Fast forward to Sunday. After a day of rest on the Saturday from my escapades at King’s Place I decided to keep Sunday free. Legacy friend had already DM’d me to say she would be in the queue with another friend at 9.30am. – yes, you did read AM. Impressed by this enthusiasm from someone who had only seen Prince the previous Sunday, I said I would keep the day free and decide when it arrived. One friend had mentioned dinner on Sunday but I said “not tomorrow, I might be doing something” and another had tentative plans to meet in the afternoon but I put this on hold, even though I was still not fully convinced about getting up so early on a winter’s Sunday morning to queue for something I might not get into, again. (Prince. Part 1).
Sunday arrived and of course I get up early. It’s a sunny, if still cold day, but ideal to stand in a busy street in Camden and while away the hours? Would I last? Could it happen? I got dressed – always a good sign -made a quick stop at The Old Post Office Bakery in Landor Road, jumped on a tube and before you could say Alphabet St. I was in a Prince-fans only lift coming out of Mornington Crescent at around 11am ready to go. I shocked even myself.
Walking over the road to join the already existent queue a young man WITH A PEN said hi and asked me if I was joining the queue. I said yes, he said something about a number. Legacy friend was already there and I quickly joined her and started to talk about my hand number. After much discussion I went to the back of the queue and got the young man to write a number on my hand. This made me feel IMPORTANT and definitely part of SOMETHING HAPPENING. Legacy friend had already met lots of new friends by then so the first part of the day was spent being introduced to some new people who I might have nothing in common with other than wanting to see Prince. The sun was staring right at us, in February, so the cold did not feel cold (at first) and the engaging conversation made the hours – and there were hours – tick by. By engaging conversation I don’t just mean he’s doing 2 shows, I hear he’s doing 3 shows; its £70, no it won’t be, it’ll be £10 like last week. Ronnie Scott’s, not sure? Though we did say all that.
People started talking about other music they liked. Where they went. What they did. Did anyone want a coffee / biscuit / raw vegetable? Sharing seemed the order of the day. (Thankfully the croissants from The Old Post Office went down ok.) I began to learn things. Kingston – Kingston, Surrey, I hasten to add – turns out to have the best live music in town. (I had heard of and on-line once bought from the famous Kingston Banquet Records shop there so was not unaware of it’s reputation, though not as THE live music magnet of London/Surrey/Earth.) Tegan and Sara’s last album – which I had wanted to investigate but hadn’t – IS apparently fab. And yes, apparently One Direction can sing.
Buses went closely by the corner pavement with Top Deck people giving strange looks at the hordes of, let’s face it, a slightly odd crowd of people queuing round the block for something on a Sunday at KOKO. A modern church service? An audition? A job? Perhaps they didn’t know Prince was in town.
Feet started getting cold for some, though luckily Marks and Spencers were around the corner so a ready supply of socks were available, purple of course. A couple who had claimed a space but then went off, with queue-approval, to a can’t-miss parents’ lunch – returned later, very thankful with drinks for all, much appreciated. Meanwhile a vigilant eye was cast on anyone who was going to try and ‘jump in’ the queue by a certain member of the group, and much discussion was had about a stranger who stood by the road and didn’t move for thirty minutes. Who was he, what was he doing? Don’t think you can push in mate! MI5, you are missing out on some very good recruits!
The band’s music kit arriving proved a popular highlight as it was on the side of the road and we could later be seen on the Prince fb page hanging out by the kit with THE SIGN on it (photographed by hundreds of people). I kept looking out for Friday people but only caught the man with the hat as he was walking by.
The day was passing quickly but the sun went down, the feet got colder, and a quick pub lunch was called for. I waltzed round the corner only to be startled at 3pm to see just how many people were prepared to queue up, though one of the things that made this a very hopeful queue was we were near the front and all things being equal WE WOULD GET IN.
Excitement built, especially when at one point we could hear a soundcheck. A photo on someone’s twitter revealed Prince HAD entered the building and a frighteningly friendly and gentle ‘security’ man started to do the rounds. An announcement that it was cash on the door meant a panic for some. The next minute half the queue were at nearby cash machines, probably causing passing bus passengers to think that free money was being given out – I’m sure some people jumped off the bus to join in!
I was still in disbelief. Would I really be seeing Prince all these years later at (as I still call it) the Camden Palace? It appeared definitely possible. Strategic decisions were being calculated i.e stay in the first circle, run down to the stalls, try for the right side of the stage – or left?
The time approached 7pm – the first show – and with excitement overload the doors opened and everyone was checking their cash. We paid at the counter like an old fashioned 6d for the picture house (ok, I remember that, perhaps not the rest of the gang) and whilst moaning that there was no actual ticket to treasure ran olympic-style downstairs to get in the front bit of the stalls.
The gig? Well I can’t tell you too much as I was too enthralled. Ten yards away, who wouldn’t be! Best see the set list. http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/prince/2014/koko-london-england-6bc576be.html though that doesn’t tell you how it felt. 3RDEYEGIRL came on first to rapturous applause and chatted – a polite conversation – to us about no cameras please during the gig, it spoils the connection. I applauded, I didn’t I want to see Prince through someone else’e latest Samsung/ HTC / iphone. Then the man himself came on and they started – started! – with Let’s Go Crazy. No warm up for this band, they were on fire as soon as they got on stage and throughout the whole gig. Fantastic. This band could rock and Prince looked like he was having a ball. The encores? There were several, with the audience NOT wanting to leave, singing a football-like chant and bringing Prince and the band back when even I thought it might be time to go for the exit.
Post-gig it was a still very excited bunch of people in the pub opposite. I bumped into Friday Man with the hat. He had the beamiest smile ever. He had seen a funky, sweaty gig, as he had wanted, not an acoustic session, and gave a graphic account of how him and his mate, family middle-aged men, went to pieces when Prince stood before them.
And me? I had done it – I’d seen him again, after all those years. Thanks, whoever I need to thank!