Prince and North Sea Jazz in 2011: three unforgettable nights in Rotterdam

Prince - North Sea Jazz 2011 (

Prince – North Sea Jazz 2011


In 2010 Prince had finally visited The Netherlands (and Belgium) again. After an 8 year absence I saw Prince live again. The November 8th, 2010, show at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp in particular was dizzying good. Now all I could do was hoping it wouldn’t take 8 years again for him to come back.

May 9, 2011

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait another 8 years to see him again. On May 9th the following press statement was released:

Prince to play North Sea Jazz Festival three times

The North Sea Jazz festival in Rotterdam has expanded its program with three so-called plus shows by Prince. The American pop artist will close every night of the 36th edition of the festival, according to promoter Mojo on Monday.

The Minneapolis singer will play a different show each night, which will feature his greatest hits. Other artists performing at the three day festival on July 8th, 9th and 10th, include BB King, Seal, Chaka Khan, James Blake and Snoop Dogg.

Prince fans can buy a festival ticket and combine it with a ticket for the plus show, but separate tickets will also be available for the artist’s performance. Ticket sales will start this Friday at 10:00 AM.

In November Prince played a one time show at the GelreDome in Arnhem. Purple Rain and Cream are well-known songs of his. (ANP)

Trouw, May 9, 2011

Of course I had to be there. Three nights with Prince playing three different shows! Ticket sales would start on Friday May 13th. Superstitious people have already noticed it: Friday the 13th, an unlucky day. In this case, superstition would translate into reality.


Prince - North Sea Jazz 2011 sale problems (

Prince – North Sea Jazz 2011 sale problems

May 13, 2011

Multiple computers, different accounts, three orders, would it turn out ok? Normally it would, but not this time. Even before the official start of the sales at 10:00 AM a queue had formed, that only seemed to be expanding. Some of the people who were able to get through received errors and were placed back at the end of the queue. At 12:23 PM it was announced that the issues had been resolved and the sale would be resumed. But: the same problems occurred. It took the Dutch Ticketmaster up to 03:30 PM to come to the one and only logical conclusion: stop the sale.

May 17, 2011

On May 17, 2011, it all went without a glitch. And, tickets for all three nights were in the pocket!

Program North Sea Jazz festival 2011

The line-up for the North Sea Jazz festival of 2011 was already impressive in itself, with a great mix of golden oldies and exciting young artists, the main reason the festival is so well loved, by me as well.

With names like

  • Esperanza Spalding, Paul Simon, Natalie Cole, Gregory Porter, Janelle Monáe, BB King, Return To Forever, Eric Dolphy, Larry Graham, Pharaoh Sanders and Larry Graham on Friday July 8th
  • Sergio Mendes, John McLaughlin, Toots Thielemans, Chaka Khan, Charles Bradley, Al Foster, Roy Ayers, John Scofield, Seal, Selah Sue, Candy Dulfer and Trombone Shorty on Saturday July 9th
  • Kyteman, Jan Akkerman, Mavis Staples, Raphael Saadiq, Jungle By Night, Tom Jones, Sabrina Starke, Tribute To Miles (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller), Snoop Dogg, Bootsy Collins, Branford Marsalis and Flying Lotus on Sunday July 10th

the festival already had a nice, interesting and diverse program, when Prince was planning his rather strangely called Welcome 2 America Euro Tour (by now we know that Welcome 2 America was the title of an album that wasn’t released) and contacted the organization expressing his wish for a three night run at the festival. Of course, the festival jumped at the chance. The festival had a world premiere, as Prince had never before performed three nights in a row on one festival ever before, with the promise of delivering something different each and every night.

The North Sea Jazz program Prince page contained:

Prince - North Sea Jazz 2011 program (


This year North Sea Jazz is presenting a real King of the Night: none other than the megastar Prince will be performing in the Maas in the small hours of July 8, 9 and 10, after the standard program has finished.

