PRINCE, A PIANO, A MICROPHONE : Paisley Park Gala Event, January 21st 2016


*updated June 2020*

Presented below is a scrapbook of memories, and the transcript, of Prince’s first ever solo piano performance on January 21 2016… his last complete performance at his home, Paisley Park, before his untimely death exactly three months later, on April 21.


This was going to be a milestone performance, and Prince knew it. He had invested considerably in the event, commissioning a full remodel of his main soundstage area at Paisley Park in preparation for the Gala. The sound system had been overhauled to envelope the audience and deliver that poignant intimacy where you could hear a pin drop. Fresh carpets, cushions and couches were installed to create a sense of comfort and familiarity, of coming home. The huge arena was in darkness, save for minimal spotlights in sharp focus on a purple piano, and a microphone. Incense burned; candles flickered; psychedelic visuals morphed in repeated cycles – captivating us, pulling us into their hypnotic spell. Prince had set the stage and now it was time to take us back, to regress, to discover buried memories and hear unspoken stories from the past.

Prince always loved the mischief of peppering his art with hidden messages and imagery. Before the show began, two curiously obscure instrumental pieces from film soundtracks were played. At the time, their significance passed the audience by as they chattered excitedly, but with hindsight we can speculate why Prince may have selected these tracks. The first was Confluence by John Williams from Memoirs of a Geisha. The word means a ‘flowing together’. In a literal sense, it’s about rivers, but it’s more often used to talk about the coming together of people, ideas or cultures, which was particularly pertinent. Prince had issued an invitation to this exclusive event out of the blue, via twitter, just three weeks before, causing mayhem amongst fans across the world. There had been bosses to plead with; panic buying of flights; last-minute accommodation to arrange; countless barriers to overcome, every reason for this not to happen. But it had happened. Streams of colourful people from around the globe had found their course and converged together at Paisley Park. From London, Tokyo, Sydney, Toronto, we had finally arrived and were overflowing with excitement. We were the confluence. 

The second piece was a brief but significant snippet of a composition by Gabriel Yared from the soundtrack to L’Amant by Marguerite Duras. It is called The Departure.  A haunting piece, it is played during the beautiful ending of the film, where the protagonist boards a cruise liner, leaving her world behind. She suddenly realises that her estranged Lover has come to witness her sail away. Little did we all know that the inclusion of this piece prophesied that fans had also assembled to witness a poignant departure.  Three months later we would fully understand the heartbreaking reality. This was going to be a farewell. 


A hush fell on the crowd and then… our host appeared through two enormous doors at the rear of the stage. Backlit, in a cloud of dry ice, his afro encircled in a ethereal halo of light, Prince strode to us unfaltering. It felt like a visitation from a heavenly angel. The love rose in the room; an almost palpable sense of goodwill washing towards this dear man.

Sitting alone at the piano, our notoriously private Prince then surprised the audience beyond all expectation by opening his heart in a way he had never done before. We hadn’t just been invited into his home; he was now inviting us into his soul. Barely perceptible, reverberating voices drew us back to Prince, the child. ‘My only mission is to make you cry / Happy tears of joy’ he proclaimed as he began to share intimate details of his early years. Speaking softly, tight into the microphone, he painted pictures of intensely personal moments, such as his parent’s divorce, which inspired, or forced, a young Black boy to find solace and identity in the company of a piano.

These anecdotes accompanied the soundtrack of his development as a musician: learning piano by playing ‘Chopsticks’ and TV themes; listening to local radio, refining his musical tastes and beginning to allow his own creativity to find full expression.  He shared fleeting insights into the evolution of his inimitable style, modelling in real time the genesis of a track. Muttering to himself, he first crafted a jaunty demo of Baby and then evolved it into a poignant, heart-wrenching ballad, lifting it outside the norms of conventional progressions. This was a search, at times an urgent hunt, for dissonant chords that would give expression to the discord he felt inside in his early years.

