Amazing gig last night at the refurbed 02 centre (the old millenium dome) with Sair, Karen & Paul. The penultimate of Prince’s 21 sellout nights here was extraordinary for a number of reasons
1. While the musicianship was extraordinary, the songlist inspired (from his own purple stuff to Led Zep and Gnarls Barclay covers) and the light show brilliant, the thing that he really gets is that a gig is a participative event: the audience is not a passive and inert mass but a lively participative and mutually influential player in the show.
2. So from the top, he and his beautiful assistants (including “the twins”) spent a lot of energy encouraging us to stand up and dance. At one point, I thought I’d wandered into a revivalist meeting: several thousand people standing, swaying and clapping along and infecting others…One particularly memorable moment had the entire audience on their feet singing over and over and over the “Come together over me, yeah” while he riffed away…
3. The individual experience is so unthinking that it highlighted the unnatural nature of the stance of the few beard-stroking skeptics who held themselves back to pass judgement: his music of whatever genre and the performance of it is so enthusiastically unintellectual and behaviourally engaging that you have to make a really conscious effort to hold back. Which one is more common in human behaviour?
4. He got us to work the crowd for him: he and the band actively encouraged our singing and cheers and hands in the air by working the huge symbol shaped stage set – all of those things which priests and politicos have used since early history to get us losing our inhibitions together…and to infect each other with the Enthusiasmos virus
5. On the way in, another copy of the latest album (I think) was given away (as with the Mail on Sunday) at the start of the show and afterwards the queue for the public aftershow went round the block…This made it clear to me that the collective experience is the thing (either the show, the prep for it, the aftershow or the subsequent interactions and storytelling about all of these) and what the music industry has traditionally regarded as the “product” (the recorded music) just part and parcel of fuels our interaction with each other at the event, before and after…
6. There is a looseness about the many ways in and out of participation in the purple crowd that brands and businesses could learn from; many ways in and out, many interactions and conversations that can be had. He seems happy (despite some youtube spats) to let people find their own way in and around his world rather than dictate what and how and where….
I don’t know if this is part of some carefully planned strategy or not, but the Diminuitive Genius that is Prince Nile Rogers is a master of the Herd. As well as being one of the most interesting musicians alive today…Yes, Will, I know he’s not Morrisey, but….