Purple reign: Prince live at Auckland ASB Theatre video

JASON DORDAY/Stuff.co.nz

Excited concertgoers talk about Prince's Auckland appearances.

REVIEW: Yes, it cost a whopping $389.90 for a decent seat, if you were quick enough to get one, but his first ever New Zealand show was quite a trip for those lucky enough to get through the door for an audience with his majesty.

He came, he sang, he conquered: surrounded by fluttering candles behind a grand piano at Auckland's ASB Theatre, a giant afro floating above his rail-thin body like a balloon on a string, tiny L.E.D.s gleaming in his platform shoes, Prince showed he was true pop royalty from the very first song.

After the first half hour, I felt I shouldn't even have a seat, as it might be more appropriate to kneel.

Prince - an all time great.
Nandy McClean

Prince - an all time great.

At 58, his voice still astonishes, swooping easily from an airy Marvin Gaye falsetto down to a surprisingly thick and lustful Sly Stone baritone, though lust these days is off the menu.

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The star's conversion to the Jehovah's Witness faith 16 years ago made it unlikely we'd be treated to such perv-tastic anthems as Head, Darling Nikki  or Jack U Off.

The pop star who owned the 80s was Prince.
Nandy McClean

The pop star who owned the 80s was Prince.

A shame, as few pop stars do pervy as well as Prince, whose early 80s persona was a triumph of will over reality in which a permanently overheated elf with a pencil moustache and an electric guitar tried to convince the world there had never been, in the history of popular music, a lover as hot as himself, with each imagined thrust of his tiny pelvis underlined by a bassline bump, guitar squeal or synth blast.

But even with his more shag-ocentric songs now off limits, Prince was never scratching for material tonight.

The man has released 39 albums over the past 40 years, but he wisely focused in early on his 80s heyday, cherry-picking some of the juiciest fruit from his first ten albums.

Debut single I Wanna Be Your Lover, an incongruously chaste Dirty Mind, a gospel-drenched Pop Life, killer run-throughs of Controversy, Little Red Corvette, Purple RainStarfish and Coffee and Kiss- any prizefighter must wish they could land the hits this thick and fast.

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And while the stripped-down piano arrangements notched back the funk, they amplified something else- a robust melodicism, and the generous weirdness of the lyrics.

It was a non-stop jukebox of pop gems, with few of the covers he has played on other dates on this tour, the most welcome exception being an encore of Nothing Compares 2 U, one of his own compositions that was a huge hit for Sinead O'Connor, now reclaimed with interest.

Was there any showing off?

Of course.

To demonstrate he had serious piano chops, the miniature maestro used the piano like a kaleidoscope on several tunes, passing familiar melodies through it then splintering the chords with lightning right-hand runs to reveal fresh colours, or pounding away like a barroom boogie-woogie player, making plain the debt Paisley Park owed to the blues.

After 40 years in the game, Prince still seemed like a man with something to prove, and that something was this: he wanted us to understand that these pop songs of his were potent, personal and rare, with sufficient intensity and weight to impress when stripped almost naked.

They didn't need to be belted out in huge arenas, or dressed up with epic guitar solos, walloping funk rhythms and squadrons of backing singers.

Here they were, delivered with just voice and piano in a small theatre, hitting our ears in a form that was as close as possible to the way they sounded when he'd originally written them alone in his room.

He may no longer be bragging about his prowess in the sack, but Prince was seeking conquest here and he got it, without even taking off his pants.

 - Stuff

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