The event was part of The Purple One's Hit & Run Tour, which has seen fans queuing round the block for surprise shows. Many of the gigs have taken place in relatively small venues—luckily, I was able to get a space yards away from the stage at the 3000-capacity Roundhouse. It felt like being in The First Avenue Club, the venue from Purple Rain, which in so many ways is a brilliant place to be. The show started big, opening with a version of "Let's Go Crazy" that turned the Hendrix elements of the original up to 11. From there Prince busted out hit after hit, not something he's always known for. "Take Me With You," "Raspberry Beret" and "U Got The Look" came in quick succession. By then I was already convinced this was the best thing I'd ever seen, but Prince was just getting started. He strode over to his keyboard, knowingly grabbed the microphone and said, "London, y'all ain't ready" before hitting the crowd with "When Doves Cry" and a mega-mix of "Housequake," "Hot Thing" and "Controversy." The place, as you could probably guess, went absolutely nuts.
20 minutes in and Prince had already displayed more technical virtuosity and raw charisma than most performers pack into a lifetime. Whether he was glaring intimidatingly at the front row or pulling comedy cum faces, his every move was pure entertainment. The backing band were pulling their weight too, adding shit-hot solos to the mix at Prince's command. I can't imagine the kind of pressure I'd feel if a tiny musical genius pointed at me to take the lead, but 3rdEyeGirl brought it every time. Their guitarist, a punky looking brunette, was especially adept at keeping up with Prince's heroic riffing. The band are one of the rockier ensembles he's ever put together, but even at the heaviest moments there was still an unmistakable core of sludgy funk.
Midway through, Prince laughed and asked, "London, was that enough hits?" He seemed to be toying with the captivated audience, knowing he had the power to take this wherever he wanted. Just for the fun of it he reeled off more classics, like "1999" and covers of "Play That Funky Music" and Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of You," a moment that starkly showcased Prince's frankly baffling vocal range. It was truly spellbinding stuff, and by the time he played "Purple Rain" I'd completely lost it.
This was a near-perfect performance, so good that almost every other gig I've seen seems tame in comparison. Even more amazing was that it happened all over again just two hours later. Prince at his peak is as good as it gets.