In 2007, I read somewhere that Prince said he would never return to UK after his 21 nights at the O2 Arena and Indigo2. This converted me from a great admirer to an almost manic obsessive in my attempts to take in some last views of this amazing talent. Needless to say this was a bit like the “last tour” by The Who and he has returned to the UK since. It’s a well tried marketing trick and I fell for it, in the words of The Who’s song “Won’t get fooled again”, I did. But I never thought I would get to see a Prince concert in such as small venue as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, last Sunday 9th February, having met the amazing George Clinton the night before. I’ve just returned from another 7 hour queuing marathon at Camden’s Koko, an amazing show, featuring Lianne De Havas and Prince continues to play into the night as I revise this post.
For those who are not so aware of the continuous twists and turns of Prince’s career, he has stripped down his big funky band with horns and keyboards and now has a tight all female four-piece rock band called 3rdeyegirl. Prince has always been unusual in the music business, in so far that he runs a meritocracy and truly values diversity within his band lineups. You can read my previous posts on Prince on this blog.
I had some trepidation as I love Prince’s extended jazz funk jams but I need not have worried.
PR, Marketing and Social Media Lessons from Prince
The build up to the first few gigs has some important marketing and PR lessons for all. Prince had gone on the record in saying that his shows would cost no more that $10 when he first arrived in the UK in February. On the day of the Shepherd’s Bush gig an announcement was made that the price would be £70. This produced an unusual social media phenomenon, as two guys from South East London made cardboard placards to remind Prince of his promise and wandered up and down the queue gathering interest. The #10PoundPrince hashtag quickly got picked up on Twitter and, four hours later, Prince had bowed to audience pressure to honour the £10 price. Later on, a press release said that it had always been the intention to lower the price to £10, yet I have a ticket which boldly states £70. Proof positive that people in the internet age will find ways to hold the mirror up to remind you of your promises – in this case a cardboard mirror, accelerated by Twitter ! 🙂 Here’s the two social media revolutionaries in action:
That said, £10 is clearly unsustainable for the smaller to medium sized venues that Prince wants to play and the number of people required to staff such events. Since Shepherd’s Bush, Prince has not played at all this week until Friday and now three shows tonight at Koko. I suspect one of the problems behind the scenes has been either to find venues that would accept low ticket prices or to ‘manage the fans’ expectations’ of a realistic price for an evening of this scale. Prince’s manager Kiran Sharma carefully tested the mood of the fanbase on Thursday with this tweet and reset their expectation in a single move:
The Old Bull and Shepherd’s Bush
Anyway, what was it like? Well, at Shepherd’s Bush, we started with some completely reworked, refried and refunked versions of some classics and a great selection of new material from the forthcoming album. In particular I really enjoyed the slowed down R&B grooves of “Let’s go crazy”, “She’s Always in my hair” and “I could never take the place of ur man” alongside the new material. I’ve often said that Prince is “Jimi Hendrix with better lighting and tuning”, but of course, like Hendrix, he is also an absorber and synthesiser of genres, from James Brown and Little Richard to Wes Montgomery and Kate Bush. He also shares a similar Myers Briggs type with Mr Hendrix, reckoned to be somewhere in the region INFP, although there are many arguments around this. His spiritual Godfather and almost polar MBTI opposite was up the the balcony, Mr George Clinton, who I’d met at a private function the night before. I think this must have given Prince an extra endorphin injection. Check out “She’s always in my hair” slowed down and souled up:
We got a piano segue of a whole string of Prince hits (well, he has got too many of them really :-), from “Diamonds and Pearls”, “How come u don’t call me any more”, “Adore” etc. and “The Beautiful Ones“, which my wife and I chose as our first wedding dance, sending shivers down my spine. We also got an electronica work out using some of Prince’s iconic samples from songs such as “Sign O’ The Times” and an extended jam with a Prince bass solo on “Forever in my life”. The whole set list from Shepherd’s Bush is below.
3 performances on a 1 nite stand – I should Koko!
We got a slightly reduced set tonight as Prince boldly decided to perform 3 shows at 7 pm, 10 pm and 1 am!! It looked like there were some technical issues at the start of the first show as staff ran on and off stage meticulously checking things, with gaffa tape in sight. This meant that the first show had to be reduced in length a little. Prince handled this very well, when people refused to go, saying “Share and share alike” – This man has emotional intelligence oozing out of every pore of his body.
In terms of lessons for anyone else in professional life, what Prince does is to blend absolute control freakery with the ability to change direction at a moment’s notice. The band rehearse a repertoire of 300 songs giving them the flexibility to adapt and jam. I wrote about this in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business”. I was delighted to be able to pass a copy of “The Music of Business” for Prince with his article in it – see this extract and e-mail me for a free copy of the full article at firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, what more can one say? I first wrote this blog, having missed the Prince event in Kings Cross , yet another completely different manifestation of this multi-talented, enigmatic and sometimes frustrating artist – an acoustic evening plus Q&A session and an all-eclectic aftershow. Today I went in search of Prince for further teachings in the art of improvisation and high performance and was rewarded with ticket No 331 and another great performance which makes you feel good to be alive. Prince and I are both 55 and, as he said tonight:
“Music is Medicine“
I have certainly been healed and trained in a masterclass on flexibility, creativity, authenticity, an ecology of the mind and body and much more. Prince is rumoured to be playing Ronnie Scotts Monday 17 Feb and then Manchester at the end of the week.
Coming soon, my Tribute to Prince, to be released on 14 July 14 at an online party on Facebook, music sample available by clicking the picture below:
Postscript: Since then, we have had the Hit and Run Tour Part II – I was compelled to go to see Prince at Manchester, Amsterdam and The Roundhouse . Here’s a personal review of Prince by Julie McNamara including reviews of all the shows.
You must see this band while they are in UK.
About the Author:
Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. E-mail me for a free copy of the Prince chapter – Just send PRINCE to email@example.com or contact direct via +44 (0) 7725 927585.