3RDEYEGIRL & Prince - Live at the Electric Ballroom - My Day

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If you follow my twitter account you'd have noticed a certain theme over the last three days or so, a very Prince related theme. Since the announcement was made that a certain Mr Nelson and his new band 3rdeyegirl were heading to London to play a series of dates in advance of his latest, their debut album Plectrum Electrum I've been checking various news outlets, twitter accounts and Prince fan site constantly. And I mean constantly. Like worrying for my job levels of constantly.

Prince and I go way-back (well it's one way really). He was/is my first true musical discovery after Brit-Pop. I was obsessive in my listening to Prince during sixth-form / university and whilst over the past few years I've let that wain in favour of the acts you see posted here on a daily basis he is still my favourite artist alive (if Freddie and Queen were still here, perhaps he'd be in a fight for that title). Who did I see seven times over the space of a month at one of my least favourite venues in London the O2? Prince. Who was my first gig in London whilst I was still a midlands-based student in 2002? Prince. Who was my first main-land continental gig? Prince. Whose had me sleeping outside train stations, getting cabs across London in the hope of getting into aftershows and parties? yes, you guessed it, Prince. (It worked, I got to 'talk' with Prince in the VIP area of a sleazy Soho nightclub in 2002 and saw an incredible aftershow at Islington Academy (then the New Marquee). I could go on.

The latest bout of hardcore obsession started properly on Monday, the day when the tour was announced to start, yet the day came and went with no news, Tuesday saw the press conference finally happen (I don't think I need to go into the Lianne' La Havas house story) at around 7pm but we didn't actually hear any news from it apart from that Prince likes ping pong. That's awesome of course but it's not news of a tour. Then at around half ten at night bang, twitter explodes with news that Prince is playing the Electric Ballroom for an 'open soundcheck'. My heart races, what the hell is an open soundcheck? Can I get in? Can I be bothered to try and get there from my computer chair? The decision was to stay in my lounge pants and live the moment through twitter, I think I made the right choice, a press only start saw 'fans' enter for a four track set, I'm not sure that would have sufficiently satisfied me and would have perhaps changed the course of what was to come the next day.

Wednesday started as a normal day, I went to work and looked around. Rumours were rife about a repeat show at the Electric Ballroom. My productivity was at an all time low as I constantly refreshed pages to sources in the hope of being first to find something concrete and grab a ticket. The show became official news soon after, we knew Prince would be playing at the venue again but we didn't know how we could make sure we were there... At about half eleven again rumours spread like wildfire via Twitter about tickets going on sale from the venue at 2pm. It kind of made sense, it was too late in the day now for a Ticketmaster sale. I decided to risk it, shortly after midday I downed tools and ran for the station phone in hand and jumped on a train. I walked up to Camden from St Pancras ignoring potential tube problems and arrived at the venue just before 1pm. I headed straight for the queue and landed myself just outside Camden Town Market. I'd estimate at that time I was around 80th in line. Then came the toughest hour of the day.

There was no news at hand or concrete information to go on, the entirety of the queue seemingly checking their phones for the slightest whiff of information. The last thing anyone standing in the February chill wanted was for tickets to go on-sale online and their efforts made all in vein. At this time it was a little quiet and time went slowly, I started chatting with the guy next to me about his take on the story but he too, seemingly knew very little and came to Camden chasing down whispers. To make matters worse the rain was pretty heavy at this time, fine persistent rain that annoys you, the drilling from the nearby road-works did little to aid the mood.

It stayed that way until 2pm, the time when we hoped tickets would be coming on sale. A couple of security guys turned up and one of them slowly walked down the line and answered a few questions. The official, non-official line was this was the queue to enter the venue at 7pm. No advance tickets but if we were willing to wait, a Prince show would be ours for just £10. A couple near me with a buggy left shortly after, a few people who were probably taking extended lunches also departed with a further five hours of queuing not an option. I made the decision quickly, it was a no-brainer really. I could get the train back to work and hope I could get back later or wait, I decided to wait.

