Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy

January 8, 1979 (Monday)

The Minneapolis Star

Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy

by Jon Bream

He had the opportunity to play his first concert in New York’s prestigious, 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden. But instead, Prince, the teen-aged, one-man-band recording star, chose to debut at the Capri Theater, an obscure movie house in his hometown of Minneapolis.

Backed by five other young, local musicians, Prince gave an encouraging debut performance Friday before about 300 persons.

Jive-talking emcee Carl Ray of KUXL introduced the 19-year-old prodigy – who had produced, composed, arranged and played all the instruments on his first album “For You” – as the next Stevie Wonder. That comparison may have been a bit too lofty and presumptuous. But, in many ways, Prince (who was named after his father‘s stage name) lived up to his regal name.

He strutted across the stage with grand Mick Jagger-like moves and gestures. He was cool, he was cocky and he was sexy. Prince is a real showman. He reached out to the audience, and the fans, especially the teen-aged girls, embraced him.

His one-hour show sounded quite different from “For You,” which is dominated by falsetto singing and smooth, soulful sounds. Onstage, Prince and his band tore into an uproarious, hard-funk sound.

At times, it sounded like kind of a youthful if not immature mixture of the Isley Brothers (when they had Jimi Hendrix as their guitarist) and Sly Stone. Bassist Andre Anderson and guitarist Dez Dickerson often relied on flashy pyrotechnics and overzealous showmanship. Yet, what the players lacked in sophistication, polish and experience, they made up for with refreshing energy and emotion.

By contrast, Prince’s singing was more thoroughly professional and quite convincing. He demonstrated a fascinating, female-sounding falsetto with uncommon range. Unfortunately, several times his voice (which recalled Smokey Robinson’s) was swallowed by the feedback and clutter of the inferior sound system. Even the pretty, acoustic ballad, “So Blue,” was marred by an annoying buzz in the sound system.

Despite delays for technical problems, the pacing of the show was effective. Prince, who played several different instruments during the concert, opened with the soft, catchy title song from his album. He then moved into a jazz-rock-funk instrumental and his dance-oriented single “Soft and Wet.” A couple of new, hard-funk tunes were sandwiched around the acoustic number. Then the program closed with a trio of tunes dominated by loud instrumental work.

The highlight was the finale, “Just As Long As We’re Together,” Prince’s contagious, new single that should appeal to soul, pop and disco audience alike.

As a whole, Prince’s performance clearly indicated he has extraordinary talent. Combined with careful direction, time, experience and refinement, that should spell a royal future for Prince.

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Our Teen-Age Virtuoso Is Home To Play At Last

January 5, 1979 (Friday)

The Minneapolis Star

Our Teen-Age Virtuoso Is Home To Play At Last

by Jon Bream

Few people had ever seen the kid perform. But everybody in the local music community was talking about him.

“Hey, have you heard those tapes by that Minneapolis teenager who played all the instruments himself?”

Well, several major record companies heard the tapes and began courting the kid, known as Prince.

Warner Brothers Records signed him in 1977 to a reported three-album, six-figure deal and let him produce, arrange, compose and play all the instruments on his debut record, “For You,” which was released last spring.

Now, almost three years after Prince Nelson began creating a buzz, the local music community and Warner Brothers bigwigs finally will get a chance to see him perform. The extraordinary one-man-band will take the stage as a mere bandleader tonight and tomorrow at the Capri Theatre, 2027 W. Broadway.

“I’m nervous,” Prince said with a sheepish smile. “I’ll be terrified, because it’s gonna take a while to block out the fact there are people out there. I find it extremely hard to perform for people.”

“I think I found it hard to sing and play in front of my band at first,” said the 19-year-old, who has not performed publicly since he left a high school dance-band three years ago. “But now that I got to know them better, it’s really easy now and we all bounce off each other as far as energy goes. I think before I can bounce off the crowd it will take a few songs.”

Prince paused and looked down, displaying the reserve that has, in the past, led him to shun interviews and public appearances. He talks slowly, without a great command of the language. He stops in mid-thought, then suddenly, his big brown eyes peek out under the bill of his cap and he continues in soft-spoken monotone.

“I’m really free and open once I get to know a person. But when I first encounter something, I’m a little laid back and cautious. People constantly call me shy. I don’t feel shy, but I guess I sometimes come off that way to people. Everybody at Warner Brothers has a big impression I’m really quiet. If he doesn’t talk, he probably won’t dance or sing too much. I have to put to rest all those accusations.”

Making the transition from a one-man band to a frontman was difficult at first, but Prince says he’s handing it. “It’s complicated at times,“ he said last week in an interview at the west Minneapolis home where his group rehearses. “It’s fun when you hear it [his music] all come back with someone else’s interpretation. Deep down, I can tell it’s different, but sometimes on the surface it’s better. It’s not just me doing everything, trying to keep my energy level up at all times.”

Onstage, Prince will play different instruments on different songs. He has been working out the arrangements for the past several weeks with the five members of his band.

Like their leader, the other members of the band are young, unknown Minneapolis musicians, some of whom play more than one instruments. The oldest is 23.

