Live Review: Prince - Rod Laver Arena

15 May 2012 | 3:10 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

More Prince More Prince

There are Prince classics blaring from open car windows in the ridiculously long car-park queue that stretches right down to the Yarra. Punters in purple suits share their excitement on the lawn and there are tambourines and raspberry berets for sale at the merch stand. Gold.

Inside the arena, many early arrivers have their phones out and there's lively comparing of notes as to where Prince's late night aftershow jam will take place (after Sydneysiders were treated to a 2am set at the Ivy Ballroom featuring guest spots by Seal and Flavor Flav). The houselights are dimmed and the crowd goes gangbusters. The houselights come back on. A false start. Mexican waves are initiated to sustain the vibe. Aftershow jam details fall into place and we're frothing: Club 23, doors open 11.30pm, Prince onstage 1am.

Rumbling, ominous thunder and lightning sound effects fill the darkening arena. The Love Symbol, which is immortalised via Prince's stage perimeter, really looks like the outline of an erect phallus. Rising up through a trapdoor in the middle of the stage, a solo acoustic guitarist strums Purple Rain. A dancer is illuminated at the tip of the Symbol and strides purposefully towards him. From the moment Prince appears, we need earplugs. “What you wanna do with me tonight?” he enquires cheekily. Stalking the entire stage area, Prince conducts his “choir” (us) and, that's right, we are his parishioners. Let's Go Crazy is an understatement and the pair of flapper dancers Prince calls “the twins” are insane. This track morphs into Delirious and then back again. His Royal Purpleness is the master of the spin – what a centre of gravity he must have! The concluding …Crazy guitar solo perfectly showcases Prince's axe skills as he strokes the fretboard like it's a delicate (purple) flower, a peony perhaps? And the drums and percussion bitch-slap us. Prince's bling is blinding and shines down at us from the giant screens.

We're treated to Cream and it's no wonder those background vocalists need to fan themselves! During the song, Prince jokes (or does he?) that he penned this “while looking in the mirror”. A rendition of Michael Jackson's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough would have the late artist moon walking in his grave. This is not a concert – it's a party! “I wish I had a bigger booty,” bemoans Prince (twice throughout the show). When Doves Cry is performed solo, at a magic piano, and segues into Nasty Girl (Vanity 6). What!? Martika's Love...Thy Will Be Done! Oh, that's right: Prince wrote it! “In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name” – the Sign “O” The Times sing-along is deafening. Beyoncé's Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) gets thrown in before Prince humorously brings it to a halt, “Wait a minute, I didn't write that!” Kiss is marred by a Prince-led, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!”/”Oi! Oi! Oi!” call and response, but the song's conclusion – Prince busting out solo dance moves, THAT guitar riff, blackout – is pure genius. There are flags and glitter (purple, of course) during Purple Rain and a neighbour in the crowd sobs openly. “Is this the jam of the year?” Hell, yes! Peach is perfection.

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House lights on. What's this? Prince fanatics are having none of it. This was the first advertised show and it sold out in milliseconds! The band arrive back onstage, but still we must wait. After what seems like an eternity, If I Was Your Girlfriend delivers us the most commanding vertically challenged man on the world stage. Prince doesn't compromise on any element of his show – even throwing his axe out, which causes a ruckus in the premium Purple section that comprises bar stools around circular tables.

We scale the stairs as slowly as possible in case of another encore while checking phones for updates on our aftershow entertainment. It's a collective trough moment once news of the jam's cancellation is shared. Now what are we gonna do with all that post-best-show-ever adrenaline? Sell everything you've got to experience Prince's Welcome 2 Australia tour. And bring extra coin for extravagant merch.