Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gig review: Prince in a tent

Before I get to the glowing endorsements and gushing superlatives, I'd like to make one thing clear: I do not like being lied to. So let's get a few things out of the way.

1) "Real music by real musicians"
This has become something of a mantra at Prince concerts over the last couple of years. The petit purple performer pronounced it again at the O2 on Saturday night, adding something about not using tapes. With that in mind, I can only assume Sheena Easton was obscured by a pillar when she sang her parts in U Got The Look.

2) "We got so many hits we don't have time to play them all"
Really? Then why did you fuck about playing four cover versions - including Play That Funky Music and (Gnarls Barkley's) Crazy? We'd have preferred 1999, or even Pop Life, goddammit.

3) Prince - The Official Aftershow
Actually, this was brilliant. But putting your name on the ticket is a bit dishonest when you only manage to strap on a guitar for a paltry five minutes.

Anyway, like I was saying, the Prince concert was breathtakingly brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that none of these quibbles mattered one jot.

It was a return to the crowd-pleasing, all-singing, all-dancing Prince extravaganzas of yore. Less of the jazz noodles, more of the funky wasabi.

We kicked off (I was an integral part of the evening, obviously) with Let's Go Crazy and Take Me With U - a Purple Rain-era double whammy that instantly brought to mind the cocksure set Prince delivered at the Superbowl earlier this year.

And the hits kept coming: Kiss, Raspberry Beret, I Feel 4U, If I Was Your Girlfriend (If I Was Your Girlfriend!!!!), Cream and Purple Rain were all present and correct.

The more recent numbers from Prince's back-catalogue were well-chosen, too. Black Sweat - his Timbaland-baiting, stripped-back funk masterclass from last year - was among the evening's highlights.

The four-piece backing band were honed to precision, capable of changing up the groove at a moment's notice. Well, Prince's notice to be exact. Under his watchful eye, Musicology became a ten-minute lesson in how to get down - complete with members of the audience strutting their stuff onstage. This was also the point where Prince set free his be-suited brass section, giving former James Brown cohort Maceo Parker the chance to let rip with some of the finest saxophony you'll ever hear.

Prince himself runs about the stage like a man two decades younger than his 49 years. He's flanked most of the time by two dancers - The Twinz - whose high heels are only marginally shorter than the ones on the Minneapolis midget. But for some reason Prince didn't seem interested in a pervy dance-off with his sexy new foils. This would never have happened back in the days of Diamond and Pearl (not their real names), who got a royal rogering on a purple bed every night of his 1992 tour. Has Prince's ridiculously overworked lust muscle started to go a bit limp in his old age?

Back to the music, though, and the best moment of the night came with the encores. Prince emerged from under the stage, swathed in dry ice and seranaded us for 15 minutes armed just with his guitar and his ego. The acoustic version of Little Red Corvette stopped the entire audience in their tracks. My nerves actually tingled (and I hadn't had any beer at this point). It was just perfect... and to follow it up with Sometimes It Snows In April? Oh boy.

There are still something like 19,000,092 Prince gigs left at the O2. You really should go.

Let's Go Crazy
Take Me With U
Pass The Peas
Play That Funky Music
Sexy Dancer / Le Freak
I Feel 4U
Controversy / Housequake
Wonderful World (saxophone solo)
U got the look
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Pink cashmere
Black Sweat
Purple Rain
---Acoutic encore---
Little Red Corvette
Raspberry Beret
Sometimes It Snows In April
---Band encore---
Nothing Compares 2U

(Concert photos 2, 3 and 5 by rolyatell at

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