The Current

Great Music Lives Here ®
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now
Local Current Blog

Then and Now: The Capri Theater, where Prince played his first solo show

by Andrea Swensson

January 10, 2014

Text by Andrea Swensson and Steve Cohen

“Now” photos by Steve Cohen

Now that every address is available with a quick Google search and every concert is Instagrammed from 100 angles, it can be hard to remember a time when things weren’t so heavily documented.

Even massive concerts like the Beatles’ visit to Minneapolis in 1965 and Elvis’s stop in town a decade earlier were scarcely photographed (at least by today’s standards). It can make photos from that era feel like long lost relics, like rarely opened windows that peer into a forgotten time.

In the spirit of remembering and revisiting our history, we dug through the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society, Minneapolis Public Library, Old Minneapolis, and other sources to find the influential venues that predate today’s popular clubs like First Avenue. For the sixth installment of the “Then and Now” series, we’ll revisit the Capri Theater, which hosted a pair of historical gigs by Minneapolis icon Prince.

Capri Theater

It was 35 years ago this week when Prince played his first shows as a solo artist at the Capri Theater, which sits at the corner of Broadway and Logan Ave. N. in north Minneapolis. The shows took place on January 5 and 6, 1979, and the proceeds from the tickets sold the first night (which cost a mere $4) went toward the Capri.

Prince's career was already moving forward by the time he played the Capri shows—he had signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1976 when he was just 17, and recorded and released his debut For You in early 1978. But it wasn't until the winter of 1979 that Prince formed a band and performed his first solo show. At the Capri, he was joined by childhood friend and former Grand Central and Champagne bandmate André Cymone, Bobby Z, Dez Dickerson, Matt Fink, and Gayle Chapman.

According to a fan setlist, Prince began the first show with the title track off his debut album, "For You," and also performed the songs "Soft and Wet," "So Blue," and "Just as Long as We're Together." Longtime Star Tribune critic Jon Bream was at the show and wrote that Prince “strutted across the stage with grand Mick Jagger-like moves and gestures. He was cool, he was cocky, and he was sexy.”

Here's an excerpt from the book Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks by Ronin Ro that details his first concert:


Shortly after Prince's fateful shows at the Capri in 1979 the building was taken over by the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, who continue to operate the Capri to this day. The PCYC is in the midst of what former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak dubbed the "Capri Renaissance," which began in 2007. Phase one of the renaissance included an $800,000 investment in new sound, lighting, and lobby renovations; and phase two of the renaissance will involve a major expansion of the Capri onto neighboring property. The land sale is expected to take place in 2015, with construction to be completed by October 2016.

And the Capri Renaissance is already paying off: In recent years, the Capri has become home to productions by the Children's Theatre Company and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and in 2011 Minnesota Monthly named it "Best Jazz Venue" in the Twin Cities.


Then and Now: Metropolitan Stadium

Then and Now: Prom Ballroom

Then and Now: Minneapolis Auditorium

Then and Now: Dania Hall

Then and Now: The Suburbs "Love is the Law" graffiti


Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.