Local Current Blog

Prince serenades Madonna at late-night Paisley Park gig

Thirty-three civilians showed up to Paisley Park late last night. I know there were 33 of us because I ended up having plenty of time to count each and every one of us from left to right, then again from right to left and all the way up to the stage, which was littered with dozens of guitar pedals, two keyboard rigs, a drum set, and Prince’s signature glyph microphone.

To celebrate Prince’s legacy, we’re going all-Prince on our Local Current stream of Minnesota music every day through Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, from 11 a.m. to noon. Then, starting at 10 a.m. on Oct. 13, we’ll play our entire Prince catalog from A-Z — over 24 hours of Prince. Listen on our website and via the MPR Radio app for iOS and Android devices.

I had shown up to Paisley Park around 11:30 p.m., having been summoned there only hours earlier with the promise that something “extra-special” might go down. As the 33 of us who were gathered there did our best to stay upright, sway to DJ KISS’s mix of Prince and ’80s pop tunes, and keep our wits about us, and as the clock crept past 1:30 a.m., I was just about to start counting the crowd again and contemplating the strength of that word might when a flurry of security guards with walkie-talkies started buzzing around and a door next to the stage swung open.

A steady stream of people started filing into the venue, and it took me a couple of blinks to realize that the first woman and the head of the pack was Madonna. She is a petite little powerhouse of a figure, and was dressed in a sharp navy trench coat-style cape with her hair neatly woven into a braid that fell down her right shoulder, like a pop star’s rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. Her bright lipstick and dark eyeliner appeared flawless, and as she scanned the strange scene—33 civilians dancing haphazardly, undoubtedly looking tired from all the waiting and the late hour, and her own hits blasting over the sound system—she looked so calm and coiffed that you would have never guessed that she had just finished performing a two-hour show in front of a sold-out crowd at the Xcel Energy Center. (Read Jay Gabler’s review of that show, which included a special dedication to Prince.)

It turns out that injecting Madonna’s entire professional dance troupe into a party is a surefire way to liven it up, and as more and more of the pop icon’s touring crew filtered in, a fully choreographed dance party soon broke out in the middle of the room. It was incredibly surreal standing on the sidelines attempting to groove to the music while what looked like a professional music video shoot sprawled out before us, but all of a sudden the energy in the place had been cranked to 11 and it was all we could do to try to soak up the crew’s ecstatic vibe.

Madonna was ushered into a roped-off section of the room and then disappeared, undoubtedly to have a few private moments with Prince while her team blew off a little steam on the dance floor. By 2:15 a.m. she had returned to the scene and was followed in short order by Prince, who stood near the back of the dance floor draped in a floor-length hooded sweater and smirked at the energetic dancers who were frolicking around the room.

As soon as Prince appeared the small crowd started pressing toward the stage, and even after Madonna’s tour buses had all been unloaded into Paisley Park there were still only roughly 60 people there to take in the impending show. Most of the people in attendance were standing within a couple yards of the band, and Prince seemed a little uncomfortable playing to such an intimate audience.

“You better keep dancing,” he instructed us, sitting at an organ and leading a new configuration of his band through a swampy, funky new song. 3RDEYEGIRL guitarist Donna Grantis was joined by drummer Kirk Johnson and bassist Dwayne MonoNeon Thomas, Jr., who had more jazz and funk sensibilities than Grantis’s more hard-driving 3RDEYEGIRL bandmates Ida Nielsen and Hannah Ford Welton (who was dancing in the audience with her husband, Josh). The change in musicianship allowed Prince to deconstruct his songs into more complex, moody arrangements, tracing back to his roots in late ’70s jazz and funk.

As if to show off the band’s newly discovered chemistry, Prince followed up a rip-roaring rendition of “Guitar” with a lengthy, solo-filled jam to the Bill Withers song “Use Me.” After giving Grantis and his new bassist a turn at soloing, Prince slowed the song down and morphed it into a spacey, dreamy interlude, then tore through an impressive and complex piano solo that sounded like it was inspired in equal measure by Thelonious Monk and Jimi Hendrix.

When Prince launched into the next song, “Ain’t About to Stop,” off his latest album HITNRUN Phase One, I decided to try to discretely scan the room to see where Madonna was taking in the show. I had expected her to hang back a bit, or maybe be sitting in her roped-off area, but once I stepped a little closer to the stage I realized that she was not only in the front row, but had perched on the edge of the stage at Prince’s feet, looking up at him adoringly as he sang.

