LONDON – Prince has played his biggest surprise concert in London yet as he pursues his reinvention by fronting an all-girl band in a series of small concerts.
After playing to a few hundred ecstatic fans in Camden over two nights last week, some 2,000 enthusiasts waited hours to see the superstar strut his stuff at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire late Sunday.
The last time Prince played a series of concerts in London, it was a 21-night residency at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in 2007.
In more modest circumstances on Sunday, Prince played for two and a half hours, opening a funk-filled set with one of his best-known songs, “Let’s Go Crazy,” an AFP reporter at the concert said.
The show was only announced a few hours beforehand when members of Prince’s new group 3RDEYEGIRL appeared on a BBC radio show.
By 1 p.m., just an hour after word slipped out, 150 people were queuing around the venue despite the chilly weather.
“I’ve been on watch since Wednesday, and when I saw they were going to make an announcement, I was ready to go when they said which venue it was going to be,” said one fan who has already seen Prince 30 or 40 times.
“It’s Prince, he’s worth it,” said another fan, Neil, who is organizing a party this year to mark 30 years since the release of Prince’s landmark “Purple Rain” album.
When the doors opened finally at 7:15 p.m. fans had a pleasant surprise – tickets were just £10 (12 euros, $16.50).
Once the show began, the crowd roared its approval every time Prince took centre stage, even for his new group’s song “Plectrum Electrum.”
The 55-year-old American also took to the piano for a solo medley including “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry” and “Sign O’ the Times.”
Prince laughed with the crowd about the low price of the tickets, saying: “That’s nice – that’s what we used to pay to go to concerts when I was a kid.”
He joked that he should pass round a “big black hat” to make a collection, before adding: “That’s alright, we love doing this for you.”
The set was full of surprises, including a version of “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry, and Prince paid tribute to legendary funk musician George Clinton – “a teacher” – who was in the crowd.
Prince fans should have another chance to catch their hero in action because he has promised to continue his “residency” in London for the rest of February.