Prince spent about four months auditioning local musicians for his group. He was determined to limit his search to local players because he feels there is “a lot of unknown talent here.”

However, he said he feels the local music climate stifles musicians. “There is not a lot of incentive here like there is in Los Angeles,” Prince said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m doing the concert [which is a benefit for the Capri, whose owner hopes to make it into a club]. There could be more clubs and more [variety to] radio stations here.”

Nevertheless, Prince appreciates the quiet of the Twin Cities and goes out of town for excitement. He’s kind of a loner and homebody who prefers to record in his studio and experiment with the couple of dozen instruments he plays.

When he was 5, Prince, the son of a show business couple, composed his first song using two rocks. He says he graduated to bigger rocks and bricks before his writing began to improve and he took up the piano at age 7.

He had one lesson. He never learned how to read or write music, but that didn’t deter his curiosity about instruments. When he was 13, he picked up the guitar. A year later, he began playing drums. The bass, organ, clavinet and an arsenal of synthesizers soon followed.

During those formative years, Prince preferred to make music, rather than listen to it. He stayed at home and learned his instruments. Thus, his childhood was rather introverted.

“I missed out on a lot,” he reflected, “but I don’t regret it. I missed out on socializing. But I get high off playing my music or going to a movie alone. I used to like to play sports, but I had to quit that. I used to want to go to college. I certainly don’t have time for that. At one time, I wanted to get married and I don’t have time for that. I wanted kids, too. But I don’t have time for that, either. I think the things I missed out on, my mind has changed about them. I think I’ve done what I wanted to do in life. In teen-age life.”

Indeed, at 18, Prince became the youngest person ever to produce an album for Warner Brothers.

He spent five months holed up in ritzy recording studios in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Sly Stone and members of Santana stopped by and offered encouragement. Prince was honored, but he already had enough confidence, even though his one-man project ran way behind schedule.

The results have been pleasing, he reports. “For You” entered the top-200 album charts and also scored on the soul and disco charts. His single, “Soft and Wet,” was well received in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston and the Carolinas.

To help promote his album, Prince attended autograph parties in some of those areas. “It was weird,” he recalled. “It was mostly kids from 11 to 20. They were relating to me being so young. There’s been ads in the teen magazines and my age has really come up.”

“The kids would ask me if my real name is Prince, what “Soft and Wet” means, and did I really play all those instruments myself.”

At a recent autograph party and disco dance in North Carolina, however, Prince didn’t have much of a chance to talk to his fans. He said about 3,000 kids showed up and after about 20 minutes, the crowd rushed the stage. Amid the hysteria, Prince departed and Warner Brothers representatives just passed out posters of him.

Back home, the budding recording star is removed from that kind of commotion. He doesn’t have to listen to Warner Brothers’ overblown build-up, look at record-store posters or read the write-ups in teen magazines and black publications.

“I try not to listen to that,” Prince said. “People expect you to be an egomaniac because of who you are. The way I am now, I was always. I suppose if I lived in California and rode in limos and had people waiting on me hand and foot, I could change. I’m not into all that.”

Although he may be removed from the west coast record business mania, Prince is not without his pressures in Minneapolis. He recently parted with his manager, Owen Husney, who had been his mentor and benefactor for more than two years. Husney declined to comment but Prince said the split was for personal reasons. The musician said he has arranged to “take care” of his business affairs.

Prince’s booking agency is setting up a brief concert tour this winter and spring. Agents for such performers as Ashford & Simpson, Santana and Chaka Khan have expressed interest in having Prince appear as their opening act.

After his tour, Prince expects to return to the studio to record his second one-man album. He hopes the disk will be an improvement over “For You,” but he doesn’t feel pressured.

He often thinks big, but he speaks with a soft-spoken confidence.

“I do what I want to do,” he said, “otherwise, this business will kill you. It [success] will happen if it’s supposed to. I don’t worry about it too much. What it all boils down to is nothing means nothing except love. As long as I got that, I don’t need money. If I went broke, it wouldn’t faze me. Love and music. As long as I got that, everything’s cool. Everything.”

The Power And The Glory, The Minneapolis Story

January 19, 1979 (Friday)

Twin Cities Reader

The Power And The Glory, The Minneapolis Story

by Martin Keller

When local disc jockey Kyle Ray introduced Prince’s debut concert at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis earlier this month, he hallelujahed in the tradition of Muhammad Ali: “The power and the glory, the Minneapolis story—PRINCE.”

He wasn’t just fanning the audience. At 18, this young black wizard from the Twin Cities plays countless instruments, and wrote, arranged, produced, played and sang everything on his first album. He is indeed powerful.

Another new album has been written, and is ready for production sometime this winter, and when a tour that Warner Brothers is preparing for him commences, Prince will stand realistically on glory’s doorstep.

His prodigious talents drew four Warner Brothers executives from California to his premier engagement here. Coming all the way from the sunny west coast to the frozen, below zero confines of Minnesota, the record moguls reportedly left the Twin Cities satisfied that their “client” could perform well with a band and entertain with a great degree of professionalism. They left convinced, in other words, that Prince is going to be a star.

