Prince, La Zona Rosa, Austin Texas


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The Independent Culture

The wristbands for Prince’s concert were purple – what else? Yet they should have been platinum, considering the value fans put on them.

Prince closed a week-long celebration of music at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, with a free concert for 300 badge-holders chosen by lottery. Such was the frenzy to see him, wristbands were changing hands in the queue for up to five hundred dollars each.

Performing a stripped-back event at grindhouse-style bar ‘La Zona Rosa’, Prince hit the stage more than an hour late, past midnight, although this wasn’t down to superstar timekeeping, but that of support band, 90s hip hop act ‘A Tribe Called Quest.’  However, flagging audience spirits were quickly revived by Prince’s twelve-piece band making their appearance, carnival-style, through the crowd.

A happy Prince bounced on the stage shortly afterwards, wearing pink, sporting an afro and surrounded by a light show of the same colour that burned into sunset orange as he launched into ‘1999.’

“They called and they said they needed some funk down here in Austin,” he told the rapturous crowd. “ I love this event, I love being surrounded by musicians. I am their servant.”

Indeed, this gig was more about his band than him. Although he is expected to launch a new album and tour later this year, no new material was played, not even his latest track, ‘Screwdriver.’ Instead he stuck to performing funk covers of other artists’ classics, namely Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop till You Get Enough’ and Curtis Mayfield’s ‘We’re A Winner.’ He once exited the stage for several minutes, leaving the instruments playing - fortunately to return with a simple, spine-tingling rendition of ‘Purple Rain.’

“Ain’t no curfew here,” he declared, though the lights went down in the venue three times. At one point, the DJ began playing for the after party, and was unceremoniously stopped.

In the end, the fifty four year old superstar outlasted half the Austin audience and kept playing till almost 3am. As he pointed out, he had too many hits, although he didn’t perform nearly enough of them.

Fans will have left without the usual phone footage, having been warned against using them – ironically, considering the event was sponsored by a mobile phone company. They’ll have to rely on their memories of a radiant Prince, still towering above every other artist.