5 years ago I witnessed Prince live for the very last time, in Antwerp

Hit And Run Part II Tour (princevault.com)

Welcome to the best night of your life

Prince in Antwerp, May 27th, 2014

Introduction

Following the somewhat disappointing show in Amsterdam two days earlier, expectations were soaring. Could he still do it or not, considering he wasn’t backed by the best of bands of his career?

Sportpaleis Antwerp

Sportpaleis Antwerp (gva.be)

Sportpaleis Antwerp

On October 17th, 2002, I visited the Sportpaleis Antwerp, Belgium, for the first time. Prince performed there as part of his One Nite Alone… Tour and it was truly phenomenal. At the time members of his NPG Music Club were granted access to the soundchecks. That day Prince performed a complete show, played over 1.5 hours, did great covers and beautiful originals (like a spine tingling version of Empty Room). And the regular show came along after that…

Since then I often visit the Antwerp Sportpaleis. Not because of the great sound quality or the architecture, but I like the mood of the place. Whenever I go, I take the day off and spend the day in the city to top it off with a (oftentimes) great concert. I have seen Prince play there 3 times and all of them were terrific shows.

Hit And Run

From February 2nd to 22nd, 2014, Prince played 7 shows in England, primarily in very small clubs. The concerts were usually announced just hours before they started. Tickets could only be bought in person and at the door of the venue, thus bypassing ticket scammers.

Because the following tour was called Hit And Run Part II, the shows mentioned above are often referred to as Hit And Run.

Prince - Initial announcement Hit And Run Part II Tour (princevault.com)

Prince – Initial announcement Hit And Run Part II Tour

Hit And Run Part II

On April 30th, 2014, Prince announced the Hit And Run Part II tour on his Twitter account 3rdEyeGirl. At first only 6 shows, but the number soon went up and on May 26th the list was extended with more shows to be played after the initial last show in Antwerp.

The Hit And Run Part II tour consisted of 13 shows. During the tour 5 extra shows were played in smaller venues. Those are regarded as aftershows.

Bar the (invitation only) concert on February 2nd, 2015 (a charity for Autism Rocks), the last show of the tour (June 7th, 2014) was the last time Prince would perform in Europe.

N.B.:
Prince had planned coming to Europe at the end of 2015 to play shows as part of the Piano & A Microphone tour, but problems with ticket sales (scammers) and the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th, 2015, made Prince decide to go to Australia and the US first. He died on April 21st, 2016.

Ticket sales

Ticket sales for the Amsterdam and Antwerp shows started on May 6th and 7th, respectively. The sales to the Amsterdam show once again failed miserably due to technical errors with the Ticketmaster website (as users had experienced before during the North Sea Jazz ticket sales of 2011). Ticket sales were halted midway and were to proceed again on May 8th.

Prince - Ticketsale Antwerp 2014 error message (hundalasiliah.wordpress.com)

Prince – Ticket sales Antwerp 2014 to start later

At the Belgian teleticketservice website, sales have never been a problem, but Murphy’s law struck there too. Ticket sales were to start at 10:00 AM, but were postponed, due to technical issues, to 8:00 PM the same day. At 8 PM everything ran as smoothly as always and I got the tickets I wanted. I received the reservation confirmation at 8:06 PM and the payment confirmation at 8:21 PM.

So, now the wait commenced. On May 25th off to the Amsterdam Ziggo Dome and on May 27th to the Antwerp Sportpaleis.

Amsterdam Ziggo Dome May 25th, 2014

Prince 05/25/2014 concert ticket (apoplife.nl)

Prince 05-25/2014 concert ticket

Besides the ridiculous ticket sales, this day wasn’t destined for greatness. My wife had to cancel at the last minute, so I had a spare ticket (which I wasn’t able to sell). I met up with friends and together we entered the Ziggo Dome. Generally it’s a great venue for music with great sound. Not this night however, the volume was set to Concorde mode: absolutely deafening. It disappointed me, it didn’t feel inspired (was he tired?) and the setlist wasn’t too great (in comparison with other shows in the tour).

The next day, much to my surprise, I read 5 star reviews in almost every Dutch newspaper. ‘The best since the 1980’s’ it was called. It must have been me then (although I have read many complaints, especially regarding the sound volume), because online publications were, more often than not, enthused as well.

