Malahide grooves as Prince hits purple patch


Prince performing on stage. File photograph: Axel Koester/The New York Times


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, RB, 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.