Signposts were given to the many influences that have steered his course across his career: legendary beacons Joni and Miles; contemporary band members, such as Lisa Coleman; and even respectful nods to less known but equally critical players, like his sound engineer Scottie Baldwin, all of whom have made his magical journey ‘happen’ over the last 57 years. He could have added many other names, and later did so in other performances of Piano and Microphone when he toured the show across Australia and the US. Notably, he thanked his fans repeatedly. We were all acknowledged as his purple alumni who had been travelling companions in this odyssey. Deepest respects though were paid to his father, forever his first influence and always his greatest muse. 

And so the conversation developed.  We were blessed with beautiful, extended renditions of A Case Of U, The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, and oh! Condition Of The Heart. Emotions were swelling and when Prince gave a nod to Bowie, the words caught in his throat. Later, he said ‘I forgot that music is emotional’. On several occasions, he was clearly caught out by the power of what he was creating.

It was a magical performance and we were spellbound. Transformed.


There had been concerned speculation about Prince’s health for a couple of years leading up to the Gala event. We’d all seen how thin he had become; but his recent live performances with 3rdeyegirl hadn’t lacked energy, that was for sure, and we were consoled. Then our worries resurfaced when he dropped the Art Official Age album in October 2014: it was referenced as ‘spiritual healing 4 the body, soul and mind’ in the liner notes; a deep sense of big questions and finality pervaded key tracks like ‘Way Back Home’ and ‘Time’.

The truth is that even those closest to Prince didn’t know what he was privately struggling with or was feeling by the time he sat at that piano in January 2016, but this time there was a different vibe in the air, a nagging melancholy and introspection. Prince chose to dress in a flowing, purple silk tunic, printed with intriguing images of the multiple phases of the moon. Was he realising it was time to complete a cycle and come full circle? Was he unconsciously counting down to a future eclipse and rebirth?

We will never know. Indeed, Prince himself didn’t have any genuine comprehension of just how prematurely that tragic fall would come. In just three short months, to the day, just after 10am on April 21st 2016, the unimaginable would have happened and our sweet Prince would be gone.

We will always have the wonderful legacy of his music. But it turned out that his final gift to the world would be a heart-wrenchingly beautiful run of concerts with just a piano, and a microphone. These would be his only solo performances across a stellar career that finished with the same raw talent with which it had started when he was a young man, sat alone at a piano in the Minneapolis cold overlooking a frozen Lake Riley.  Just a piano, and a microphone, and a creative genius big enough to transform the world.

Through it all

Remaining free

I found out


All along







November 4 2015

November 8 2015

November 9 2015

November 11 2015

November 12 2015

November 13 2015

December 6 2015



January 1 2016


January 5 2016

January 6 2016


January 9 2016



Tribute to Prince from Spencer Glover on Vimeo.

January 10 2016


January 14 2016

Paisley Park After Dark – The Remodel from Infinitree Media on Vimeo.


January 16 2016

January 17 2016


January 18 2016







A story like mine should never be told

For my world is as forbidden as it is fragile

Without its mysteries, it cannot survive.


I certainly wasn’t born to the life of a Geisha

Like so much in my strange life, 

I was carried there by the current.


My mother always… told me I was like water.

Water can carve its way even through stone

And when trapped,

Water makes a new path. 

THE DEPARTURE: L’AMANT OST – Gabriel Yared, 1992

Elle savait qu’il la regardait. Elle le regardait elle aussi, elle ne le voyait plus mais elle regardait encore vers la forme de l’automobile noire.

Et puis à la fin elle ne l’avait plus vue.

Le port s’était effacé

et puis la terre.

Il faudrait prévenir les gens de ces choses-là. Leur apprendre que l’immortalité est mortelle, qu’elle peut mourir, que c’est arrivé, que cela arrive encore. 

