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Prince Wows with "just" Piano & A Microphone

This week saw what felt like the culmination of a few years of building momentum within the international Prince community.  Starting with impromptu gigs in London back in 2014 and Prince's foray into social media, links between Prince fans all over London, the UK, Europe have grown and grown.  In the last year or so more and more of us have been lucky enough to make it over to Paisley Park, sometimes catching shows, sometimes not and connecting with communities in Minneapolis.  So many of the fans in this international community have a lifelong dream to see Prince perform in his own place, Paisley Park -  Recording studios where most of his music has come from and a live performance space that Prince uses as his personal playground to try out new ideas and have fun at impromptu gigs enjoyed by the local Purple faithful.

Following a postponed European tour, Prince announced a concert at Paisley Park with advance ticket sales.  This was the first time in over a decade that Prince fans from all over the world could plan ahead knowing that they could get to see Prince perform in his studios complex.

I personally know over 50 people from Europe coordinated and travelled over to a snowy Minneapolis to attend this gig, many of whom never thought they'd get a chance to see such a performance there due to Prince's perennially spontaneous approach to performances here.  I'm sure there were many, many more not to mention those traveling from the rest of the world.

The report below is written by Matthew Jeffrey, whose first visit to Minneapolis ended up being  a sight seeing trip and an appetite whetting from overhearing Prince's rehearsal for a performance at the The White House from outside the Paisley Park gates.

Dedication has paid off and this is his account of seeing this very special performance.

#SPEECHLESS.

just witnessed the most raw, emotional, stunning 2 concerts that Prince has ever played in his home 'Paisley Park'.

Sometimes words are just not enough to convey some of life's experiences. This is one such time.

Clearly  I am a huge fan of Prince's music. Friends and family question the sanity of leaping on a plane to go and see 'just another bloody Prince gig'. 'Matthew, it's a bit obsessive to travel across the world and see him yet again'. But travel we did, Prince fans from right across the world.

We knew when he announced the 'Piano and a Microphone' Gala these would be very special evenings. But perhaps even we were not prepared of what he had in mind. This was the event that Prince was bringing to Europe late last year before ticket touts and terrorist acts in Paris derailed the experience.

I love sharing experiences with people but also recording them for my own memories to re read in years to come.  I will try and capture a slice of what went on.

With so many people travelling internationally this was bound to be a special experience. The electrified buzz of excitement started early with cars queueing across the street from the big white mansion Paisley Park. Paisley Park, surrounded with crisp white snow, bathed in soft baby purple lighting looking serenely heavenly in appearance.

Without any fanfare the gates to Paisley Park opened and we shot straight across to be one of the first cars in the carpark. Not met with the shrill tones of the shouty screechy car park attendant but a highly organised crew who marked us off into our VIP area and gave us large circular purple boxes with a t-shirt, HitNRun 2 cd, Musicology cd, VIP lanyard, Piano poster. Parking has never been easier at the park.

Entering Paisley is always a great experience. Through into the foyer, past the Graffiti Bridge bike, getting a hug from Trevor Guy and Kirk Johnson to say hi and thanks for travelling thousands of miles.  From the foyer the VIPs were ushered into the Love4OneAnother room. Food (mashed potato, Thai curry and a scrambled egg). had been laid on with free non alcoholic beverages.

Being held in this area the excitement was just off the chain. Seeing friends all smiling, laughing, excited to be there and share the experience was truly fantastic. 'Look up there there's the car headlights from the Sign of the Times album cover'. 'Look at this its Prince's symbol concert mic stand'. 'Wow look at that animal art from Rainbow children'. 'See that door up there that's Prince's private area'. It felt like being on a school trip with all the kids laughing like cackling hyenas.

When the call came the doors opened to Prince's huge soundstage area. The main stage was set up against the side wall. A purple piano surrounded by candles gently flickering creating a feel of tranquility.  A large video screen behind the piano with kaleidoscopic images being projected, strangely hypnotising.

Below Prince's main stage were a smattering of cushions for some to sit down followed by a seated section for VIPs, then surrounding round the outside GA standing.

Paisley Park has recently refurnished with a new carpet and sound system. Some people were burning incense candles creating a calming smell.

By the time the concert was due to start the atmosphere was electric. Frenzied. Anticipating.....

Boom. A smoke cannon pumps a huge plume of smoke across the stage. A pause of two or thee minutes then lights down. More smoke. Frenzied cheering. Then the creek of the huge white doors, connecting the Love4OneAnother room with the main stage area, signalled he was coming. The doors have a huge Prince Symbol as these slowly opened to reveal a shadowy figure emerging from the smoke. The main man strode on to the stage. The gladiator to the arena.

Prince defies his 56 years. Yes. Very small. That's a given. Diminutive but looking very fit and healthy. His Afro positively bursting out.  He was wearing what looked like a purple satin suit, with mystic moons on the arm cuffs with his traditional white trainers with sparkling red lights activating when he walked / pushed down.

