea Swensson and Tom Weber.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

"I'm not over it at all," she said, adding she'd already had to reapply lashes because she'd been crying. "I'm having problems being here now and talking about it. It's really hard. The more I talk about it, the harder it is.

"It's challenging because I believe he was hiding things from me, personally, because we were really close. And I could tell something was going on and he was changing."

She said the two rarely fought, but the last time they argued "we were really angry and I could see something was different.

"I think he was pushing me away because something was going on." I feel he knew that if i knew, I'd have done something about it.

"And," she said, "that's what hurts."

3. Morris was more circumspect

Andrea last interviewed Day in January, 2016, a few months before Prince died. She recalled that interview being a little lighter, almost as if Morris stayed in character and offered stock answers.

But on Monday, he was more circumspect about the time that had passed since Prince's death and the importance of a tribute show.

Morris Day speaks with MPR's Andrea Swensson and Tom Weber.
Morris Day speaks with MPR's Andrea Swensson and Tom Weber Monday.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

"I look at how there's a divine path your life takes,'' he said, recalling a trip to Minneapolis when he was a boy that would keep him in Minneapolis for two decades during which time he met and collaborated with Prince.

"Mine was stopping here because I didn't want to be in Minneapolis. My mom stopped here to visit a sick aunt. We were on our way from Illinois to California. I wanted to be in L.A. I know that was my divine path to be here."

4. The halftime show we'll never see.

Both Sheila E. and Day contemplated the 'what-if's' around whether Prince would have been slated to perform at this year's Super Bowl. The NFL announced Minneapolis as the site of the game back in 2014, and almost immediately people hoped Prince would get the nod.

And even though he'd performed a halftime show, in 2007.

"Probably the most incredible halftime show ever. I don't think anyone can top when he played 'Purple Rain' and it rained," Sheila E. said. And she added that Prince was excited for the potential to do another one. She added Prince was waiting for US Bank Stadium to be completed so he could perform there.

Day pondered whether Prince might have brought the same lineup we saw Monday night to that halftime show.

The NFL produced this short video about Prince's 2007 show, which happened in a rainstorm.

5. The basement of the Dayton's building looks haunted.

The interview was to take place in the former Dayton's/Macy's building, which is under renovation.

But as showtime grew closer and we awaited Day's arrival, the VIP lounge was getting crowded and loud with music. Our crew found a quieter place in the basement. That's where we were sitting when Day showed up in his usual elaborateness: a long, white overcoat, perfectly coiffed hair, an immaculate pocket handkerchief, and a pair of sparkling shoes that you couldn't not look at.

Sheila E speaks with MPR's Andrea Swensson and Tom Weber.
Sheila E speaks with MPR's Andrea Swensson and Tom Weber in the basement of the old Macy's building.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

The wires hanging from the ceiling and it's starkness would make it perfect for a haunted mansion or horror movie set.

We won't soon forget chatting with Day, but it's possible we'll longer remember the setting for the interview.

You can see Andrea's piece, which includes a video clip of the concert here.