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I’ve been a fan of Prince for about 20 years. When I say fan, I don’t mean the kind of fan that stalks him round the globe, or knows where he lives or anything (and judging by some of the people I met and spoke to last night.. those kind of fans really exist!) I’ve been aware of the majority of his work, watched him on TV smashing out sets and giving some very odd interviews but never seen him live in all of his purple glory.

To date, he has released 48 albums and a career that has spanned over three decades. His music ranges from 80’s-tastic, fresh and funky, rap, soul, hip-hip, rock and everything in between.

His shows have garnered a mystique about them, fans often describing them as life-altering experiences. Can a gig really be THAT good? After witnessing over 2 hours of Prince and his stunning band last night, the answer is,  yes.  It was a beautiful reminder of how powerful music can be if its done right and.. well.. by Prince!

After missing out on his hit and run shows earlier this year as I’ve been pretty poorly, the announcement that he was playing literally up the road from my house was HUGE!

Despite having surgery a week or so before and feeling pretty crappy, I opted for a standing ticket with the intention of completely ‘losing my shit’ and getting my groove on.

The arena was a glow with purple. Lit with a purple sheen inside and out, people sporting purple wigs and hair, purple faces, clothes and make up. Once inside the 13,000 capacity venue people were almost drooling with anticipation. At the request of the band, all cameras and recording equipment were not allowed, as 3rd Eye Girl came on, they made a plea to everyone to “Live in the moment, what you’re about to see will be amazing, we want you all to be present, put your phones away and enjoy” they smile.

As the house lights dim, the white curtain drops, everything turns purple, Prince is on stage, and everyone goes wild.. for two and half hours. No breaks, no let up, no meandering or chatting in between songs, no faults, flaws or bum notes.  ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ is not just the name of his first track, it’s a command and we all obey, each and every one of us instantly putty in his hands. He is Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Otis Reading, but so much more. The light and shade in his vast back catalogue, the absolute dedication to his craft, the sheer and utter joy and emotion he radiates while up on stage is like watching a child opening a much anticipated christmas present, as though at any second it might get taken away from him, and he’s making the most of it! There is no one alive like him, he is untouchable as a performer, song writer and musician. His energy is infectious and potent.

Prince and his gloriously talented band steam into track after track, hit after hit, by the time they play the much anticipated ‘1999’,  I find myself almost right at the front of the stage. I was surrounded by smiles and flailing limbs, metal-heads with piercings, faces of all colours, hipsters, 80’s throwback mums, boyfriends, husbands, the weird and wonderful.. the beautiful ones.

The set he plays tonight is a gift to the die-hard and the newly inducted. It is littered with hits, b-sides, new and old songs that are somehow sewn into the fabric of modern music. From the sublime ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ (sorry Sinead but his song, done his way is incomparable) to the funky ‘Musicology. They are all in there, ‘Raspberry Beret’ ‘Kiss’ ‘When Doves Cry’, the superbly weird and surprisingly fresh ‘Controversy”.

“I got too many hits” he beams “We gonna be here all night”

The set is heavy on the guitar solos, chunky and beautiful, cementing his place as a complete guitar god. 3rd Eye Girl are also world class, able to hold their own, with Prince generously stepping back and allowing them to shine in their own right.

A particular highlight, was his often covered track ‘Why Don’t You Call Me Anymore’, which proves that Prince is one of the greatest living song writers and singers of our time. A real hair-standing-on-end moment, just a guy and piano, unashamedly pouring out his soul to 13,000 people.

An hour or so in, I start to feel pretty tired, my ‘shit’ has well and truly been lost, I’ve run out of wine and water and it feels like a massive ordeal to get to the bar. As I look up, the 55 year old Purple Prince of Funk is only just getting cooking, no sign of sweat, his money maker has been shaken to within an inch of its life and its still in tact and ready for more. After giving myself a good talking to, and spurred on by the fact that someone twenty years my senior is bearing their soul right in front of me, I man up and stay put. I’m so glad I did, as he casually plays the opening riff to ‘Purple Rain’, the heavens open with a wash of purple confetti and smoke, definitely a moment I won’t forget in a hurry!

At this point he has played over 30 songs, including a fantastic cover of ‘Play That Funky Music’ and new track ‘Plectrumelectrum’. Everything in the vast arena is hot and sweaty, every person is on their feet and red faced, in a trance and slightly in shock! The house lights come up and Prince and his band have left! Suddenly the thought of this all being over kicks in and it is not cool. Everyone screams and calls for more, for several minutes. With no sign of the band, people start to leave. I know better, and sure enough they come back out and off we go again! He plays ‘She’s Always In My Hair’ and the just awesome ode to his guitar ‘Guitar’.. he lurves his guitar!

“Seriously?” he jokes as he comes back out for his second encore of the night.

He plays his final and somewhat melancholy song ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’ and it’s over. It really is as well and I need a drink, and a towel, and possibly some kind of counselling.

I’ve been trying to make sense of it all for the last 20 hours or so. Why is he so good? What is it that he has that many others don’t? How is he able to craft and perform songs that still stand up and hold their own 30 years later? I’ve come to the simple conclusion that he is just better… than everyone. I’ve been involved with musicians, chatted and interviewed them, photographed them, managed and booked them for the best part of 15 years. I’ve watched as they’ve had highs and lows, fallen apart and picked themselves up again. I’ve seen the rise of social networking and downloading, the importance of a great live show, great PR and being aware of current trends, making all the right moves and keeping up and climbing the ladder. After last night, I finally understand. You can ‘tweet’ until your eyes bleed, spend the annual budget of a small country on PR or have a live show that would put Liberace to shame… you will NEVER be Prince. Unless you have talent coursing through every vein in your body, unless you live your passion every single second you are alive, you will never be Prince. He is just better and has more talent. Thats it.

Right, I’m off to have a cold shower and a good cry about how every musician I’ve ever worked with is completely wasting their time. 🙂

http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/prince/2014/first-direct-arena-leeds-england-53c08b35.html

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