Rock: The artist still known as a genius
Sunday 30 August 1998
His latest album, Newpower Soul (RCA), warned us that we were in for more of the same. There are so many squeaky, weightless Funkadelic grooves on it that the 10th track, "(I Like) Funky Music", will hold the record for Most Obvious-Stating Prince Song, at least until he composes one called "(I Am) Short". Not that I'm in the Prince-has-lost-it camp. He hasn't lost it, he's just hidden it. If you count the soundtrack to Spike Lee's Girl 6, and three albums which are his in all but name - one by Mayte (Mrs Artist ...), and two attributed to his band, New Power Generation - the Artist has put 15 CDs on the market since 1994. Fifteen! None of these is exactly Sign O'the Times, but they all contain their diamonds and pearls. If he edited them down to the strongest three or four discs' worth, there'd be less talk of his puzzling deed poll and more talk of his genius.
On Wednesday, he was content to promote Newpower Soul by broadcasting it over the PA before the show, and concentrated instead on the songs that made his (former) name. If anything, he tried to squeeze in too many of them, chopping each down to one verse and/or chorus, and transforming the gig into a Prince-on-45 Megamix. "So, you want the oldies this time?" he must have been thinking. "Right. Take this! And this! And this!"
It was sacrilegious, but how can you hold it against the world's best pop performer? As far as visuals were concerned, this was a low-key, low- budget show. Yes, there were lasers, confetti bombs, Perspex speaker- stacks, and statues of Chinese dragons, but next to 1995's theme-park scenery, this counts as back to basics. It meant that we could focus on the Artist himself, and he is a living special effect. Despite attacking his guitar and singing with a gutsiness that crushed Newpower Soul under its Cuban heel, he none the less kept moving all night, from the moment he strutted onstage in frilly red pyjamas (his purple ones were in the wash). "London, I just got a new piano," he announced, pointing at a violet grand with "Beautiful" painted around its side. "Can I play that thing?" Yes indeed, we replied, and we were correct. The Artist played that thing, pirhouetted on its lid, pretended to have sex with it and skipped on and off it so nimbly that I expected to spot wires on his back.
We weren't quite so unanimous in response to the question "Do you love God?" during the customary evangelical interlude, but the Artist was unfazed. "I guess you ain't worried about that accident on the way home," he smirked, demonstrating a quality which no one who has seen the Purple Rain sleeve photo would have believed he had: a self-mocking sense of humour. When an ad-libbed blues prompted some unrequested audience participation, he stopped and pouted: "Who asked you to clap?" He's long boasted about what he can do with his tongue. Tonight at any rate, he had it in his cheek.
And that's another myth quashed: that the Artist is a few strings short of a guitar. The evidence of his supposed madness is that he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, and pencilled SLAVE on his cheek. But these were both tactics in his battle to escape his Warners contract. They hardly compare with - oh, I don't know - bleaching your face and sleeping in an oxygen tent, for example. Given a choice between the man who doesn't want to be called Prince and the man who does want to be called the King of Pop, I know who I'd rather listen to.
Nicholas Barber's Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy coverage has just won him the inaugural Allen Wright Award for young critics.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show film
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'