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Mozart of Minneapolis makes Malahide his own

James Brown used to be introduced on stage thus: "Ladies and gentlemen, it is star time. Are you ready for star time?" Last night at Malahide Castle, 30,000 people were treated to two-and-a-half hours of star time courtesy of Prince Rogers Nelson.

He starts as he means to go on with a rollicking version of All That Glitters Ain't Gold. And the audience can already barely contain their excitement. Or their dancing. They got even more excited later to Raspberry Beret and particularly on Lets Go Crazy.

The enigmatic singer, who has changed the landscape of music over the course of his 30 years of recording, was something to behold. I'm not just talking about the peculiar white poncho he wore.

Sometimes he seemed lost in his own private ecstasies; other times he appeared like he was communicating directly with the gods. Either way, the 53-year-old gave a show that won't be forgotten for all the right reasons for a long time to come.

The little man was a revelation from the moment he sashayed onstage at Malahide Castle at 8.10pm like Joan Collins in Dynasty. He offers up something between sin and salvation to the truly gobsmacked crowd. His very special band did some amazing work around Prince's idiosyncratic playing, not least on If I Was Your Girlfriend and 1999, which had everyone in the audience up and bopping.

He is an old-fashioned band leader like Duke Ellington. Everything -- every sound -- revolves around him. He is the consummate performer. In person, Prince is absolutely inscrutable ; I interviewed him for LIFE magazine three weeks ago and he gives very little away. Onstage, he is an open book of artistic expression.

It was special to watch a musician of Prince's stature work a show, an audience and a band. His band gave Prince the razor-sharp precision he demanded, following him wherever he takes the song -- Kiss is looser than a rubberband; Raspberry Beret funkier than a disco in a cheese factory.

Between each declaration of passion, Prince does more than enough to hold the audience in their place lest they faint from what must by then have been a steamy night. The rain kept away and Prince kept going all night.

Fifty-three or not, he does jumps and kicks in the air to the beat; shuffles in his heels; winks at the crowd, then kicks off into Kiss.

"You don't have to be beautiful to turn me on," he sings, and the words are soaringly sweet and clear as Prince dances across the stage, the imp of perverse.

It becomes the mantra for the night.

He has that look -- immaculately androgynous, nosebleed-inducing high kitten heels. With a seeming boundless energy, the Mozart of Minneapolis propelled himself into two-and-a-half hours of jazz, funk and pop jams of mind-boggling versatility.

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This was not just a greatest hits show. It was a greatest artist currently living show. I saw U2 at Glastonbury last month and they were nowhere near as potent as Prince was last night in Dublin.

"We want to show our love and respect to Miss Sinead O'Connor," he says, launching into Nothing Compares 2U. Cue general crowd ecstasy.

But nothing compares to Prince in this kind of form. He is the most exciting starman and showman alive, with a stagecraft that would make James Brown seem lazy and unimaginative.

As he goes from Purple Rain into Creem, nothing prepares you for the breathtaking reach of Prince's impeccable voice -- falsetto one minute, river-deep the next. That's a voice. And with that same voice he told the crowd: "I'm sorry it took so long to come to you."

Those lucky enough to be at the show were not to be disappointed courtesy of an authentically exhilarating show of bona fide soul.

Come back soon.

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