When purple reigned: A 1985 Prince concert finds a new life
New York — The first thing you hear is a familiar voice over the sound of thousands of screaming fans.
“Hello, Syracuse and the world. My name is Prince and I’ve come to play with you.”
The Purple One soon arrives, rising up through the stage — wearing an animal print jumpsuit with a ruffled white frock, a guitar slug across his back — as “Let's Go Crazy” starts. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...” he says.
It's the electric beginning of a high-energy concert in upstate New York held more than three decades ago, reworked and re-released on video and audio capturing Prince & The Revolution at their peak.
“It was as amazing as I remember it was,” says Lisa Coleman, a Revolution member who was there that night singing and playing keys. Adds drummer Bobby Z: “The next generation needs to see this because this is what it was all about.”
The March 30, 1985, concert at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York, included the songs “Delirious,” “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Take Me Home,” “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” “Computer Blue,” “When Doves Cry” and “I Would Die 4 U,” among others.
It closes with a sensual, knock-out “Purple Rain,” with Prince in a shimmering cloak delivering a solo that lasts several minutes and shows off an immensely talented guitarist.
“You can tell that he knows what he’s doing there — he is lighting up the world. He always played it like there was no tomorrow. But that one is especially moving,” says Bobby Z.
“Prince and The Revolution: Live” will be released June 3 in a variety of formats, including digital streaming platforms, a three-LP vinyl version, a two-CD version and a Blu-ray of the concert film.
There’s also a limited edition box set featuring three colored LPs, two CDs, the Blu-ray video, a 44-page book with never-before-seen photos of the Purple Rain Tour, and new liner notes penned by all five members of the Revolution.
“I was so proud of him and the band we put together and everything at that moment and the fact that it lives on and that this beautiful project is coming out is something special,” says Bobby Z, a Prince friend since they met in 1976. "That band is cooking like a freight train."
Prince fans have another reason to be happy this summer: “Prince: The Immersive Experience” makes its worldwide debut on June 9 in Chicago. It offers visitors the chance to explore his wardrobe, music influences and hits.
The Syracuse concert came at the end of a 100-odd date tour and Prince and the band are by this time a tight and sleek machine, piggybacking off the wild success of the film “Purple Rain.”
“I do feel like it was a pearl amongst a really great necklace,” says Wendy Melvoin, a guitarist and singer in the Revolution. “The only difference was that it was being televised worldwide. And there was a bit more pressure on us to kind of up our game.”
Over the course of the performance, Prince makes several costume changes, jumps around the set's scaffolding, strips down to just pants and necklaces, writhes suggestively in a bathtub and drives the crowd crazy with such lines as: “Do you want me?”
The gig was an early pay-per-view event and was nominated for a Grammy Award for best longform music video. The concert was later put out on VHS but the quality of the audio and visuals were poor.
“I’m really excited for a next generation of Prince fans to see what it was all about. He wasn’t, you know, just some average guy. This was a seriously talented, unbelievable dancer, singer, bandleader, showman, composer, musician. This was a one-in-a-billion individual,” says Bobby Z.
Melvoin says die-hard Prince fans may have already seen bootleg versions but hopes that the new album and film can inspire other artists.
“I think the people that I’d want to have see it are people that want to learn how to put on a really great show,” she says. “Other artists should see it.”
Melvoin and Coleman say they recently rewatched the two-hour concert and found themselves saying “wow!” periodically.
“We were sitting next to each other watching a big screen version of it, and we both had forgotten certain parts of it, and it was really quite something to behold,” says Melvoin. “I think one of the things that I said to Lisa was, ‘Jesus, we were really good!’”