When Prince Previewed His ‘Act I’ Tour on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’
After a five-year hiatus, Prince began touring the U.S. again in 1993. The Act I tour opened in Florida in March and wrapped up in April in California. Then, he brought Act II to Europe.
But first, Prince offered a preview of the tour on The Arsenio Hall Show on Feb. 25, 1993. Two years earlier, he took over the show to promote Diamonds and Pearls. This time, in an appearance taped two days earlier he performed four songs from Love Symbol, released in 1992.
“I think Prince knew my love for music, and he got my sense of humor,” Hall told the StarTribune. “More importantly, he knew I loved show business and he loved show business.”
The Purple One opened the show with “My Name Is Prince,” appearing with his famous chain hat, cane and gun-shaped microphone. Tony Mosley rapped and danced alongside fellow New Power Generation members Damon Dickson and Kirk Johnson (together known as TDK).
During the song, Prince set fire to a negative review of Love Symbol by StarTribune writer Jon Bream, who has covered the star since 1977. Titled “Prince Album Is a Royal Disappointment,” the article calls the project uneventful, derivative and self-indulgent.
Bream, who was in the audience for The Arsenio Hall Show taping, was not offended.
“I feel honored and flattered that five months after the review, he’s still carrying it around,” Bream told City Pages. “It amazes me that any artist of his stature is that thin-skinned about reviews.”
At the time, Prince was under tremendous pressure. The narrative swirling around him was that he was desperate for a hit and creatively stifled. His sales were in decline and he had fewer songs reach the Top Ten on the Billboard chart, at least compared to his meteoric success of the '80s. And he’d just signed a new, multi-million-dollar contract with Warner Bros., despite his strained relationship with the label, which would only get worse.
Still, Prince found some joy through a burgeoning relationship with dancer Mayte Garcia. Because Prince did not sit for an interview with Arsenio, Garcia served as a spokesperson. She showed the audience her famous belly-dancing trick, flipping three quarters with her ab muscles. She then joined Prince and the NPG onstage, performing ballet moves during “The Morning Papers.”
For the next number, “Blue Light,” she remained stationary on the piano, filing her nails and ignoring Prince’s advances. The audience, however, cheered at Prince’s tricks, which included a suggestive positioning of his cane.
During “The Max,” Prince showed off some funky piano playing and impressive dance moves with Garcia and TDK. Then, he captured the moment by taking a few Polaroid pictures and disappeared, leaving his band to jam out as the credits rolled.
Prince would go on to repeat the Arsenio set on tour, including some of the same dance moves and outfits. Over 20 years later, in 2014, he returned to the revamped version of The Arsenio Hall Show to do another takeover, and actually sat down for an interview.
“I’m glad I got to come back to TV because it made my Prince dossier complete,” Hall said.