Originally published in The Music Network – May, 2012
The complaints seem small and petty in print: Prince’s guitar could have been louder; he didn’t play 7 or Diamonds and Pearls; he merely performed fragments of several of his key tracks; the twenty minute gap before the final encore was intolerable; the sequencing was scattershot. But whinging about such small concerns monumentally misses the point of a Prince concert: pause during your complaints about his fourth encore to see what I mean.
Prince is one of those iconic, mythical, prolific and unpredictable artists. Prince makes the rules then breaks them all ‘cos he is the best. Prince records entire albums in a falsetto under a female nom de plume. Prince ended his peerless run of albums during the ‘80s by recording the Batman soundtrack. Prince scrapped an entire album because it was too obscene. Prince later recorded a song called Sexy Motherfucker. Prince records three-disc albums bereft of editing in his downtime between projects. Prince changed his name to an unpronouncable symbol, which required his label Warner Bros. to provide print media outlets with floppy disks with a custom font.
Prince doesn’t follow setlists: in the three-and-a-half hours he performed during this, the first show of his Australian tour, he plucked, seemingly at random, from a sea of more than 200 songs he and his backing band had rehearsed for the tour. Despite ‘Hits’ being affixed to the ticket, we were treated to a version ofLove Thy Will Be Done (the epic track he wrote for Martika); the stunning and underrated Sometimes It Snows In April; the thudding Hot Thing, which works surprisingly well when unceremoniously shoved between When Doves Cry andSign O The Times; and a soulful rendition of Nothing Comapres 2U which effortlessly held more emotion than a million Sinead O Connor real-tears ever could.
So, no, Prince didn’t play 7 or Diamonds and Pearls. But did you expect him to? Did you want him to? We weren’t expecting a version of Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, but we got that. We also weren’t expecting the amazing dance break during Kiss, in which we were reminded that Prince can still move better than most. We did, however, expect the twenty-minute Purple Rain, and got it. Even Prince isn’t that unpredictable. It was transcendental, monumental, but also excessive and ridiculous, and neatly encapuslated all that is great about His Purpleness. If you were at this show for the right reasons, you cannot have been anything but overwhlemed by it all.
Prince stopping suddenly during the opening bars of Sign O The Times, brashly declaring “You guys aren’t ready for me,” then swiftly slinking off the side – after more than two hours of devout appreciation from the audience.
This [approximated] quote: “I see a lot of the old school here, but I also see a lot of younger people. I think the old school need to teach the new school. Smack your neighbour and tell them how many hits Prince got! Old school, tell the new school how many hit Prince got!” Later Prince admitted, completely straight-faced: “I don’t even know how many hits Prince got.” Exactly.