Photo by Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images

There are gigs that you leave knowing they’ll go down as the “best of the year“. There are legendary singers like Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield or guitarists like Hendrix, who you wish you’d had a chance to see. Breathtaking entertainers like James Brown, where you give thanks for the privilege of seeing them, even in later years…

And then there is Prince Rogers Nelson. The best bits of every one of your favourite artists all rolled up in 5ft 2 inches of stone cold genius.

Gig of the year?… without a doubt. The question you’re left with after two and a bit hours twelve feet away from one of the seminal performers of the last century is…Can it actually get any better? With a bit of luck I might get another 50 years out of this body of mine… will every gig from now on be “not quite as good as that night in Camden”?

12 hours after stumbling across the concert on a music forum I found myself queuing in the pouring rain along with 899 other very over excited people lucky enough to have grabbed tickets. Even a 2 hour wait didn’t dampen the spirits as people chatted and joked, observing that the Purple Turtle venue across the road sounded like a medical condition Prince may have once suffered. Once inside, another wait till almost 20 to midnight before at last his band began to appear.

The synth player had clearly been given a “Greatest Storm Sound Effects” CD for Christmas, and he mercilessly milked the wait for his purpleness to arrive cracking that thunder for all its worth. The keyboard player on the other side of the stage worked the crowd some more (as if it was needed). Then just as I was commenting on there being no sign of a brass section, from behind came a faint sound, getting louder as the four horns played their way from the first floor past the crowd and onto the stage. Led by the one and only Maceo Parker (that’s two lifetime wishes in one evening) they were straight into a storming version of the classic “Pass The Pea’s“. The NME showing its customary knowledge of all things not white, drab and indie later reported it as an instrumental version of “Get Off“.

“B4 we get started, R we all alone?”

DipenK pics

Looking cooler than anyone wearing a fluffy white beret, white high heels and a black 3121 suit has any right to, at last Prince slinkily took to the stage. The crowd went mad as he unleashed his jaw dropping vocals on opener “Satisfied” promising “this is gonna b a long night (cue cheers)… oh, U gonna get satisfied real soon!” The audience beamed back safe in the knowledge that they most definitly would be!

Far from the humourless Jehovah portrayed in the press, Prince was here to have fun, toying with the eager fans as he theatrically pondered what to play next. “So many hits… So little time…” Putting his finger to his chin as if to think deeply, he teased “Now lets see… I could play “Diamonds & Pearls?” (crowd goes nuts) “Poplife?” (crowd roars again) “Raspberry Berr… (crowd surprises even itself with the noise it makes)… “Nahhh” Prince says laughing “You don’t understand! I got so many hits I’d blow this place APART!

“She had the cutest ass he’d ever seen”

If you take him at his word this tour will be the final time Prince EVER plays “the hits”, and “Girls & Boys” is the first classic to get an airing this evening. Its predictably brilliant, but such has been his return to form tunes from the new album don’t totally pale when held up to such greatness. With its keyboard stabs “Lolita” allows him to flirt and dance with his two outrageously beautiful twin dancers. As they circle him sexily in the shortest silver dresses you’ve ever seen, he chastises them “You’re trying to write cheques your body can’t cash“. High kicking, doing the splits, or just ferociously booty shaking, the pair dance solidly for over two hours without breaking sweat, infact some of the audience sweated more staring at them!

“People ask me why play London… well the truth is there’s nothing happening in America”

Already a modern classic, the pulsing synth and hand claps of “Black Sweat” was another highlight. Prince’s lip jutting out at unlikely angles as he hit perfect high notes, screeches, and yelps. Having only so far showed his genius on keyboard, vocals and guitar he grabbed a bass guitar and urged the crowd to chant “Prince… Why don’t you play us some bass?“. When the chant reached a level to his approval, he switched the song down into a funky as hell bass guitar solo break.

Master musician of that there’s no doubt, but also a masterful performer who knows exactly how to involve the crowd in every moment. “Kiss” was part sung by him and the audience as he turned the mic round and let us bellow those familiar lyrics back at him. Then during the extended funk jam of “Musicology” he disappeared above my head to the balcony, dancing among the crowd, leaning over the railings, and picking out members of the audience to join him on stage.

GET OFFFF!
GET OFFFF!

Half a dozen lucky people got to strut their stuff with encouragement from the man himself. He took a particular shine to a skinny white guy in tshirt and jeans letting him work it centre stage. The atmosphere was unbelievably relaxed and fun as he danced along, clapped or encouraged, although one girl took this openness as an invitation to plant a kiss firmly on his cheek… Prince responded by collapsing sideways to the floor panto-style in mock shock. A brilliantly funny moment only slightly ruined by what the lady in question did next.

The sight of Prince prostrate on the floor, consumed her in a red mist of lust and she hitched her skirt up, leapt on top and quite literally attempted to dry hump him in front of 900 slightly taken aback onlookers. Security sprinted to drag her off kicking and screaming away in disgrace.

Hopefully such lack of respect won’t dissuade Prince from getting the audience involved, and after a short break he returned peaking out from under a towel jokingly daring anyone else to try it! The shame to be “kissed by a stranger” he declared.

The audience members remained to dance through an inspired cover of Sly & The Family Stones “Sing A Simple Song” closely followed by another cover, this time of Wild Cherrys “Play That Funky Music“. The latter seemed to be chosen purely to showcase a slightly bewildered awkward looking member of the audience who appeared to have accidentally wandered in expecting a metal band (big black tshirt/ponytail). Prince seemed determined to coax his unlikely co-star through the song and as such had the audience sing the words at him in encouragement. By the end the guy was roaring the chorus centre stage much to Prince and the crowds delight. Charming stuff from a class act (read an account by the funky white guy himself).

