Prince’s ‘Piano & a Microphone Tour’ was a purposefully paired-back affair. With just the titular pieces of equipment, Prince Rogers Nelson took the stage night after night alone, rearranging major hits, hidden gems, and cover songs to fit a more intimate setting. The king of stage presence set out to prove that none of his magnetism was lost by stripping away the glitz, glam, and gigantic band behind him. Prince was still Prince, even at his most sedate and vulnerable.
The tour was short, visiting only eight cities as the shows kicked off at his Paisley Park home/studio. Prince would usually play two shows a night, transitioning from song to song while telling stories and sprinkling in some of that signature Prince showmanship. The early shows were usually more compact and refined, with encores being rare. The real wildness would come during the late shows, where Prince loosened up and whipped out some strange and playful cuts that captivated the audience.
By the time he arrived at the last tour stop in Atlanta, Georgia, Prince was slightly worse for wear. Suffering from ongoing hip problems that required surgery he refused to get (allegedly due to his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness and their ban on blood transfusions), the artist also became ill and decided to reschedule the final night of shows by a week. On April 14, 2016, Prince stepped onto the stage for what would be the final time.
At the early show, Prince was typically restrained and relatively taciturn. Apart from a playful rendition of Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Linus and Lucy’, the early set kept things moving at a brisk pace, with ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘Kiss’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’ rubbing elbows with deep cuts like ‘Elephants & Flowers’ and ‘How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore’. He even finds room to play his version of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ and bust out a song he long referred to as his favourite for one final time: Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’.
The late show was where Prince decided to let loose. Starting off with a cover of The Staples Singers’ ‘When Will We Be Paid’, a distinct gospel feeling hangs over the songs and their performances. Maybe that’s just the view that comes with knowing that Prince would only be alive for another week, but its presence is undeniable.
A fair number of lesser-known Prince songs get prime slots on that night’s setlist: ‘The Max’, ‘Black Sweat’, ‘Indifference’, ‘Eye Love U, But Eye Don’t Trust U Anymore’ and ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’ all getting major turns. A ‘Little Red Corvette/Baby I’m A Star’ medley delights, while ‘Cream’, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, and ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ plays into the more casual side of Prince’s fandom. He also manages to fit in a version of Bob Marley’s ‘Waiting in Vain’.
But it’s the final song of the night, a three-part medley that combines ‘Purple Rain’, ‘The Beautiful Ones’, and ‘Diamonds & Pearls’, that still hits hardest all these years later. Reworking his signature song to include two more of his most cherished compositions would be showing off if it was anyone other than Prince, who not only makes it look easy but like that’s the way the songs always should have been played. When he walks off, it feels definitive, like a whole lifetime was left on stage. It was pure Prince from start to finish, and for a final show, it’s hard to ask for anything more.
Prince’s final show setlist:
- ‘When Will We Be Paid’ (The Staple Singers cover)
- ‘The Max’
- ‘Black Sweat’
- ‘I Would Die 4 U’
- ‘Baby I’m a Star’
- ‘The Ballad of Dorothy Parker’
- ‘Eye Love U, But Eye Don’t Trust U Anymore’
- ‘Little Red Corvette / Dirty Mind’
- ‘Linus and Lucy’ (Vince Guaraldi Trio cover)’
- ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
- ‘Black Muse’
- ‘How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore’
- ‘Waiting in Vain’ (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
- ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’
- ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’
- ‘Purple Rain’ / ‘The Beautiful Ones’ / ‘Diamonds and Pearls’