We can all agree that Prince was a musical genius. In fact, if you don’t agree, you’d best click away now, because I’m going to ramble on quite a bit about one of his ﬁnest live performances.
In a 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he shared the stage with Tom Petty, Jeﬀ Lynne, Steve Winwood, and George Harrison’s son, Dhani, as they performed a cover of the Beatle’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.
It’s all very well-executed, but a bit cosy and lumbering, until something happens.
Let’s have a step-by-step breakdown.
0:17 - They play, and Tom Petty sings. It’s all okay, but you feel that if you went to put the kettle on, you’re wouldn’t miss too much.
0:38 - It’s worth noting that there’s no sign of Prince onstage. He simply hasn’t yet arrived on our plane of existence.
0:50 - Jeﬀ Lynne chimes in, and you think he’s not going to hit the high bits, but he does, bless him.
1:23 - Oﬀ in the shadows at the right of the stage, we catch our ﬁrst glimpse of a diminutive guy with a red hat (note: 'in the shadows’, not ‘in The Shadows’).
1:53 - There’s a guitar solo here by someone else, but only in the same way that the mugger in Crocodile Dundee had a knife.
2:09 - Our ﬁrst proper view of the man, strumming along, as if he’s there to quietly make up the numbers.
2:57 - Petty’s back, singing like he’s just woken up from a kip.
3:28 - The spotlight ﬁnally falls on the little feller. He lets out a wailing, extended note, gives a heavy dose of what can only be described as ‘blues chin’, and looks to the heavens.
3:57 - Striking a pose not dissimilar to Pacino in Scarface (“Say hello to my little friend!”) he goes on to tease out some beautiful noises, performing some feats of digital dexterity on the fretboard.
4:26 - A smile and a nod to Petty that seems to say, ‘you’re alright Thomas, but you’re on my stage now, boyo’.
5:36 - The swagger on display at this exact moment should have been bottled and given to nervous virgins.
4:42 - He turns to face Petty and Dhani, who now know they’re merely audience members too, and witnessing something truly special. He lets himself fall oﬀ the stage, safe in the knowledge that if some human doesn’t push him back, the spirit of Hendrix will surely do the job.
4:57 - A cheeky glance. As Danny Dyer might say, he’s about to get naughty.
5:00 - He launches into a searing fret-mangling solo, that compliments the original track, but embellishes it and takes it to ridiculous new heights.
5:35 - Another smile: ‘I know’.
5:56 - He closes a thoroughly epic performance with a ﬁnal high-pitched twiddle, and hurls his guitar upwards. The instrument is never seen to come back down to earth, and for all we know, exceeded escape velocity and is still hurtling through distant parts of the universe, to eventually be discovered and worshipped as a god.
6:12 - Whilst the rest of the band bask in the adulation of the crowd, Prince gives them nary a glance and walks immediately oﬀstage, either straight into a parallel dimension, or into a purple Ford Fiesta. Neither would surprise me.
And that’s what happened.