Daily Mail

Saxophonist Mike Phillips took centre stage next for a spellbinding instrumental backed only by piano. Not entirely sure what the track was…possibly a cover of “What a wonderful world” but whatever it was it was magical. Half the audience may have been doing what London audiences do, i.e. chat loudly, but the other half were utterly awestruck by the man’s skill and emotion on the sax. One dramatic high note was held for what seemed like minutes, as he somehow managed to breath in and blow out simultaneously. Hopefully bootleg recordings will emerge as it sent tingles down my spine.

He covered Amy Winehouses “Love Is A Losing Game” although I totally missed it, enough people online have reported he paid tribute to her saying “Amy.. What a voice!!“. I must have been in a world of my own at that point.

There was time for two more classics before he departed for the first time. “Cream” was followed by a barnstorming take on “U Got The Look“. Played with a vicious guitar riff that bordered on some crazed hybrid of funk and heavy metal it surely cant ever have sounded as good. Tossing his mic into the crowd and thanking everyone, he left the stage but despite it being well past 1am by now the audience bayed for more. They screamed, they stomped, they did some strange “Ohhh wayyy ohhhhh OHHHHH” chant imploring more.

For the first encore Prince bestowed the seal of authentic funksoul greatness to Gnarls Barkley, emerging to the strains of “Crazy“. Co-vocailist Shelby J delivered the vocal with a roar that Gnarls himself would struggle to match, while Prince mostly contented himself with dancing along, and launching himself into the crowd with a backwards stage dive. The Daily Mail’s otherwise decent review bizarrely claims that over zealous bouncers ensured no one actually touched Prince… how you leap into a crowd without being touched isnt explained?

In an evening of so many highlights perhaps the best (although I demand the right to change my mind) was “Nothing Compares To You“. Sinead’s version was long forgotten as he wrenched emotion out of every line. Thinking of the moment he sang “all the flowers in the backyard mama, all died when you sent away” gives me goosebumps even days later. As he implored that he was “willing to give it another try” if I didnt know he’d sung it a million times I’d have sworn it was the first time he’d ever performed it and the events it referred to were still very much an open wound.

Again he departed, only to return for one final blast through “Lets Go Crazy“, although he cut right from the intro straight to the guitar solo. Clambering onto the speaker stand to perch directly above me, it seemed as if he was loving the adulation as much as the audience were loving giving it. Not for the first time he threw his guitar into the audience as he left thanking everyone once again (infact I think a couple of lead guitars + a bass were put into the audience, and very kindly given back over the course of the evening).

With the time almost 20 to two by now the crowd realising that moments like this might only come along once in a lifetime were unwilling to leave and nosily begged for more. Eventually Prince emerged again if only to deliver a short speech “You’re doing it, it’s not me! You produce the energy… I told my band it was happening in London, they didnt believe me… now they know!” He then implored the crowd to tell everyone about his August concerts… he was relying on us the fans to spread the word that they were going to be the greatest shows that had ever been seen.

Prince needn’t have worried. If every member of the audience hadn’t already bought a ticket to the Dome, they sure as hell would be after this! I suggest you do the same to. Beg steal or borrow for any night of the 21 day London residency. By all accounts he’s rehearsed over 150 songs and intends to make every gig different, and no doubt as magical as this night was.

On a side note can I apologise to my neighbours for what has now been 4 days of solid Prince. I’ll possibly stop buzzing from the whole thing sometime next month.

Setlist
with help from Prince.org & Housequake

Pass The Peas
Satisfied
Down By The Riverside
Girls & Boys
I Never Loved a Man (Aretha Franklin)
Lolita
Black Sweat
Kiss
Sshh
Musicology
Sing a Simple Song (Sly Stone)
Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry)
One Nation Under A Groove (Funkadelic)
Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong) solo sax
Love is A Losing Game (Amy Winehouse)
Gotta Broken Heart Again
Cream
U Got The Look
Encore 1
Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
Nothing Compares 2U
Encore 2
Let’s Go Crazy

3121: 21 Nights in London with PRINCE
3121.com – visit for the latest news on tickets for Prince’s London residency

Listen:

Prince – The Future (Mark Moore remix)” (MP3)

Prince – Controversy (Wish We Edit)

Prince – Forever in my life (web link)


Prince – Starfish and coffee

Buy: The last album for just £7 on Amazon or tons of other classic albums too.

Watch:

Here are some Youtube videos of the gig

The Sun’s video of celebs who attended

Look:

Lots of high quality Gettyimage photo’s on fan site

Harrysprout shares some pics on flickr

and loads more flickr pics here

Poke Edward Buzzard and his photo’s on the wierd world of Facebook.

Read:

Someone kindly scanned lots of the press coverage of the night

The Times says it was unforgettable, while The Telegraph believes the Godfather of Soul mantle rests with Prince (scan). Mick Brown remembers interviewing the star.

The Daily Mail’s inaccurate review and celeb pics.

The Sun outdoes even its own terrible standards with a sloppy review

The Guardian compares Prince to a pearly King.

NME news story

Reviews by the fans on Prince.org

The fans who danced on stage relive the experience

Beverley Knight remembers her first Prince gig