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This Incredible Prince Concert From 1982 Proves There May Never Be a Greater Live Performer

The Purple One, in his prime.
The Purple One, in his prime.

Still from the video

It’s hard to grasp the scale of what we lost today when we lost Prince. He was a songwriter so overflowing with hits that he could just give away No. 1s like “Nothing Compares 2 U” on a lark, he was a provocateur on the scale of contemporaries like Madonna, he was one of the great face-melting rock and funk guitarists of all time (not to mention the fact that, on his albums, he would often play every instrument), and he was the kind of Bowie-esque fashion chameleon who could reinvent his look 35 different times and have every one of them be cool.


But it was at his live shows that this all came together, with Prince doing such seemingly impossible feats as ripping through virtuosic solos at the same time as launching into airborne splits. (Oh, did I forget to mention he was an amazing dancer, too?)


Sadly very little of Prince’s music is freely available online, but there is at least one glorious exception: this 1982 concert from Prince’s Controversy tour at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. The hourlong video has been online for months and, according to Dangerous Minds, “can’t be scrubbed from the Internet.” The show was pre-1999 and Purple Rain, so it’s relatively intimate compared with later arena shows, but that doesn’t mean Prince holds back.


Here is a partial list of the wonders contained herein:


  • A gospel opening to herald the coming of His Purpleness
  • A pole dance (also from His Purpleness)
  • Prince simulating sex with his guitar for four full minutes (starting around 24:40)
  • Prince dancing and doing splits in heels (see around 35:00 for just one example)
  • A Prince striptease (starting around 43:10)
  • Hits including “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Uptown,” and “Dirty Mind.”

I can think of no better way to spend this afternoon than watching the whole thing. If you want to start with your favorite song, here’s the full set list:

0:00:00 – “The Second Coming” (Intro)

0:02:00 – “Uptown”

0:04:50 – “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”

0:12:24 – “I Wanna Be Your Lover”

0:29:14 – “Dirty Mind”

0:35:42 – “Do Me, Baby” 

0:45:45 – “Controversy”
0:53:01 – “Let’s Work”

1:00:55 – Applause before encore

1:02:55 – “Jack U Off”

Read more from Slate on Prince.