Prince’s Paisley Park might have its roots in his Minneapolis birth place, but Prince’s purple reign on concert stages and the pop charts has many ties to Miami.
The diminutive pop and R&B superstar who, with Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Lionel Richie, defined popular music in the ’80s, also made Miami his base for some of his most outlandish performances.
Read a Prince interview with the Miami Herald from 1997
Here are some of Prince’s most memorable made-in-Miami moments.
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Purple rain at the Super Bowl
Prince’s performance at Dolphin Stadium for Super Bowl XLI in 2007 was all wet. Literally. Who else but the rocker who made Purple Rain an anthem could have called on the heavens to unleash a torrential downpour for a special effect? You say he didn’t? We say Prince had some pull with the Big Guy.
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Despite the rain, Prince’s performance, which featured members of Florida A&M University’s Marching 100 band, has ranked among the all-time best Super Bowl halftime shows and, post-Janet Jackson’s NippleGate, most controversial. Prince’s guitar solo during the Purple Rain segment of his medley was projected visually onto a large, flowing beige sheet. The silhouettes of his body and guitar (shaped like the singer’s infamous Symbol) looked, well, phallic.
A Daily News TV critic sniffed, “a rude-looking shadow show.” But others were laudatory, including Rolling Stone. “If people want to be hypersensitive, they can be hypersensitive. Those trombones are pretty phallic too. What are you going to do?”
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In a statement at the time, then-FAMU Interim President Castell Vaughn Bryant said of the school’s pairing with Prince: “This is a wonderful opportunity for our band and our university. We are very proud of the invitation to perform with such a talent on this international stage. While we are all familiar with the quality of our performing-arts program, this gives us just one more chance to show the world the type of outstanding musicianship that comes from FAMU.”
Purple reign at the Orange Bowl
Easter service or attend a Prince concert? Prince turned the Orange Bowl into the Purple Bowl on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985, for the final leg of his Purple Rain concert tour, the album and show that elevated Prince to Michael Jackson-level fame.
The church and the Miami City Commission went apoplectic.
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“Happy Easter, South Florida. My name is Prince and I’ve come to play with you,” the star said as he careened headlong into his opening number, Let’s Go Crazy. Clad in a white ruffled shirt, long sequined coat, sequined trousers and pompadour, Prince licked his lips, wiggled his hips and sent hot licks flying from his electric guitar all over the former Orange Bowl.
“Not since 1969, when Jim Morrison of The Doors was arrested at a Miami concert for lewd behavior, has a rock ‘n’ roll star come so close to depicting onstage what Ann Landers calls The Act,” wrote a Miami Herald reporter.
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The Archdiocese of Miami branded Prince “sacrilegious.” The Miami City Commission pleaded with Prince to change his concert date after the politicos realized the show was scheduled for Easter. When Prince refused, they denounced him as immoral.
Yet, then-Commissioner J.L. Plummer sat in a press box as Prince performed Darling Nikki, the song that led Tipper Gore to push for warning labels on album covers. “I don’t think any concert should be held on Easter Sunday,” Plummer told the Herald, not referencing a Toto concert that was also being held down the street at the James L. Knight Center. “It’s not Prince specifically, but personally, I don’t care for him. I’m a little too old for this.”
Prince’s Glam Slam debacle
Prince, when he was using a symbol for his name in protest of his label’s ownership of his catalog, opened a branch of his Glam Slam nightclub on Washington Avenue in South Beach in June 1994 and pegged it as his big birthday bash.
The chaotic opening was, to quote a Prince album, a sign ‘o’ the times. Would-be party-goers, who bought advance tickets, stretched down Washington Avenue for blocks. A clutch of folks held fake tickets and jostled for space in line for hours. There were several arrests, including two for disorderly conduct (probably by folks who took Let’s Go Crazy too literally.) By 12:30 a.m., organizers waved everyone inside, VIP or no-VIP, real ticket or phony alike. “The scene outside Glam Slam Tuesday night was a cattle lineup, except cattle get treated with more respect,” the Miami Herald reported.
The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, as he was called then since no one could pronounce the symbol, didn’t thrill then-Miami Herald pop music critic Leonard Pitts Jr., either. “A self-indulgent set of unfamiliar material,” he blasted, performed with a “leaden band.”
In closing, Pitts wrote: “But one good thing came out of the night. Next time Prince is in the market for a new name, I’ll have a few choice suggestions to offer.”
Miami Beach police shuttered Glam Slam in 1996 after a drug raid and the club never really rebounded. However, in 1997, Prince headed to Glam Slam after his Jam of the Year Tour performance at the Miami Arena for a post-performance blow out. That show was killer.
Many clubs have filled its space at 1235 Washington since, perhaps most famously Level in the late 1990s.
Prince’s Sunrise comeback
Prince at the Sunrise Musical Theater, in March 1993, was where His Royal Badness became great again. After years of fighting with his label, ditching his name, and putting out less-than-stellar albums like Lovesexy the purple wonder found his groove again.
The Herald’s Leonard Pitts hated the Glam Slam show a year later, but he was baptized in Purple Rain earlier at the Sunrise.
“If you were there, you know. If you weren't, shame on ya,” he wrote in his pop music year-in-review feature in 1993. “It was a set that built and built and built to a crushing frenzy of hits and energy and pounding grooves, until Sunrise was a sauna bath, and the whirling dervish onstage was a vision half-glimpsed through a haze of smoke and sweat. And you didn't want it to end. I've been to hundreds of concerts since 1973. Prince's Sunrise date may be the best I've ever seen.”
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