You’d imagine that of all the nightspots in Camden, Prince might feel drawn towards the Purple Turtle. Instead, he rendered a fortunate fistful of fans violet-ly happy by playing a secret set at Electric Ballroom last night; a 1,000 capacity venue that let around 150 people in to catch the free hour-long gig.
Smoky, jasmine-scented wisps of Prince-related gossip began to waft onto Twitter at around 11pm (offset by sharp, tangy top notes of gusset spoilage spontaneously produced by funk fanatics throughout the capital). The musician’s manager Kiran Sharma tweeted to Channel 4 News that there was to be an ‘open press soundcheck’ in north London following an earlier showcase of songs from forthcoming album Plectrum Electrum – including just-dropped single ‘PretzelBodyLogic’ – performed in the living room of singer Lianne Le Havas.
Wild rumours swiftly started to spread that there were 2,000-strong queues and that the man himself wouldn’t appear until 3am. My gent and I dithered in our kitchen for a sec before thinking ‘fuck it’ and jumping in a cab, reasoning that standing in the sluicing rain was worth it for the possible chance to hear ‘Play in the Sunshine’. We rocked up about midnight and joined a line that was actually almost shorter than Prince himself; the weather and the tube strike had put a lot of folks off. ‘We got out of bed when we heard and caught buses from Brixton,’ said the couple in front of us. ‘We’re shattered, but if he does ‘Starfish and Coffee’, that’ll serve as caffeine!’ We queued for less than ten minutes before security opened the doors, shouting ‘No phones! No cameras!’ and giddy fans surged through like soil into a sinkhole.
Hendrix-esque in black flares, a black hooded shirt and an afro, bathed in puce glow, and looking so young he must seal himself in airtight Tupperware every night, ‘Eerie, Indiana’-style, Prince was singing into a mic emblazoned with his trademark squiggle to a titchy tuft of journalists permitted entry 30 minutes previously. ‘Clap if you’re sexy!’ he announced, in an upbeat, jest-infused mood, and ‘Somebody’s gonna get pregnant tonight!’ Fellas were instructed to sing the lead line in ‘I Like it There’, and the lasses provided the ‘Yeah yeah yeah’s while their ovaries involuntarily clacked in time like Newton’s cradles.
‘Turn the lights down low, so even the shy girls can sing along,’ Prince quipped, before launching into a version of ‘Play That Funky Music’. Yes, there was some extended jamming, which many are dismissive of, wanting the tracks they know; megahits like ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’ were reserved for the press, but I was quite happy to greet those wandering jams with toasts, especially since I was so privileged to be enjoying them at a gig that cost me the square root of diddly squat, and particularly when Prince pulled the rare move of playing bass. At this point the soaking capacity of those satanic wobbly pavement slabs that drench your legs when you step on them had nothing compared to what was going on in my downstairs area. Prince. On bass. Me on gurgling climax vowel sounds.
SIGN O’ THE TIMES
The night wrapped up with the whole room – still wearing their dripping coats – chanting ‘Love one another’, before Prince thanked an audience that had ‘sounded like 10,000 people’, and his latest (kickass) all-female band, 3RDEYEGIRL: ‘This is Hannah, Donna, Ida – and I’m Prince-a.’
Of course, fans roared themselves raw for an encore, and Prince did return to the stage… but only to explain that he had to ‘respect the curfew at a venue that had welcomed him at very late notice,’ and that he’d be ‘back here tomorrow, earlier – and funkier.’
Early this morning, 3RDEYEGIRL tweeted a link to this YouTube video of the Electric Ballroom performance. It finishes with a web address leading to a timer, counting down the hours to tonight’s show. Scrolling down the page reveals small print reading ‘Wednesday 5th February, 19:00’. Details on how to get tickets are still sketchy, but if yesterday’s sparse crowd resembled a receding mullet, tonight’s will rival a sascrotch; demand for places will be higher than Mary Poppins’ kite.
If you do mauve fast enough to get a place, though, you’ll have the honour of seeing one of the most accomplished, intriguing and impactful musicians currently on this planet. Long may the purple reign. Alix Fox
UPDATE: we hear rumours that tickets for tonight at the Electric Ballroom are first come first served from 2pm!
Want more music excitement? Check out what’s coming up for the BRIT Awards 2014.