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In this aerial photo, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is lit up in purple lights Thursday, July 3, 2014 in New Orleans, in honor of Essence Festival headliner Prince, who performs on Friday, July 4. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Prince teased the crowd at the 20th Essence Festival with appearances Friday night during sets by Janelle Monae and Nile Rodgers and his band, Chic.

Janelle Monae, wearing her signature white and black, lit up the stage with a high-energy performance that included a surprise cameo appearance by Prince as she covered his hit song, "Let's Go Crazy."

Prince, wearing all black in contrast, played the song's final few bars on his guitar, prompting Monae to drop to her knees and drawing a huge roar from the audience.

Earlier in her set, she danced and strutted across the stage, working up a sweat as she entertained the crowd with her songs "Primetime" and "Electric Lady."

When guitarist Nile Rodgers took the stage, Monae joined him for a performance of "We Are Family," led by Kathy Sledge, who with her sisters "Sister Sledge" made the song famous.

"I was a surprise tonight so I couldn't tweet it or Instagram it," Sledge said. "That was very frustrating."

Asked how she felt about returning to the stage, Sledge said, "It was like coming home."

Chic ran through their top hits, "Everybody Dance," ''I Want Your Love," and "Le Freak." Prince also joined his set, playing guitar on their song, "Dance, Dance, Dance."

The band's last song was "Good Times" and he invited members of the audience to join them on stage to dance along for an old school dance party.


To mark the festival's 20th celebration, organizers said they wanted the milestone anniversary to be as special or better than anything anyone had ever experienced. And, who better to help make that happen than Prince, said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc.

Ebanks, in an interview prior to Friday's scheduled show, said Prince returns to the Superdome's center stage for a highly anticipated performance shrouded by a bit of purple haze.

Ebanks said no one knew what the performance would include. "We're just privileged that he's performing at the festival this year. We are over the moon."

Ten years ago, Prince headlined that anniversary, reuniting with some of the players in his musical past — Morris Day and The Time, guitarist Wendy Melvoin and former protege Sheila E. The high-energy show ended with an emotional performance of Prince's megahit "Purple Rain."

The festival runs through Sunday, with free daily programming and events inside the city's convention and nightly ticketed concerts in the Superdome.