It’s a strange feeling standing within touching distance of Prince’s disembodied costumes. So many thoughts tripping over themselves: wow, he was little. Look how narrow his hips were. Such tiny feet. How could someone so small contain so much magic? He was a genie, a pixie, a character in a fairytale. Ruffles and sparkles and velvet. Now this show is dressed up with nowhere to go. All clothes, no emperor. Where are you, Prince? Why did you leave us so soon?
My Name is Prince
I felt his absence intensely at the MY NAME IS PRINCE exhibition at the O2. Weird… because everywhere you look, there he is. Prince soundtracks blaring from speakers and personal headsets, concert clips on every screen. A conveyor belt of music and movement, propelling you through Prince’s Greatest Hits.
When Prince died, my husband called to offer me his condolences. I put together 17 TRIBUTES from fellow Prince nuts on my blog. I flooded my Facebook feed with so much Prince stuff, I’m sure a few friends and family blocked me. You could say I’m a fan.
And as a lifelong fan, I couldn’t get enough. So naturally, I wanted more from this exhibition. More archive photography, going behind the mystique. More previously unseen interviews with the man himself, speaking in his unmistakeable bass.
We saw the V&A’s David Bowie exhibition in Barcelona last May and it was sensational. I had anticipated the Prince exhibition might not be on the same level. The difference between an art curator’s show, and a memorabilia spectacle, next door to the Elvis walk-through.
My Name is Prince lacks a certain intimacy (although the VIP experience looks dope, taking you a little further behind the curtain). Still, if you’re deep into Prince, you should probably hot trot it to the O2. For there are some absolute gems. Outfit after outfit. Close ups with his customised guitars, like the Gibson L65-S used in his 1980 debut on American Bandstand. Typed lyrics annotated in Prince’s cursive.
My favourite things were his handwritten script notes for Purple Rain. I imagined him scribbling on his bed, topless in leather trousers, giggling to himself over the Lake Minnetonka scene.
Parents note: there’s plenty of eroticism (knock knock, it’s Prince), but the show’s mostly child-friendly. Quite a few munchkins were bopping around with audio guides.
As with any exhibition, some people were taking it all rather seriously. Others, like me, boogied their way around. The immersive audio and video creates joy in repetition. From the wild abandon of For You and the hard funk of Controversy, to the endless hits of Purple Rain, Love Sexy, Sign of the Times and beyond. The audio finale is a glorious 30 minute medley of Prince hits.
We were there for three hours. Without the kids, I might have spent an hour or two longer.
Before the exit, there’s a small wire fence where you can leave a note. I scrawled a few words to my musical love and tucked it into the wall. It’s a little cheesy, sure, but we need a place to go. Those of us who won’t make it to Paisley Park any time soon, we need a place to take our broken hearts and vivid dreams. The O2 exhibition is our next best thing.
At dinner later, we played more Prince. My 8-year-old said: ‘Prince is such a good singer, we’ve been listening to him for three hours and we’re listening to him again and we’re not bored yet!’
No way, little man. Never bored and never boring. Long live Prince.
My Name is Prince: The Official Exhibition is now open at The 02 until Jan 7 due to unprecedented demand.
Watch Prince’s astonishing Purple Rain medley at the Superbowl Show!