Alicia Keys Covers Prince at Tribeca Film Festival: "We Lost Someone Very Special"

Alicia Keys Getty H 2016
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Alicia Keys Getty H 2016

"Prince was a gift and a genius. He showed us that we have no limits. His music left me forever changed."

Alicia Keys had a bittersweet night at Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom on Thursday.

She was there to celebrate the release of her new short film, The Gospel, and play new songs from her forthcoming album at the Tribeca Film Festival. But she also was mourning the death of one of her biggest musical inspirations, Prince, who passed away just hours earlier.

"We lost someone very special," said Keys onstage. “Prince showed me what it means to be an artist ... how to be bold and brazen.”

Keys' film was split into four parts, each by a different director and each taking on a different subject  the last addressed refugees, imagining a civil war in America that sent people fleeing to Mexico. After screening each with a brief discussion, Keys 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.”

Toward the end of her set, Keys 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 Anymore?” 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.”