Royal Funk Party live on 7 June 2015

That was intense. And who cares if His Royal Badness would be proud?

On Sunday 7 June, a likely crew of bandits assembled to perform deliciously unspeakable horrors to some of the greatest Prince songs.

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That likely crew of bandits happened to be an all-star cast of Melbourne funk, soul and pop singers. Backed by tight-as-a-tiger funk band Lake Minnetonka, no fewer than five singers (plus a few extras) strutted their stuff on stage: Jude Perl, Chelsea Wilson, Henry Manetta, Allysha Joy and Jennifer Kingwell. The first set warmed the audience up with a selection of instrumental tracks plundered from Prince’s various side-projects and miscellaneous adventures. The second set was where it really took off with a broad range of Prince songs, from crowd-pleasers like Cream, Clouds and FUNKNROLL, to obscure relics – including a hilariously dark cover of ‘Bob George’ (complete with pitch shifted vocals and sampled sound effects).

“By the way, I had to go back to the original Frank Zappa song. The Fairlight sample – I grabbed it – then I sped it up to the exact same pitch that it’s on the Black Album.”

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Of course, the performances themselves were spectacular. All seasoned artists individually, the singers really shined with the opportunity to perform such celebrated songs with a crack band behind them. And each singer brought their own distinct manner to the show. Jude Perl led from the front with a salacious rendition of ‘Head’. Her usual fun and frank style did wonders for a song dripping with sexual imagery. Following Perl was Chelsea Wilson. Wilson’s breakout delivery of ‘Kiss’ was the highlight of her set, seeing her use the opportunity to explore a freer and more relaxed delivery. Henry Manetta’s set was a truly impressive tour-de-force showing off his extraordinary expressive range. Allysha Joy brought the show into 2015 with her soulful performance of ‘Clouds’. Finally, Jennifer Kingwell gave us a version of crowd-pleaser ‘Cream’ that masterfully straddled sexual power with feminist power.

“Allysha, can you hear my voice? I’m here to tell you that you’ve been in a state of suspended animation for a very long time. Let’s just say that Tony Abbott’s no longer in power. And the Qantas Club is open again!”

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Bringing all together was funk mastermind Adam Rudegeair. A far cry from his mild-mannered jazz piano virtuoso alter-ego, the Adam Rudegeair on stage at this show was boisterous and mischievous. Not content with merely leading the band, he swanned between electric piano, keytar/synthesiser (complete with rock-star posturing), sample triggering and pitch-shifted vocals. Oh, and he MC’d the whole show. Wrangling all the technology on stage (not to mention all the musicians), it’s impressive enough that it all worked – let alone entertained us and went to some artistically adventurous places too. If anyone deserves a good night’s sleep, it’s Rudegeair.

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There’s no way our usual five images do any justice to the psychedelic mayhem on stage. You can view more photos on Facebook.

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