By the mid-2000s, Prince had nothing left to prove. In a career approaching its third decade, he’d scored countless hit singles; reached No.1 at the box office with the Purple Rain film; been showered with accolades, including Grammys, BET Awards and even an Oscar; and been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Fame. After delivering one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows in history, in February 2007, he could have taken the remainder of the year off, basking in yet more glory. However, just three months on from performing in torrential rain in Dolphin Stadium, Miami, he was in the UK, announcing another landmark event: a record-breaking run of concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Dubbed 21 Nights In London, the residency would stretch from 1 August to 21 September and see Prince play sell-out shows to new fans, old fans and a whole lot of repeat customers.
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“I have a wide fanbase that comes to multiple shows”
At a press conference to announce the event, Prince explained that’d he’d become used to making extended stays while staging his Club 3121 residency in Las Vegas’ Rio Suites Hotel And Casino – an intimate series of shows which had run from November 2006 to April 2007 – and that performing so many times in one city was good for his fans, too: “We play so many different styles of music, it’s really hard to get a full dose of what we do unless you come to several shows. I also have a wide fanbase that come to multiple shows all the time. I always see them – here especially in London.”
Yet AEG, the promoters for 21 Nights In London, were initially unsure whether Prince could attract an audience large enough to sustain 21 consecutive shows in the 20,000-capacity venue. As Rob Hallett, then the company’s head of international touring, told the BBC, “He was insistent, so we said, ‘OK, let’s do 21 nights in London, just as long as you’re prepared for the last ten days to be in Ronnie Scott’s,” a small but prestigious jazz club in the city’s Soho district. But, Hallett added, Prince “wouldn’t even consider the possibility of anything else. And it was pretty incredible.”