By the way, Purple Rain was beautiful. Midway he started talking, something Prince rarely did. Knowing what we know now, the speech is even more remarkable:

There’s something about this song right?

In 1986/87 we were around this way. We made a little movie called Sign O’ The Times. Now, I’ve been coming to your house. I need you to come to mine.

Can I tell you about my house?

In my house there are no crazy people. Well, maybe just one. And everybody else, we take care of one another. If you come to my house, I need you to take care of it, alright? Would you do that for me?

Is there anybody out there that knows how to cook? Contrary to rumor, I know you are what you eat, Usually I eat light…

When you come to our house, next time we see each other, it will be in Paisley Park. If you don’t know the way, get somebody to show you. In Paisley Park we sing together, we dine together, we love together.

Prince in Amsterdam, May 25th, 2014

Prince & 3rdEyeGirl 05/27/2014 concert ticket (apoplife.nl)

Prince & 3rdEyeGirl 05/27/2014 concert ticket

Antwerp Sportpaleis May 27th, 2014

After having spent the day in the town with my friend Bram and his girlfriend Jolanda, we set off for the Sportpaleis. We had ‘standing pit’ tickets, which meant we had guaranteed access to the front of the pit right in front of the stage.

Upon arrival a picture of an aquarium holding a clownfish was projected onto the curtain that concealed the stage. Somewhere after 8:00 PM some Prince songs, or songs he was involved with, were played over the P.A.:

  • Andy Allo’s Superconductor
  • Janelle Monáe’s Q.U.E.E.N.
  • Prince’s phenomenal ballad The Breakdown

At 8:30 PM the lights dimmed, the curtains opened and we were underway. Just the entrance alone: he was up for it, you could tell immediately. Hungry, self-assured, the famous Prince-‘cool’ was there. A knitted wool cap and sunglasses (always a good sign). Let’s Go Crazy. Only one song into the show and already overwhelmed.

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019 (welcome2thedawn.blogspot.com)

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019

The sunglasses were tossed away and the set continued. The sampler-set, wherein Prince plays songs from a sampler and plays/sings along, and, when appropriate, accompanied by the band, sounded pristine and the atmosphere was truly amazing. Obviously, Belgium loved Prince and Prince loved Belgium. When the first bars of Nasty Girl were heard euphoria struck the room.

Sometime later in the show he did a second sampler-set. When Housequake was started the room exploded. It was magical.

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019 (over-blog.com)

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019

Even though I had seen and heard Purple Rain so many times before, the song got to me every time. Tonight was no exception.

Time for some intimacy. The piano-set. A bit shorter than two days before, but the intensity induced immediate goose bumps. During The Beautiful Ones (number 2 in my top 10 Prince songs) in particular, his excellent voice really stood out. 55 Years of age and screaming and flawless singing like that: unheard of. But what’s more, it felt genuine. It moved me to my soul.

At the start of the first encore the guitar was strapped on and the volume was cranked up: glorious guitar work, as only Prince knew how to. And still ample room for small, intimate moments. Sometimes It Snows In April was gorgeous.

At the second encore Prince switched to the bass for the third time that evening and Forever In My Life was played! The third encore Prince and band played the Wild Cherry cover Play That Funky Music.

It all seemed to be over. 10 Minutes later still no Prince in sight, but it did seem like something more was coming. And yes, as people were on the way out, Prince returned for a fourth encore! And some encore that was. Another six (!) songs, including many fan favorites. The closing trio The Ride, Endorphinmachine and What’s My Name? was almost too much to handle. The level again was (ludicrously) high. The seemingly effortless ease with which he switched from one riff to the next was, once again, almost incomprehensible!

After more than 2 hours and 45 minutes the show did end. What a show, what a night!

Going home

On the way home we were almost too impressed to speak. The enthusiasm and adrenaline was still pumping through our veins. This was a true 5 star show. My goodness, imagine what the future could bring?

By the time I got home on May 28th, I wrote on my Facebook timeline at 2:56 AM:

Just got back from Antwerp: Belgium – The Netherlands 10-0.

