Death doesn't become him

His show begins with an epitaph: `Prince 1958-1993, RIP'. This star, he says, is now reborn. Maybe so, says Helen Birch, but he's several months premature

The gold lam wrap was ripped from the stage to reveal a golden capsule resembling an upturned egg fashioned by Gaudi. At the top, a chamber into which various people were hoisted via a gilded cage during the show. Below, a veil of red velvet curtains through which the artist formerly known as Prince slid, via a conveyor-belt, like a throbbing fuchsia penis onto the stage.

We had been warned that something like this would happen. Last year, the star stripped himself of his regal embellishments and was reborn as a hieroglyph. No longer a Prince yearning to step inside a woman's body, he had, he told us, been reborn as a pure sign: unpronounceable, unnameable, ungendered, and, judging by the last two albums, several months premature.

Saturday's show was the beginning of his first tour since his much-publicised row with his record company, Warner Bros, which has refused to release his new album, The Gold Experience. It was prefaced by a short video with a few out-takes from his greatest hits and the epitaph, "Prince 1958-1993, Rest in Peace".

This show, then, was to be our first glimpse of his life after death; Prince liberated from his role as slave, as the letters scrawled across his cheek and the "Free Music" T-shirts on sale outside exulted us to believe. But rather than bearing forth a blighted talent, the set, a visual symbol of his reincarnation, merely brought us a frustrated teenager.

His Fuchsianess (all references to purple fully expunged) thrashed and strutted and rapped his way angrily into the present, accompanied only by bass, drums and keyboards. No harmonious backing vocals, no heartrending horns and only one recognisable tune - "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", sung in that looping, anguished falsetto that used to make women everywhere wish he really was our girlfriend. "Who wants to get in trouble with me tonight?" he asked, just like the old Prince. And we all did.

This time, though, he has dispensed with his in-your-face singing-and- drumming female entourage, and has only one girlfriend, a dancer, Mayte, who wriggled and wiggled and shook her half-naked butt at the audience, slowly whipping them into an arm-waving frenzy, so they minded less that this time there was to be nothing to sing along to.

Women used to make beautiful music with Prince; now they decorate the stage like so much aerobicised fluff. Less New Power Generation than power cut.

As Mayte danced vigorously for her supper, his Fuchsianess changed musical styles quicker than the dainty spin of a Cuban heel. He gave us hip-hop and funk via James Brown and Parliament, R & B via Ike and Tina Turner and a few flashes of generic rock'n'roll. He lifted riffs expertly, of course, thrashing furiously on his symbol-shaped guitar, and tried to convince us that imitation (which we all knew he was good at anyway) could be as good as innovation (at which he was once crown Prince).

The audience did its best to honour his new status, greeting his cries of "What's my name?" with respectful silence and waving their hieroglyphs in the air, but as one blast of virtuosity crashed into the next, punctuated only by the word "Motherfucker" spat out at intervals like an adolescent curse, we could not help but notice the absence of a good tune.

Death does not become Prince. This new incarnation is a pretender to his throne. Prince was the sexiest midget alive because he took old themes and styles apart and refashioned them. He could be pimp and prostitute, rude and innocent, gentle and dominant, and wrap it all perfectly in sexual ambivalence and a well-honed lyric. He had attitude and irony in every note and in every flick of his hips. Now he only has posturing. "Look at all the things I can do, see how clever I am," he seemed to say. A mature and sublime take on soul shattered into a few showy fragments.

Even the gimmicks were, for Prince, pretty crude. A devil, complete with horns and fork, swung out over the crowd selecting a few girls to come and frolic on the bed in the upper chamber, while the artist formerly known as Prince remained aloof on stage.

He gave us value for money, though. Several times towards the end of the two-hour show, he slid back behind the red plush curtains, only to slide out again, erect and ready for more pump-action. But even when a giant glitterball exploded and rained down on the crowd, it felt less like a celebration than a display of egotism. Some pop stars don't grow up, they just lose their sense of humour.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future