His Purple Highness was born as Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958, the son of a pianist-composer and jazz singer. He had already taught himself to play the piano and had written his first song by the age of seven. Since his breakthrough in the early 1980s, Prince has been an indelible part of music history. He has a long list of hit singles to his name – written both for himself and for others – and has sold over one hundred million albums across the entire world. In addition, his list of honors includes seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.

Last November, Prince performed in the Netherlands for the first time in eight years. He was on stage at the GelreDome in Arnhem at that time and his concert received rave reviews. On each of the three evenings of the North Sea Jazz Festival, the artist from Minneapolis will perform a different program which will, of course, include many of his hits. And who knows, he may be joined on stage by other stars, because acts with whom the singer-guitarist has worked in the past are performing at the festival every day. To name a few: Janelle Monáe, Larry Graham, Chaka Khan, Bootsy Collins, Raphael Saadiq, Mavis Staples, Esperanza Spalding, Candy Dulfer… So, more than enough possibilities for several fantastic jam sessions.

“My name is Prince, and I am funky”, the master once sang. Audiences at the North Sea Jazz Festival be warned: these evenings will be truly unforgettable and you will probably hear some unique collaborations.

Program North Sea Jazz 2011

Prince mania?

On June 6th, 2011, it was announced that Prince would stage a ‘regular’ show on July 26th, 2011, in The Netherlands as well. The ticket sale to that show (which started on June 10th) went smoothly and tickets were secured. Four Prince shows in 1 month!

In the meantime magazines and newspapers wrote many articles on the upcoming shows. Everyone was looking forward to the concerts, especially the music loving part of the population. A revitalized Prince fever had taken control, just as it was in 1986/1987/1988 when the Netherlands was under a three year spell by the little genius hailing from Minneapolis. The fever would be intensified in the month of July by the two surprise shows at the Melkweg in Amsterdam.

But first our own preparations had to be made. It turned out it was the right thing for me to drive myself and friends to Rotterdam. Back and forth for Prince three times in a row? No sweat!


The North Sea Jazz festival 2011 was organized on July 8, 9 and 10. Because all of Prince’s shows started after 12:00 AM, the Prince shows actually took place on July 9, 10 and 11. These dates will be used in this article.

Prince 07/08/2011/07/09/2011 concert ticket (

Prince 07/08/2011-07/09/2011 concert ticket

July 9, 2011

After an easy ride to Rotterdam and parking the car we entered the queue in front of the Ahoy. After entering the venue we looked for a good spot and we were all set to go. 25 minutes after the advertised starting time the lights in the venue went off, and on again, and off again, and on again, and… It’s funny once, but gets tiresome very quickly. This ‘game’ would be repeated on all three nights.

The opening was spectacular. The Jimi Hendrix song Foxy Lady was hurled into the venue. A great start. Unfortunately the (notoriously?) well-known medley Controversy, containing the covers of Chic’s Le Freak and Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music, were up next. But there was more, the sound in the venue was so loud that every musical nuance was lost in a mush of sound.

But it wasn’t disappointing on account of the sound alone. The setlist was subpar as well. Too many obvious covers (however fine they may have been executed), too much attention to the background singers. There were some highlights, like the unreleased Only Heaven Knows. But it was all too little. A setback, maybe the worst Prince show I ever witnessed.


Setlist July 9, 2011

  • Foxy Lady
  • Controversy
  • Sexy Dancer (instrumental) / Le Freak (#)
  • (Theme Song From) Which Way Is Up? (#)
  • Play That Funky Music
  • Pass The Peas
  • Let’s Get It On (^)
  • D.M.S.R.
  • Pop Life (incl. Scrapple From The Apple)
  • Musicology (incl. Tighten Up / Prince And The Band)
  • No One Else (†)
  • Misty Blue (æ)
  • A Love Bizarre (incl. incl. Housequake / ( Like) Funky Music) (»)
  • Everyday People (¤)
  • Only Heaven Knows (incl. America)


  • Purple Rain

Encore 2:

  • If I Was Your Girlfriend
  • Kiss

# Shelby J. and Liv Warfield: vocals
^ Andy Allo: vocals and guitar
† Liv Warfield: vocals
æ Shelby J.: vocals
» Janelle Monáe: guest
¤ Larry Graham: guest

Total concert time 140 minutes.

