Current mood: flirty
In 2007 Sean Fisher and Jamillah Ross traveled in Europe from London England to Morocco in Africa. The following is an excerpt from Sean Fisher’s personal journal of this one-month journey.
September 12, 2007
In September of this year (2007) Prince played 21 sold out dates at London’s O2 arena, which holds 20,000 people. That means he played to 420,000 people for this engagement alone. That is a ridiculously high number and it is a testament to how much more popular Prince is in Europe as compared to North America. I’m trying to imagine Prince accomplishing the same thing anywhere in North America.
In addition to this, Prince also held an after party every single night in a smaller venue next to the O2 called the Indigo2. Jamillah and I were unable to get tickets to the concerts but we did manage to buy tickets for two nights of the after party shows. There was no guarantee that Prince would play at these shows so it was a gamble. But it was a risk I was willing to take since I have been a huge fan since someone dragged me to see Purple Rain when I was younger. Since then I have seen him six times in concert.
We took the tube to the O2. It really didn’t take very long to get there. When we arrived at this spectacular building (made famous from the opening scene of the James Bond film The World is Not Enough) we noticed a huge security presence. I could see how it would be difficult for someone to scalp tickets. In fact, this is not a word the Europeans seem to know.
We quickly got our tickets and then we stood in this long line at about 11:00 PM outside the Indigo2. Thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life were streaming out of the concert.
We waited outside of Indigo2 for almost two hours. When we finally got in people immediately went right up to the front of the stage. It is about a 600-person venue with a V.I.P. balcony. After another long wait the lights went out and the crowd went wild. The curtains opened and Prince wasn’t there. Immediately you could feel the mood in the room drop to disappointment. The only members of the NPG were the horn section. The saxophone player led the band and tried, with great difficulty, to get the mood of the audience back up.
The musicians playing were an assortment of local London soul and jazz musicians who Prince had hand picked. In any other situation I would have been thrilled to see this group of great musicians play. Jamillah and I sang and danced to the extended jams of soul classics. I started to get a bad feeling when the V.I.P. section started to trickle out. And then I noticed the guests who were coming on to sing were dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Finally the saxophone player apologized that the purple one wasn’t there and Jam and I made a beeline for the door.
It was now 2:30 AM. And the O2 is in the middle of nowhere – miles and miles from Hyde Park Square where we were staying. We were confused, disappointed, tired and lost. We left the building and wandered aimlessly into the night, across a parking lot, and finally to a highway where miraculously we hailed a cab immediately.
The long ride home was 40 pounds. I started to do the math of how much this wild goose chase was costing. We would have better luck tomorrow night.
September 13, 2007
We started getting ready for what we hoped would really be a Prince show this time. We got on the tube again and we were quickly at the O2. This time we figured out where the taxi cue was. Inside we had to line-up to get our tickets. By the time we got the tickets the ticket holders line had already started moving in. A good sign. No delays like last night.
Inside the Indigo2 we positioned ourselves with our backs against a pillar to avoid the crush at the front of the stage. Something felt slightly different about the energy of the room. The VIP section was fuller and one of the sound guys came out of the curtain with a guitar to do the sound check – something that didn’t happen the night before. We still had to stand for a really long time before the show started and my feet were killing me. People kept encroaching on our space and we had to keep defending it from drunk and belligerent Europeans.
And then the curtain opened and immediately you knew this was a different show. A keyboardist was playing a long flourish from one of Prince’s new songs from the album Planet Earth. And then Prince himself appeared with his guitar playing a new version of “Around the World in a Day”. The next song was “Beautiful Strange”, an unreleased song with haunting and subtle guitar work. A drunk Australian, who just minutes before had fallen on the floor, kept talking to me during this song. Why? I don’t know. I couldn’t even understand what he was saying. Jamillah finally started screaming whenever he spoke and then I decided we should just move forward and stop leaning on our pillar, Obviously his strategy was to make us leave so he could drunkenly lean against something. But this was not a show where you wanted to lean against a wall anyway.
However, as we got closer to the stage there were two other guys who decided that this was the best time for them to have a really loud conversation. I was thinking, the best band in the world is playing, and this is the best musician in the world – and you’re HAVING A CONVERSATION?
Prince started the set off slowly, but then he kicked it into high gear with Partyup from Dirty Mind. Both Jamillah and I were dancing and singing. A woman next to me told me I had a nice voice. Some tough-looking Irish guys behind us just kept yelling “FUCKING LEGEND! FUCKING LEGEND!”
Prince played 7 and The One mixed with The Question of U. He also played a lot of covers. This is what was great about this show. You are not just seeing him playing his greatest hits, you are seeing him just mess around playing obscure songs of his and some of his favorite songs by other artists. For instance, he played Falling In and Out of Love by Alicia Keyes, Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin, and a twenty-minute jam of Come Together by The Beatles. In fact, when he played Come Together I felt like I never had to see a concert again. I remember he played Whole Lotta Love in Toronto last time I saw him. He also did some old soul classics by Aretha Franklin. His back up singers were great too and took centre stage a couple of times. Shelby J sang Misty Blue, rivaling even Mary J Blige’s version.
Prince was directing the band during all of this, occasionally changing instruments. He was so moved by Misty Blue that at one point he flung himself onto a big pile of pillows. I didn’t understand what the pillows were for until that moment. This guy has 100 per cent emotional commitment to the music.
This is one of the best shows I have ever seen. By the end it was his strongest supporters that had moved up closer and I didn’t have to worry about people talking into my ear anymore.
The last song was about a twenty-minute version of Musicology. Prince brought up a whole bunch of people from the audience to dance on stage with him. It was so late at this point he made a joke about us all having pancakes. Despite Prince’s seriously odd persona, it is great to see him just up there having a blast. This guy really knows how to lead a great party. The band slowly left the stage one by one till it was just the horn section slowly moving off the stage.
It was worth every penny. My shirt was drenched in sweat and I was on a high, but that didn’t solve the problem that once again we were stranded in London at 3:00 in the morning.
We went to the taxi queue. But all that was there was a huge line and no taxis. I even tried calling a bunch of taxis but they were all busy or wouldn’t come out this far.
Finally we decided that we would do what we did the night before. So we went out to the highway. Except it was deserted and all the cabs that went by were full. Jamillah started to get upset.
Suddenly this guy came up to us and asked us if we could split the taxi with him. He seemed all right so we said yes. Suddenly a cab appeared and we all piled in and chatted with this guy.
It turns out he is a rock journalist who has actually interviewed Prince at Paisley Park. He was a wealth of information and was a bigger Prince freak than even me, if you can believe it. I think he must have been pretty wealthy because he was seeing almost all of the 21 concerts and after shows. Tonight Elton John was the guest at the main show (dammit!).
I would have loved to have heard the hits as well, but for years I have heard about these after shows and it was a real treat to hear him let loose and improvise with his band.
Anyway, this reporter knew quite a lot and we exchanged theories about why Prince is so much more popular in Europe than he is in North America. His theory is that Hip Hop never became as big in Europe so the Europeans are still into the old school funk and pop. Our taxi ride took us past Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. Amazingly he paid for our entire 40-pound cab ride. By the time we got to bed it was 4:00 AM. We had only two hours to sleep before getting up to go under the Chunnel. I didn’t care though. This was one of the best days of my life.
Copyright 2007 Sean Fisher
The After Party Prince Concert in London England, Sept. 13,2007 Indigo2
Tuesday, October 30, 2007