06/09/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT
It began with a buzz on Thursday afternoon, May 22: One of rock's royalty was planning a surprise performance in the Bay Area. Quickly the buzz built to a roar: To gear up for a possible summer tour, which may coincide with the July 2 release of his second feature film, Under the Cherry Moon, Prince and his band, the Revolution, would play San Francisco's elegant Warfield Theatre the following evening. Local deejays announced that tickets would go on sale at 4 p.m. that day. By 4:17 all 2,175 tickets—priced at $17.50—had been sold.
At show time scalpers were asking $75 per; one fan with a front row seat claimed that he had been offered—and had turned down—$275. What he and other fortunates got for their money was a sneak peek at Prince '86, who turned out to be less shock-rock oriented than in the past. Gone were the bikini briefs and many of the hormone-fed stage antics that marked his formative years. The diminutive peacock of rock came across as confident, not cocky, and displayed perhaps the only Princely attribute that hadn't yet been flashed before a crowd: a sense of humor "Don't y'all laugh, we're just makin' this up as we go along," he chided as his 11-piece improvisation-minded ensemble at times abandoned terra firma in search of uncharted funk. He brought solos to an end with a cheerful "Shut the f—- up!"; joked that he was in no position to criticize anyone else's taste in clothes ("Who am I to talk? I'm wearing bellbottoms....), and led the band in unveiling what can only be called a pivotal new dance, the Wooden Leg.
In all, fans got two hours packed tight with 25 songs, many from Prince's latest LP, the hot-selling Parade, which is the sound track to Under the Cherry Moon. Unlike his last movie, Purple Rain, Cherry Moon isn't autobiographical. This time Prince portrays a struggling American piano player, down-and-out on the Cote d'Azur, who tries to convince a rich industrialist's daughter that they could make beautiful music together.
The San Francisco audience, no doubt, would have told her to forget the francs and go for the funk.