Credit: Joel Bremer

Rare footage of Prince’s first performance of ‘Purple Rain’ from 1983 is amazing

We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a moment in pop music history. The first-ever performance of Prince’s iconic song, the everlasting brilliance of ‘Purple Rain’.

There are few artists as fluid, as multi-talented and singular in their vision than Prince Rogers Nelson. The late singer not only captivated the music world with a genre-skipping ability to write incredible songs but also played his part in the film industry too. Most notably, of course, his feature film Purple Rain. But before the film, there had to be a song and this debut performance of ‘Purple Rain’ is giving us chills.

Below’s footage of that incredible night with Prince 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. 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 is 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. We’re not sure if there’s a right or wrong answer here but 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 the First Avenue club in Minneapolis, a spot Prince frequented on many an occasion. The rendition remains a shining a piece of the Purple One’s illustrious history.

Looking back, it is clear to see how the gig was a turning point for Prince—it was the moment he became more than just a pop star. Yet, at the time, reviewers from the Star-Tribune noted that fans in attendance were becoming more and more “disinterested” as the song went on. It may well be expected considering Prince was performing a concept album without much context, however it’s clear that during this period Prince was 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.

Prince 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 track would go on to immortalise his wonderful career and cement his name as “The Purple One”.

Of the song’s construction, Prince was once quoted as saying: “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.” Prince’s magnus opus was complete.

The footage captured from the aforementioned evening is not likely to hang around for too long as it holds itself as yet another battlefield for the streaming 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 every single minute of it. The performance feels even more impressive knowing that Prince performed it with the crowd not knowing a single lick of it. Looking back we bet they all count themselves lucky they were in attendance when prince debuted ‘Pruple Rain’ for the first time.

Watch Prince’s first-ever performance of his iconic track ‘Purple Rain’, below.

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 different 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.”

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