Prince (RIP) Performs Early Hits in a 1982 Concert: “Controversy,” “I Wanna Be Your Lover” & More

Update: Neil deGrasse Tyson just put it right. Now we know what it sounds like when doves cry.

We’re just get­ting the sad news that the artist Prince Rogers Nelson–otherwise sim­ply known as Prince–has appar­ent­ly died at the age of 57. Here you can watch him per­form some of his ear­li­est hits, back in 1982. In the hours to come, we’ll have more on Prince and his influ­en­tial career.

The empire of Prince is a tight­ly con­trolled king­dom, ruled by an enig­mat­ic and eccen­tric musi­cal genius with a leg­en­dar­i­ly con­tentious rela­tion­ship with the music indus­try. For most of the nineties, he was referred to as “the artist for­mer­ly known as Prince,” hav­ing changed his name to an unpro­nounce­able sym­bol to spite his label Warn­er Bros. “Dur­ing that time,” writes Rolling Stone, “sales of his new music slowed down sig­nif­i­cant­ly, but he still man­aged to get his point across.”

You have to admire an artist—even one as wealthy and suc­cess­ful as Prince—willing to take a finan­cial hit for the sake of prin­ci­ple. In his most recent stand (though it prob­a­bly won’t cost him any­thing worth men­tion­ing in stream­ing rev­enue), Prince removed all of his music this past sum­mer from every stream­ing ser­vice except Jay‑Z’s Tidal. So we’re very lucky to have the black-and-white taped live per­for­mance here from 1982 at New Jersey’s Capi­tol The­atre (released by The Music Vault), two years before he hit his 80s peak with the release of Pur­ple Rain the film and album.

What­ev­er you think of Pur­ple Rain the movie (actress Apol­lo­nia Kotero was nom­i­nat­ed for a Razz­ie for worst new star, and her Prince-penned song “Sex Shoot­er” for worst orig­i­nal song), no one can deny the absolute pop bril­liance of the album. It’s hard to pick a favorite; most of us can sing the cho­rus­es to “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” or “I Would Die 4 U” in our sleep. That said, Prince had already released some of the finest music of his career by the time he appeared at this New Jer­sey con­cert, includ­ing one of my per­son­al favorites, “Con­tro­ver­sy” (top) from the 1981 album of the same name and “I Wan­na Be Your Lover” (above) from 1979’s Prince.

We don’t get any­thing from the year’s ground­break­ing 1999, the first album to fea­ture the Rev­o­lu­tion, but we do get clas­sics of the sleazy sex-god first phase of the Pur­ple One’s career, includ­ing “Jack U Off,” above, in which Prince pulls out some clas­sic male-strip­per-does-jazzer­size dance moves while the band rips through the rau­cous stom­per of a tune at almost punk tem­po and vol­ume. These three songs rep­re­sent three of facets Prince as an artist: There’s the agi­tat­ed social com­men­ta­tor, the sen­si­tive, pin­ing lover, and the unre­pen­tant horn­dog. He’s empha­sized one or anoth­er of these per­sona over the course of his career, mod­u­lat­ing them with the funked-up futur­ist char­ac­ter he evolved into as the decade pro­gressed.

Prince’s attempts at film star­dom most­ly fall into the so-bad-they’re-good cat­e­go­ry, begin­ning with rock opera Pur­ple Rain. But few know that he intend­ed to release his first cel­lu­loid effort around the time of this con­cert. It was to be called The Sec­ond Com­ing, to accom­pa­ny a scrapped album of the same name. Hear him sing the unre­leased, gospel-inspired title song above, whose lyrics recall one of Michael Jackson’s social­ly con­scious anthems and include the line “How many more good men must die before there’s gun con­trol.” To learn more about that ill-fat­ed film project, read this inter­view with the pro­posed direc­tor Chuck Statler, the “god­fa­ther of the music video,” here. And to see the full Capi­tol The­atre show, check it out on Youtube here, or right down below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

35 Years of Prince’s Hair­styles in 15 Glo­ri­ous Sec­onds!

Watch a Young Bob Mar­ley and The Wail­ers Per­form Live in Eng­land (1973): For His 70th Birth­day Today

The Clash Live in Tokyo, 1982: Watch the Com­plete Con­cert

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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