Though Prince started touring in 1979, it wasn’t until 1981 that the Purple Rain artist played his first show in the Bay Area at a now-defunct nightclub in S.F. called The Stone. From 1981 to 2016, he played a total of 34 shows throughout the Bay Area (half of which were in Oakland, and six of which were in Daly City in 1985). Of those, we’ve selected ten of Prince’s most memorable Bay Area performances, and we’re willing to bet that more than a few fans still have their ticket stubs from those shows.
1. Feb. 14 and 15, 1982 — Controversy Tour
San Francisco Civic Auditorium: This was Prince’s second ever tour stop in S.F. at what is now known as Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. And, as per the tour’s name, it was rife with controversy. Prince’s side-band The Time were performing so well that Prince reportedly worried that they were outshining him. The drama and backstage tension ended up imploding a month after his S.F. show at the tour’s last stop in Cinnicinati when Prince and some of the members of his band egged The Time off the stage. Towards the end of their set, Prince poured honey over Time bandmate Jerome Benton and dumped trash on him. Things escalated and guitarist Jesse Johnson was handcuffed to a wall-mounted coat rack and Prince proceeded to throw Doritos at him. After the show, the two bands partook in a vicious food fight backstage. The fighting continued after they returned to their hotel and Prince reportedly made Morris Day pay for all the damages, claiming he had started the feud.
2. Feb. 27 to March 5, 1985 — Purple Rain Tour
Cow Palace: For six straight nights, Prince played shows at the 12,000-seat Cow Palace, which, per the ticket’s
request that attendees “wear purple,” was filled with fans decked out in the hue. While tickets were sold for $17.50, they were being scalped for as much as $100, an SF Chronicle article reports. On Prince’s final night at Cow Palace, he played 23 songs, including “When The Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain,” and “Let’s Go Crazy.”
3. Nov. 11, 1988 — Lovesexy Tour
Oakland Coliseum: Prince’s penchant for playing long sets began with this tour and he squeezed in a whopping 40 songs for his two-hour set at the Coliseum. The Lovesexy tour was one of Prince’s most expensive, and he ultimately lost money from it due to transportation and high production costs incurred by his elaborate stage props, which included a moving, multi-tiered stage, a basketball hoop, a fountain, trellis fences, and a full-scale replica of his Ford Thunderbird. (By the tour’s final leg in Japan in 1989, he reportedly broke even.) The show was divided into two acts, with older songs making an appearance in the first half, and newer songs, some of which were played acoustically on the piano, in the second.
4. April 10 and 11, 1993: Act I Tour
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium: These shows marked Prince’s first return to the Bay in five years, as well as his last tour before he changed his name to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. The tour was in support of his album Love Symbol Album and featured the backing band The New Power Generation. The first half of the show focused on material from Love Symbol Album, as well as a few tracks from The New Power Generation’s recently released album Goldnigga. The second half of the show was reserved for Prince’s greatest hits, including “Purple Rain” and “1999.”
5. October 10, 1997 — Jam Of The Year Tour
Shoreline Amphitheater: This show was The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’s first outdoor performance in the Bay Area and his first time playing solo piano sets. Backed by The New Power Generation, he played 34 songs at the October show, most of them culled from the two albums he released in 1996, Emancipation and Chaos and Disorder (not including the soundtrack that he wrote for the Spike Lee film Girl 6). The year before, Prince had left his label at Warner Bros. and married the dancer Mayte Garcia, who was 15 years his junior.
6. Dec. 3, 2000 — Hit N Run Tour
Ruby Skye: At this point, Prince had dropped the symbol and reverted to his original name. He was also still touring with The New Power Generation, though by then, the band’s roster was entirely different. For his show at Ruby Skye, which was announced mere weeks ahead of time, Prince was almost 90 minutes late, but he made up for it with a two-hour set. Both a saxophonist and the dancer-singer Geneva joined him onstage where he danced for the bulk of the show, as well as made three costume changes. With “Cream,” Prince launched into the first of a few guitar solos, even jumping atop speakers on both sides of the stage while strumming out notes.
7. May 19, 2007
Orpheum Theater: This one-off performance occurred a few weeks after Prince’s month-long residency at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas and two months after he headlined the half-time show for Super Bowl XLI. Tickets for this “cozy” show, sponsored by CitiAdvantage credit card, cost $225, and included opening sets by the Esovedo Family and Sheila E. Instead of playing many of his biggest hits, like “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Raspberry Beret,” Prince opted for covers of older songs by Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong, and Sly and The Family Stone.
8. Feb. 21, 23, and 24, 2011 — Welcome 2 America Tour
Oracle Arena: Like most of Prince’s later shows, this one was announced very last minute — as in five days before the first show. A few weeks earlier at the Grammy Hall of Famer’s Madison Square Garden show, Prince had invited Kim Kardashian onstage, before kicking her off because she refused to dance.. Tickets were being sold for as much as $250 for his Oracle Arena shows, which featured openers Larry Graham and Graham Central Station. On the last night he was in Oakland, Prince ditched the openers and ended up playing a three-hour set that included a surprise performance and duet with Shelia E.
9. April 23 and 24, 2013 — Live Out Loud Tour
DNA Lounge: For Prince’s Live Out Loud Tour, he played two shows a day at smaller venues in each city he visited. At DNA Lounge, which housed 900 people for the shows, Prince performed along with his backing girl band 3rdeyegirl and rocked an afro and pencil mustache. Instead of playing the hits, he played a lot of covers (like Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover,” The Cars’ “Let’s Go,” and an instrumental version of “Day Tripper” by the Beatles). In honor of Richie Havens’ death the day before, Prince also played two tribute songs to the late Woodstock artist. As usual, his sets were at least two hours long and the going rate was around $250 a ticket (or $6000 if you opted to sit in the V.I.P. area).
10. March 4, 2016 — Piano and a Microphone Tour
Oracle Arena: After playing two surprise, back-to-back, and immediately sold out shows at Paramount Theater in Oakland the week before, Prince surprised the Bay (again) by announcing this second show at Oracle Arena (which also sold out in minutes). The night before, he’d attended a Warriors game at the venue, and while he was in town, he also hit up Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio (for a limoncello, which he sipped from a straw) and the Western Edition New American eatery Nopa. All four corners of the stage at this two-hour long show were lit by a cluster of candles, and, as the tour name suggested, the show consisted solely of Prince, his microphone, and a piano. He played hits from a medley of albums, including Dirty Mind, Purple Rain, and his most recent release HITnRUN Part 2, and even did a cover of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain.” Perhaps the coolest aspects of the show were when he hopped on a bicycle and peddled around the audience and the fact that every member of the audience was handed a free CD of HITnRUN Part 2 when they left.
ORACLE LIVED UP 2 IT'S NICKNAME: ROARACLE!!!— Prince (@prince) March 5, 2016