Wednesday, 3 October 2007

An enduring 'Sign 'o' the times' ...

"Mum, how would you feel about coming to see Prince at the O2 with me?"

That was a week ago. My forty something grin spread rapidly from ear to ear and two days later, high heeled boots thrown carelessly aside, my twenty four year old daughter and I willingly submitted to a beat I have loved her entire life.

I last had the privilege of watching the genuis who is 'Prince' play live in London twenty years ago. His performance was breathtaking then and his unique magic remains unclouded with time. Twenty thousand purple glow sticks waving in the dark to 'Purple Rain' two decades later, cast that fact in irrefutable stone.

I really can't do this amazing performance sufficient justice with my clumsy attempt at review, but this critique in 'The Independent' hits all the right notes, achieving perfect pitch ... please, read and enjoy!

Review credit: 'The Independent'
Prince, O2 Arena, London
Touched by the presence of genius
Published: 05 August 2007

"Please do allow me the prerogative to cool down at some future date and revise my opinion, but right now, Prince's opening night at the 02 Arena is – cue Sheila E drum roll – the single greatest concert I have been to in my entire life (supplanting, er... Prince, the Lovesexy tour, Wembley, 1988).
The buzz around this man in 2007 suggests that the whole ungrateful world is finally waking up, when it's almost too late, to just how extraordinary he is. The proposition behind the hype-bubble is this: Prince, the greatest musical genius of the modern age, playing a hits-packed set is, almost by definition, the most thrilling pop experience it is possible to have.
The stakes, then, are high. Oh, Prince won't die poor. His Paisley Park empire won't collapse if anything goes wrong. But in terms of legacy and enduring reputation, if this 21 Nights in London residency really is the last time he'll play his greatest hits, he needs to deliver tonight.
He knows it, too. "I couldn't sleep last night, y'all," he admits halfway through, "so forgive me if I forget anything. I'm so excited to be here! I saw every one of you in my dreams."

Does he pull it out of the bag? Oh boy, does he ever. At exactly 8.30pm the house lights fall, 20,000 voices scream with almost thermonuclear hysteria, the Symbol-shaped stage begins to glow, a plume of smoke rises from a hatch in its centre, and there he is: a miniature mannequin in a white Pacino pimp suit. He strums one reverberating chord, sings the line, "I never meant to cause you any sorrow", and so much oxygen is sucked out of the room in gasps of disbelief that breathing becomes difficult. Starting a concert with "Purple Rain", the full eight-minute epic version? Way to knock 'em dead.
A familiar smirk flickers across his face. The show has barely begun, and already he knows we are in the palm of his tiny hand. He yells, "London! I am here. Where are you?" And then, with a coy smile, adds, "Did you miss me?" Without a second's delay, his band – encamped in the loop of the Symbol – rattle into "Girls & Boys", the Franco-funk classic from Parade, Prince shakes his platform-heeled legs, drops his mic stand to one side, executes a perfect quadruple-axel spin, and re-catches the mic bang on the beat. Moments later, he tummy-slides headfirst into the point of the Symbol, loses his tambourine in a melee, but not his cool.
It's at this point, when you've temporarily suppressed the "Oh my God, that's actually Prince, in real life, over there" sensation, that you start to consider what a unique specimen he is: 49 years old, sings like an angel and dances like the devil, can play every instrument better than the people in his band (as Pharrell Williams put it), and has written a back catalogue of immortal songs running into three figures. "I got more hits," he jokes, "than Madonna's got kids."
And he doesn't hold back. There's a scattering of recent material ("Satisfied", "Musicology", "Guitar", "Black Sweat") and the odd cover version (the Beatles' "Come Together", Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"), but these are outnumbered by the stone-cold classics: "Lets Go Crazy", "U Got the Look", "I Feel For You", "Controversy", "Take Me With U", and a version of "Kiss" which gets a reaction that seems to leave even him gobsmacked.
He's nothing if not cocky. "I'm so funky I can't even sleep with myself," he grins. "I am gonna kick your tail up in the air!" He pretends to walk off, cups his ear for applause, then changes his mind. During "Cream" he breaks off midway through the couplet, "You're so cool, everything you do is success/ Make the rules, then break them all 'cos you are the best", and jokes, "I wrote this song while looking in the mirror".
There's a school of thought which says that Prince minus the dirtiness is like George Best with his feet amputated. The truth is that when he's onstage, he leaves the Biblical scholar at home, and while he might stop short of outright filth like "Head" or "Gett Off", when he squeals, "I'm gonna seek this thing like a buried treasure!" and humps the mic stand, there is not a lot of doubt as to what he's talking about.
And who needs dirt when there's a song as exquisite as "If I Was Your Girlfriend?" The uncomfortably intimate, almost stalkerish track from Sign O' The Times in which he dreams the impossible dream of being all things to his woman ("Would you run to me if somebody hurt you even if that somebody was me?"), sends genuine shivers.
Closing time; ugly lights; everybody's at the exits when something amazing happens. I'm halfway up the stairs when there's a commotion down on the floor, a turquoise-suited body flashes through the crowd backed by burly bouncers, and suddenly the ultimate showman – having already delivered a couple of encores – is back onstage, prompting a reverse-tide of humanity to rush back into the arena for an additional mini-show which includes solo renditions of "Little Red Corvette", "Raspberry Beret" and "Sometimes it Snows in April", and band-backed covers of Chic's "Le Freak" and Sheila E's "A Love Bizarre" (a Prince track in all but name).
Sometimes, you walk away from a concert feeling privileged to have been present. After a performer like Prince has played a show like this, you walk away feeling privileged to have been alive at the same time."


  1. Oh My! I can't believe you were there at Prince! I was there too! Wasn't it Amazing!


  2. You too? LOL!! It surely was amazing Richy ... never a truer word spoken!

  3. Lucky you Paula,I am and always have been a huge Prince fan ,didnt get to see him this time.:(

  4. Oh wow! You too Louise? You'd have loved the show!!!


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