Prince Plays Unplugged and Wraps the Crowd Around His Little Finger (2004)

Google the words “Prince” and “shade.” Go ahead. It’s worth it. Or just click here, lazy­bones. Lis­ti­cle after arti­cle on how the depart­ed genius was the “King of Shade.” And seri­ous­ly, check out the memes. What the hell am I ram­bling on about? What’s “shade”? If you’re feel­ing unhip, look no fur­ther than the video above, which has the added bonus of fea­tur­ing The Artist in a solo acoustic per­for­mance at New York’s Web­ster Hall for an MTV Unplugged episode, doing a kind of high­lights reel of some of his best-loved songs.

He is, of course, bril­liant. You don’t need me to rhap­sodize about what an amaz­ing musi­cian Prince was. You already knew that, and if you didn’t, the Inter­net has told you so sev­er­al hun­dred times over and, for once, it did­n’t exag­ger­ate one bit. But back to the shade. In Prince’s case, the sub­tle side-eye, the with­er­ing looks of dis­dain and dis­ap­proval, the WTF sneers…. When you take in the full range of the man’s expres­sions, you’ll see why Miles Davis com­pared his stage per­sona to Char­lie Chap­lin—he wasn’t just a musi­cal genius, bene­fac­tor to many, film star, sexy MFer…. He was also a phys­i­cal come­di­an.

Watch him toy with the audi­ence above. He invites them to sing along as he starts with “Cream.” They do so bad­ly off-key, Prince stops and throws shade. Audi­ence shuts up, suit­ably shamed, then cracks up. Repeat. It’s fan­tas­tic crowd inter­ac­tion from a man who could put on a Broad­way-wor­thy pro­duc­tion with all the smoke and pyrotech­nics and a cast of thou­sands, or who could sit onstage alone with an acoustic gui­tar and wrap the crowd around his lit­tle fin­ger. (Lat­er dur­ing “Sweet Thing” he turns the mic around and lets the audi­ence take over com­plete­ly.) And his acoustic blues chops ain’t bad either. See the full per­for­mance here.

As an added bonus, above, see Prince’s very first tele­vised inter­view, broad­cast on MTV in 1985 and shot on the set of the “Amer­i­ca” video. Watch him answer pre­screened ques­tions and explain to us how, “I’m just like every­one else. I need love… and water.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Prince and Miles Davis’ Rarely-Heard Musi­cal Col­lab­o­ra­tions

See Prince (RIP) Play Mind-Blow­ing Gui­tar Solos On “While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps” and “Amer­i­can Woman”

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

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

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  • brad says:

    There’s a note on the first video say­ing the cor­po­ra­tion that owns Prince has blocked it.

    Here’s anoth­er ver­sion:

  • Laila says:

    I SO WISH THERE WAS MORE VIDEO OF THIS ACOUSTIC MUSIC BY PRINCE avail­able! It is just so enjoy­able to watch and hear him inter­act­ing with his friends (fans) like this. And it is also inter­est­ing how he changes up the songs and jokes around. You can tell he clear­ly gets a kick out of them singing along with him, know­ing all of the vocals just as they were record­ed. He knows they are loy­al, die-hard fans who have fol­lowed him for years. He will be missed by mil­lions. May he rest in peace.

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