It was arguably the most coveted show in SXSW history. Prince played out SXSW at La Zona Rosa.
Unlike previous shows during the week at Stubbs, those not fortunate to secure a wristband were not allowed entry to the packed out venue of 1300 strong punters.
Wristband holders formed a long queue outside the venue, some as early 7pm, and finally gained access to the venue at 10pm. The street was blockaded and extra police were assigned to the event.
Upon entry, corporate marketing was in full force with Samsung insignia projected onto the screen on the stage and Samsung representatives asking audience members whether they wanted a photo to remember the event. When Prince received the call to “bring some funk to Austin,” a special stage was designed, in the refurbished La Zona Rosa. Photos were banned and those caught taking photos were warned they would be escorted out of the venue.
A Tribe Called Quest, took to the stage an hour later than originally scheduled, with original members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Jarobi White out front on mikes, and Ali Shaheed Muhammed on decks.
Opening with “Steve Biko (Stir it up)” the crowd was transfixed from the outset. All three members’ timing and rapping were impeccable. This is hip-hop at its finest. “Oh my God” followed, then “Excursions”, “Butter” and “Buggin’ Out”.
Mid set Q-Tip stops the song, and says to the crowd “I gotta feel y’all” to screams and applause from the crowd. Tribe know how to get the crowd revved up and do this to maximum effect. “They called us last minute to do this” exclaimed Q-Tip. “I was chipping golf balls,” “I was jerking it” from Phife. “Lets quit again for the third time,” says Q-Tip.
“All your fists up. All you cool for school I work in Samsung Wisconsin VIP” Q-Tip takes a dig at the corporate sponsors. “Can I kick it?” asks Q-Tip, “Yes you can” answers the crowd, closing their set with “Can I Kick it.” “Ask me what I’m doing. I’m cleaning the up the stage coz Prince is coming. We love you at this private event. Please don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret” states Q-Tip.
Close to 12.30am, the Prince insignia is projected onto the wall and a female performer with a gold mask appears on stage to signal the entry of the twelve piece brass band through the crowd, some clad in furry hats. The screams intensify as the Purple one appears on stage, in a dark suit, with pink satin shirt, holding a diamante cane. It is jaw-dropping to see Prince so up close, for many used to seeing him look like a speck of dust at stadium shows.
The set focuses heavily on the funk this evening, with Curtis Mayfield’s “We’re a winner” “Jungle Love” and “Cool” an example of the funkier numbers. Popular hit “1999” draws the loudest audience response and the 22 performers who make up the New Power Generation give the show a party atmosphere. Cannons blow purple streamers and confetti into the audience and the various futuristic projections are displayed onto the backdrop. The lighting is spectacular and for most part white light, shows Prince and his performers clearly. Tonight Prince leaves guitar duties to Donna who is offering some impressive guitar chops and drummer John Blackwell is providing the backend and keeping the funk alive. After “Purple Rain” Prince exclaims “I love being a musician. It feels like being a servant to you.”
One of six encores is Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and Prince has yet another costume change. “There’s no curfew. I’m in it for the long haul” offers Prince and outlasts some of the audience members who have left the building. The set is interspersed with trademark Prince Ah Wahs. “Don’t let me hurt you with all the hits I got” Prince warns us.
“Glamorous Life” and “U Got The Look” is performed with aplomb and by this stage there isn’t a still body in the house. Prince is now clad in a waistcoat, and plays piano for one of the slower ballads “Something In the Water (Do Not Compute).”
At 2.40am Prince announces “ They say we’ve got 20 more minutes, do you think you can make it the best 20 minutes of your life?”. Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for me Lately” sees Prince pull up a few girls from the audience to dance with him on stage. “Give it up for N.P.G,” Prince chants and by this stage he’s wearing a furry hat with long ears.
In Prince’s own words “There ain’t no party like a purple party.” Amongst all the incredible shows at this year’s SXSW Prince is the definite highlight. If anyone was to bring the house down in Austin it would be Prince. At 54 he shows the newcomers a thing or two about putting on a gobsmacking show.
The set list:
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough >
We’re a Winner >
I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You) >
I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing
Jungle Love >
The Glamorous Life
Let’s Work >
You Got the Look
Something in the Water (Does Not Compute) >
Act of God >
What Have You Done For Me Lately