Below’s footage of the first-ever performance from Prince of his iconic song ‘Purple Rain’ is either a triumphant (if not fleeting) win or a big fat L—depending on which side of the YouTube fight you’re on. Either way, it’s bloody fantastic watching.
Yes, it would appear there’s an almost continuous war being waged for those of us who binge on the “early performance” material of our favourite artists. That fight this week is being fought between Prince and those who are pushing his work onto streaming services whenever they possibly can.
While it is very easy to see why an artist may want to harness any early-career bootleg potential it’s also easy to see how having this work available to your die-hard fans to watch over and over again will likely add to a more engaged audience. Whichever way you cut it—the footage is unmissable.
The clip in question is Prince’s first-ever performance of his now-famous and simply iconic song ‘Purple Rain’. The video was shot around 1983, taking place at First Avenue and is a piece of the Purple One’s illustrious history.
Looking back now, and it is clear to see that the gig was a turning point for Prince and, although we can still hear people who attended the show profusely telling us how magical it was. Yet, at the time, reviewers from the Star-Tribune at the time noted they were becoming more and more “disinterested” as the song went on. However, those who were present at the time and enjoying it can be confident that they witnessed a piece of history.
At the time Prince was at that point in his career a fledgeling icon, having just seen ‘1999’ make a dent in the charts, the artist was ready to turn it up a notch. He had some big plans.
So, while performing for Minnesota’s Dance Theatre charity show, Prince decided that this night would be the night to debut some of his soon-to-be most iconic material. He provided fans with future muso-collateral by performing for the first time some of the jewels in his musical crown – songs like ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’, ‘Baby, I’m A Star’ and of course, what would become the title track from his next LP, as well as the title of his first motion picture, ‘Purple Rain’.
The footage below is likely not to hang around for too long as it holds itself as yet another battlefield for the YouTube guerilla war. So, while it is here, we suggest you enjoy all 13 minutes of it while you get the chance. It’s a meaty version of the track but its weight is warranted and wanted. The performance feels even more impressive knowing that Prince performed it, all 780+ seconds of it, with the crowd not knowing a single lick of it. Ah, to be Prince.
Watch below Prince’s first-ever performance of his iconic track ‘Purple Rain’.
The song is a special track for many of the aforementioned reasons. It will linger long in the pantheon of music, but there is a niggling notion that it maybe could’ve been a little better if Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks wasn’t such a scaredy-cat.
The singer reportedly turned down the opportunity to work with Prince on the album and the titular song. “It was so overwhelming,” she later recalled. “I listened to it and I just got scared. I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’ I’m so glad that I didn’t, because he wrote it, and it became ‘Purple Rain.’”
She told Mojo (via NME): “I’ve still got it, the whole instrumental track and a little bit of Prince singing, ‘Can’t get over that feeling’, or something. I told him, ‘Prince, I’ve listened to this a hundred times but I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s a movie, it’s epic.”