Maybe I'm just a grumpy old man who got it all wrong, that possibility certainly exists. Maybe I've just seen too many Prince gigs since my debut in 1987 and maybe I've got too many great Prince live memories to compare with. Afterwards I talked to a few girls who said it had been amazing and everything they'd hoped for. I don't know, it wasn't what I'd hoped for anyway. Actually, honestly it was the worst Prince gig I've ever seen, if I try to look at the entire gig objectively. Anyway, why am I so displeased with the concert then? Well, read on and see.
Because of the tragic happenings in Oslo only 11 days earlier, security was very tight around the venue. Worst thing about that was the restriction only allowing you to buy one beer at a time inside the venue. But given the Norwegian prices, there's a chance you wouldn't have had enough money to pay for the second beer anyway.
Oslo Spektrum is an old concrete building but for most parts of the gig the sound was fairly good. Not too muddy and exactly loud enough, which would change later of course. The crowd was excellent. People were really into it, all the way from the floor and up to the seats near the roof of the building. It all began rather unusual with "Purple Rain" and glitter falling from the ceiling. A rather odd choice for an opener, but it kinda worked alright.
Prince was in a dance mood which is mighty fine when he does so himself, and he sure did in "Kiss" where he danced just as crazy as he did in the eighties. It is however not so great when members of the audience are invited to dance on the stage. Not for a song or two this time. Nope. This time they danced up there for half of the nearly 2 and half hour long gig. I really didn't pay to see other fans dance, and while I understand that he wanted to do something special for the people of Oslo, I generally felt it ruined much of the gig, even if one audience member did a fine dance for "The Bird."
When Prince played his "sampler set" you couldn't see Prince for dancing audience members on stage. The sampler set is kinda annoying in itself, but if you can't even see Prince, it is almost a waste of time. Furthermore they blasted up the volume during this session to a ridiculous level where the sound was just plain annoying and not very enjoyable. No reason to do that, when the sound had been fine until then.
Maceo Parker joined the party on sax as special guest on several songs and he behaved this time. He didn't try to steal the spotlight like he's done in the past and he did well. So did Ida on bass. Great to see Danish girl Ida funkin' it up with such authority on the stage. She has surely gained a lot of confidence since her NPG debut last year. Bad thing however, was that many of the musicians were more or less "hidden" behind a "fence" of light effects that reminded me of a stage setup you would perhaps expect at a concert with an industrial band. It created a distance between musicians and the audience. Not a particularly clever design in my opinion. I could have sworn I met Larry Graham in a nearby street earlier in the day. But maybe it was only his twin brother or a clone or just my imagination playing tricks on me.
Highlights of the evening were "Crimson and Clover", "Mountains", "If I Was Your Girlfriend", "Raspberry Beret" and "Cool". When Prince and The NPG focus on the music they are an amazing band. I wish they'd try to focus for an entire gig.
Andy Allo sang on a couple of songs and I wasn't too impressed. Her voice is nothing special in my opinion and we already have Shelby singing on several songs. What I really came for was to hear Prince sing. Furthermore I'm still not convinced that Andy can actually play guitar. She carries a guitar around for most of the gig, but it's hard to figure out why exactly. Maybe Prince and herself figured out it looks cool on stage? Please don't expect any guitar of Wendy Melvoin quality coming from it though, it just ain't gonna happen.
Near the end we had Shelby, Andy and even Ida all singing on "Make You feel My Love". After that it all ended with "Gold" and gold glitter raining down from the ceiling. Much of the crowd stayed for more than half an hour after the band had left the stage. We wanted to make sure he didn't do one of his famous late stage returns.
When I figured out he wouldn't return, it was time to visit the official after party at the nearby Rockefeller club. I spent a fortune on a few drinks and nailed myself to the floor in front of the venue's small stage. After a short while a girl working for the club came and very discretely unplugged the stage monitors. When I asked her why, she told me that Prince had chosen not to come and play tonight. I then explored the upper levels of the rather cool venue and I spent a second fortune on more booze and then I decided to go home to my hotel room and try to explain why I wasn't very pleased with this evening's Oslo show.
Perhaps things will improve tonight when Prince and the band play Oslo Spektrum again? I'll be there to witness if they do.
- Prince - whatever
- John Blackwell - drums
- Cassandra O'Neal - keyboards
- Morris Hayes - keyboards
- Ida Nielsen - bass
- Shelby J. - vox
- Andy Allo - vox (guitar)
- Maceo Parker - sax