It’s 1985. The singer and guitarist Prince is 27.

He’s tiny but strong — built like a dancer, or a gymnast. A cascade of black curly hair and stubble along a chiselled jaw. Narrow hips slipped into a paisley bodysuit with ruffles at the throat and wrists, jewellery and rings glinting as he spins. The stage is flooded with purple light, of course.

The audience in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse New York is shrieking. He’s already released seven albums, including Purple Rain, and has become an object of adoration for many and confusion for some — who is this weird little guy, with his falsetto, and his dirty songs but who can also shred a guitar like he’s Jimmy Hendrix’s love-child?

Eric Clapton was once asked how it felt to be the greatest guitar player alive, and he is said to have replied, “I don’t know. Ask Prince”

Prince Rogers Nelson died in shocking and unexpected circumstances on the morning of April 21, 2016, and those of us who adored this man’s music will never recover.

We all have our musical heroes — hopefully yours are playing still — but when they go, they take part of our youth with them.

He was sex in one lithe spirit. He was enigmatic, funky, up for a party but not interested in after-parties. He wrote music ceaselessly and never stopped producing albums, even when he was embroiled in his famous contract dispute with Warner Brothers records that saw him inscribe his face with the word SLAVE. He answered few questions, but made indelible statements with music that leaps into your throat.

When George Harrison was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, Tom Petty and a couple of the Heartbreakers, along with Harrison’s son Dhani, Jeff Lynne and Steve Winwood played an all-star version of Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Prince was inducted that year too. He was originally meant to play the Eric Clapton solo in the performance of Harrison’s song but at rehearsals Lynne’s player kept squeezing in and taking the lead.

Prince fans leave flowers outside Prince’s Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota, April 21, 2016.(Reuters: Craig Lassig)

Prince strummed away on the sidelines and let him have it. On the night, right at the end of the song he stepped out from the shadows with his guitar and as the New York Times reported, he burned the stage to the ground.

This week, Prince’s estate released the digitally remastered audio of the historic Syracuse concert, along with the grainy concert vision of a time of shared pleasure that I wonder if we’ll ever get back to.

I’ve watched the show in tears, and with joy and with a sense of elation that I miss so much in this time of isolation and distance.

Prince in concert at the Sydney Opera HousePrince in concert at the Sydney Opera House in 2016.(Supplied: Antoinette Barboutis)

It’s a reminder not only of what we’ve lost, and of what we can still thankfully cherish but for me it’s also a sharp reminder of the care we need to keep taking right now so we can eventually get back to celebrating this stuff together, back in our cathedrals of music and mass experiences of bliss. 

Please keep doing the work. Keep your distance. Be careful.

Music pervades our reads this weekend, with triple j listeners flying their dag-flag high and showing that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. And the reason why sometime in the past 25 years this song has probably stuck in your head.

Have a safe and happy weekend. Naturally I’d love you to find a moment to watch the whole Prince concert. Laugh, cry, dance: all the important things.


The link to the digitally re-mastered live audio is here too and if anyone in your world doubts that The Artist Formerly Known As was one of the greatest guitarists of all time, sit them down and play them this:


Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called life — go well.

What to read this weekend

Virginia Trioli is presenter on Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne and the former co-host of ABC News Breakfast.