In praise of Prince
The current run of secret-ish London gigs confirms that there’s no show like a Prince show.
The temptation to join the parade in London has been pretty fierce for the last fortnight. Every couple of nights, the reviews begin to appear on Twitter and online as the word gets out about another Prince show which was all wow and splendour in a London venue he could probably fill a hundred times over. Ronnie Scott’s, the Electric Ballroom, the King’s Place theatre: Prince has been wandering around London like a man trying to get the best possible value out of a travelcard. He’s due in Manchester at the weekend to keep the funk rolling and he’ll probably throw some shapes at the Brits’ dinner-dance tonight.
As we saw at last year’s SXSW, when he took over La Zona Rosa for a few hours to bring the festival to a close, Prince never lets you down with the twists and turns he takes. While many heritage acts of his vintage mine the hits and dutifully go through the new album in the hope someone might buy – or pirate – it, Prince is as likely to throw a cover version of The Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon” into the mix (as he did in Ronnie Scott’s the other night) as he is to dig into the new “PlectrumElectrum” album he’s about to release with 3rdEyeGirl. He’s unpredictable but unmissable, a man on a mission to show he’s still got the look, the sound and the whole damn thing down pat.
While his London run is certainly about pushing the new album – this is a man whose last lengthy London stand consisted of 21 nights at the 20,000 capacity O2 so he knows the size of his fanbase – it’s still something you rarely get from many of his peers. Playing two sets a night on occasions to ensure more people see him is not really what we see from instantly recognisable names like Prince. In an era when acts of this ilk plan new campaigns to the last full stop on the page – the dossier for U2′s upcoming tour and album release campaign probably rivals War and Peace in size, albeit with plectrums, drumsticks and macrobiotic dietary requirements on the pages – Prince is a showman from the old school. He’s a performer with a live itch to scratch and one which shows no sign of going away.
Of course, it’s canny in every way. The new albums may not contain the same wall-to-wall anthems as the albums with which he made his name a few decades ago, but the live show has not waned or lessened or diminished in any way so people show up. Prince doesn’t phone it in and that’s something which everyone queuing outside a club or venue in London (or Manchester) knows for sure. You pay in, he delivers and he sends you home sweating, glowing and raving. No-one else comes close.