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. Last night's gig - his first in Britain since March 1995 - sold out within 48 hours.
The show was billed as a somewhat stripped-down affair, but although there was no giant, heart-shaped bed as on the Love Sexy 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 outfits which would have made Village People blush.
It was himself, though - a Lilliputian live-wire of toned flounce - who was the undoubted focal point of the extravaganza. As a set laced with greatest hits, souped-up funk and stunning choreography unfolded, the Artist preened, pouted and leapt on and off his purple grand piano with the athleticism of a young Russian gymnast.
Though some of the hits - "Raspberry Beret", "Little Red Corvette" - were flashed teasingly at the audience in medley format, was also happy to play more complete versions of trump cards.
"Purple Rain" - surely the stadium anthem of the Eighties - was a thing of camp and epic splendour, while "1999" - coming soon to a millennium dome near you - proved 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".