by / August 3rd, 2011 /

Prince – Malahide Castle, Dublin

The grounds of Malahide Castle weren’t so much bathed in purple on Saturday night as they were lightly speckled with maroon: if nothing else, you won’t see a larger gathering of Galway GAA shirts in a Dublin park this summer.

Prince’s first visit to Ireland in nine years, following the last-minute cancellation of his Croke Park gig in 2009, was sold as a greatest hits show in response to slower than expected sales – though at almost €100 a ticket it’s no surprise that many left the decision until the very last minute. It certainly was a greatest hits show, but a quick glance at Prince’s recent setlists across Europe shows he’s prone to dip in to his catalogue of classic singles more or less at will.

Still, it was surprising that, rolling out on stage just after 8pm, he chose to open with ‘Gold.’ The saccharine pure pop number from his mid-nineties stint as an unpronounceable symbol is familiar enough to please the most casual fan (Prince initiated the call-and-response routine with the audience from the first chorus instead of just the last), yet it’s rare enough to keep the diehards guessing.

The early part of the evening was frontloaded with some of the Minneapolitan’s more iconic tracks: ‘Let’s Get Crazy,’ ‘1999’ and ‘Little Red Corvette’ followed in quick succession to keep the carnival atmosphere in motion.

Prince dressed in a long white robe that suggested he was more the leader of a gospel choir than a rock n’ roll singer, a look that made more sense when he began to work in the covers. A shortened version of ‘Raspberry Beret’ was followed with a medley of Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and his own production for the Time, ‘Cool.’ A full complement of gospel singers sang out a brief interval with Bob Dylan’s lesser-known ‘Make You Feel My Love,’ from which Prince re-emerged in more traditional, though still flamboyant, dress.

He could hardly have timed the entrance of his greatest composition, ‘Purple Rain,’ any better, playing the reverb-soaked opening chords just as dusk set in and raindrops began to sprinkle from the sky to create the perfect slow jam atmosphere. Prince was quite restrained throughout, happy to let his band mates take the spotlight, but ‘Purple Rain’ allowed him to show off his immense skill as a guitarist – something for which he’s not given half as much credit as he deserves.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the nine-piece jazz ensemble who had warmed up the crowd hours earlier, joined the New Power Generation on stage for the so-so ‘Musicology,’ before Prince invited what seemed like the entire front row on stage for a tongue-in-cheek (given the ethnic profile of the audience) rendition of Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music.’

The latter part of the set was less obviously loaded with hits, though this didn’t stop Prince, in a rare moment of hubris, making a break for it, declaring: “We gotta go – I’ve got too many hits! We’d be here until tomorrow if I played them all!” Prince being Prince, however, this still left time for little-known numbers like ‘When Doves Cry,’ ‘U Got the Look’ and ‘Controversy.’

The singer’s conversion to the Jehova’s Witnesses means that foul-mouthed classics like ‘Pussy Control’ and ‘Sexy Motherfucker’ are not even considered anymore, but his original rendering of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’ a duet with Shelby J that he graciously dedicated to Sinead O’Connor, is more than a worthy alternative. Sign O’ the Times was well-represented, with ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ a particular highlight, though the title track was unadvisedly cut short and he cruelly teased the crowd with just a few seconds of ‘Housequake.’

Small gripes with song selection and sequencing aside, the setlist was undeniably strong. The sound quality was as good as I’ve heard at an outdoor venue in Dublin for years, yet there was still a lingering sense of what might have been. Prince boasted before the show that he’d play for three hours if they’d let him, yet the band had barely played two when they left the stage half an hour before the 10.45 curfew.

Nevertheless, it was a tight set that only occasionally lagged and nary a complaint was heard on the DART home.

  • It was 2 and a half hours no? 8.05 – 10.35 or closer to it? I was happy.

  • I think Dave might be right actually – I thought it was about 10.20 when he finished. Over two hours is decent value – not that set length necessarily has anything to do with value.