There is a face that people make when they are watching Prince play guitar; it’s a gleeful expression that combines the joy of going down a roller coaster with the realization that you are witnessing a moment that might never be recreated by another being that lives on this beautiful Earth. It turns out Madonna also makes that face when she is watching Prince play. As the band stretched out into another jam and Prince ripped into a soul-levitating guitar solo, her mouth relaxed into an awestruck gape, revealing a shiny gold grill underneath her perfect red lipstick.

Prince, too, seemed a little awestruck by Madge, appearing nervous as he flitted around the stage to different instruments and taking great care to get the lighting, sound, and chord changes just right. It completely shifted the energy at the Park, which usually pulls like a magnet toward Prince’s spot in the room, and it was a rare chance to see two megastars share an intimate moment and a series of knowing smiles.

After the sixth song of the set, Prince leaned down and whispered something back and forth with Madonna, and then hopped back up to his keyboards and simply said, “Cool.” With that, Madonna made her way out of the building and Prince was left alone with his band and small group of adoring fans, and he delivered simmering renditions of “1000 X’s and O’s” and “X’s Face” before hopping off stage and handing things back to the DJ.

Sensing that we were well past 3 a.m. at that point, I started to make my way toward the door, but my friend and #1 Prince fan Heidi Vader later informed me that Prince returned to play two more short sets and even invited some of his fans up on stage to sing and dance along. Or did any of that really happen? On nights like these, it’s hard to tell.

Prince set list

Stare
Guitar
Use Me (Bill Withers)
Ain’t About to Stop
Pick Out My Clothes
1000 X’s and O’x
X’s Face

Free Yourself

Sign O the Times
Work to Do (Isley Brothers)

Sign up for The Current’s ongoing Prince coverage, including some special programming coming later this fall.

  • Jill Primous

    Wow…I’m speechless!!!

  • Amazing story, beautifully written.

  • Erik van der Neut

    That’s just beautiful. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Laurent Calhoun

    Crazy story u’re so lucky.

    • Kryssie Funcky

      ^^

  • Stef Bell

    Such a great write-up Andrea! Thanks for sharing the night with us!

  • sajaworski

    my head just exploded reading this. fantastic.

  • MNFunk

    Although AWB covered “Work To Do”, and perhaps Prince copped that version, it’s an Isley Brothers tune – small clarification :-)

  • Kate Elizabeth

    What am amazing night, thanks for sharing! How do I get invited to these parties??:)

  • Corey Bagdonas

    Amazing review! #lovesong #1958icons https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=7&v=8g2tTHs2fWQ

  • Brandon Vasquez

    YES! Great piece. What magic to be in attendance. Thanks for taking the time to write this so beautifully…I felt I was there in spirit.

  • jamievoss

    Holy crap.

  • Melanie Rexroad

    awesome! what an awesome job to have! thank you for sharing

  • Ugonna Wosu

    Wow, they’re so normal,yet cool!

    • Colette Baldwin

      It doesnt feel real when you see prince play solo guitar , i love that funky face he pulls ,, beautiful.. i missed the chance to dance with him on stage at o2 arena, i was invited up ,,, but couldnt go haha,, i couldnt off kept my hands off him , and it would of been totally uncool , i still think about that missed chance ,, i would of got in big trouble haha ,,

      • Theresa Lord

        LOL!

  • matt

    OMG… Prince & Madonna in one room…. this is too iconic for words!! Too bad they didn’t do “Love Song”, hhaha

  • monamooremomo

    Luv this…yes, it REALLY happened. I think we all are still beaming from this memorable event.

  • Dawn B

    amazing! My two favorite artists ever ! <3 <3 <3

  • Kimberly L. Webb

    I’m in complete awe! My mouth is agape b/c ain’t no guitar solo like a Prince guitar solo on this planet!!! Thanks for letting us be in the moment…Eye wish u purple clouds ? ??

  • Immanuel6

    Too cool??????????????????????

  • Robert

    Yep, I’ve had that face before, just sad it was about 20 years ago in PP, front row. Madonna was lucky last night.

  • MPLSKEL

    Yep it happened! We were there until 4:30 AM. He invited everybody on stage and everybody could fit. I think there were only 15-20 of us left. Amazing night!

