Rock: Still prince of pomp performance

THE ARTIST

FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE

WEMBLEY ARENA

WHEN PRINCE'S latest album, New Power Soul, appeared just three months after his quadruple CD package Crystal Ball, some claimed The Artist's increasingly prolific output exceeded market demand. Tickets for his live shows, however, remain a precious commodity. Tonight's gig - his first in Britain since March 1995 - sold out within 48 hours and prompted the scheduling of an extra show at Brixton Academy. It seems that the triple- whammy of The Artist's consummate showmanship, pop genius and living legend mystique will always put bums on seats.

The show was billed as a somewhat stripped-down affair, but although there was no giant, heart-shaped bed as on the Lovesexy tour, and no neon- lit ghetto as on the Sign o' the Times tour, this was anything but a Spartan production. Lasers carved virtual representations of The Artist's "squiggle" symbol high above the crowd, the set was book-ended by a pair of massive gold lions, and a flamboyant cast of characters paraded on and off the three-tiered stage in an array of outfits which would have made Village People blush. It was Prince himself, though - a Lilliputian live-wire dressed in a flouncy red number - who was the undoubted focal point of the extravaganza. As a set laced with greatest hits, souped-up P-Funk and stunning choreography unfolded, The Artist preened, pouted and leapt on and off his purple grand piano with the athleticism of a young Olga Korbut.

Earlier, both Chaka Khan and former Sly And The Family Stone bassist, Larry Graham, had played short support sets. Prince duetted with both. His own set, meanwhile, was cut short ("short" in The Artist's terms meaning just under two hours) by the Wembley Arena curfew. Amusingly, this became the subject of an improvised blues, with Prince explaining that he would have played all night if London didn't close so early. Even mid-performance he managed to get in a bit of writing.

One of the most fascinating moments came when some white roses thrown by a member of the audience pierced The Artist's spot-light and landed behind him. Miming astonishment, he turned around, and a spontaneous roar erupted as the crowd willed him to accept the gift. Grinning, he eventually picked up the posy and strutted to his piano to begin a short solo set. It was a gesture freighted with Las Vegas cornyness, but you sensed that both Prince and his audience enjoyed its irony.

Though some of the hits - "Raspberry Beret", "Little Red Corvette" - were flashed teasingly at the audience in medley format, The Artist was also happy to play more complete versions of trump cards. "Purple Rain" - surely the stadium anthem of the 80s - was a thing of camp and epic splendour, while "1999", coming soon to a millennium dome near you, proved that great pop is timeless.

Regardless of the somewhat patchy quality of The Artist's recent recorded output, this was a performance which inspired a whole thesaurus of superlatives. I'll go with "unrivalled".

The Artist is at Brixton Academy tonight. The show is sold out.

A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?