Marguerite Duras – L’AMANT





[ethereal strings]

[single chord & dramatic pause]



My name is …..

My tears I cry

My only mission is to make you cry

Happy tears of joy


Who whatever whenever

However they dare demand

I wish I could play piano

But I don’t know how to play piano

Everything looks different

Three years old

The piano looks bigger

At three years old

Mmm… Maybe I’ll just watch TV

(jumps on piano and mimes watching TV, eating popcorn)

Here comes dad

Not supposed to touch it

And I wanna play it so bad

There goes dad

Him and mom are getting divorced now

I’m actually happy to see you go…

But I was only seven years old

But now

I can play piano

any time I want

[BATMAN THEME – Neal Hefti, 1966]


Can’t play the piano like dad though

How does dad do that?

Let me see…



Not bad eh!


I wish I could sing

And I wish I could

No… no… mmm…

Maybe I should just…

Listen to the radio

Back then radio was cool though!

Back then radio was localised

We had a DJ named Pharaoh Black,

Kyle Ray,

and Jack Harris…

Jack Harris had his own band

That’s how funky he was

His band was as tight as James Brown’s band, or close

I always used to hear his music

He would choose what we would listen to

And he had great taste

[I SECOND THAT EMOTION – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, 1967]

Maybe I’ll give you kisses sweet

But only for one night and no repeat

I can’t sing that…

Those words were insane!

[WHO’S LOVING YOU –– Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, 1960]

When I had you

I treated you bad

And [still] my dear

And since

Since you been away

Dont’cha know

I sit around

With my head hangin’ down

And I wonder

Who’s lovin’ you

No… I gotta write some songs, that’s how I’m gonna get outta here…

[BABY – Sunset Sound, 1976]


Baby, what are we gonna do?

I’m so in love with you


Need a change there…




There it is.


[BABY – 1976]

Need a change.

Need it up.

Need it up.

[BABY – outro]

Clap your hands

[I WANNA BE YOUR LOVER – Alpha Studios, 1979]

You wanna sing?


Hand clap, right there!

[I WANNA BE YOUR LOVER – bridge & outro]


Well on my way

Trying to figure things out

One thing though

Other than the earlier story about the radio

I was on my own

Trying everything I could

To find out who I was…

[DIRTY MIND – Wayzata Home Studio, MN, 1980]

It ain’t too far to drive girl

[We can be the stars]

I may not be your style

But I could just, I could just

I could just love you for a little while

Completely free

Completely free

Trying to figure out who is me

[DIRTY MIND – outro]

[DO ME, BABY – Kiowa Trail Home Studio, 1981]

Here we are

In this big, old empty room

Staring each other down

When you’re totally free a song like that is going to go on and on and on

And if you’re totally honest

You’re gonna turn the lights off


You’re gonna light a candle


You’re gonna put on your favourite song


You’re gonna pray that

your loved one is nearby


You’re going to




You’re gonna hope you agree

But that doesn’t always happen

You have 992 arguments

And you hope that both of you are still alive when

The 993rd one starts

[SOMETHING IN THE WATER (DOES NOT COMPUTE) – Kiowa Trail Home Studio, 1982]

You think you’re special, well so do I

Why do special women make me cry?

Does not compute

Does not compute


What’s the hangup baby, what’s the scam?

Guess you think I’m just another one, one of your [silly] fans


Some people think I’m kinda smart

Why must a fella stop with you before he starts?

Tell me

Tell me


I wanna thank you for braving the cold and coming out tonight

I … I just wanna say this for the record

I have the best music-loving supporters in the world

Thank you so much

We hear a lot of talk about freedom


When you have right to make up your own mind

Then you can choose to say ‘No’ sometimes

It’s a powerful word when it’s used properly.

