Review: Prince Pulls Out All the Stops in This Enhanced Reissue of the 1985 ‘Purple Rain’ Tour

Prince and the Revolution
(Sony Music Entertainment)
5 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Hello Syracuse and the world. My name is Prince and I have come to play with you, are the first words spoken when Prince and his band hit the stage on March 30, 1985 for what would be one of the final dates on his Purple Rain tour. That event was beamed all over the globe on satellite (hence “the world” reference) to millions and Prince, like Hendrix at Monterey Pop, pulled out all the stops.  

While there have been plenty of Prince concert videos over the decades since, this one has rightly gained a reputation as one of, if not the, best out there. It has been relatively easy to acquire on DVD and was also included in the deluxe Purple Rain reissue box set (2017). But this new edition has been completely overhauled with remixed Dolby Atmos audio and restored video from the original tapes. It looks and sounds better now than even on the night it was originally broadcast.

It’s quite a show.

Prince explodes out of the gate shooting sparks with a hyper animated version of “Let’s Go Crazy,” crisscrossing the stage like a wild animal uncaged, mugging for the cameras and doing his best Hendrix impression on guitar. It’s six minutes of pure adrenaline and you wonder how things could get any better. But they do as he rips open his shirt and charges into “Delirious,” complete with gravity defying James Brown mic moves, falling to the floor and shouting Somebody call me a doctor, with enough energy to power the enormous Syracuse, New York Carrier Dome, where it was recorded, on his own. From there, it’s the first of several costume changes as he dons a shiny long purple coat for “1999,” letting his five piece backing Revolution band take some of the spotlight.  If the concert ended with those three opening tracks running about 15 minutes, everyone would have gotten their money’s worth.   

Of course there is more…an hour and forty five minutes more…as Prince and his band barrel through all of Purple Rain, most of 1999 and some B sides with the force of a few army tanks. The stage has multiple steps, stairways and poles, all of which Prince uses to enhance his already manic footwork, which at times makes even Michael Jackson in his prime look like a weak impersonator.

Things slow down momentarily for a bluesy “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” and “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” where Prince sits to play piano, eventually standing up and kicking away the bench like Jerry Lee Lewis on steroids. He extends “When Doves Cry” to nine minutes, “Baby I’m a Star” to 11 and closes with nearly a third of an hour dedicated to the most insanely searing version of “Purple Rain” ever to make it to tape. It really needs to be seen to be believed.   

Speaking of which, the lighting, which probably worked well live, is not made for the home experience. At times, like during an odd instrumental excursion into “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the stage is so dark, it’s impossible to see what’s happening.

Still, that is a minor issue when dealing with a performance this monumental. It’s obtainable on audio (vinyl, CD, streaming) but the way to go is the Blu-ray disc. That’s where the sweat soaked visual intensity of Prince at his most vital, spirited, and electric is mind-altering.

Anyone who has somehow been immune to the late icon’s talents need only push play and let his showmanship, musicality and sheer star power wash over you to understand why he was such a legend.

This captures it all and it has never looked or sounded better.    

Courtesy The Prince Estate / by Nancy Bundt

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