Soon after group mentality kicked in and a bunch of strangers brought together by a common goal; to see Prince started talking and then we began to take it in turns looking out for each other whilst one of us needed to go to the toilet (there was a nearby pub whom I'm sure weren't too happy about the number of people walking in and out to use their facilities!). It's possibly the perverse nature of the committed fan-boy I am but I can honestly say I enjoyed the next five hours standing outside in the cold and talking about Prince, it's not often you get chance to do just that without having something else to do. Right now though, we literally had nothing else.

The rain wasn't so bad either and when the heavens did attempt to open at about 4pm we were quickly given a free umbrella. Fair play to the marketing department at Zoopla who quickly put two and two together and hunted out their boxes of purple umbrellas from storage to hand out to the front of the queue - the see of purple looked great.

Beers were in full flow by now and that certainly helped to take the edge off the cold as the fleeting visit of sun was followed by the outset of evening, it wasn't until around six pm that it started getting noticeably busier. A tourist asked the best question of the day to us at around this point. "Is this the queue for the bus?". The queue in front had swelled and all of a sudden we were possibly 150 back. Some of the difference was people returning to the queue or friends joining sole survivours after work, not all bosses take too kindly to you walking out of the office with no notice and some were chancers who jumped in. This got to be a more serious problem just before doors opening time. I was hoping security would hand out raffle tickets or something similar so you knew you were getting in and I actually asked them that question earlier in the day, the response was they would have more security guards in place by the time they would be needed. Unfortunately that didn't quite happen and lots of people took advantage of the lack of barriers to push in just before 7pm.

When seven pm came I was pretty surprised that the shutters on the venue opened not long after, a guest-list line had appeared from nowhere spanning in the other direction and then suddenly security moved the queue from one side of the road to the other now the shops nearby had shut - it caused mayhem and a surge of people rushing forward, on a personal note it didn't cause much problem as I reacted quickly enough but I've read some horrible stories about trampling occurring, it's a shame not everyone is quite the same as the great bunch of people I'd had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with.

Soon we were inside, a quick toilet and bar stop later we were at the front, about four rows back and in a perfect spot for the gig to come. At that time we didn't know there would be in fact two shows that evening and I was anticipated a long wait until the show started. In fact it wasn't long at all, shortly after 8pm 3rdeyegirl's latest single "Pretzelbodylogic" started firing out of the PA soon followed by the three girls, Donna, Ida and Hannah and then Prince himself, it caught the crowd a little unawares at first but soon the expected hysteria started. A level which only increased with the opening of "Let's Go Crazy". A re-worked version I'd previously heard from a teaser video, it sounded incredible and to be standing about ten feet away from Prince and seeing his facial expressions only made the experience the more rewarding.

The set progressed with track after track of rock-heavy beats that satisfied every single inch of me. I'd earlier said I was desperate to see a Prince rock show and now here I was being treated to one, Donna Grantis on electric guitar especially impressive dueling with Prince with her metal-inspired riffs and wide-eyed stares into the audience. "She's Always In My Hair", a track that's long been a favourite of mine and a slowed down version of "I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man" both bringing instant goosebumps. The best was still to come. An album track from 1999 "Something In The Water" starts with Prince on piano before he moves to more tradition place front, centre to bring a stadium-esque rallying call of the chorus, the crowd are quick to react. It almost feels as if you've been transferred into the set of the Purple Rain movie. I'm in heaven.

Prince changed to conductor during the 3rdeyegirl song "FixUrLifeUp", standing at the side of the stage orchestrating this tight, three piece band. An instrumental closed the main set (both sets started almost identical) before the band returned for a beastly version of the underrated "Chaos & Disorder", noisy, rhythmic heaven. The band disappear again and the house lights come on but those with experience of the 21 Nights shows will know that with this being Prince, lights means nothing and sure enough a good five minutes later the band return again and get straight into the phenomenal "Bambi", "it's better with a man" the well known chorus cries go but seeing Prince backed by this incredible band instantly calls that into doubt. 3rdeyegirl have definitely breathed new life into Prince (55 and looking younger than ever) and a creative Prince is an incredible sight, one I'm delighted to have seen in such intimate surroundings. Would I do it all again? You betcha!

Prince and 3rdeyegirl are reported to have begun a UK tour / London residency, I don't know the facts, what I do know is that whatever comes next, I'm going to be there for the ride. Unmissable.