Prince chose a benefit concert for the financially beleaguered Minnesota Dance Theater company as the first occasion anyone would hear the heart of Purple Rain: I Would Die 4 U, Computer Blue, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy and Baby I’m a Star. Also in the 70-minute set: Delirious, Automatic, DMSR and Little Red Corvette from 1999, plus When You Were Mine from Dirty Mind, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You, and the still unreleased Electric Intercourse. Three of those Purple Rain tracks came straight from that First Avenue performance, recorded from a mobile truck outside the club, with overdubs and edits added later
The version of Purple Rain aired that night was 13 minutes long, cut to eight for the LP. “My first reaction was, ‘Wow, this is almost a country song,’” drummer Bobby Z later told Spin magazine. It’s strange to hear the song sounding alone, without the audience singing along – they’ve never heard it before.
The show also marked the first appearance of Wendy Melvoin, replacing Dez Dickerson on guitar (“I was scared to death but I loved it,” she later said, describing it as her “make-or-break evening”). Thus was solidified the lineup of what became “the Revolution”, the band that would feature prominently in Prince’s coming film. Notwithstanding the murky sound and sweaty milieu, the concert captures Prince at his primping, purple peak
Arthur Blythe • Lenox Avenue Breakdown
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