I write this today having had the privilege of seeing arguably the greatest performer of our time play two sold-out shows on consecutive nights at Rod Laver Arena, as part of his Australian tour.
Let me say now that I have seen a lot of bands in my life. I’ve seen Muse tear up arenas and John Mayer demonstrate how a guitar should really be played. There is no doubt in my mind that Prince is, by far, the greatest performer of our time.
With a stage presence that is unequalled by some of the greatest contemporary musicians, at age 53 Prince still owns the arena and struts around in high heels for impressive two-and-a-half-hour concerts.
Having arrived in Australia the previous week, May 14 2012 marked Prince’s first appearance in Melbourne in some nine years. And, in classic Prince style, we were going to have to work to get him on stage. Scheduled for 8pm, Prince arrived on stage a casual 45 minutes late after teasing the sold-out arena by bringing the lights down for five minutes and then bringing them right back up again.
Andy McKee (Prince’s touring guitarist) rose out of the stage as the lights finall
y dimmed, to the sound of thunder and rain. A beautiful acoustic rendition of Prince’s biggest hit “Purple Rain” had the entire audience singing along as they sat in awe of the guitarist and the lone robed dancer who graced the stage. As the rendition finished, McKee descended into the middle of the stage.
As the arena was bathed in a golden wash, a voice announced, “I am here” and Prince entered the stage to pop ballad “Gold”, charming the entire audience with delightful synthesiser and organ melodies. From there on the set got very jazzy with renditions of “Jam of the Year”, “Let’s Go Crazy” and “1999” getting the entire stadium up and dancing.
Previously, Prince had vowed that he would never play the “the hits” on subsequent tours. Thankfully he neglected his promise, as the obvious favourites included classics “Little Red Corvette”, “Raspberry Beret” and “Cream”, all of which had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs.
Prince doesn’t just hold concerts, he holds 40,000-people dance parties. What was interesting to notice, being up the back of the stadium, was that I didn’t feel alienated from the action occurring on the ground. It was as if he was able to perform equally to people in all areas of seating.
After about an hour and a half it was time for Prince to begin teasing us with what was set to be a massive encore set. After making the audience cheer for ten to fifteen minutes he began what has become a mainstay at his performances: the sampler set. He mashed up great tracks like “When Doves Cry” and “Pop Life”, and even Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” got a rotation before proclaiming “that ain’t my song” and moving to the encore we were expecting: “Kiss” and a full version of “Purple Rain”.
More than ready for night number two, I busily organised a second ticket, this time closer in Gold reserve, and awaited the arrival of Prince on 15 May. This time we were treated to a full set from Andy McKee, who demonstrated some incredible musicianship. The second night saw Prince walk on stage to a bang with “Controversy”, and from there we had a very different evening to the previous one.
He followed this up with three covers before being joined on stage by Flava Flav from Public Enemy, to perform a rendition of “Play That Funky Music” and Public Enemy original “911 (Is A Joke)”. Now, those who saw my review of Groovin’ the Moo 2012 will be aware of my stance on Public Enemy.
Let me take back those words right now.
It must have been an off day at GTM, because Flava was on top form that night, and added some real funk to the already groovy track.
Finally it was time for some mainstays, with some of the hits from the previous night getting another showing, before the mood was taken down with “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” and the Prince-penned track “Nothing Compares 2 U”.
Bursting into the chorus of “Cream”, he claimed that he had written the song about himself – it claims “everything you do is success”. From anyone else this would have come across as overly arrogant, but with his charm and charisma he managed to keep everyone on-side. He closed the main set with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, which had the house pumping.
It was a night for encores, as the Purple One came out for five separate encores, finally finishing his three hour set at 11:15pm with his funky hit “Days of Wild”, but not before an impromptu cameo from the other half of Public Enemy, Chuck D.
Whether you know all his songs or just one, Prince’s concerts are something that have to be experienced. I beg of you, for your own sake, get a ticket tone of his concerts, anywhere. You won’t regret spending your money.