I somewhat reluctantly agreed to attend a night of Prince – I thought it might be interesting in relation to the Il Tempo Del Postino art theatre, attending something genuinely popular. Prince will play 21 nights at the Dome – so like 200,000 people, that’s popular.
My expectations were high, with a nagging hint that I might be disappointed. I heard the tales of the purple ones hay days of flying beds, smoke and bikes and cars and knob shaped guitars and high heels and light and video shows of extraordinary sophistication and slickness.
I haven’t been to a live concert of this scale before indeed I have never been to any event of this scale and let me tell you people it was a brutal experience. The venue, the transport, the ticket price, the merchandise, the drink etc - all brutal. Karen’s camera was confiscated (the worst thing there being the que to get it back) and evidently even if you are paying £50 for a ticket the wine although costing the same as a vintage Meursault is about as drinkable as a hedgehog and comes in the inevitable plastic glass. The facilities included sitting on a dirty concrete floor followed by a deeply uncomforatble plastic chair with massive drink holders instead of armrests (form follows function). But ok so the trappings of rock haven’t changed much. The audience was big, white and middle England aged – actually I think we may have been there on roadie night, we were surrounded by Tom Saxondales. I think Karen was disappointed by the mainstreamness of it. For her Prince was a revolutionary experimental cultural innovator/musician who rocked her world – she was extremely cross when I said he reminded me of Jools Holland – it’s easy to forget that for each generation their music is very much more than the light entertainment that it is for the rest of us - it’s a radical revolutionary force. Popular music is this rather fragile territory, we all know it’s basically light weight inconsequential faff, but it is somehow vital to our identities, our ‘growth’ and when someone points out what you clearly already know it makes for a deadly assault on your very existence - hence people get murdered for asking for Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ to be turned down a tad.

The venue was brutal to the music as well, terrible sound, the supporting act, a London African rap group sounded absolutely dreadful, brutally the audience of 10,000 Mexican wavers actually booed them off. During the extended wait for Prince we were entertained by a tiny video screen showing a series of appallingly made promotional videos for tacky merchandise available in the foyer, interspersed by the Prince logo rotating against a cloudscape – cheapo cheeseo.
Finally after 3 brutal hours of hanging around while the audience whistled, waved and were broadly irritating - a short Hall of Fame documentary puff film was shown, a multitude of people saying that Prince was the greatest thing on earth and all without any qualification. Prince finally appeared through some dry ice and worked through his multitude of MOR hits. It was like seeing a good R&B band, so okish, I was most reminded of Tina Turner complete with ghastly whirling dancers in skin tight britches, looking a lot like a couple of frogs undergoing electric shock therapy. The band was made up of some legendary figures, legendary because they can play their instruments well, a skill that for me doesn’t really deserve legendary status, I mean if you’re a musician surely it’s not asking to much that you should be able to play other peoples music well - however that’s another subject. Maceo Parker took his traditional sidekick role getting the James Brown treatment from Prince, ie being wheeled out to fill out songs when it just would be unbearable to hear yet another hard rock guitar solo (the bit about Prince I have never liked). The live versions of the songs were massively inferior to the recorded versions and additionally ruined by the audience singing along. I was placed it would seem in the centre of a choir assembled bit by bit by the legendary Dr Frankenstein, in another key, and on another planet, ‘whern dubs kurwhy’ it did make me laugh but Jesus after a while I was keen to punch something and the those tiered seats do offer a tempting target at just the right height to really get behind the punch and I am guessing that might have helped the Stigs make those high notes that Prince does so well. As you can imagine by this point my partner Karen was livid with me, furious that I could’nt just join in and be lost in the mass event instead of standing up there with my fingers in my ears stroking my pseudo intellectual beard and pontificating on ‘the interesting phenomena’, as Karen pointed out maybe if anything that I was involved in was even a micro fraction as popular. Of course this is right, the Grizedale performances, all the work I’ve ever been involved in, added together would not touch this single performance for numbers and mass enjoyment. In fact I wonder if anyone has ever enjoyed anything I have ever been involved in. I could say that enjoyment is not exactly the ambition but would I in reality like to generate this stomping appreciation?

Leaving the gig entailed a lot of queing furiously. With Karen now not on speaking terms I listened to the conversations around me, most were not about the gig, those that were tended to deal with practicalities of how Prince got under the stage (he rose on a lift through the stage) apparently he was brought through the crowd in a black box. There wasn’t really anything to say, it was, this event like a football match, an endless repetition of the same thing, same physical actions, like when footballers do that weird physical theatre, pointing and shouting, ritualistically adjusting their waistbands, theatrical spitting etc, Prince made all the traditional rock language moves, offering the mic to the audience, cupping his ear, endlessly introducing the band, it was church for Neds. But this is a reality of humanness, the capacity/requirement for repetitive ritual, all sport, most arts. Had I finally realised after 48 years that most people myself included don’t want something different every time, you cant make sense of it. Il Tempo did something a bit different from either the normal art or theatre experience and it wasn’t entertaining but it was more interesting than Prince, I remember it better, I have thought more about it and I have reacted to it. It was disappointing because it seemed it should and could have been better, Prince on the other hand did not disappoint, but he did’nt add anything either, even minutes after the experience they had nothing to say about it.

As we left the stadium the audience football chanted ‘No-thing compares, no-thing compares - to you, apart from the above men-tioned stuff’.