Sitting quietly at a friend’s house before a practice session with his new band, Prince quickly dismissed any talk of stardom and the particulars that accompany it.

“I don’t think about it,” he said in a low voice which sometimes is almost a whisper. “It’s all just part of the dream factory. If it happens, it happens. It’s best not to even worry about that, ’cuz if you strive for it and don’t get it, you’ll be disappointed and feel like a failure.”

Even with that kind of mature realism working in his favor, though, Prince is already conscious of the effect he might have once he begins the rounds as a full-time performer. Dressed like Jimi Hendrix on opening night, and wearing his hair in falling braids for the interview, it was hard not to think of him as another Stevie Wonder.

He admitted, somewhat unabashedly, that he would like “to appeal to as many people as possible and keep them on his side.” He may not be thinking about stardom, but his strategy is geared toward that end.

Prince is the sixth youngest in a family of ten, mother and father included. His father plays piano and writes music, and at one time performed in a swing band.

“My dad called my piano playing ‘banging,’ and didn’t pay much attention to it. I guess I was seven then. I never really listened to music, either, and I still don’t very much. There’s never nothin’ I can get into. If I listen to a record, I head something that I’d like to do differently, and I become too critical of it. You shouldn’t be that way, ‘cuz the group took their time and effort and worked on it. I’d rather just do my own thing.”

Doing what pleased him, Prince picked up instrument after instrument and mastered them all. His high school days at Minneapolis Central thoroughly bored him, and once his music teachers discovered they had a monster talent on their hands, they left him completely alone.

“They’d just lock me in a room, once they understood what I was doing. I skipped school a lot, but I graduated early; dismissal was my favorite time of day. I believe in teachers, but not for me. Anything creative I don’t think can be taught, otherwise you get somebody else’s style; it’s not yours, it’s theirs.”

Undoubtedly, this philosophy propelled Prince in the recording studio at Sound 80 where he began work on his debut record, For You. He literally took charge of the whole process. Calling him self-reliant is a gross understatement.

The demo tapes from For You were taken to a number of record companies before Warner Brothers agreed to give Prince what he wanted: a sizable advance and full control of the production, playing, singing, and arrangement on the LP.

“I’ve written 20 songs for the next album, and I think Warners is going to let me handle all of the record again. I didn’t have any particular thing I was trying to accomplish on the first record—I was just putting down what I heard in my head. I wouldn’t say the second one will be like the first, but it’ll sound like me,” Prince said, toying with a tambourine.

His debut concerts surprised many. He and his five piece band chose to play a heavy metallic series of songs mixed in with the “soft and wet” textures that color the disco and funk pieces on For You.

“I like to play a lot of guitar. That heavy sound goes better in concert than it does on record. I guess synthesizer is my favorite instrument now, and that’s part of the reason for two keyboard players. I really like working with this band, and I’m gonna do an album with them where everyone writes and I’m just there playing with them. They’re really great individually as well as collectively.”

Despite Warner Brothers’ attempt to solicit L.A. musicians, Prince finally settled on Minnesota talent. The record company flew him out to Los Angeles with Bobby Z., a drummer from Minneapolis, and a local bass guitarist Andre, a longtime friend and a great showman himself. The three of them spent a couple of tedious days auditioning players.

Gail Chapman, keyboard player in the band, moved from Duluth where she had played with “eight commercial-sounding groups,” and met a cousin of Prince’s while living on the northside. She jammed with Prince, and eventually was invited to join. “This whole band was formed from jamming,” Bobby noted.

Dez Dickerson got his job after playing just 15 minutes with Prince, while the other keyboard player, Matt Fink, persistently called Prince’s former management company six months before the band even formed.

Prince’s quiet manner may be the ideal stance in the face of the towering music industry, where talent is often less important than the machinations of the biz.

“The music end of my life I’ll probably always do, but not the business end,” said Prince softly. “I hate plane rides, too. I’d rather stay at home and rehearse, or play in the studio by myself. I like the quiet here in Minneapolis, and nobody bothers me; I’ll always keep a place here.”

The multi-talented prodigy, who once dreamed of becoming a cowboy or a fireman, lives alone with a couple of pet alligators, and chooses not to make the scene very much. He’s still under age for most bars in this state.

“I used to hang out at the Infinity (a St. Louis Park disco which recently closed) but I’d rather hear loud, live music if I go out at all. Actually, I spend a lot of time in the bathtub thinking. Music and playing is almost like breathing for me,” he said shyly in the low voice that belies his performing falsetto.

Prince plans to play here again soon, once the tour is set. “But before I can do that, I have to go to New York and L.A. and that means more plane rides,” he winced. Since his career might rest on the wings of those planes, I urged him to get used to it. “Well, I may not stay in music, you know. If I get bored, I may become an artist, a painter—I do that too. Or I might become a janitor or something else,” he shrugged.

Given Prince’s age and his remarkable abilities, it’s safer to assume that “the Minneapolis story” will spend more time in the air and on the airways than he will mopping up.”

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