Prince live in Ireland: ‘We gotta go – I got too many hits’

Cork in 1990; Dublin in 2002; and again in 2011, after that no-show in 2008, Prince showed his live game was every note as sharp and groundbreaking as his studio work

Prince performing in LA in March 2005. Photograph:   Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Prince performing in LA in March 2005. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

 

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, July 7th, 1990

Dave Fanning

IRELAND ‘S first taste of Prince Rogers-Nelson was as sweet, slick and sleazy as we’d been led to believe , but it’s a real-shame that at least half of what he offers is dissipated by daylight. It remains a mystery to me why people will pay so much money to stand in a football field with 50,000 others to catch a space-age rock show where the, pyrotechnics simply blend into the background.

A concert like this simply has to happen in the dark where the focus of attention is fixed on The Big Production. That’s why on Saturday evening, the last quarter of an hour was the best. The lights, logos, flashes and backdrops pumped through the darkness as the band ground out a sonic funk groove, while Prince and partners displayed a fluidity in their dance movements that showed how good things might have been if we could have lost ourselves in the rest of the gig.

Even without Sheila E, Cat and the infamous props of old, Prince’s psychedelic daydream is still pretty spectacular and he can perform crowd-pleasing tease acts with a microphone stand and a little finger that redefines the art of adult pantomime.

He made love to the audience by bumping, grinding and stripteasing to a soundtrack that has fused black and white idioms to a more perfectly-honed degree than any 1970s disco.

The highlights ranged from a Mavis Staples duet through a straight , brilliant reading of When Doves Cry to a wonderful version of Nothing Compares 2U (shaped by The Family, not Sinéad O’Connor).

Older material was sprinkled throughout the set with funk-rock fusion as the dominant sound where the jazz funk jams gave, the musicians ample room to stretch out. The fact that Prince often looked as though he was holdin g something back - that maybe wasn’t firing on all cylinders - added an air of mystery to the evening. His band was tighter and more soulful than I’d been led to believe, so fans of Prince’s mix of Sly Stone’s idealism and George Clinton’s textural adventures all hooked to an irresistible go-go beat could not have been disappointed.

The only problem was that the gig finished around 10.30 pm. That’s when it should have started.

The Point, Dublin, October 12th, 2002

Tony Clayton-Lea

“Did you miss me?” The true answer to this question from the impossibly funky Prince is no, at least not in the past six-to-eight years, when the pointer on his quality control meter hardly flicked past zero and when his career seemed to be in free-fall. Yet it seems in the past year or so Prince - now called just that and not some irritating I-am-a-record-company-slave squiggle - has cast aside his creatively adrift years and climbed inside the Soul Train’s first class compartment.

At his sold-out concert on Thursday night, with an audience right across the demographic, Prince unequivocally confirmed his position in the rock/pop/soul firmament as the smallest man with the biggest heart. Starting off with a long-winded yet scene-setting introduction - the epitome of funk, in other words - he quickly settled into the groove of the show, which was one of great enjoyment, celebration of the spirit and, as the man himself said near the close, “the championing of our similarities”.

One of the biggest surprises? He was so darned chatty. Gone was the innate shyness and preciousness of his purple past. In their place was a performer, an entertainer - messing with the “chilled-out” audience in the upper seats, inviting people up on stage, teasing the crowd, asking them questions, telling us to switch off our radios and “hellivision” and tune into ourselves for a change; basically, someone who appeared to care about his audience, once more.

It was a marathon show, too, nudging towards the three-hour mark, yet with very little filler. Only some of the hits were played, too, but none were perfunctory: Sign O’ The Times, Raspberry Beret, Starfish And Coffee, Diamonds And Pearls, Money Don’t Matter 2 Night, Nothing Compares 2 U, Take Me With U.

In between the songs we knew and the lengthy jams we didn’t was the svelte figure of Prince himself - commander of the ship, maestro of the funk, ego-driven but smart with it and someone very much in touch with his own and his audience needs.

Did we miss him? Again, no – but it’s great to have him back again: this good, this superior, this assured.

Malahide Castle, Dublin, Aug 1, 2011

Tony Clayton-Lea

Purple hair, purple clothes, purple shoes: has the north Dublin coastal town of Malahide ever witnessed more of the colour purple than it did last Saturday evening? The joint was, as they say, hopping, with the local landmark pubs, as well as the town’s restaurants, stuffed with Prince-bound patrons.

People were hopping, too, and the atmosphere, although slightly sozzled by 8pm, was cool and calm; chilled, even.

His Purpleness has that effect on people, his personal peculiarity blended with fluency in a wide range of American musical styles. Those looking for an artist (currently known as Prince) to cook up a gourmet stew of blues, soul, jazz, R&B, funk, pop and rock were in the right place.

Of course, Prince and Ireland have history. He was due to play Croke Park in 2008 but pulled out at the 11th hour, subsequently, it transpired, instructing his representatives in contact with aggrieved Dublin promoter Denis Desmond to “tell the cat to chill”.

The resulting court case ended with the payment of an undisclosed sum to Desmond’s company MCD, the promoter declaring himself to be “a very chilled cat”. At Malahide, however, Prince made no reference to the matter during a marathon display studded with show-stopping moments.

With his, yes, purple patch firmly behind him, the 53-year-old Prince could be forgiven for regarding bumper pay-days such as this as lucrative walks in the park, but no one at Malahide Castle could deny the sheer quality of what was on offer, even though the venue, possibly the country’s best for such events, was less than full.

Prince began with a wham-bam segment of 1999, Little Red Corvette, Let’s Go Crazy and Cream, and then effortlessly continued with the likes of If I was your Girlfriend, Purple Rain, Kiss, Nothing Compares 2 U (“Love and respect Miss Sinéad O’Connor”), Sign o’ the Times and When Doves Cry.

The show lost momentum occasionally because of poor pacing, with Prince disappearing into the wings, leaving the admittedly cracking band to perform solo spots. Prince, however, demonstrated not so much the flamboyant and neurotic qualities of earlier years but rather a newfound sense of warmth and generosity of spirit.

No one could doubt his musicianship and his mastering of any musical genre he touches, but the deftness of his guitar work (particularly on Purple Rain), the calibre of his vocals (notably on Nothing Compares 2 U) and his regular shouts of “It ain’t over” and “We gotta go – I got too many hits” made him endearing, a contrast with his erstwhile default setting of strange.

The overriding impression, however, was of an artist on top of his game. Some might view a greatest hits show as evidence of creative redundancy or the receipt of a sack of money for a hank of old rope, but there was little about this concert that hinted at either.

From the psychedelic staging (a highly effective “eye” backdrop that glittered and turned kaleidoscopically throughout) to Prince busting moves with which a man 20 years younger might have difficulty - and from an inclusive, subtle performance that oozed class to a brace of songs that radiated their classic status - Prince, for one day at least, was king of the castle and of the massed chilled cats he surveyed.

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