The purple purveyor of fine funk makes Hop Farm hip
read a live review of Prince at Hop Farm Festival 2011 - Photo by Andy Sturmey

Festival headliners have been heralded from the rooftops this last week. From the mixed receptions afforded to Park Stage gatecrashers Pulp and Radiohead, to the pomp and pageantry of U2 and Coldplay and the glitz and glamour of music’s new first lady, Beyonce, the festival season has suddenly hit main stage lift-off.

There are not many alive that could take the controls and nudge them up a notch further, but that is precisely Prince achieved tonight in his first ever UK festival performance at Kent’s Hop Farm festival.

Some performers seem to operate in a space with scant regard for time, trend and genre and the seemingly ageless Prince is one of those. Dedicated solely to what he repeatedly calls ‘just good music, REAL music’ as he leads a seven strong band of virtuosos through a blinding selection of NPG nuggets and masterful Prince medleys.

Is there another artist alive who could actually make a live version of The Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ sound like their own track?

Starting with a 5 minunte funk jam introduction to his band, a ‘soundcheck’ as Prince called it, he tweaks his musical armoury to perfection live in front of his audience, before a crack of thunder ignites proceedings into a ground shuddering version of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, to which the crowd oblige. Those who like their headliners to dish out a smash-hit set of classics are not disappointed as the opener leads into ‘Delirious’ and ‘1999’, both sung back with the aplomb of an emphatic encore. Was he doing his set backwards? Nothing would surprise us.

‘Little Red Corvette’ douses the crowd in a crimson curtain of nostalgia before a beautiful ‘Nothing Compares 2U’, with backing singers literally soaring through its chorus, is followed with a tongue in cheek apology for ‘nicking’ Sinead O’Conner’s song, which some of the crowd actually believe….until Prince announces that he ‘bought me a house with that song’.

‘Rasberry Beret’ into ‘Cream’ is the only segue that becomes a little ‘Jive Bunny’, but like a cat that got the cream the crowd lap it up. The NPG choir send ‘To Make You Feel My love’ into the sun-setting sky, washing the purple and orange skyline with the synesthetic sound to that colour, before a truly epic ‘Purple Rain’ takes the amassed into utter delirium, teasing us with a genuinely beautiful response invoking repetition of it’s melodius extended coda.

The first of three encores slams in with the lip smacking ‘Kiss’ topped off with the star of the evening shaking his rump, facing away from the crowd before pulling off some rather tidy spins for one decked out in such risky high heels. ‘Controversy’ is Clash’s track of the evening, with its filthy basement club piano bass-line turning into the epitome Prince party-stomper.

He is joined by Sly and the Family Stone’s Larry Graham to turn a furiously funky ‘I Want To take You Higher’ into The Beatles ‘Come Together’ via ‘Play That Funky Music’, as we start to believe that certain artists can actually be so good that it hurts.

He finally relents, spread-eagled atop his purple piano for a disco tinged ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ and ‘Baby I’m a Star’ as the throngs hold out for every last second before bombing off for the midnight trains to wherever.

Baby, tonight we witnessed, a genuine star.

Words by Brian Murnin
Photos by Andy Sturmey

View a gallery from Hop Farm festival 2011 HERE with a dedicated Prince photo gallery HERE.

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