It surely ruined several Valentine's Day plans, but for the few hundred people who somehow found themselves at the latest of Prince's London guerilla gigs, it was worth sacrificing the possible loss of a future spouse for something much more important.
The show at Kings Place in King's Cross became known to the world via rumour – the fact that the venue is directly below the offices of the Guardian helped in this respect – shortly after 6.30pm on Friday night, and within minutes a queue started to form outside. For 420 fans, the £70 charge for a ticket seemed paltry given that at shortly after 9pm the 55-year old singer took the stage for an extraordinarily intimate two-hour gig.
Prince arrived in London earlier in February for what was promised to be a series of shows, and performances in Camden and at the Shepherd's Bush Empire last week received rave reviews. The auditorium at Kings Place, normally home to classical or jazz concerts, suggested a more sedate affair and the tickets for the gig that were printed promised an acoustic show. Fittingly, the first half of the evening began with performances of Take Me With U, U Got the Look and Raspberry Beret, performed by Prince with an acoustic guitar and Hannah Ford Welton, the drummer from his backing band, 3rdEyeGirl, beating out a rhythm on a soap box. Covers followed including versions of Bill Withers's Who Is He (And What Is He To You?) and the Clash's Train In Vain, before the Minneapolis magician launched into a full band jam. But rather than feeling sedate, his bluesy guitar playing and sheer charisma elevated the experience into something quite electrifying. There was even a short Q&A session in which he was asked the question "With all of your experience, what do you choose to live by?", he launched into a story about how funk innovator Larry Graham helped him to discover God.
Prince acoustic shit is real pic.twitter.com/3GKNMxVKi0
— CasparLlewellynSmith (@CasparLS) February 14, 2014
It made sense that the gig then shifted gears, with a screen rising at the back of the auditorium to reveal a full drum kit, and Prince announced: "I think I want to play electric". The band then riffed their way through a number of monstrous rock numbers, although there was also scope for an exquisite version (minus Prince singing) of Roxy Music's More Than This.
Sufficient numbers of fans were left queuing outside that following the two-hour show the first audience was evicted, and then Prince returned for a full second set concluding with Purple Rain.
Earlier in the evening he also announced gigs at Ronnie Scott's and Koko in London on Sunday and Monday, and promised to play two gigs in Manchester next week.
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image: © PeterTea