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
Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'