Prince has a long and storied past with the internet. After being one of the first artists to embrace it in the mid-90s, he became a bit of a recluse in the mid 00s and started hiring people to take down leaked material from the internet. But for some reason, that has now stopped. YouTube has become a literal treasure trove for Prince fans, with several old concerts, rehearsals and music videos now widely available.
Perhaps the best stuff floating around is from a show that Prince performed all the way back in 1983, pre-Purple Rain. Anyone who’s a hardcore fan has seen the video time and time again, but everyday casual fans have been left out of the loop.
The 1983 concert took place at First Avenue in Minneapolis. A year later when the club was featured in Purple Rain (the movie), the venue would be changed forever. In 1983 however, it was perfect for hosting a newly minted Prince & The Revolution. Prince had been performing with some of the band members for a while, but the show was the debut of guitarist Wendy Melvoin who would continue with the band until their dissolution in 1986.
But back on track – the 1983 show (August 3rd, to be more exact) was the first public live performance of Prince & The Revolution. The concert was a benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theater Company. It was also the first time the band would perform several of what would become their signature tracks, most importantly Purple Rain.
Everyone knows the song. Play the first few chords and you’ll have everyone around you singing along. But in 1983 that wasn’t the case. Instead you had a capacity crowd silenced by the song’s first performance. This is one of only a handful of bootlegs of this track that does not have the crowd going nuts; instead they listen to the song and literally see history in the making. Obviously they can’t sing along, the song is new. So instead they listen; Seeing Prince at his absolute rawest in a tiny club with bad sound, sweating his ass off for the Minnesota Dance Theater Company. And melting off faces with one of his best guitar solos.
This live show made up the basis for several Purple Rain tracks, including the title track, I Would Die 4 U and Baby I’m A Star. Prince’s vocals are spot on with how you know them – because they were recorded from a mobile truck outside of First Avenue. Add in a few overdubs and there you have it, one of the best selling albums of the 80s.
Regardless of how you view Prince now, back then one thing was clear – his name was Prince, his favorite color was purple, and he was a bad motherfucker.
Ed: If you enjoyed that, you’ll get a kick out of Steven’s Open Letter to Prince.