[FREE – Sunset Sound, 1982]

Don’t sleep ‘til the sunrise, listen 2 the falling rain

Don’t worry ‘bout tomorrow, don’t worry ‘bout your pain

Don’t cry unless you’re happy, don’t smile unless you’re blue

Never let that lonely monster take control of U

Be glad that U r free

Free 2 change your mind

Free 2 go most anywhere, anytime

Be glad that U r free

There’s many a man who’s not

Be glad 4 what U had baby, what you’ve got

Be glad 4 what you’ve got


I know my heart is beating, my drummer tells me so

If U take your life 4 granted, your beating heart will go…


Don’t s- [falters]



Peace to David Bowie…

I only met him once and he was very nice to me

Seems like he was nice to everybody

I just wanted to say that…


Be glad that you are free


[A CASE OF U – Joni Mitchell, 1971]

I am a lonely painter

I live in a box of paints

I used 2 be frightened by the devil

And drawn 2 those [ones that ain’t] afraid

Remember when u told me

That love was touching souls?

Well, surely u touched mine

Part of u pours out of me from time 2 time in these lines


U’re in my blood like holy wine…

U’re so bitter and so sweet

I could drink a case of u darling

And still be on my feet…

still be on my feet



The space

In between the notes

Mmmm… that’s the good part

However long the space is

That’s how funky it is or how funky it ain’t



You’re in my blood like holy wine, yes you are

You’re in my blood like holy wine, yes you are

Does that sound great?

The reason is Scottie

His name is Scottie

Show him love…


[MOTHERLESS CHILD – traditional]

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,

A long way     from ho – me,

A long way from home.


Somebody snap your fingers please.

Sounds so good.


Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone
A long way from ho – me

A long way from home.


Thank you.


By this time, I could play pretty good

And things were going all right.


Some singers have the courage to tell you

If they are male, don’t let them lie to you,

They all write songs to cop girls.

[THE BEAUTIFUL ONES – Sunset Sound, 1983]

Baby, baby, baby

Can’t you stay with me tonight

Oh baby, baby, baby

Don’t my kisses please you right


You were so hard to find

The beautiful ones, they hurt you every time


Paint a perfect picture

Bring to life a vision in one’s mind

The beautiful ones

Always smash the picture

Always every time

Do you want to get married?

Do you think it’ll work?


Watch out – I might be a jerk…


We alright so far?


[U’RE GONNA C ME – Paisley Park, 2001]

I’m not gonna sleep tonight baby

Cause you’re not by my side and that ain’t right – no

I thought that we bought this bed for two, yeah

But what good is it if I’m not with you

Gimme a page on my 2-way

I’ll hit you back with no delay

When you hear all I’ve got to say


U’re gonna C me

Whether in person or the phone

Girl, I’ve got to get you all alone

And when I do baby – it’s on

U’re gonna C me

U’re gonna C me


U’re the reason I took a rope and lassoed the moon

[When it comes to U baby, I can’t get it too soon]


Where you been?

I been calling you and calling you

And you just..

you just 

you never

return my

calls – why?

Is it something I said?

Something I done?




[CONDITION OF THE HEART – Sunset Sound, 1984]

There was a girl in Paris

Whom he sent a letter to

Hoping she would answer back

Now wasn’t that a fool

Hardy notion on the part of a

Sometimes lonely musician

Acting out a whim is only good

For a condition of the … [unfinished]

There was a dame from London 

Who left for a real Prince from Arabia


Thinking about you driving me crazy

Every day’s just a yellow day

I’m blinded by the daisies in your…


Do it again… it’s there –

One more time…


[VENUS DE MILO – Crosstown Circle Warehouse, 1985]


[RASPBERRY BERET intro – Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse, 1984]

I’d like to take a moment and ah…

show love and appreciation for Lisa and Wendy

I met Lisa first, she was in the band for a while

and then she introduced me to Wendy

When I first met Lisa

She didn’t look me in the eye

I think –

you’ll have to ask her why.

I called my manager

and I said, ‘I don’t think this is gonna work out…

Can you make a plane reservation for her, she is going to have to go home…’

And then ah I said, ‘ Hold on..’

