Prince, the performer

Prince lived for the stage, and his live show will forever remain one of the most memorable to ever grace the world’s clubs, theatres and sports stadiums. In the days since his death, footage of his staggering live performances has begun to appear across the internet, serving as undeniable proof of the Purple One’s unrivalled showmanship, musicality and magnetism. Piers Barber points out some of the best examples.


The mighty Prince was famously no fan of the internet, meaning that at the moment of his untimely passing on Thursday, most mourning fans were left scrapping over a few, albeit stunning, morsels of footage somehow still kicking about on YouTube – his angsty interpretation of Radiohead‘s ‘Creep’ at Coachella in 2008, for example, or his staggeringly good cameo at the conclusion of a George Harrison performance of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ in 2004. Or, of course, that Superbowl Half Time show from 2007.

The restrictions posed by this meagre selection of YouTube material was compounded by his absence from streaming services (Tidal being the one notable exception). Indeed, his Spotify repertoire (below) seems actively designed to put people off further investigation. In a world accustomed to sharing obscure performances and interviews as a way of commemorating a famous person’s passing, as typified by the mourning of David Bowie earlier this year, the whole thing  felt a bit strange. Jillian Mapes wrote an interesting analysis of this highly bizarre mourning process over on Pitchfork.

prince spotify

Yet in the days since his death the internet has cranked into action, with obsessive fans uploading footage of their favourite memories of the Purple One performing live. Responsible for some of the most important and enjoyable releases of all time, it was, after all, in the live arena where this addicted performer truly lived up to his reputation as one of the best to ever do it.

Here are some of the most remarkable Prince live moments now appearing across the internet for our visual and listening pleasure. They serve as evidence of a stunningly versatile and magnetic performer – we may never see the likes of him again.

Prince & The New Power Generation – Joy In Repetition (One Nite Alone… The Aftershow, It Ain’t Over!, 2002)
The implication at the beginning of this audio (“How long you been waiting? I hope we can make it up to you”) appears to suggest Prince is running late. To apologise, he launches straight into a stunning rendition of a live favourite, featuring a characteristically ridiculous guitar solo outro. All is forgiven.

3RDEYEGIRL – Something In The Water (Manchester, 22 February 2014)
This track took on a special life of its own during Prince’s later tours, including his last string of appearances in the UK back in 2014. It features some brilliantly theatrical storytelling and a typically pristine concluding solo.

Prince – DMSR (Musicology Tour, Detroit)
Prince was an untouchable showman, even when not wielding his iconic guitar. This ten minute jam shows off his playful side, with Prince the ringleader endearingly involving his immensely talented band in the performance of this funk-fuelled jam from the 1999 album.

Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover (Capitol Theater, 30 January 1982)
A stunning rendition of the song that truly revealed Prince’s masterful merging of genres for the first time, performed on the tour which announced him to the world. The entire footage of this gig is available here, and remains an exhilarating way to spend an hour of your time.

Prince & the Revolution – Head (Cobo Hall, Detroit, June 1986)
Less of a performance and more of a sumptuous tease, this extended version of one of the first Prince tracks to fascinate and appal in equal measure leaves very little to the imagination. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Prince – Empty Room (Montreux Jazz Festival, 2009)
This is an astonishingly emotive break-up song performed as part of an acclaimed appearance at Montreux Jazz Festival. Footage of the performance can be seen here – it serves as a great example of the marvellously expressive facial contortions that seemed to flow unconsciously through Prince from his guitar during solos.

Follow Piers and the Music Factory on Twitter @piersbarber18 and @MusicFactoryNo1.

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