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LIVE REPORT: Prince At King's Place
Luke Turner , February 17th, 2014 14:46

Prince live virgin Luke Turner gets taken up a back street in King's Cross by 3rdeyegirl and the man himself for a Valentine's Night of intimate pop eroticism

Prince live and intimate on Valentine's Night? In a small venue up a windy road in King's Cross? Surely, this is the recipe for love. Or not, as the case may be. In the queue for the 450 capacity room, more accustomed to classical concerts, a man confesses that he was so keen to buy a ticket that he's left his wife out in the cold. So much for romance.

The trouble with experiencing pop live these days is that you don't have a chance to feel emotionally picked apart by what's happening onstage. As Leonard Cohen nicely put it when he played the O2 a few years back: "we appear to have ended up on the wrong side of intimacy." I've never seen Prince play live before. I would have tried to find one of our many Prince obsessives to cover this concert, or helicoptered in Simon Price to write another superlative article, but 30 minutes notice from getting the first call to stage time, and the Quietus' permanent impecuniousness meant I was the only person on hand for the job. I feel therefore feel monumentally privileged to get a live introduction to Prince and 3rdeyegirl at this - at first - stripped back, acoustic performance.

Intimacy... where does it come from? It comes from getting someone else on your side, by burrowing under their skin, from the charm that comes with humour and humility. "I don't celebrate any holidays, lets celebrate your presence shall we?" says Prince, adding "Thanks for your contribution for keeping our hotel rooms longer."

"Thanks for coming Prince" this crowd of monumentally excited (and curiously fairly young) people shout back, before he and 3rdeyegirl launch into a stunning version of 'Take Me With U'. From the off, it's the attention to detail that's so striking here, from the versatility of the backing group - Hannah Ford sat on a box, which she slaps for rhythm - to the restrained showmanship of the man himself, putting his palm behind his ear to encourage a singalong, the way his glittery flares hang just so.

Then they play 'Raspberry Beret' and, as someone whose never seen him in full flow before, I start to wonder if seeing Prince with this astonishing backing band might just crystallise all life's doubts and insecurities and flush them all away. It is, simply, that good. You presume this acoustic set must have been practiced less than the big shows, which is perhaps why there's a looseness and space in the moments where Prince and 3rdeyegirl extend it out, visibly play against each other, take it back down, everyone goes silent... and then Prince hits the note, the heels of his shoes light up with red flashing lights, and they play a version of The Clash's 'Train In Vain'. The Clash, made erotic. Surely, this man can perform miracles.

Then there's the advertised Q&A element of the evening, which passes rather quickly, Prince thankfully and rightly seeming much more keen to get on with delivering music from atop his stool. He plays one line of 'The Most Beautiful Girl In The World?' as a distracted question almost to himself, replies to "How's London treating me?" by saying "Perfect", and of course we get a sermon on how religion changed his life, and there's really no knocking that - nobody has really managed to bring together God and sex this well since Jesus and Mary Magdelene.

It's such a perfect gig that when you go for a piss you come back and the curtain at the back of the room has been raised to the ceiling and 3rdeyegirl are fully amplified and shredding, with Prince just a member of the band on the side of the stage, playing his keys, letting them get on with it - no-frills tight, dexterous, solid and fierce. Then Prince joins them on guitar and - full respect - announces "we're 3rdeyegirl" and they get stuck into the final run of electric tracks, including new one 'Plectrum Electrum', a smoking 'Chaos And Disorder' and a glorious instrumental cover of Roxy Music's 'More Than This'.

It's remarkable seeing such consummate professionals at such close quarters, out on the wire, fully exposed. At arena gigs, distance smooths over the flaws and applies concealer with sound desk tricks, the secret guitarist underneath the stage, the sheer self-fulfilling spectacle that can pull the wool over the eyes. Not everyone of Prince's stature could play in these venues where the artist can see the whites of the audience's eyes and smell their perfume, and get away with it.

So it might be temping to sneer at these intimate gigs by Prince and Kylie as marketing gimmicks, but really, please don't. Artists like them are odd ambassadors, people who love music just as you and I do, only they happen to be standing on the stage in front of us. This is about sharing, not star worship. When Prince says sit, we all sit, but there's no real ego in his command. You get the sense that all Prince, and Kylie, and perhaps some more do, is want to bring back some magic, some mystery, some sense that these notes flying around our ears shouldn't just come as if from a cookie cutter production line, and take us with them as they do it. Now that's seduction.

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