Live Music + Gig Reviews

Prince @ O2 Arena, London

28 August 2007

Prince One of the greatest musical geniuses of the modern age is about to play his greatest hits perhaps for the last time and, by definition, it should be the most thrilling pop experience imaginable. I’m intimidated. The house lights go down and all you can see is the giant prince symbol that’s the stage.

Smoke bursts from the heart of it and a diminutive apparition of androgynous regality emerges. People are gaping, gasping and screaming. He states his mission with Let’s Go Crazy. Accompanied by the unfurling limbs of the high energy dancers The Twinz, he struts like a fox on a mating mission, nimbly bouncing like a sexed-up pied piper.

He flourishes in his own talent and slips The Beatles‘ Come Together next to stone-cold classics Cream and U Got The Look. This is a triple measure of pleasure – straight, no ice, no chaser, a master-class in live music. Rarely have I felt so there, the sound intimately burrowing into my marrow and mind.

As for the band, their contagious funk is so sharp, so hot, that even without the man of the hour your eyes are closed and you’re shimmying in time as if you’ve dreamt up God’s house party. Their music teaches us how to be free. We are treated by saxophonist, Mike Phillips, with a serenade. He brings us back to earth with a poignant, yearning rendition of What a Wonderful World.

The emperor of Paisley Park then plays a piano medley. His aptitude on guitar is, of course, supreme but every key stroke brings a shiver and tingle rushing through my veins, from Diamonds & Pearls to reduced, tender versions of Little Red Corvette and Raspberry Beret. Prince’s power, poise and passion have not diminished over his 49 years. His voice is still so graceful, soaring and gliding in sweet falsetto, whispering, whining and teasing with a bass so full of timbre it got seriously intimate.

“I got too many hits” he says, before launching into a sexy run of Lolita, Black Sweat, Kiss and I Wanna Be Your Lover. But all too soon it’s all over. The chilling synth sounds of the epic Purple Rain rise from the bandstand and we’re all singing along.

There are two awesome encores but it’s the opening bars of Nothing Compares To You that dropped me screaming into my seat like a quivering, overwhelmed little girl. How had this happened? I staggered away not really sure what hit me, feeling privileged to have been present. Prince tonight did to live entertainment what Sly Stone did for music.

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