For a Prince fan who never got to see him in the flesh, it is hard to accept that the chance will never come along. It is nearly four years since the prodigiously talented Purple One died from an accidental overdose. In a year that saw a number of high-profile musicians shuffling off their mortal coil, it was the hardest of all to take.
It was therefore with great trepidation that I entered St David’s Hall on a wet windy night seeking warmth; both physically and spiritually. Would this tribute act sully the memory of one of the greatest artists in the history of pop, rock and funk? I needn’t have worried; The Music of Prince is one of the best tribute acts I have seen. It is clear from the attention to detail, long Prince-esque jams on the end of many of the songs and a set list that can only be put together by an uber-fan, that this is not Prince-by-numbers.
That is not to say that everything was perfect on the night. The first thing to address from the concert was the sound quality. For most of the first half of the show, it was poor. This was not down to the performers on stage but a speaker system or engineering issue. For example, the sound of the saxophone could not be picked out at all – which was a shame because when the sound improved towards the end of the first half, it was clear that the saxophonist was very talented. Another external factor to dampen matters was the choice of venue and I say this as a big fan of St David’s Hall. Music as funky as Prince’s demands dancing and an all-seater venue is less than ideal. This mattered less in the second half as the magic of the interval drink worked its magic on the audience and ensured more people were dancing with abandon in the second half.
Despite these criticisms, the performance still made for an excellent night of entertainment, particularly in the second half when both matters were less of a factor. As well as the hits such as Sign of the Times and Cream that made Prince a global superstar, we had lesser known tracks such as Guitar and Empty Room which went down very well despite being from the lesser-heard parts of the artist’s vast back catalogue.
Key to making these songs come alive was the band who were incredible. They managed this carefully curated trawl through Prince’s catalogue with dexterity and professionalism throughout. Headed up by Jimi Love as Prince, he exemplified everything good about the band the music. His singing, elite-level guitar playing and stage presence made for a very authentic experience.
For Prince fans like myself, that never got to him play live, this is probably the closest we will ever get to the real thing. While that is a source of sorrow and regret, it is also testament to the musicianship of this stellar tribute act.