'Purple Reign' tribute show comes to Valley - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

'Purple Reign' tribute show comes to Valley

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Posted: Thursday, January 7, 2010 1:17 pm | Updated: 3:50 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Jason Tenner's work routine requires two things: eyeliner and the ability to party like it's 1999.

As frontman for Las Vegas-based Prince tribute band Purple Reign, Tenner struts around on stage in frilly shirts, spandex, high heels and geometrically trimmed facial hair - all in an effort to mimic the famous seven-time Grammy Award-winning pop artist.

"I get to do really cool music, really challenging music, fun music to play and perform. Plus, the character is really flamboyant and out there and wild and crazy, and that speaks to another side of my own personality," says Tenner via video from his recording studio in Las Vegas.

The illusion seems to be working. Purple Reign was asked to perform on the "Late Show with David Letterman" in 2008; it was the first tribute group to do so. It's also garnered 2009 staff- and reader-picked "Best Tribute Act" awards from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and it's the headlining weekend act in the Night Owl Showroom at Vegas' Hooters Casino Hotel. The show's been seen live by everyone from musicians Gladys Knight, Billy Corgan, Michael Bolton and Insane Clown Posse to actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

The group will be in the Valley this weekend, giving three shows at Casino Arizona at Loop 101 and McKellips Road in Scottsdale. The shows, at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, run about 90 minutes.

"You'll hear the hits. I have two girl dancers, like my Diamond and Pearl, that I'm bringing along on the trip. We touch on a lot of the hot Prince stuff. It's high energy. It's a hot show," he says.

Tenner, who plays drums, bass and keyboards and also writes and records his own original music under the name J10, began impersonating Prince in 1997, after dressing up as the celebrity for Halloween the year before.

"People were following me around asking for pictures. I thought, 'Hell, I'm in Vegas, let's do it,'" says Tenner, now in his early 30s.

He was already performing music in local clubs with buddies from high school, and the Prince act became their ticket to living and working as musicians. Purple Reign, a play on the real Prince's 1984 film and song "Purple Rain," was born.

Nearly 13 years later, Tenner - an athletic-looking guy who only vaguely resembles Prince without the costumes and makeup - says performing as the man in purple is still a kick, and it still presents some challenges.

"Sometimes there are injuries. It's a very physical thing. The splits - even Prince himself has stopped doing them at this point. I'm not anywhere near stopping, but I do have a lingering injury. As far as the songs, they can be challenging because he's a very unconventional type of musician, a highly, highly creative individual and some of his stuff is counterintuitive."

He says he still gauges recorded performances of Purple Reign against Prince's videos from time to time to keep the act authentic.

As for what the real Prince thinks of the show, Tenner can only guess.

"I don't think he's seen it," he says. "We've met. We've sat in a room and spoken with each other. They were strange conversations, to say the least. They weren't your normal, you know, 'how's the weather,' type of conversations."

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