What a difference. From the first note it was obvious he was in a great mood. Much greater than in Amsterdam. He not only played longer, but he had way more fun doing it.

Setlist top. Compared to Amsterdam he didn’t play I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, Pretzelbodylogic, Stratus and Condition Of The Heart. Yet, he did play Nasty Girl, Pop Life, I Would Die 4 U, Housequake, Alphabet St, Sometimes It Snows In April, Forever In My Life, Play That Funky Music, Screwdriver, The Ride and Endorpinmachine.

Amazing show. From now on off to Belgium!

 

The day after the concert it became apparent that Prince himself was rather impressed as well by his performance of The Beautiful Ones at the Antwerp show, as evidenced by the tweet made by the @3RDEYEGIRL Twitter account:

Antwerp-tweet 3rdEyeGirl (twitter.com/3rdeyegirl)

Antwerp-tweet

Review

Well, what can I say? Of all the 41 Prince shows I have seen this one ranks fifth. It was truly phenomenal and unforgettable.

Setlist Antwerp Sportpaleis may 27th, 2014

Prince - Antwerp - Ad (welcome2thedawn.blogspot.com)

Prince – Antwerp – Ad

Regular (1)

  • Let’s Go Crazy
  • Take Me With U
  • Raspberry Beret
  • U Got The Look
  • Musicology
  • Kiss

Sampler set (1)

  • When Doves Cry
  • Nasty Girl
  • Sign O’ The Times
  • Hot Thing

Regular (2)

  • Controversy
  • 1999
  • Little Red Corvette
  • Nothing Compares 2 U
  • Funknroll

Sampler set (2)

  • Pop Life (snippet)
  • I Would Die 4 U
  • Housequake
  • Alphabet St.

Regular (3)

  • Purple Rain

Piano set

  • How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
  • Diamonds And Pearls
  • The Beautiful Ones
Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019 (over-blog.com)

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019

Encore

  • Guitar
  • Plectrumelectrum
  • Sometimes It Snows In April
  • She’s Always In My Hair
  • The Love We Make

Encore 2

  • Forever In My Life

Encore 3

  • Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry cover)

Encore 4

  • FixUrLifeUp
  • Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)
  • Screwdriver
  • The Ride
  • Endorphinmachine
  • What’s My Name?
Prince - Antwerp - Sold out (frontview-magazine.be)

Prince – Antwerp – Sold out

The band

  • Prince – vocals, guitar, sampler-keyboard, keyboards, bass
  • 3rdEyeGirl
    • Donna Grantis – guitar, vocals
    • Ida Nielsen (bass, vocals, sampler-keyboard
    • Hannah Welton-Ford – drums, vocals
  • Cassandra O’Neal – keyboards, vocals
  • Joshua Welton – keyboards, vocals (not playing on stage, but from the mixing-desk in the center of the venue)

Last time

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019 (over-blog.com)

Prince in Antwerp 05/27/2019

Unfortunately, Prince died on April 21st, 2016, so this marks the last time I saw him live. I’m so glad it was awesome.

As has been stated earlier, most certainly by me also, it is a true shame I will never be able to witness concerts like these. The talent flowing from each and every pore was truly a sight to be seen. The ease and total control was immeasurable.

In closing

What was your last Prince show? Leave a comment, it is highly appreciated!

Video/Spotify
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: 5 years ago I witnessed Prince live for the very last time, in Antwerp. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

2 comments

    • Wim on 05/28/2019 at 9:43 PM
    • Reply

    Thanks for your story!
    My last show was in Amsterdam (2014). I agree, the sound was bad. Not the first time and i never understood this kind of problems. Far too loud. Later i saw a registration of that show in YouTube and the sound was great. Besides that. I was on the first ring (front) and my nephew was on the floor and told me it was okay.
    A little side story. A friend of me had two tickets over. I picked up the tickets and tried to sell them in front of the Ziggo Dome. For normal price and helping my friend and people who had no tickets.
    The police arrested me and i almost mist the show. Lucky me, i was in time to see it complete.

    1. Wow, I consider myself lucky then I didn’t get my spare ticket sold! Arrested by the police, no less. Indeed, you were lucky to be at the concert in time!

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!