21 Hours Alone … with Prince … and ... from Peter Cook, 20/05/14
This week sees two marathon trips to see Prince and 3rdEyeGirl. Today’s 21 hour round trip started with a train journey to Manchester from Kent and an overnight bus ride where I sit in darkness and solitude writing this review after meeting with 21 000 Prince fanatics.
I went to two of the shows from Prince’s ‘Hit and Run’ tour in February. It’s quite clear that his new band 3rdEyeGirl have gone from strength to strength since then. The pop-up gigs in London were pretty rocky but tonight’s concert was decidedly more funky. The girls were augmented by two keyboard players tonight and Marissa Jack on vocals.
We started with the ‘funk and grind’ version of “Let’s Go Crazy”, featuring the simply magnificent Edgar Winter “Frankenstein” segue in the middle. Prince is a master of improvisation and gets the band to extend or shorten the songs with the wink of an eye or a simple hand movement. 3rdEyeGirl look like they’ve been playing music with him all their life, with the powerhouse combination of Hannah and Ida on drums and bass plus the superb guitar work of Donna. Gone are all the guitar leads replaced by radio mics. The leads caused a few tangles on stage in February when the band almost looked like they had a pub rock setup as Prince stretched his curly guitar lead and curly hair across the stage and Donna nearly got trapped by her leads interfering with her array of floor effects. A lot of work has gone into tightening up on a list of all the small things, which make a huge difference to the overall professionalism and performance.
Every Prince show is different and tonight was no exception. He asked:
“Can I play some blues for you?”
Yes, we replied. We got a smooth soul version of The Ride, the like of which I have never heard at one of Prince’s concerts. Simply sublime. On the previous evening he performed a version of “Electric Intercourse”, a song he has allegedly only played once before live in the 1980’s.
We got some other rarities – a full version of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”, a swing version of “Paisley Park”, “Pop Life” and a full version of “The Love We Make”. I had not heard 3rdEyeGirl do “Nothing Compares 2 U” and it was indeed without comparison. For those not in the know, Prince gave this song to Sinead O’Connor.
Prince seemed extremely playful this evening and gave us a few extra treats during his sampler set. He would set up a groove and then rapidly switch to the next one. This was clearly too much for some as he moved through less familiar pieces, although I thought it was the hallmark of his promise to “expect the unexpected”. After all, in his own words, he does have “too many hits” and this enabled him to get through a lot of them.
Prince is also a master of engaging his audiences in his performances, using the lighting to enable him to make an arena show as intimate as a small club. The audience become part of the band at various points through the use of call and response routines on Little Red Corvette” and other numbers:
The guys called to the ladies “You Gotta Slow Down”
The ladies’ choir replied “Woo, Hoo”
After a while of this Prince quipped “You gonna make me pregnant”
Prince and I are the same age and it is always a life affirming moment to see him give a performance which knocks the spots off people half his years. Prince demonstrates effortless mastery of his music, his performance and his ability to engage an audience, whether it’s just 75 people at the Electric Ballroom in Camden or 21 000 people at the Phones 4 U Arena in Manchester.
Time for some sleep ..... zzz
You can find my previous report on Prince on my blog