    • Ed Spyra

      wow.. Very cool!

    • Tanya Taylor

      How do you get these invites to Paisley Park?

  • QueenMDNARules

    Did anyone take video?!?!?!

    • DeeLucks

      negative, no phones or cameras allowed..

      I’m sure Prince did professionally, but I doubt very seriously if we will ever see it, if so, it will just be a tease..

  • William Brogan

    This is how Madonna deserves to be treated. Prince gets it. Why don’t you.

  • they could make the best album ever together.

  • Ed Spyra

    Yes, thanks for sharing this!

  • Stacie Goode

    What a terrific night it must have been! Thank you for sharing for all the rest of us. :) ?

  • 33 ;)

  • RadioDazed

    Those who understand greatness know how incredible Prince truly is. But somehow Prince simultaneously remains the most brilliant musical talent of our time, and a sort of well kept secret. ‘The’ Media is inept at spreading facts that matter. Prince should perform a live Network Television concert – fully sponsored, with no commercial breaks – to show people what great live performing can be.

    • Immanuel6 (Tammy)

      I totally agree with you, however, it won’t happen. Prince is enjoying his anonymity. He has worked and worked to get to this point in his life. I am just thankful that we can enjoy his genius!

      • DeeLucks

        agreed 100%

      • RadioDazed

        I think Prince would be happy to perform a Network Television special IF certain guarantees (‘guarantees’ are every form of current and future monies) were firmly established. It seems that the thing that bothers Prince the most is ‘ownership’ of creative work, and getting paid for his work. ‘Distribution’ and ‘middlepeople’ might annoy Prince almost as much as ownership does. Because Prince can earn millions of dollars for a single performance, he is never pressed to do anything he does not want to do; he has earned that by working as hard as any performer has ever worked to master his craft. But, if a big sponsor offered Prince a Lot of money for a Network Television concert, I think he would do it. He should do it. The concert could serve as a live advertisement for an upcoming tour, a motion picture, an album/cd (Jack White could advise on unique vinyl ideas), general merchandise, and everything else Prince could dream up. The upcoming Tidal concert will go unnoticed by most people, and will barely register a small blip throughout ‘Media’.

        • Immanuel6 (Tammy)

          I totally agree! I would love to see Prince create an one off deal with Netflix to air a PP concert for a limited time!

        • DeeLucks

          right, I would like to see “The Second Coming”, the “Controversy tour” movie..
          I read it’s kinda like the “Sign ‘O’ The Times” movie, but filmed in 1982 with Vanity 6, that would be cool to see indeed.

          “Dream”, the 1st Purple Rain movie, 3121 the movie, & The Rainbow Children movie, that Kevin Smith filmed.

          And mannn, “Under The Cherry Moon” in COLOR, wow!! That would definitely be a trip.
          saw UTCM on my cousin’s plasma big screen T.V. with surround sound, LOUD!!!
          What a treat!!!

          Purple Rain, the full version, with no deleted scenes.. Never got to see the barn scene, where it rained Purple on the windows, & Prince fighting Jellybean Johnson from The Time, which appeared like Prince knocked the snuff out his lip..

          I’ve read there are at least two full movies in Prince’s vault, several 100 complete albums or more, & thousands of complete songs, who knows how many incomplete songs..

          If Prince were smart, he would release alot of this stuff, & get his money’s worth, instead of giving room for bootleggers to sneak it out & make money off of him..

          Let’s face it, everyone is not your friend because they work for you, they know there is a gold mine in that vault…
          some folks will chance getting fired by Prince when they can make millions off of his material…
          then there are others who are mad at him, because he may be hard on them..

          holding back adds to his mystery, cool, but holding back too much can sometimes backfire, & have the opposite effect…

          • RadioDazed

            All of those films, and more would be great (I love the Under The Cherry Moon music, but the film itself…yikes, not good). Prince live at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival, Show #2, is incredible – transcendent (it’s no secret that it was available online for a while). His 2008 Coachella performance of ‘Creep’ was as moving as anything I have ever seen. Many of his live shows (small venue and large venue) through the past several years have been raved about; and Prince records, and probably, films most of them himself. I think Prince’s main concern with his work is a financial concern. If he can sell many units of any recording, or video, or anything else before ‘technology’ spreads it for free, I think he would release more stuff more often.