  • Bmaque

    Jesus that was an unforgiveably poor review of what most people whom I have spoken to would say was perhaps one of the best gigs this city has ever seen. Its not even that he was underwhelmed, its not even that he fails to accurately describe the performance, the set-list, the lenght of the gig and has mis-quoted prince; no, what annoys me is that it is so poorly written; its like he is describing what is on the back of the degergent bottle while he is sitting on the jacks having a barry white. Prince hubris??? he said ‘dublin, stop playing with me; i’ve got too many hits, we’ll be here all night’ in mock-irony and of course the crowd loved it. he played for nearly two and half hours. If your reporter had bother to make any effort he would have found out that prince decided to put in an extra unschedulded THREE HOUR sound check because he was annoyed with the sound quality at his recent german gig and wanted it to be absolutely perfect for Dublin. He did that right up to the support band coming on stage; less than two housr later he was back on stage and put in what anybody I know would describe as a mind blowing performance that will live long in the memory. Not bad for a 53 year old eh? Could you envisage for example bono and das hedge sacraficing their steak dinner and vino to make sure the fans got a top drawer performance? no, neither can I. They were knackered after three songs of their recent glastonbury set and they needed auto-que to get by. Your reporter also failed to pick up on prince’s coded fuck-you message to denis desmond during little red corvette. Lazy review which I could forgive it was just any old show…….it wasnt. Next time give me the press pass and I will gladly write a review that befits the event.

  • collum

    if u cant convey how fucking awesome this show was well maybe its back to music journalism school for you.hers one in four words,All killa no filla.

  • collum

    if u cant convey how fucking awesome this show was well maybe its back to music journalism school for you.hers one in four words,All killa no filla.

  • collum, I didn’t go to music journalism school. Feel free to make some snide comment based on that information.

    Niall, Chris texted me before 10.30 and he’d already made his way over to the exit. It wasn’t much later than 10.20, if at all, when it finished.

    Bmaque, I didn’t go to the soundcheck. I have to work during the day to make money – I can’t spend 7 hours in a field. I’m glad he took his time to make sure the sound was perfect (as I said in the review), but I can only comment on the concert experience I had, which I think I shared with the vast majority of people who were there.

  • Bmaque

    Naturally I was referring to the fact that the soundcheck thing was something that was easy to establish as in, the next day at least. Perhaps you submitted straight away and state took their time publishing your review; I dont know. A simple google search would have revealed that this current tour is essentially a greatest hits tour in all but name bar the three nights he played at the North Sea festival. Your entitled to your opinion and to your own experience such as it is; but Im just bewildered how you could have written such a lame and lackluster review of what was a stunning concert. Everybody around me, for as far as my eyes could see (and im pretty tall) were dancing their arses off; the crowd reactions, the sing-response etc was excellent throughout. To suggest that your indifferent concert experience coinciced with the vast majority of the punters there… apart from making you sound arrogant..also gives the impression that you are/were totally out of touch with what anybody there on the day could have seen with own eyes or heard with their own ears. Perhaps all those people going apeshit were secretly thinking; christ this is sooo dull…..but im guessing not. Like I said, I would not be inclined to get my knickers in a twist about something like this normally but really, this was an incredible, razor sharp gig and in no way have you done justice to it nor correctly represented the event to the people who peruse this site. That either suggests that your approach was lazy or that you had a pre-meditated, negative mindset from the get-go. I am taking the trouble to post here because I have had a lot of people ask me what the gig was like and I fear coming on here and reading your peice they will think it was as dull as a packet of rich tea buscuits sans butter. Quite simply, people (lots of them) will be talking about this gig for years to come… thats how good it was.

  • If you think I didn’t enjoy the concert then you’ve misread the review. I made a couple of borderline negative comments at the end of an otherwise positive review. If that sounds like a lackluster experience to you then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  • Kah_ie

    a very poor review. surely that is sarcasm (the lowest form of wit) referring to ‘when doves cry’ and ‘you got the look’ as little known numbers. the gig went just over two hours which is a nice length of time compared to the length of time most gigs go on for now a days and yes this review also misquoted prince. bad journalism indeed.

  • Kah_ie

    and please dont be so arrogant as to speak for the majority of the people there

  • Not sarcasm, irony.

  • WelshManGrumble

    “a full compliment of gospel singers” being the 3 ladies from his band.

    “Galway GAA shirts” – bizarre didnt see one all night yet couldnt miss the guys in painted faces ( maybe you were one Dave?)

