Who
doesn’t like Prince, the tiny American pop star with a gigantic reputation?
Sadly, some friends

Lianne Le Havas. Prince played at her house

visiting London recently didn’t fancy Prince enough to wait
in the queue outside a small venue with me in London’s Camden as we chanced upon it a few weeks ago.
Admittedly it was a long queue but the prize would have been sensational:
getting up close to see one of the world’s greatest showmen do his stuff, with
no doubt some incredible Prince-style blues thrown in, as part of an audience
of just 300 people.

While I was up for
standing in line for a sporting chance of witnessing Prince’s first secret gig
in the UK, I was outvoted, three to one. And, since we live in a democracy, I
missed out. It’s taken a few weeks to sink in but it suddenly occurred to me:
do Prince’s fellow Americans know what he’s up to this side of the pond?
If not,
let me tell you. Prince is popping up all
over the place, doing what he calls guerrilla gigs, showcasing his new album “Plectrum
Electrum”. Some gigs have been announced, some have not.
For example, after the
gig I missed in Camden, Prince played a set in his friend’s living-room in
Leyton, a humble area in London’s East End. Prince’s friend was 24-year-old Lianne La Havas, an English folk and soul singer, and
just a few journalists were invited. One was BBC radio’s Matt Everitt, who wrote
a post afterwards saying, “He doesn’t like being recorded during interviews. He
doesn’t want to speak into the mike, and there were no photos allowed in the
house. Prince doesn’t sleep much. He’d (just) appeared at a club in New York to
launch the single “Pretzelbodylogic” at 2am then flown to the UK. It’s Purple
Rain’s 30th anniversary this year but

Prince in  the UK in January . He’s just appeared again

Prince wasn’t even aware of
that. He looked surprised to be told about it and was not that interested in
looking back at the making of the record. He likes tea. With lots of Manuka
honey.”

Manuka
honey, incidentally is an overly expensive honey from New Zealand that’s
supposed to be extremely good for you. I polished off a jar of my sister-in-law’s
not long ago (at her request), but didn’t feel any healthier and have to admit
to preferring clover honey at a fraction of the price.
Apart
from liking anti-bacterial honey, Prince has since being appearing here in what
he calls his “Hit & Run” tour. Last Monday, he played Ronnie Scott’s jazz
club in Soho, with his new all-girl band, 3rdEyeGirl, before an adoring crowd
that included the singers Adele and Rita Ora and supermodels Kate Moss and
Carla Delevingne, as well as host of British celebrities you probably haven’t
heard of like Stephen Fry and James Corden.  
On
Friday (21 Feb) Prince appeared to a packed house in Manchester. Unlike his
secret London gigs, tickets to the 2,600-capacity venue  were sold online for £70 each and snapped up
within seconds, quickly selling on the black market for a £1,000.
The
same thing happened for the little maestro’s second Manchester gig on Saturday
(22 Feb). Naturally, both gigs were raging successes with Prince arriving 30
minutes early on Saturday, playing 30 songs over more than three hours and performing
six encores.
What
a trouper! Not bad for a 55-year old. They say the way he struts, spins and
rages across the stage channels Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.
I’d prefer to think Prince channels Charlie Patton, the original guitar showman
who performed between 1915 and 1934. Charlie, who played delta and country
blues, pop songs and gospel, was slight and tiny too. The late musicologist
Robert Palmer once said Charlie Patton was one of the most important American
musicians of the twentieth century. No doubt they’ll be saying something similar
about Prince in years to come.
So
where will His Purpleness be appearing next? Millions of Britons are
desperately watching Prince’s twitter feeds, this very moment, for clues.
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