5 Feb 2014

I was at Prince’s secret gig in Camden

We chased after Prince all day – then we eventually found him in the Electric Ballroom in Camden and it was amazing…

Prince pictures courtesy of stephenbudd

(Picture courtesy of @stephenbudd – who is obviously a stealthier photographer than me as he didn’t nearly get his phone confiscated).

It began with a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise at 10.30pm last night.

“Have you been chasing Prince around all day? He’s in the Electric Ballroom in Camden – you should go. Right now.”

It was Maureen calling – one of the Prince super-fans I’d been talking to earlier about hunting down the man, the legend, the symbol, all day. She knows her Prince gossip. So I went – right then.

There were perhaps 20 people standing in the queue in the rain when I arrived ten minutes later.

Take me in with you. I’ll do anything. One Prince fan

“I’m a journalist – is this the queue for Prince?” I asked the security guard. “Yes,” he replied. The 20 super-fans went wild. So did Twitter.

“Take me in with you. I’ll do anything,” one promised with a wild look in his eyes. Then more fans arrived, and more. Tube strike or no, rain or no – if Prince calls, they come.

But aren’t you a bit cheesed off with the purple one, I asked. He’s been faffing around all day and leading you on – having secret gigs and not letting anyone in, for example.

Most of them just looked at me like I was crazy. “But it’s Prince,” one said.

Robin Lee said it would be worth it: “He’s been giving everyone the run around…now here I am in the rain with my pyjamas on.

“If you go and see him it’s one of the best moments of your life, ever.”

And was it? Well, that’s a big call but when we finally got in, it was absolutely mind blowing – huge sounds, amazing showmanship and the tiny icon himself, clad in black leather, feathers and fur, metres away. A bona fide superstar.

And he was loving it too, variously telling the crowd to love one another, to value the power of music as a painkiller, to always be funky, and praising their spirit: “You sound like 10,000!”

With his band, 3rdeyegirl, he blistered through songs including I Like It There as well as material from the new record Plectrum Electrum – and even a bit of Play That Funky Music.

“We like you!” cried one audience member. “You’re not so bad yourself,” replied Prince. Needless to say, the crowd was going wild. I’ve never heard so many grown men warn that they are about to faint with excitement.

High Prince of pop

“Someone’s gonna get pregnant tonight!” the star shouted – a bit disconcertingly – about halfway through, fondling the purple symbol attached to his mic. Some of the aforementioned men would probably have volunteered if they could.

To be fair, it’s not surprising they were excited – after one song, Prince leaned down into the audience and actually gave his guitar to a fan.

One massive shame – as others, including @stephenbudd on Twitter, pointed out – was how quiet it was at first. Barely 50 people were in for the first few songs. Amazing for those in there of course – but there must have been hundreds queuing by then. Apparently at recent gigs in the US in small, down and dirty venues like this, ticket prices have been so high that some fans say they haven’t filled up – although the rumour is that Prince won’t make that mistake again, with one report suggesting he would charge around $10 (£6) for tickets to his London shows.

Luckily, after a couple of songs, the management opened the doors and more people got to catch a glimpse – for one night only, for the lucky few – of one of the world’s greatest pop stars, for free.

So thanks Maureen – and good luck Prince super-fans. He’s back tonight at the Electric Ballroom, and I think he said all week, although I might have been delirious by then. And of course he isn’t giving anything away – don’t be silly.

Watch below: the Channel 4 News report by Boya Dee from our show last night – before we found Prince