    Fair play it’s your opinion of course but as a casual Prince admirer – I was around for the 80’s stuff – anything after well… – but that was an undeniably fantastic gig.

    You just come across sounding bitter that you didnt get any free hospitality out of it so made some shitty remarks to remind that Prince fella just who’s got the power…..ummm in case you havent worked it out, its him.

    ps – on at 8.05 – off stage at 10.25 – 2hr 20 mins – lot of bands these days would faint at doing a 1/4 of a gig that length but hey gives you another moan to use.

  • WelshManGrumble

    “a full compliment of gospel singers” being the 3 ladies from his band.

    “Galway GAA shirts” – bizarre didnt see one all night yet couldnt miss the guys in painted faces ( maybe you were one Dave?)

    Fair play it’s your opinion of course but as a casual Prince admirer – I was around for the 80’s stuff – anything after well… – but that was an undeniably fantastic gig.

    You just come across sounding bitter that you didnt get any free hospitality out of it so made some shitty remarks to remind that Prince fella just who’s got the power…..ummm in case you havent worked it out, its him.

    ps – on at 8.05 – off stage at 10.25 – 2hr 20 mins – lot of bands these days would faint at doing a 1/4 of a gig that length but hey gives you another moan to use.

  • You’re right about 3 ladies actually. Not sure why I thought otherwise.

    Journalists don’t get free hospitality at gigs – just a ticket.

    I didn’t make any shitty remarks. I thought it was an undeniably fantastic gig. That doesn’t mean I can’t make some mildly negative observations. You’re being far too sensitive about an overwhelmingly positive review.

  • You’re right about 3 ladies actually. Not sure why I thought otherwise.

    Journalists don’t get free hospitality at gigs – just a ticket.

    I didn’t make any shitty remarks. I thought it was an undeniably fantastic gig. That doesn’t mean I can’t make some mildly negative observations. You’re being far too sensitive about an overwhelmingly positive review.

  • Kah_ie

    what was there to be ironic about? it was a prince gig and he performed his songs, where does the irony come in to that?

  • Minibarblues

    Great Gig, was at the front, but he does have autocue on standby too, nowt wrong with that, as do many artists these days, seems to be a 50yr old and over thing 😉 and being a U2 fan also, yeah i can imagine them putting everything into such a performance too, i’ve been to many..

  • Deirdre

    Actually he played for nearly 2 and a half hours, Niall is in fact correct.

  • barney rock

    dave what are you like…was an amazing nite..start to finish,wasnt a big fan of prince before ,brought the girlfriend,best evening weve had in ages…,the venue, the crowd ,the trainsport, most importantly the performence ,up there in my top 3 gigs…10 outa 10…

  • lucyj23

    dave u buzz kill …bet u where there on your own tapping your foot hands in your pocket, flicking your flange hahaha ” i remember my first concert”!!!

  • I’ll take evens on those last two being the same person…. Patrick?

  • I’ll take evens on those last two being the same person…. Patrick?

  • Bmaque

    I doubt very much that Prince uses auto-que and I also doubt it is commonly used but i wont bother arguing with you on that point. U2 have become slaves to the ‘show’ and a massive part of what they do involves hiding behind technology and trickery. U2 once strutted the live arena like gods; nowdays they are half-way to Las vegas. They are genius at turning a dollar and spinning it like they are doing you a favour, I will give them that much. The whole 360 concept was sold as a enhanced entertainment concept when it was actuallly a cynical way to cram as many punters into a big arena as possible. As a former fan i just cannot comprehend why so many people still stay loyal to them. They have become precisely the kind of band they swore they’d never be; producing music that is so beneth what they did at their peak it’s untrue; gorging on corporate sponsorship (“we will never be like the stones doing large tours with corporate branding”)…um ‘blackberry loves U2, U2 loves blackberry’ anyone? and putting on the kind of lazy, auto-pilot show that is completely reliant on sequencers, samplers and trickery of all sorts. What prince gives you is zero complaceny and dedication to his craft. There was no fat on that performance; it was magnificat. At various times he played guitar, bass, piano and synthisyser effortlessly and without gimmick. He talks and signalls his band throughout and they react in a fluid way to his direction. I saw him 20 years ago in europe and as brilliant as he was then, he has actually got better. U2 are not in terminal decline, they are already plateauing at the bottom.