Here's how it goes at SXSW: You go and see a myriad of smaller, buzzier bands all week, wait in line for showcases (which often feature the same 20-25 of said bands), and come Saturday, some secret, mind-blowing show appears and everyone goes nuts. Two years ago, Kanye showed up with Jay-Z, last year it was Eminem, and two nights ago, it was The Purple One. Yes, Prince played a tiny (for him, at least) venue in support of Samsung, that lasted until 3 a.m. And not only did we get to see it, but we lived to tell about it, too.
With such large corporate participation in SXSW now, companies have engaged in a pretty massive practice of one-upery: Doritos built an enormous vending machine, MySpace flew out Justin Timberlake, but Samsung may have taken the cake by sending Prince fans on a city-wide scavenger hunt to win tickets to the Saturday night show. Anyone with a Galaxy had to search out "TecTiles" to unlock awards — and all 11 sent you to see Prince. (The irony, of course, is that photo-sensitive Prince strictly outlawed any unauthorized photos, including cellphones, which is a policy we can neither confirm or deny we adhered to, but would perhaps suggest you check out our Instagram.)
Which means, of course, the venue was filled with diehard fans (including, say, your author), and even at 54 years of age, The Artist absolutely killed it, with both classics and covers (he payed homage to both Michael and Janet Jackson). "They called our people and said they wanted some funk in Austin," Prince said, explaining the rarity of seeing a super-polished, 22-piece funk/soul band at SXSW, led by the cane-wielding singer. Despite not playing guitar (boo), he did include a ten-minute rendition of "Purple Rain," where he had the entire venue wailing the "Ooohs" at the end of the song. Of his repeating encores, Prince said, "Don't make me hurt you...you know how many hits I got!" We do indeed, Prince. We do indeed.
Photos: John Sciulli for Samsung