“THIS is REAL music,” squawks Prince to the elation of the 30,000-strong crowd of adoring fans. “I know you’ve been deprived.”
People may harp on about how Lady Gaga is the saviour of pop music by standing tall as an icon and bringing eccentricity back to the charts, but Prince is a man who redefined what it was to be a legend – becoming a symbol in every sense of the word.
In short, all you need is Prince and tonight he’s hell-bent on proving it.
For a man renowned for his love of privacy and his apparent diva tendencies, Prince is overwhelmingly warm and open towards to the masses that flocked to see the Purple One.
In over two and a half hours Prince proves himself the ultimate showman. With dazzling elastic dance moves, exquisite banter, extended jam sessions and an encyclopaedic run through of stone-cold pop-funk classics, tonight feels less like a festival and more like a mass party where strangers become friends and lovers. As everybody bounces and embraces to a life-affirming rendition of I Wanna Take You Higher, the sensation can only compared to the biggest and best family wedding the world has ever known.
“Dearly beloved,” preaches Prince over the monolithic organ intro to Let’s Go Crazy. “We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” But Prince needs no help with that. At the stately age of 53, he doesn’t look a day over 21 and with his sly smile, velvet tongue and magnetic charisma he can command a crowd better than any of his peers or descendents.
Who else could boast a set that flows with as much relentless electricity as this, going from the universally infectious 1999 into the regal swagger of Little Red Corvette into the achingly beautiful Nothing Compares 2 U?
Written by Prince but made famous by Sinead O’Connor, Prince is modestly aware of the life taken on by the song when out of his hands, but reclaims it tonight with impeccable aplomb. “I bought a house with that song,” he jests, tongue in cheek, before further marking his own imperial territory with the superb Take Me With You.
There isn’t a dry eye in the house as the notes of Prince’s virtuoso guitar solo in a majestic performance of Purple Rain float above the sea of lighters aloft swaying along with thousands arm-in-arm. “You know how many hits we’ve got,” he quips. “We could play until next year,” before exploding into Kiss.
As if the flawless repertoire of his own hits wasn’t enough, through slipping in glorious renditions of songs by Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Wild Cherry, Sly and the Family Stone and The Beatles to rapturous response, Prince stands alone embodying all that is truly great about the best of everything in pop, rock, soul, funk, gospel and more.
He simply couldn’t give any more if he tried.
People questioned whether Michael Jackson was up to the task of surviving his run at the O2 Arena. Sadly, we’ll never know, but one thing we should be certain of is that the world is lucky to still be able to enjoy the last surviving member of pop royalty in the prime of his life.
With countless festivals on the crowded circuit and Glastonbury’s performances already fading from memory, Prince’s show-stopping extravaganza tonight will be talked about for years to come. This is real music.
Review and photos by Andrew Trendell