Prince 07/09/2011-07/10/2011 concert ticket (

Prince 07/09/2011-07/10/2011 concert ticket

July 10, 2011

Once again an easy ride and entering the venue on time. The show started 15 minutes later than the night before (40 minutes past the planned start time) with the lights on/off game again… Don’t tell me it’s going to be like that again, right?

It wasn’t, what followed was a stunning opener with Prince playing one of his very best songs ever, Joy In Repetition (also see the video connected to this article). A truly phenomenal performance. Prince gelled, he was clearly motivated and the sound was loud, but pristine. After a short Nothing More highlight two followed, yet another personal favorite, The Love We Make.

Following the total failure of Seal’s guest vocals on Mountains (another favorite), Prince started the song up again and proved he was Lord and commander. Beautiful. After a fine cover of The Beatles’ Come Together and an inspired Alphabet St., Prince picked up the bass for the fairly recent Dear Mr. Man and Sly Stone’s If You Want Me To Stay (talk about favorites).

After calming down a bit (When We’re Dancing Close And Slow!), Guitar was next. It was the start of 15 to 20 minutes of (hard) rock and Prince letting his guitar roar. The band was scaled down to a trio for I Like It There, Colonized Mind and Bambi. Wow!

The first encore was a lively Peach, followed by the second encore. Yet again one of my personal favorites: The Beautiful Ones. Prince screamed his heart out, this was truly exceptional, what was happening here?!

And still the show was not done, we had an up-tempo dance final to go. Prince hadn’t just taken his revenge, he had just played one of the best shows I had ever witnessed!

Even Prince himself realized that the sound the night before was extremely bad: he apologized while on stage.


Setlist July 10, 2011

  • Joy In Repetition
  • Nothing More (#)
  • The Love We Make
  • Mountains (^)
  • Come Together
  • Alphabet St.
  • Dear Mr. Man (†)
  • If You Want Me To Stay ()
  • Stand!
  • I Want You Back (æ)
  • When We’re Dancing Close And Slow (»)
  • The Look Of Love (»)
  • Guitar (†)
  • I Like It There (¤)
  • Colonized Mind (¤)
  • Bambi (¤)


  • Peach (incl. Johnny B. Goode) (#, æ)

Encore 2:

  • The Beautiful Ones (†)

Encore 3:

  • Dance (Disco Heat)
  • Baby I’m A Star

# Andy Allo: vocals
^ Seal: guest
† Without Andy Allo, Shelby J. and Liv Warfield
æ Shelby J.: vocals
» Andy Allo: co-vocals
¤ Just Prince, John Blackwell and Ida Nielsen

Total concert time 125 minutes.

Prince 07/10/2011-07/11/2011 concert ticket (

Prince 07/10/2011-07/11/2011 concert ticket

July 11, 2011

The third and last night. What would this night bring? Would it be special again? The show was planned to start at 11:45 PM on July 10th, but actually started at 00:30 AM. The year old Laydown opened the show with great energy, followed by beautiful laid-back versions of The Question Of U and The One. So, Prince just picked up where he left things the night before!

A truly magnificent performance of When Lay My Hands On U was quickly followed by a goose bump inducing version of Empty Room. Calhoun Square and She’s Always In My Hair were next. What a show was this again!

The biggest surprise of the night came with Girl, the 1985 B-side, a song never played before by Prince. Apparently he never played it with this band as well, as they were instructed on stage how and what to play. A great moment to witness at a show.

And, for the first time in three days, a string of hits was played. Great performances of Partyman, Controversy and particularly a euphoric 1999.

The encores followed quickly, including a stunning Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) and a great end with the Time song Cool. The venue was on fire!