And I could hear the piano coming from the basement

and she was playing


free form


making up

these crazy chords

that I

never heard


I met Miles Davis who came to my house and played similar chords.

And she told me that her favourite piano player was Bill Evans


I am trying to imitate her now…

And I would write music and I would let them go to the studio and just mess around

and see what they come up with

and Lisa wrote this harpsicord part that went…



And that’s the whole song, right?



I was working part time in a five-and-dime

My boss was Mr. McGee

He told me several times that he didn’t like my kind

’Cause I was a bit too leisurely

Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing

But different than the day before

That’s when I saw her, ooh, I saw her

She walked in …


They say the first time ain’t the greatest

But I tell ya…

[If I had the chance to do it all again]

I wouldn’t change a stroke

’Cause baby [you’re] the most




[PAISLEY PARK – Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse, 1984]

There is a park that is known

4 the face it attracts


Everybody stand up, come on!


Colorful people whose hair

On 1 side is swept back

The smile on their faces

It speaks of profound inner peace

Ask where they’re going

They’ll tell U nowhere


The girl on the seesaw is laughing

4 love is the color

This place imparts (Paisley Park)

Admission is easy, just say U

Believe and come


Paisley Park is in your heart


There is a woman who sits

All alone by the pier

Her husband was naughty

And caused his wife so many tears

He died without knowing forgiveness

And now she is sad, so sad

Maybe she’ll come 2 the park

And forgive him

And life won’t be so bad

In Paisley Park


Paisley Park is in your…

Say it again

Paisley Park is in your



I should thank YOU for that, huh?

That was groovy, I like that!

We’ll have to keep that in the set, huh?


Well… you’re right there

I thought I would never be able to play like my dad

And he never missed an opportunity to remind me of that

But we got along good.

He was my best friend.


How many of you have lucid dreams?

I like dreaming now more than I used to

Ah… some of my friends have passed away and I see them

in my dreams.


…it’s like they are here

…and the dreams are

just like waking sometimes.

You know?


[SOMETIMES IT SNOWS IN APRIL – Sunset Sound, 1985]

Tracy died soon after a long fought civil war – [fingersnaps, reverb effect]

Just after I’d wiped away his last tear

[Maybe] he’s better off than he was before

A whole lot better off than the fools he left here


I used 2 cry 4 Tracy because he was my only friend

Those kind of cars don’t pass u every day


I used 2 cry 4 Tracy because I wanted to see him again

But sometimes, sometimes

life ain’t always…


Sometimes it snows in April

Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad

Sometimes I wish life was [everlasting]

But all good things, they say, never last


Sometimes it snows in April

Sometimes I feel so bad

So bad, so bad

Sometimes, I wish that life was never ending

And all good things, they say, never last

All good things, they say, never last

All good things, they say




Thank you. 


[THE BALLAD OF DOROTHY PARKER – intro, Galpin Blvd Home Studio, 1986]

Dorothy was a waitress on the promenade

She worked the night…

You don’t know that song!

I’ll come back to it.

[EYE LOVE U, BUT I DON’T TRUST YOU ANY MORE – initial tracking date unknown?]

I could tell from the moment U walked in the room

That it wasn’t your dress U had on

That wasn’t your perfume

And what happened 2 the ring that I gave U?

What am I 2 assume?

I love U… baby

but I don’t trust U anymore


I remember meeting U here in the good ol’ days

I would never pick the flower of my favourite protege

Maybe if I would have

Then U would not treat me this way… oh!

I loved U  – but I don’t trust U anymore


I love U, but I don’t trust U any, anymore


Do you mind if I

right here

Turn on the radio (click)

My favourite song, she said 

And it was Joni singing…

And that WAS my favourite song.

Among others

Joni Mitchell – show her love please.

