The last time Prince had eight uninterrupted minutes on national television, he was performing at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in 2007. While that gig featured greatest hits like “1999,” “Purple Rain” and Let’s Go Crazy,” Prince’s Saturday Night Live set featured tracks that were likely unknown to most viewers. It didn’t matter: Prince, his backing band 3rdEyeGirl and guest vocalist Lianne La Havas still delivered one of the most explosive and most polished SNL musical spots anyone has witnessed since perhaps when Chris Rock, the guest host, was still an SNL featured player.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are so lucky tonight,” Rock told the audience during his introduction for Prince, and the comedian was right. The opening moments of the performance mirrored the cover of his new album Art Official Age with Prince and his three-lensed sunglasses stationed in front of a blue sky. For the first track in his SNL medley, Prince and La Havas duet on that album’s bouncy “Clouds.” “Maybe we’re better off in space…,” La Havas sang while Prince grabbed his six-string, the perfect segue into the guitar freak-out “Marz” off his and 3rdEyeGirl’s other new LP Plectrumelectrum.
For the final cut in the medley, Prince slowed things down briefly for the Plectrumelectrum rocker “Anotherlove,” which gave Prince another opportunity to showcase those guitar god skills that landed him on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. Prince’s unprecedented eight-minute SNL set still felt too short as most viewers were probably wishing the Purple Rain singer would perform an encore instead of kicking it over to Weekend Update.
Prince’s performance will be hard to top, but Kendrick Lamar will give it his best shot when Saturday Night Live returns on November 15th after a week off. Woody Harrelson will be the guest host of that episode.