          • DeeLucks

            great points, my friend…

            yeah, Prince focusing on money, kinda devalues him & his music, IMHO, or he is definitely not releasing stuff that he knows would sell out in ten seconds.

            which is understandable, but the bigheads are looking at him like, “he hasn’t made anything in awhile that we feel worth fronting him a big advance on”, especially with all the competition nowadays..
            they just say “well whatever, next!!”

            but if he were to top Purple Rain again, or match it, release a few strong music videos, good concert dvds, then they may reconsider it, no product no money..
            Prince thinks, 1st money, then product… No he’s got on the wrong pattern..

            I miss the broke Prince, who put all his energy, time, & effort into his music, & not makin music for rich people…

            he was alot more funky when he was less popular..now that he’s there, he could care less…

            he makes a song using Fruity Loops or Reason, way below the bar for his stature.. these are $50 – $300 computer software
            C’mon, does he really think it’s not obvious, if not, it sure does sound like it..

            People sample “IF I Was Your Girlfriend”, it’s the real music people love him for, & he can still make something funky & original, but why he does not, who knows..

            today Taylor Swift can demand an advance, but the girl has millions of views on youtube, she has a strong fan base on social media alone, Prince is losing in that area bigtime..

            I’m sure thousands bootleg Taylor Swift too, but on the scale, she is still tremendously outweighing the difference..

          • RadioDazed

            It is a lot more difficult to find Prince music up and down the radio dial than it is to find Taylor Swift’s music or several other artists’ music. That must have something to do with corporate Radio ownership and rights (copyright, publishing rights…) and a willingness, or unwillingness to share – giving up a little of something to get a little more of something else. Prince and Prince music were absolutely unavoidable for many years; he was all over the radio, television, and public consciousness. Something ‘stung’ him then. Only Prince knows for sure what it was, but it must have something to do with accurate sales counts, and getting paid. Regardless, Prince needs a very public ‘comeback’; music lovers need a very public Prince comeback. If Prince is not the musical performer at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show in Minneapolis, something very wrong is going on. A Super Bowl week of Prince music and a Prince halftime show would remind people what entertainment greatness is.

          • DeeLucks

            I couldn’t agree with u more my friend…

            He can still be mysterious, & still have a sonic boom…

            As much as he writes, or claims he writes, he could throw enough music around to get a stronger fan base from this generation..

            I agree with u, he is all about the $$$ at this point, where he should be all about the music, & getting it out to each & everyone..

            so it’s like he has become the bootleggers puppet..

            they love the fact that he will hold back, because the value of the music they stole from him goes higher, in turn they make more $$$ off him than they would had Prince released it himself…

            Prince is kicking himself in the butt…

          • Immanuel6 (Tammy)

            Prince has owned his masters since April of 2014. Now, he gets the monies from the sales of his music. That is the reason why Warners Music wanted him to re-master Purple Rain.

          • DeeLucks

            makes sense

          • DeeLucks

            have that 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival & 2008 Coachella performance of ‘Creep’..

            that was Prince being Prince 4-sho..

            loved em both…

            all said & done, Prince is still the one when it comes to live performance, just hurts that alot of us aren’t allowed to see them..

            like we are on punishment or something..all of us aren’t bootleggers goodness..

            1 bad apple spoils 4 the rest of us…not cool at all..not fair at all

          • Tanya Taylor

            UTCM was funny in a lot of parts…I love that movie.

          • RadioDazed

            Every time I’ve watched Under The Cherry Moon, I really wanted to like it. The music is fantastic, and some parts of the movie aren’t bad, but the clunky parts of the movie clunk really hard. Prince could collaborate with a great filmmaker and make many incredible movies; short films, and feature films. But Prince will only do what he wants to do.

    • DeeLucks

      he should also do anotha concert movie like “Sign ‘O’ The Times”, that would be great!!!!!

      At least one more…

      • RadioDazed

        That would be nice. I’d like to see a Prince version of ‘Amadeus’; a collaboration between the greatest performer of our time and a visionary filmmaker. Even a Ralph Bakshi version of a Prince concert could be incredible. There have been versions of Prince concerts floating around for years. I think he released versions of them in Europe and Asia; bits and pieces of them show up on the internet from time to time. Prince has some kind of vault filled with hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands…of hours of audio and video/film recordings of his work, but he has only released a fraction of it. Maybe Prince intends to share it with future generations. Prince may live 125 Earth years, or more, so Prince fans need to remain very healthy if they really want to enjoy his long hidden treasures.