Me and my dad used to take turns jamming on this one

[UNCHAIN MY HEART – Ray Charles, 1961]

I’m under your spell like a man in a trance

But I know darn well, that I don’t stand a chance so

Unchain my heart, let me go my way

Unchain my heart, you worry me night and day

[You got me down in] misery

When you don’t care a bag of beans for me

So unchain my heart, oh please, please set me free


Set me free

[BALTIMORE – intro, Paisley Park, 2015]


Nobody got in nobody’s way

So I guess you could say it was a good day

At least a little better than the day in Baltimore

What are we gonna do y’all?

How many Americas are there?





Does anybody hear us pray

For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray?

Peace is more than the absence of war

Absence of war

Are we gonna see another bloody day?

We’re tired of the cryin’ and people dyin’

Let’s take all the guns away


The absence of war

Peace is more

Than the absence

Peace is more

Than the absence of war

[ROCK N ROLL LOVE AFFAIR – Paisley Park Studios, 2011/12]

They were bound to find each other

He needed proof, she needed a brother

That’s when the stars collide

When there’s space for what you want 

And your heart is open wide






Can you scream my name? Come on!


This kind of love don’t come from a prayer

Ain’t talking rebound, born of despair

Yellow sun rising on their bodies in bed

Two people in love, with nothing but the road ahead


I already heard you sing it, let’s do it!

Rock, rock, love affair

Sing it!

Rock! Rock! Love affair!

Rock! Rock! Love affair!

Rock! Rock! Love affair!

Sing it!

[exits stage]


[returns to rapturous applause]

This is what I usually do

around this time of night.

aah…It’s better with you all present

Thank you. 


[STARFISH & COFFEE – Galpin Blvd Home Studio, 1986]

Starfish and coffee

Maple syrup and jam

Butterscotch clouds, a tangerine

And a side order of ham

If you set your mind free, baby

Maybe you’d understand

Starfish and coffee


[THE BREAKDOWN – Paisley Park Studios, 2012]

Listen to me closely as the story unfolds

This could be the saddest story ever been told

I used to want the house with the biggest pool

[Forever] missing out… I just feel like a fool


Keep breaking me down, down, down

Keep breaking me down, down, down


I used to throw a party every New Year’s Eve

First one intoxicated, last one to leave

Waking up in places you would never believe

Give me back the time, you can keep the memories


Keep breaking me down, down, down

Keep breaking me down, down, down


Every book I’ve read said that I would meet somebody like you

Whenever I was sorry, so sorry for the things I used to do

A journal full of numbers that I used to go through


All behind me now

All because of you



Down, down, down, down

Keep breaking me down




There’s a door that you can walk through

Where there used to be a wall

Ask me anything 

As long as you catch me girl 

If ever I fall

If ever there’s a fall

I don’t expect there will be 

Not, not, not any time 

Not any time soon. 

So I wanna know

I wanna know


Breaking me down, down, down



Ask me anything

I know you wanna

I know you wanna…

ask me


Whatever it is 

The answer is







(Exits stage)

[ANNA STESIA – Paisley Park Studios, 1987/88] 

Have U ever been so lonely

That U felt like U were the

Only one in this world?

Have U ever wanted 2 play

With someone so much U’d take

Any one boy or girl?

Sing it

Anna Stesia talk 2 me

Liberate my mind

Tell me what U think of me

Out this space and time

Between white and black, night and day

Black night seemed like the only way…

So I danced

Music late, nothing great

No way 2 differentiate 

I took a chance

Gregory looks just like a ghost

And then a beautiful girl the most

Wets her lips 2 say

“We could live 4 a little while

If U [and I] could just… fly away.”

Anna Stesia come 2 me

Talk 2 me, ravish me

Liberate my mind

Tell me what U think of me

Praise me, craze me

Out this space and time



Through it all

Remaining free

I found out


All along



If you wanna sing:

God is Love

Love is GOD






Sing it y’all


What is GOD?