Prince performing at the 2007 Super Bowl. Image via NFLUntapped Cities writer Laurie Gwen Shapiro, whose book “The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica,” will be released on January 16, 2018, shares with us a Prince memory on the release of the new remastered album of Prince’s Purple Rain. Dearly Beloved Untapped Cities readers, Warner Bros has finally dropped its remastered album of Purple Rain sweetened with unreleased songs found in Paisley Park’s vaults. Extra excitement is for the rarely seen bonus full-length concert film on DVD, a multi-course extravaganza recorded my freshman year of college at Syracuse University in the Carrier Dome. Filmed on March 30, 1985, it was the first American performance to be broadcast live on European television via the Eurovision network. In celebration of this digital release I probed my deepest 1980’s memories and bugged my now middle-aged college pals to help recall this spellbinding concert we were lucky enough to experience. In the past decade it has very difficult to find this legendary concert film in the United States that was later released in the 1991 as “Prince and the Revolution Live!” on VHS only. If you watch the film — and I swear this is true — I am the person the cameras flashes on first in a venue that holds 40,000 plus, and I am making a rather ridiculous orgiastic face for the ages. To understand how I was the beneficiary of such dumb luck, and the greatness of Prince’s performance, let’s go back to 1985 when the internet was yet to come.
The remastered album of Prince’s Purple Rain. Image via Amazon
Prince performing at the Carrier Dome in 1985.Music executive Jonathan Palmer was then a journalism major who was often the de facto music critic for our campus paper The Daily Orange, so it is not surprising that he is the most precise in his recall: “The show arrived and we were all in the house well before the lights went down. Sheila E opened, and slayed with her high energy, aggressive sexuality, and unparalleled prowess on the timbales. She brought a volunteer onstage for a lap dance at one point, setting our teenaged brains (and other things) on fire. For that, I repaid her by buying a sleeveless souvenir t-shirt at the merch booth at intermission. Sleeveless!” Then – just a voice that sent a frisson through the Dome. ‘Hello, Syracuse. My name is Prince and I’ve come to play with you.’ I can remember how he radiated from the stage in those first few minutes and how my heart pounded with a never-before felt excitement that was not unlike a first sexual experience. But truthfully I was so overwhelmed by what I was experiencing in that moment that I get a little fuzzy with the actual songs, and again here my old friends helped me out with more specificity: Jonathan Palmer: “Prince took the stage after what seemed like an hour-long wait. And it was like a bomb going off onstage. At the close of their opening salvo “Let’s Go Crazy,” a seemingly endless supply of purple tambourines was launched into the audience. To this day, I’m still puzzled as to how not one of us in our group of ten or so friends didn’t end up with one (and equally puzzled how none of these musical projectiles didn’t lacerate any of those in the front rows).” Musician and actor John Carlin: “Pandemonium. Beam of light on the stage, all eyes upon it. ‘Dearly beloved…we are gathered here today to get this thing called life.’ He rises. The girls we were just talking to have become rabid animals, guttural screams and squawks, bodies in full-limbed frenzy. ‘Oh my god!! I wanna fuck youuuuu!!'” Jonathan Palmer: The show leaned heavily on the by-then juggernaut album, and Prince brought Sheila E. back onstage, along with Apollonia 6. Insane dance moves that we had to that point only seen from the likes of James Brown. Incredible, palpable camaraderie between him and the members of the Revolution, particularly with his guitar hero counterpart and foil Wendy Melvoin.” Cath Willmott: “I remember being in awe with the fact that you and me and Rodney were so close to the stage that you could see how really tiny Prince was and that he had either a bad case of back acne or freckles.” John Carlin: “And when he sang Darling Nikki in the suspended bathtub, hoo boy.” (John also recalled the 20-minute finale of Purple Rain, which featured a ten-minute scintillating guitar solo.) “He ended by ejaculating over the crowd from his guitar atop these huge speakers, actually spraying some whitish liquid 30-40 yards in these long arcs onto a grateful audience.”
A review of the Carrier Dome performance.