Prince, with his all-woman backing band, 3RDEYE Girl, are touring Europe at the moment and have come back to Britain for a few ‘Hit and Run” gigs. My friend Dave managed to get a some tickets for a show announced midday 3 June for a concert at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, the next day. I was happy to take one of the tickets. I saw Prince a couple of times in the 80s in London and then in Paris in 1990, when I was living there. The first time was the best, in Wembley Arena, in the round. It was an extraordinary show, with, amongst other things, a red corvette emerging from below ground, with Prince astride, playing his guitar; Prince showing off his basketball prowess, putting the ball in the hoop every time; Prince playing a swan-like guitar to “Purple Rain”. And Sheila E, amongst others, doing the business in the band. One of the greatest gigs.
Last night’s show was a different animal. About 3,000 in the Roundhouse. Short notice. two shows, one starting at 7pm, which we went to, the other about 10, I would guess. Some rather chaotic queuing, which we watched from a Brazilian bar on the other side of the street, until the venue saw sense and dropped what ever was holding up entry – probably checking photo IDs of purchasers, to stop the touts. Bucking the market isn’t easy.
But what a show! Anyone who loves Prince’s music would have had a large number of their favourite songs played. Just to toss out the ones I can remember: Let’s Go Crazy -Take Me With You – Raspberry Beret (which I hardly noticed) – U Got The Look – When Doves Cry – Sign o’ The Times – Hot Thing – 1999 – Little Red Corvette – Nothing Compares to U – Kiss…. and, of course, third encore in, Purple Rain.
Yes, yes, yes!
The sound was raw, stripped back, with a strong rock emphasis. 3RDEYEGirl really knew how to rock, and could lay down some cool funk too. I was really impressed about how Prince and the band interacted. Of course he was the star, but he didn’t behave like it. They played as a band. Donna Grantis, on guitar (and to the left on the photo above), got a very fair share of the soloing moments, and she was brilliant. Prince wasn’t flamboyant. He came on with a gold lame jacket, but soon discarded it and just wore a black T-shirt with a 3RDEYEGirl logo on it. He was working – in a team.
Highlights? Well, so many, and so obvious, but I’ll mention a few. I loved the way the band opened with a slowed down and metalled up version of “Let’s Go Crazy”. It set the tone for the rest of the show. “Sign o’ The Times”, by contrast, was faster – but also harder. “1999” was probably my favourite moment – absolutely joyous funk. Daddy, why does everybody have the bomb? There was a magnificent rendition of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” which summed up the evening’s consummate merger of funk and metal. The guitars were absolutely ringing.
And then there was “Purple Rain”. A lot of bands play their latest music during the first part of the show and then pack the greatest hits into the last moments of the main show andFthe encore. Prince, typically, did the opposite. The series of encores were mostly ballads (including “The Beautiful Ones” from “Purple Rain”) and funk and metal workouts. But also “Purple Rain”. And what a rendition. For the first half, Prince stayed behind the keyboards and sang, slowly and sultrily. You wondered whether he was going to give Donna the guitar solo duties. That would have been fine – a very grand gesture, and undoubtedly a great moment, as she was so good with the axe.
But no, he wandered off stage, picked up his guitar and came back to play an awesome solo. Starting slow and steady, building up to the crescendo we know and love. A moment for shivers down the spine.
Prince is, like me, 55. He can still sing a brilliant falsetto, still dance, still rock out, still tinkle those keyboards, still pick up a bass and show us a rhythm. I doubt he needs the money. He is doing this for the love. He’s sharing the passion with the 3RDEYE girls. He is a modern day troubadour. Living for the music and spreading the love.
And we are his happy disciples.
(Photo copied from 3RDEYEGirls’ Twitter)