Prince: leaving them wanting their money back
Upon arriving in the UK at the beginning of February, pop’s purple son, Prince, held a press conference for all of three journalists. When asked how long he’d be staying for, he responded that his trip was ‘open-ended’ and that he and his band were ‘going to be here until people don’t want to hear us anymore’. Now Prince is back in America – have the fans had enough? Of course not. They’re victims of the appropriately named ‘Hit and Run Tour’, an indulgent string of tiny ‘secret’ gigs Prince recently played on our shores.
At each show, word would get out that Prince may, or may not, be playing at a certain venue and that tickets were, one way or another, available. It all started with news of a possible gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London. Perfectly timed to coincide with the tube strike, hordes of fans spread the news through social media and raced over to the venue. The press and Prince’s personal guests were allowed in sometime around midnight. Eventually, the fans, who had been waiting outside all day (in the rain), were let in for the last three songs of his set, before the diminutive pop star announced he’d return the next day.
This set the template for the tour: mass confusion masquerading as enigma, a publicity machine pretending to be fan service, and a constantly shunned legion of devotees. Even getting a ticket for one of these shows required an extraordinary level of devotion; a willingness to ditch work and stand outside a venue all day in the hope Prince might actually show up that night. Any Prince fan who wasn’t willing ‘2 die 4’ their saviour didn’t have a chance.
Does Prince not realise people have jobs? Maybe not: in a recent interview he remembered why he first became a musician: ‘When I was 16, I was completely broke, and needed to go get a job. So I got the Yellow Pages out, and I couldn’t find one thing I wanted to do.’ That’s all very well, your royal badness, but don’t most normal people with no money have to get jobs even if, God forbid, they don’t like them?
The most egregious insult was a gig at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. Fans were lining up from six in the morning outside of the famous jazz club, only to discover that at midnight the event was VIP-only, with a ‘star’-studded guest list including Nancy Dell’Olio and Sophie Dahl.
The tour achieved a stunning bathos in Manchester, where a poorly publicised show had 150 unsold tickets. After assuring fans of ‘ten dollar’ tickets last month, the Manchester gig was selling for £70 a head. Prince even had the cheek to ask a second lot of fans £35 to enter during the encore.
Every hype-hounding, media-whoring, piss-poor-promoted moment of this non-event tour was a disgrace.
Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.