Following rave reviews of a string of small and last-minute gigs. Prince returns to the UK with 3rdEyeGirl to play to a wider audience at some of the UK's biggest arenas. Here we have a fan's report of his experience of the first night in Birmingham.
Not sure how much has been written about yesterday's gig so will just post my little description/review.
I traveled from Essex and so did not get to Birmingham until after 2pm, at which point I had to go and check into my hotel before I could head to the arena. Got to the arena at roughly 3.15pm. My friend and I were numbers 86 and 87 in the queue. Within about an hour of arriving, security told everyone already in the queue they would be given their wristbands early and be allowed into the arena early to use the toilet, get food/drink, buy merch, etc, then be allowed priority access to the actual auditorium in the order they queued up. Literally. They got everybody in, in the exact order they arrived in (save for the odd mickey-taking queue-jumper).
As we went in, almost everyone was crowding around centre stage but as I'm not especially tall I happily stood at the front barrier but a little off to the side. I knew I'd have an unobstructed view (except the piano/sampler sections, when he disappeared behind some speakers).
The arena looked incredibly busy by around 8pm - barely an empty seat, except two blocks behind the stage they'd obviously not sold on purpose. The crowd started to get a bit agitated by about 8.25pm, as LG had said on its website Prince was due on at around 8pm, so there were a few slow claps started. It didn't help that Prince's choice of warm-up music was a series of really long, atonal jazz numbers. Every time one finished, the crowd would start screaming and clapping to try and coax him out. When the next track started, there'd be an audible groan.
All forgotten as soon as he came onstage, though. The curtain dropped, there he was with a big bunch of balloons, huge cheers. Noone except the hardcores knew Funk'n'Roll, of course, but then it was straight into Take Me With U, Raspberry Beret and U Got The Look - huge crowd response. Musicology response tepid, Kiss response major. Barely any response for Empty Room, beyond the real hardcores. Let's Go Crazy went down a storm. They shot all this confetti out of a cannon right in front of me and it seemed to just be suspended in mid-air, while all these strobe lights were flashing - it was a real spectacle.
The setlist got a bit flabby in the middle, particularly for casual fans, with a long rendition of Plectrum Electrum, then FixUrLifeUp, followed by Something In The Water (fan favourite but casuals generally don't know it), Pretzelbodylogic, and then a long bass solo/What's My Name.
I was beyond ecstatic when he played Controversy and 1999 - had ruled those out as it was a 3EG gig. The place went nuts for 1999. Little Red Corvette had the whole arena singing. The sampler set was a massive success in terms of crowd reaction, then Purple Rain - complete with another bout of confetti; so much confetti. It was like being in a hail storm - confetti was hitting you from every direction - getting everywhere. A spectacular ending.
They came back out at about 10.55pm after being off for maybe 5mins and said there was a strict curfew, but they'd jam 'til they had to stop - so we got Play That Funky Music for the last 5mins.
Great gig. Marred slightly by a big security guard standing on a platform beside the stage with a flashing torch, pointing it at people with their cameras out so security could tell them off. That was really distracting as he was stood right in front of us and the beam kept going in our eyes.
I observed the no pictures rule, but for this one shot of my view, before Prince came on. It was the closest I've ever got to Prince - at times I think he was less than 10ft away. What a night.
Thanks to Charlie Thomson for this report