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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The 02 Arena, London, August 3rd 2007
We went u know where 2 c u know who.
It’s Prince Rogers Nelson (his father played piano in the Prince Rogers Trio, something of which he was patently very proud) sometimes known simply as Prince, and 4 a while known only as , which roughly translates in dingbat language to ‘the artist 4merly known as Prince’. While most of London seems to have gone in search of the sun, Prince has come in search of London, and he’s camped out in the metropolis 4 21 nights. Oh yes – and it’s 31 years since the diminutive one’s first album – so as a result the tickets are £31.21, 4 which u also get a free copy of his new album Earth, which is almost impossible to buy in the UK since it was given away with the Daily Mail, 4cing his UK distributors to withdraw it from sale. And where r we? Well it’s the national disgrace 4merly known as the Dome (or should I say Millennium Dome?). U remember - that political hospital pass of all time that the outgoing Conservatives handed to Tony Blair’s bushy-tailed Labour boys and girls in 1997. The place where the twice-resigned cabinet minister Peter Mandelson famously promised we would play ‘Surfball’, the sport of the twenty-first century. The site of the fiasco on the night of 31st December 1999 (hang on, is that why Prince chose the venue?), when a promised river of fire turned out to be nothing more than a damp squib, preceded by huge transport delays 4 all the high society liggers who had tickets (including, naturally, Tony Blair and Her Majestyness). And of course the scene of a ten month debacle when punters failed to materialise to visit a hugely over-budget exhibition that was talked up by Tony Blair as "a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity". But in a masterstroke of Orwellian manoeuvring worthy of 1984 history has been rewritten, the Dome (I think there will soon be a law preventing Citizens from using that word) disappeared, 2 b replaced by the O2 Arena, “a world class entertainment destination” – and “the first purpose built music venue since the Royal Albert Hall in 1871”.
Prince It’s absolutely huge inside. We’re sitting almost centre-stage (the auditorium is seated in the round, but we’re happily at the ‘front’) high in the vertiginous upper tiers. Amazingly there are rows and rows of seats behind us. It’s rather like being inside the bowels of a Sci-fi B-Movie space station – if u peer into the dark distance, u can see columns of tiny figures endlessly marching to and fro (it’s the beer-swilling hoards heading to bar and bog) – with a roof that disappears into a futuristic metallic superstructure. It is of course packed. And it’s Friday. And it’s only the second night of the residency. So to say there’s an air of excitement in the place would be something of an understatement. It’s more like frenzy, fuelled I have to say by the weeks of hype that have led up to these gigs and, I observe, copious amounts of booze. When the inevitable dancing (I use the word loosely) starts, it’s a wonder that someone doesn’t take a serious tumble (there are a few brave attempts).
The gutted Greenwich fishwife next to the Photographer is a whirlwind of flaying arms and legs and gets more dangerous (and abusive) as the night goes one. We have two young companions to our left whom we’ve brought along as a birthday treat – “I can’t believe it – we’re going to see Prince” they squeal to each other hysterically.
But not b4 a long rendition of ‘’Down by the riverside’ from Prince’s band, the New Power Generation. They’re a slick outfit, with bass player Josh Dunham, drummer Cora Dunham, a horn section led by Maceo Parker and Mike Phillips, Renato Neto on keyboards and Morris Hayes on organ. On backing vocals is Shelby J, and the Twinz who specialise in the booty-shaking department, though such is their expertise that from this distance u need binoculars with a dual stabilizing mode to get a decent view of the action. They dance and stride round the stage with the horn section whipping the audience up into even more excitement. Then – in a puff of smoke the little fella appears from beneath the stage (a trick that he likes so much that he repeats it frequently) and breaks into ‘Satisfied’. At this point a mayhem of Friday night funk-filled madness commenced.
Did I mention that part of the pre-tour hype was that Prince would be “per4ming his greatest hits 4 the last time’? And that he’s promised to play a different set every night? The first night’s set list was awesome (I would have only wanted ‘Alphabet Street’ to have been transported to weeks of Prince heaven) but tonight’s – well let’s say some of us struggled to recall some of the tunes. So over the twenty-one nights it’s a bit of a lottery as to what u get, and how long u get it 4. But that’s not really the point I suppose. This is simply a wonderful show put on by a first class showman, who taunts and teases his audience, and plays with them like putty in his hands – “Now”, he says holding his finger to his chin in a quizzical gesture, “Shall I play….”. It goes on 4 about four minutes b4 the band launch into ‘Kiss’, with the audience doing most of the singing, the wee man doing the absurd lewd posing (don’t we love it?) and yelping. There are some low points – a very well-played instrumental version of ‘What a wonderful world’ was a bit of a mystery – a chance 4 Prince 2 get a cup of t? The fishwife was driven to distraction – “Where’s fucking Prince, I want fucking Prince, this is shit, Prince, Prince, Prince, where’s fucking Prince” (u get the picture?). Why have covers (‘Play that funky music white boy, ‘Crazy’) when we were being starved of originals? And although Prince worked the stage the guys at the back spent most of the night looking at his … back. No doubt those are the seats u get if you’re not an O2 subscriber, with a special code to use when u buy your tickets.
But have no doubt, it was fantastic, ‘though 4 some it finished a tad too early. Of course a lot of folk had tickets 4 the legendary aftershow in the adjacent Indigo venue, but he didn’t show up 4 that which led to a lot of grumbling too. Well, I’m not sure that I could do almost twenty-one nights, shows and aftershows, and as we are almost the same age (hah!) I have to give the vertically-challenged purple one my full respect. This is funk 4 u. Just love it. - Nick (concert photographs by Kate)

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