by Barnaby Smith, first published in LondonTourdates #004 ,24th August 2007
He had me at ‘I was working part time in a five and dime’. Opening with a medley of classics accompanied by his trusty electric guitar alone was a good idea. The few bars of ‘Raspberry Beret’ segued with half a dozen of Prince’s most sumptuous works. He did the same to begin the concert’s second half, except with keys, and created a fierce electricity with ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and even material from that early nineties dip, such as ‘Diamonds and Pearls’.
These moments stand out because the rest of the night was one big party. Dancers dotted the stage (a stage constructed in the shape of that infamous squiggle), Prince himself strutting around with every slightest twitch or step sending those who stood at his feet into loud raptures.
‘You Got The Look’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Cream’ despite the shoddy sound, inevitable in a place of this size, soared with that celebration of funk-pop that literally no one else in history has ever been capable of.
The fact there were 21 dates and the hefty capacity of the 02 Arena means that anyone reading this probably saw Prince at some point.
Apparently the set-list was altered from night to night (I was particularly grateful, this evening, for Sign ‘O’ The Times’s ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’), meaning that each audience could genuinely claim to a unique experience, and dictated that he himself never lapsed into going through the motions.
If a general theme can be identified from these shows, it must be that Prince at the 02 is a slightly dumbed-down, filtered version of his old self. This has been obvious for years, of course, but I am not referring to simply the cull of the dirty songs due to his religious persuasion. That pervading darkness that Prince can create, that sense of apocalypse and doom, is missing from these concerts. Songs like ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’, ‘Purple Rain’ and even the title track from new album Planet Earth all have themes of disaster or impending annihilation.
Not tonight. Tonight, music is love. And fun. And while he wouldn’t admit it, he can’t help but ooze formidable sexuality. The mood is one of dancing on a sinking ship. Smiles all round… sublime.