        • DeeLucks

          right

        • SugahPi

          Um….ok.

  • Sharon Berglund

    I was fortunate enough to be one of the 33 adoring fans and standing right behind where Madonna was sitting. It was an unbelievable moment to have two of the most iconic pop stars ever together so close. I didn’t know the songs except Guitar but loved the music, drumming, bass and guitar solos. This show tops my list – feel so fortunate!??

    • June Ribaldi

      Wow. Lucky. Blessed you. A night to remember for sure.

  • Audrey Whitaker

    MAGIC

  • sandysand e.g. miller

    Big whoop…….sorry, not a celeb worshiper/idolizer.

    • Ryan Rognstad

      Then why are you reading this article and even more bothersome commenting?

  • D.j. Ruffhouse

    JEEEZ…..I’m totally losing respect for Prince or maybe he’s getting lonely, but NOW he’s just slumming. I wouldn’t throw gasoline on Madonna if she was on fire, because its too wet. I’d throw gunpowder instead. Let alone let her in Paisley Park and even moreso, do music together. I know he did some sh^^ty song in the 80s with her, but he was a slave at Warner Bros.This maybe an evil business plan. Its gotta be. Madonna has NOTHING to offer Prince but her audience. His tour/album with the three alcoholic lesbians must not have been anything much, so he must be up to something. He’s been pulling this ‘mysterious musician’ crap for years on end to really just find out he’s actually boring. Yes, music is his dick, he will fk you with it til u ‘Go Crazy’, but even thats starting run dry. He keeps talking about this fkin vault of music. Well if he’s currently picking songs from the vault, then dammit can you please pick a good one. Not just a good song, a good PRINCE song. Any true fan knows what I mean. Hey Madonna, if you wanna know how this ends, go stream Purple Rain, except at the end ‘ain’t gonna be no song and dance’.

    • Ryan Rognstad

      Nasty troll go somewhere else with your vile disgusting commentary. You wish you had .0000003% of Madonna’s talent. Damn bigoted asshole

    • dornach2000

      You sound like a truly miserable person….is that you Morrissey?

  • xDariceRulezxx

    yuss

  • DeeLucks

    man, what a tease…

    we will never see this…

    great review tho…….

  • Patrick

    Don’t know any of those songs on that set list

  • Theresa Lord

    Wonderfully put, thanks for sharing I could really feel the excitement and thrill of the night. Party of the Century!!!!
    Congrats (as jealousy is a sin) and love to all my friends that attended ;-)

  • Darth Northstar

    How do you guys get invited to events like these? I was lucky enough to see Prince earlier this year my first time ever at Paisley. I’m 6-2 and this guy comes practically running across the floor when he all of sudden jammed on his breaks and slid around me, it was Prince… Can you imagine the embarrassment of being 6′-2″, 200 Lbs and plowed over by Prince?? :)

  • Richard Moore

    Iconic event!! Wish I had been lucky enough to be in attendance. Thanks for sharing the moment.

  • Jami To

    What a fantastic article. How insanely fortunate for those of you who got to experience this event. Seeing Prince perform at Paisley will remain on my bucket list…56th B-Day is approaching. Feeling anxious..

    • Immanuel6 (Tammy)

      Dear, there is nothing to be anxious about! Please embrace the blessing of another day. Be timeless and don’t think about your chronically age. That is why I love Prince, he refuses to be locked in the box of time and you don’t have to be also! Much love?

  • Aqua

    Amazing piece! Thank you so much, I can’t contain myself!

  • Stephy.

    MADONNA & PRINCE! Legends.

  • Kryssie Funcky

    like a prayer :) o(+>

  • Tony Wilson

    The best musician of his era and one of the greatest of all time. I’ve seen him in concert 3 times and was completely awestruck at his musical talents, music today is so watered down and it’s great to be a fan of a true artist. We should cherish witnessing such a polarizing musical force for it will be a sad day when he’s gone, I can’t think of one artist in music today that even comes close to being as musically gifted as him.

  • Juliet Dita Germanotta

    They should have did there 80:s song, love song!!!

  • Karolyn Harrington

    Wow what a night! Wish I was on that guest list!