It's understandable if music fans hear the name Sheila E. and immediately think of another iconic artist: Prince.
The two collaborated myriad times, whether on the Prince single "Erotic City" or Sheila's 1984 breakthrough album, "The Glamorous Life." They created together, toured together and, at one time, were engaged to be married.
But for the performer born Sheila Escovedo, her connection to the late pop icon is not what makes her incendiary. It’s her own show-stopping talent as a vocalist and percussionist, which were both on display— along with her ongoing reverence to Prince — Thursday night when she rolled her genre-mingling caravan into Canalside.
Such a wildly entertaining performance didn't surprise anyone familiar with her career. Ever since "The Glamorous Life” and her performance on Prince’s “Purple Rain” tour, Sheila E. has riveted audiences as an amplified one-woman onslaught. Bouncing from pop to Latin to R&B — all while capable of a backbeat built for rock 'n’ roll — Escovedo has endured with her skill to thrill.
As she approaches 60, she hasn’t lost any of these attributes. But with the passing of Prince in April 2016, she lost a soul mate, something reflected on her forthcoming album, “Girl Meets Boy.” On Thursday night, this loss still was heavy on her heart as she delivered a show’s worth of stirring instrumental and vocal tributes to her late collaborator.
[Gallery: Sheila E. headlines at Canalside Live!]
Draped in a white T-shirt bearing Prince’s identifying symbol, Sheila slipped into an opening rendition of “When Doves Cry” in front of her four-piece band and pair of back-up singers. Poignant and perfect, it was a sign of things to come.
What unfolded was Sheila as show-woman, handling her two-snare drum kit at center stage while flowing through a series of purple-hued tunes, R&B revue-style. A bounce through a few verses of “Erotic City.” A nod to Sheena Easton’s “U Got the Look,” some pieces of “Diamonds and Pearls” and a gleeful dance through her own “A Love Bizarre.”
[PHOTOS: Smiles at Sheila E. at Canalside]
In the hands of a lesser performer, these tributes would seem labored. But from Sheila E., they were caring and celebratory. Her take on “Raspberry Beret” was gleeful; her tandem with guitarist Michael Gabriel to replicate the heaven’s echo of Prince’s “Purple Rain” guitar solo was cathartic. And her wild drum solo to conclude her signature “Glamorous” hit? A thumping thanks to the man who helped with its conception, and still inspires her career.
Before the night's main attraction, early arrivals were introduced to the brass-infused escapades of Orkestra Mendoza. The Arizona sextet spent its rousing set touring through Latin fusion, Mexican dance rock and mambo at the direction of guitarist/vocalist Sergio Mendoza and maracas-wielding energizer, Salvador Duran.
Highlighted by stanzas of clarinet and trumpet by Raul Marques—and paced by percussionist Jaime Peters — the Western six-piece ignited a cobblestone dance party with Latin rock-flavored tracks like "Caramelos" and the swerving, step-by-step beat of "Mambo Repeata."
Sheila E. at Canalside Live!
Thursday night at Canalside