February 5, 2014 2:45
Prince plays secret 'open soundcheck' show at London's Electric Ballroom – eyewitness report
Hour-long performance showcases 3rd Eye Girl band ahead of Wednesday's full gig
Described as an “open soundcheck”, the performance was announced following a clandestine ‘press conference’ at the home of east London-based singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas, who was in attendance at the venue.
News of the secret show broke from the Twitter account of Prince's manager Kiran Sharma, and – despite the tube strike – fans responded quickly, piling from buses and taxis into the queue, where the main topic of conversation was when – and if – Prince would appear onstage. The most popular rumour was 3am.
It began, instead, at midnight. The first part of the show was for press and guests only, meaning Prince and his three-piece band 3rd Eye Girl (pictured in 2013) were initially playing to a small, but very vocal, audience. Taking to the stage in a fur gilet, heavy chains and sunglasses, Prince told the crowd, “Y’all don’t look like press to me,” before striking up the first song. Members of Mumford & Sons were present, including banjo player Winston Marshall who danced against the barrier throughout. The meaning of an “open soundcheck” quickly became apparent – though delivering a precise performance with plenty of interaction with the audiences, Prince frequently signalled to his sound engineers to change the levels on his guitar and vocals while playing.
The loose set, largely comprising new material, included ‘Guitar’ – during which Prince tossed his shades at a waiting technician – ‘Plectrum Electrum’, ‘PretzelBodyLogic’ and ‘Funk N Roll’.
“We like you!” shouted a heckler at one point. “You’re not so bad yourself,” replied Prince.
After around 30 minutes – and a cover of Wild Cherry’s ‘Funky Music’ – Prince declared, “That was the soundcheck, come back tomorrow for more”, and made off. At this point, the doors were opened to the fans queuing outside.
Quickly returning to the stage, the band played ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’ from 1987’s ‘Sign O The Times’ and a sing-along ‘I Like It Here’. In a third encore, the band concluded with ‘Cause & Effect’, during which Prince declared the mood so sexy “someone’s going to get pregnant tonight.”
Although no more than a couple of hundred people were present, Prince said it felt like “10,000”. He exited at 1am telling the crowd, “We will be here tomorrow, a bit earlier and a lot funkier.”
After the show, La Havas described her day as “unforgettable – an amazing day". Fans Sam Bysh and Kate Moon Martyr, who had queued outside, said the show was “unbelievable” and “beautiful”.
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