Alicia Keys had a bittersweet night at Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom on Thursday, April 21. She was there to celebrate the release of her new short film project, The Gospel, and play new songs from her forthcoming album at the Tribeca Film Festival. But she was also mourning the death of one of her biggest inspirations, Prince, who passed away just hours earlier.
“We lost someone very special,” she said onstage. “Prince showed me what it means to be an artist…how to be bold and brazen.”
As for the film, it was actually two separate shorts by two different directors, each tackling a different politically charged subject: AV Rockwell directed The Gospel, which took on police brutalityl and Jonathan Olinger directed Hallelujah: Let Me In, which starred Keys herself as a refugee fleeing civil war in America. After screening each with a brief discussion, she played a 45-minute set with a full band (and legendary Jay Z DJ/engineer Young Guru), performing two new songs from her forthcoming album, which sources say is due this fall: the percussive, world-music-inspired “In Common” and the gospel/Kanye blend “Pawn It All.”
Prince was a gift and a genius. He showed us that we have no limits. His music left me forever changed. ? https://t.co/AbZc3AGxny
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) April 21, 2016
Toward the end of her set, she returned to her idol, describing how she and Prince spoke on the phone at the beginning of her career. “I was scared!” she recalls. “He was a very cool dude — the swaggiest that there ever was.”
She then played her soulful cover of Prince’s classic piano ballad “How Come U Don’t Call Me,” from her 2001 debut album Songs in A Minor, undoubtedly the high point of her set. “There was nobody like him before,” she told the crowd afterward, “and there’s not going to be anybody like him after.”