THERE was a palpable sense of occasion at Prince’s first state visit to Scotland in almost 20 years.
Glasgow SSE Hydro
Rating: * * * *
Wardrobes had been raided for long discarded purple items of clothing, some sported raspberry berets and even the Hydro itself shone purple for the night. But this was about far more than colour-coding.
This was a surprise date (having only been announced last month) with one of the acknowledged masters of the pop universe.
Though he has not seriously troubled the charts for years, it’s a pleasure to report that Prince’s star has not waned.
The pocket maestro remains one of the most effortlessly commanding performers you could hope to encounter, with an ageless voice, nifty moves and dazzling instrumental skills. Had he simply played piano for two hours, this could still have been an electric experience.
Instead, he brought his supercool new group 3RDEYEGIRL to the party.
This tight trio are the latest in a noble line of strong female musicians with whom Prince has collaborated over the years; New Power Generation keyboard player Cassandra O’Neal and occasional vocalist Marissa augmented the femme-centric touring outfit who hit the ground running with a heavy, grinding funk version of Let’s Go Crazy.
Apart from an excess of steam jets, the only stage frills came from the players.
This was a generous greatest hits set by any standards – Take Me With U, Raspberry Beret and U Got The Look (sadly sans Sheena Easton) were dispatched before the ecstatic crowd had time to draw breath. Within another ten minutes, the funk dynamo had fired off Kiss, with extra bottom end, the frisson of When Doves Cry’s opening riff and the luxurious pomp of The Love We Make.
During 1999, the arena was transformed into a disco glitterball of waving phones (no filming allowed though) while a slow jam piano set featuring the hurts-so-good ballad The Beautiful Ones moved seamlessly from tender to testifying and back again.
“Do you know how many hits I’ve had? We could be here all night!” Prince exulted.
The audience were game but, following the epic crescendo of Purple Rain, accompanied by purple confetti shower (and purple brolly aloft in the crowd), he failed to make best use of the time left, rounding off with some party covers and a bizarre megamix of his lesser tracks, which felt like the anti-climactic disco after the scorching gig.