The image of Prince Rogers Nelson most fixed in our collective imagination is that of a purple-coated rocker, shredding the Purple Rain solo on various unusually shaped guitars. Less commonly known is that the piano was in fact his first instrument. Aged seven, the pop polymath taught himself how to play the Batman theme tune on his father’s piano, shortly thereafter writing his first composition, a song called Funk Machine. Half a century later, his Royal Badness has returned to his roots at the ivories for a solo piano and microphone tour, garnering some of the best reviews of his illustrious career.
The tour was supposed to start in Glasgow in November, but all European dates were cancelled due to a combination of pre-sale touting and the atrocities in Paris (something which Prince must have felt all the more keenly, as he had previously recorded a live single at the Bataclan). Uploaded at the same time as a new live version of the underrated Joy in Repetition, this recording of Little Red Corvette/Dirty Mind is the artist’s first solo piano release since 2002’s One Night Alone album, which mostly went unnoticed by those outside the hardcore Prince fanbase.
After a false start, probably purposefully included by the master showman to rile the Sydney crowd (the man himself refers to the city as Sidney-apolis, in reference to his Minnesota hometown), Prince launches into a heartfelt version of the 1999 album’s standout among standouts. His piano playing is tasteful, subtly complemented by synth string arrangements (disclaimer: Prince plays a keyboard on stage, as opposed to an actual piano). Dipping in and out of the salacious title track from 1980’s Dirty Mind, it’s clear that at 57 his falsetto remains as youthful as his appearance. He returns to Little Red Corvette for an ad-libbed coda, imploring an unnamed lover to ‘slow down’ and reminding her that even though he doesn’t mind if she goes to another, ‘nobody can do it like Prince do’. Coming from Prince, this isn’t arrogance, it’s simply true. This single is currently a Tidal exclusive, along with most of his oeuevre, but as with all things Prince, it isn’t guaranteed to be online forever, so it’s worth checking out this latest expression of his genius musicianship while one can.