Setlist July 11, 2011

  • Laydown (#)
  • The Question Of U / The One (incl. Gingerbread Man / All Day, All Night)
  • When Lay My Hands On U
  • Brown Skin (^, †)
  • Empty Room (æ)
  • Calhoun Square (æ)
  • People Pleaser
  • She’s Always In My Hair (»)
  • Future Soul Song (#)
  • Girl (¤)
  • Partyman (#)
  • You’re The One For Me (^)
  • Controversy (incl. Housequake)(#)
  • Let’s Go Crazy (#)
  • Delirious (#)
  • 1999


  • Pass The Peas (¢)

Encore 2:

  • Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) (φ)
  • Nothing Compares 2 U (^, #, †)

Encore 3:

  • Take Me With U (¤)
  • Raspberry Beret
  • Cream
  • Cool (incl. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough)

# Without Andy Allo
^ Shelby J.: vocals
† Without Liv Warfield
æ Without Andy Allo, Shelby J. and Liv Warfield
» Without Shelby J. and Liv Warfield
¤ Andy Allo: co-vocals
¢ Without Prince
φ With Cassandra O’Neal, Morris Hayes and John Blackwell

Total concert time 135 minutes.


Three days of Prince in Rotterdam. What’s left to say? The promise to play something different every night was met. Only Controversy and Pass The Peas were played twice. No less than 62 songs had been played.

For the many Prince fans the three shows had been a true treat. Many obscure songs, Prince’s obvious eagerness and the (relative) intimate setting were extremely special. The second and third concert nights were both of an exceptional musical level and were among the best shows Prince had ever played on Dutch soil.

The question is how the shows were perceived by the regular North Sea Jazz audience. Next to the sound of the first show, there were complaints, particularly about the lack of hits / recognizable songs. Artists in a festival setting often play a public friendly set. Prince most certainly did not, which resulted in many visitors, wanting to see Prince just once in their lifetime, leaving early.

But to the fans, it had been turned into Valhalla.

Prince - North Sea Jazz 2011 - Press reactions (

Reactions in the Dutch press

The Dutch press was both disappointed and impressed by the North Sea Jazz shows. Many reviewers witnessed the first two shows, which were extremely contradictory.

The most important remarks were:

Essentially, what followed was one long jam, a funk workshop by the absolute master.
(NRC Handelsblad, July 9, 2011)

The feeling of disappointment has lingered over this entire day.
(de Volkskrant, July 9, 2011)

At its best moments, the most penetrating ballad, or shuddering guitar tone, or the rawest funk, the intense musical feeling he delivers is overwhelming.
(NRC Handelsblad, July 10, 2011)

In the form Prince displayed on Saturday, he is an artist who easily rises above everybody else.
(de Volkskrant, July 10, 2011)

Prince: the king of NSJ 2011.
(Algemeen Dagblad, July 11, 2011)

Unusual structures, turns, notes, polyrhythms, emotions, it all seems so easy, but it never lacks feeling.
(Blues Magazine, 11 juli 2011)

Equally enchanting as at his stadium show at the Gelredome last year, and the same proof that Prince understands what performing should be like: having fun, enjoying, improvising and playing each and every song like it’s your last time.
(Metro, July 11, 2011)

Prince bursts with true class.
(Telegraaf, July 11, 2011)

The man who had the task to carry this edition of North Sea Jazz, and succeeded effortlessly.
(Trouw, July 11, 2011)

The third time around, luckily, Prince is finally able to hold on to the party atmosphere.
(OOR, July 12, 2011)

It’s nice he wanted to do something different every night, but if you’re not inspired enough or maybe aren’t qualified enough to fill so much time, it’s a better idea to do the same thing three times over, and do that right.
(Jazzenzo, July 13, 2011)

In closing

Were you there on one or more of those special nights in July 2011? What’s your story? Let me know!

This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Prince and North Sea Jazz in 2011: three unforgettable nights in Rotterdam. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.


More Prince?


    • She Gave Her Angels on 10/21/2021 at 7:01 PM
    • Reply

    Hello! I’m a young Prince fan (like haven’t exited my teens yet) and I was wondering what was it like to see Prince in the flesh?

    1. Hi, I can only describe it as I once read it in a Dutch newspaper. Upon entering the stage and seeing Prince appear sent a sigh of disbelief and relief through the audience: he was real and he was here.

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!