Watch Prince in Syracuse, 1985: Prince’s Most Powerful Concert

Christina Knight | July 14, 2022
A man holding guitar at microphone wears a translucent mask over eyes and elbow-length gloves and draped dark top.

Prince performing Purple Rain tour concert at Syracuse Carrier Dome, March 30, 1985. Thirteen is streaming the concert. Photo by Nancy Bundt.

Update July 29: Prince and the Revolution: Purple Rain Tour, pre-empted by The January 6 Hearing Day 8 live broadcast coverage on Thursday, July 21, will now broadcast Thursday, September 8 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

“There’s nothing I would change. It was one of the most powerful concerts I’ve ever attended.” – Prince.

To say the artist Prince “attended” his Purple Rain concert at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on March 30, 1985, is an understatement. With his signature 100% energy supply, precise musicality, fabulous costumes and staccato choreography, the 26-year-old living legend enthralled an audience of 12 million when his concert in upstate New York was carried live via satellite. This worldwide music event with Prince’s band, The Revolution, came less than four months before the Live Aid benefit concert of 75-plus acts, one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time on July 13, 1985.

Man with long purple jacket and white ruffled satin shirt holds white guitar

Prince performing Purple Rain tour concert at Syracuse Carrier Dome, March 30, 1985. Photo by Nancy Bundt.

When Prince recorded his concert for posterity that evening in 1985, his No. 1 album Purple Rain had been out since June 1984. The crowd of nearly 40,0000 in Syracuse could sing Prince’s first No. 1 hits “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” by heart. Prince and the Revolution had already recorded its next album, Around the World in a Day, which would soon be released on April 22. To keep up with new projects, Prince didn’t want to tour Purple Rain beyond the United States, so the broadcast was a consolation prize to his fans abroad.

He opens the concert saying, “Hello, Syracuse and the world. My name is Prince and I’ve come to play with you.” He closes the concert with an 18-minute version of “Purple Rain.”

His night of play has been preserved in various forms and is considered one of the iconic live recordings in pop and rock history: it received a Grammy nomination for best music film. This June, Jem Aswad conducted a great interview in Variety with the Revolution’s Bobby Z, Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin about the Syracuse Purple Rain concert. Guitarist Melvoin stressed, “We had to really play by the “Purple Rain” playbook that night and give it 200%.”

The concert was pre-cell phone – the only items held aloft by the crowd are cigarette lighters and the occasional tambourine – and its official documentation was first distributed commercially by VHS tape, until Prince pulled it back. In 2017, after his death in April 2016, the concert was re-packaged in a DVD for an anniversary Purple Rain boxed set. In June 2022, Prince and The Revolution: Live became available on vinyl, CD and Blu-ray, and, on public television. PBS stations have been broadcasting the concert as a fundraiser special. Members of THIRTEEN can stream the two-hour concert on-demand with Passport, a member benefit that costs as little as $5 per month, supports public television, and allows access to an extended streaming library.

THIRTEEN is grateful to The Prince Estate for choosing PBS to share the incredible work and music of Prince with the public. The Estate passionately presents Prince’s life and work, and cultivates opportunities to further his legacy. As the singular, authoritative source on all things Prince, The Prince Estate inspires and educates fans, celebrates Prince in his totality, and stewards Prince’s legacy into the future.

Stream Prince and the Revolution: The Purple Rain Tour on Thirteen.org or the THIRTEEN app and PBS Video app. For more Prince on PBS, we recommend the following episodes and clips.

Prince Guitar Solo Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2004

On April 21, 2016, PBS NewsHour shared a clip of Prince stealing the show on a stage of legends, with a guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Steve Winwood and Tom Petty and others didn’t mind – it was Prince’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Look out for his almost stage fall.

Purple Rain Syracuse Concert: 15 Minutes

A sneak peak from Prince and the Revolution: The Purple Rain Tour (stream full two-hour show) allows you to see the opening of the Syracuse concert performance on March 30, 1985 and performances of “Let’s Go Crazy” and “1999.” It begins with a plug from PBS hosts to become a PBS Passport member, and describes the streaming benefits of Passport.

Prince and the Revolution: Purple Rain Syracuse Concert Set List, March 30, 1985

1. Let’s Go Crazy

2. Delirious

3. 1999

4. Little Red Corvette

5. Take Me With U

6. Do Me, Baby

7. Irresistible Bitch

8. Possessed

9. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?

10. Let’s Pretend We’re Married

11. International Lover

12. God

13. Computer Blue

14. Darling Nikki

15. The Beautiful Ones

16. When Doves Cry

17. I Would Die 4 U

18. Baby I’m A Star

19. Purple Rain

Shirtless man plays guitar

Prince performing Purple Rain tour concert at Syracuse Carrier Dome, March 30, 1985. Photo by Nancy Bundt.