The artist has always been a contradictory figure. Prince’s distaste for fans hiding behind mobile phones is matched only by his newfound love for social media. Everyone lucky enough to be at Kings Place is undoubtably aware of the ‘NO PHOTOS’ rule imposed on the aptly-titled Hit and Run tour, yet the last minute nature of these shows imply the necessity of reliance on this very same technology. In truth, if not for their trusty smartphones, most fans would never have made it to the show at all.
45 minutes after the initial announcement from @3RDEYEGIRL, a breathless couple tell me that things are “not looking too good”. They say Prince is "absolutely playing only one show tonight", despite already having enough fans outside to fill the small venue over thrice. Everybody is excitedly on their phones and they all seem to know something no one else does. These shows have all been surrounded with rumours, and it’s easy to see why: by the time Prince starts playing, the staff outside inform us there will indeed be a second set.
The man himself appears without fanfare and the crowd seems unsure how to react – it feels almost like a mistake, an accidental ‘celebrity spot’ in this tiny hall. The set begins acoustically with a stripped-down rendition of ‘Raspberry Beret’ which segues almost unnoticed into The Clash’s ‘Train in Vain’. Prince’s craft as a guitar player can never be overstated and after a handful of newer songs he bursts into a cover of ‘Play that Funky Music’, the high-point of the acoustic set.
Prince quickly leaves the acoustic guitar behind in favour of the keyboard, as a curtain rises to reveal a full drum kit and an unexpected electric set begins to enormous uproar. Prince shreds with guitarist Donna Grantis for a short while before launching into ‘Lets Go Crazy’, which sounds as good in its reimagined form as it did 30 years ago. After a set including ‘Screwdriver’ and ‘She’s Always in My Hair’, the band leaves the stage, returning once for an unfaultable encore of ‘Purple Rain’ which stretches out to almost 10 minutes. Despite fans pleading desperately for more, the band return only to take one final bow before we are told that the show’s over. A short but flawless set, Prince can certainly count on those present to be at as many of his future shows as possible. Purple season is in motion.
Words: Max Brown