This review was always going to say he was brilliant, of course. The diminutive one had to be great. Just how fab a live performer he can be, though, is indicated by the fact that, even though we were late (having meticulously planned a schedule which involved the O2 “Express” boat along the Thames which rocked up a sluggish 25 minutes late thereby cutting out the first 15 minutes of the Purple one’s set) it took us approximately 3 seconds to get into it and that was when we were still in the toilets hearing “Little Red Corvette” through the incredibly well sound proofed O2 walls.
Finally sitting in the vertiginous comfort of our bouncy seats on level 4, Prince is lusciously commanding even though he's actually about 3mm tall and very far away. Striding round the eponymously symbol-shaped stage, his presence is magnetic with a voice like unctuous sex chocolate. Breaking into a deeply groovealicious party cover of “Play That Funky Music”, His Purpleness invites some terribly overexcited front row fans onto the stage to funk it up. Showing himself to be truly the People’s Prince they are allowed to party on for at least two tracks before realising it's getting embarrassing and jiggling back to their seats to testify that yes, he really is that small.
Small but perfectly formed, of course, and this show brings home his versatility. One the one hand he’s a total funk brother and, the other, a rocking axe legend. “Controversy” is a rootsy, funking, ghetto groove whilst the “Purple Rain” encore is a rock-souled, singalong, heartbreaking showstopper shrouded in violet dry ice. His guitar solos are to weep for; his sex appeal undiminished by all that bible study.
Only the diehard fan would know every song played; the Partyman is mixing things up, stretching his 130 song repertoire over the 21 night residency but, inevitably, “Kiss” brings the house down. He’s generous with his band giving opportunities for the consummate musicians in his entourage to shine. A particularly spectacular saxophone solo gives us the longest note ever held whilst one of his female backing singers opens the final encore with a mighty fine cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. An eighties-tastic, high energy “Let’s Go Crazy” follows. Oh yeah!
In summary, Prince is easily reaffirming his status as our generation’s number 1 purple pop perv kitten and bona fide music legend on the strength of his dazzling back catalogue and utterly captivating showmanship.
Prince is in residence at the O2 until 21 September. Book tickets here. You must.
First night image courtesy of mprigg's Flickrstream under the Creative Commons license.