The Purple One descended on Dubai in typically mysterious fashion. Reminiscent of 2014’s guerrilla gigs around London, where he turned up at small venues at short notice and wowed crowds with two-hour sets filled with hits from the last 35 years, his gig at Pacha was a bit of a conundrum.
This was a fundraiser gig, tickets were sent out once a donation had been made to Autism Rocks. The organisation must have been delighted with the turn out because excitement in the run-up to the show was at fever pitch, and the intimate venue was packed with people eager to get a glimpse of the artist now known as Prince again at close quarters.
Joined by his latest band, the all-female 3RDEYEGIRL, he started with Let’s Go Crazy, the opener from classic album Purple Rain. And crazy we went, and stayed that way for the next two hours. Most of the songs were transformed by the tight band into a slow, groovy funk – with some sublime organ and guitar solos from Prince himself, and lead guitarist Donna Grantis.
With a back catalogue spanning more than three decades, there will always be some songs that don’t make the set list (no Where Doves Cry!) but hearing Prince perform Nothing Compares 2 U (which he wrote for a side project before Sinéad O'Connor made it famous) at touching distance will be more than enough for most fans.
With a strict no-cameras policy, the heavies at either side of the stage created their own light show by shining torches at people who tried to flout the rules – which caused a slight annoyance from time to time. But to moan about that would be churlish.
We witnessed one of music’s real legends, close-up. A songwriting genius, a virtuoso musician and a born showman, Prince didn’t let the elevator bring us down. His second (and final) encore comprised of a 15-minute Purple Rain, which brought the house down.
Gigs don’t get much better than this.