Prince started in a playful mood. Pretending not to want to play the piano. Not to sing. Playfully teasing the audience. Jumping up and down on his seat. Saying 'I think I will watch tv'. Then leaping up onto his piano, sitting down, back to the audience, he playfully pretended to watch tv. He mimed drinking some water, eating potato chips, watching his projection screen. Maybe sublimely he was taking us through his journey with his father. Like most kids do watching tv of his age he decided to learn to play instruments and sing.

After this unusual start he settled to play the piano. As billed this was intimate. It was just Prince. A piano. A microphone.

He started the gig with Batman. Not his version but the old sixties to version. Fun. playful. Unexpected.

Some have compared Prince with Mozart. Both people that are a creative genius in their fields. They both live for music. One a classical genius. The other an innovative Funk legend. But the comparison drew new meaning last night just watching Prince play the piano.

Prince as a pianist is truly gifted. He channels emotion into his playing. Last night was the most personal I have ever witnessed him. He talked about his relationship with his father. He warmly spoke of Wendy and Lisa'.  He paid tribute to David Bowie. He was revealing more of his personal nature than we normally get to see or hear.  And he channelled this through the piano.

His reference and tribute to Bowie brought tears to a now highly charged audience.  It was strange to keep seeing people spontaneously crying. Real tears. Such was the beauty of the music from the piano.

Prince projects real emotion when playing the piano. Pain. Sorrow. Angst. Joy. Laughter. Love. Lust. Sexual desire. His face contorting and gurning to whatever he played.

Prince 'feels' music. He did not use sheet music. He just played. Touch. Feel. All from his memory. And played with exquisite beauty.

Each track was beautifully arranged. Different. As he promised he played hits, (in different ways), b sides, rarities and new tracks.

The setlist from both shows is something you dream of. Take a look below. When has he ever done setlist a like this?  No sampler sets. Just pure piano.

He bridged each song with imaginative piano solos. Hauntingly beautiful classical music. Yes. Classical music.

Never have I heard Prince's voice sound so good. His vocal range is outstanding. The high falsetto of 'Kiss'. The low smouldering 'sexy voice' Prince. The yelps. The squeals. All so perfect to almost think this was mastered studio quality.

His voice filled the arena. We heard every whisper. Every moan. When he clicked his fingers it was as sharp sounding as a thunderclap the stamp of his feet reverberating like a kick drum.

Show 1 highlights for me. 'Do me baby', wow. You could cut the sexual tension in the air. 'A Case of U'. Simply breath taking. 'Motherless Child', straight after talking about his dad, caused tears. 'Condition of the heart'. I mean. When do we hear these tracks?

'Sometimes it snows' touched the soul. The audience were in streams of tears. The lyrics of death haunted. Epic.

'The Ballad of Dorothy Parker' was beautiful. 'There was a girl in Paris' opening chords led to some spontaneously standing. 'Starfish and Coffee' was an audience sing along.

He closed show one with 'Anna Stesia'. A fitting end. The audience in raptures. Singing   'God is love, love is God. Girls and boys love God above'. Everyone singing. Prince's own audience gospel choir.

Show 2 highlights. Too many to write. 'Purple Rain' is a track we have heard many times. Last night on piano. The way he arranged it. It felt fresh. I have never heard it like that. The emotion was so raw that the audience again broke down. Openly crying. It needed to be experienced.  'Nothing Compares 2 U'. Another tear jerker.  Prince tweeted to use to bring hankies. He was so right.

The highlight of the night for me was 'The Ladder'. He toyed with the audience by starting with the chords. Then just stopping dead with his famous 'you aren't ready for me y'all' look. Then boom. The full version of 'The Ladder'. Oh my. Words fail.  Perfection.

These two concerts were intimate. Raw. Emotional. To witness them at Paisley Park. His home. Is simply an unforgettable moment.  I felt honoured.

Prince needs to get this tour on the road. It is simply outstanding. This helps define his legend. A guitar god. A given. A world class pianist. Added to the list.  The media will revel in the brilliance of his art.

Move over Adele. When this tour hits the road.......emotion overload.

Setlist show 1 8pm

Solo
Batman
Who's Lovin' You
What Are We Gonna Do?
Wanna Be Your Lover
Dirty Mind
Do Me Baby
Something In the Water
Free
A Case Of You
(Joni Mitchell cover)
Motherless Child
The Beautiful Ones
U're Gonna C Me
How Come Your Don't Call Me
Condition Of The Heart
Venus De Milo
Raspberry Beret
Paisley Park
Sometimes It Snows in April
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
Starfish and Coffee
Eye Love U But I Don't Trust You Anymore
Unchain My Heart
Baltimore
Rock and Roll Love Affair
Anna Stesia

Setlist show 2 11pm

The Unexpected
The Love We Make
Look at Me, Look at U
1000 X's and O's
Call My Name
Purple Rain
The Dance
Te Amo Corazon / A Million Days
Nothing Compares 2 U
How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore
The Ladder
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Raspberry Beret
Starfish and Coffee
Sometimes it Snows in April
Dear Mr. Man
A Case of You
(Joni Mitchell cover)
Kiss
Black Sweat
Free Urself

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