Chaos, 18-Hour Queue, Banned Celebs: The Day Prince Performed at Ronnie Scott’s
When Prince’s 2014 Hit And Run tour chose iconic jazz club Ronnie Scott’s to host one of his impromptu, unannounced gigs, it’s safe to say he pretty much shut down half of Soho for the show so exclusive, even celebs had to go the extra mile to get in.
Manager of Ronnie Scott’s, Simon Cooke, revealed to Metro.co.uk what went down the night Prince decided to choose Ronnie’s as his venue for the evening. He explained how the intimate gig – Ronnie’s has a capacity of just 220 – came about: ‘Prince was doing this tour of little venues and he turned up in London, planning to play lots of little gigs unannounced, so nothing was booked.
‘So he turned up. He had two trucks of gear on hire, two bl**dy great trucks full of stuff, but no gigs booked. And then they were sort of ringing round little venues going: “Can we come and do your gig tomorrow?” It was absolute chaos.
‘If you’ve already got the sold-out show and then Prince rings you up 10 o’clock the morning before, it’s very difficult to just go “Yeah, alright. I’ll just tell 800 people to p**s off.” It’s not as easy as it seems, even though it’s Prince.
‘They’d already cancelled on us at the last minute before and they started talking to us on Friday afternoon for a Monday Night Show. So we were like no, actually, considering there’s a 50% chance you will change your mind on Sunday afternoon, you can do the Late Show.’
When they locked the date in, Prince set about redecorating the venue with his own equipment for the night. Simon explained: ‘In the end, he had all his kit upstairs, he insisted on bringing his own PA in, which is utterly unnecessary in this venue.
‘And then he had to bring in his own mixing desk which is about as wide as a sofa, which was also totally unnecessary. And all this stuff was upstairs ready to go, so as soon as the downstairs show finished we had to clear the room and then all these people came bowling in and dressed the stage, put his logo up and he still managed to fit two shows in!’
Of course, seeing Prince in such a close-up setting is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so fans began queuing up from the early morning outside the venue, despite there only being a limited amount of spaces inside. Local businesses helped them get in the mood for The Purple One by projecting Prince videos (at full volume) on the building opposite, as the fans waited in the rain for news whether they could make it inside to either show.
Simon revealed: ‘The queue started at eight o’clock in the morning outside the club. They knew they couldn’t just buy a ticket and come back because [Prince’s team] didn’t tell us till half-past five in the afternoon how much they wanted to charge for the show. ‘And then we had to go down the queue and go it’s 35 quid, and it’s cash.’
The owners of Ronnie Scott’s, Sally Greene and Michael Watt, always keep space available for celebrity guests – and with such an exclusive night on the cards, there were plenty of stars wanting to bag their way into the venue. However, getting anyone but the fans waiting outside was set to be a problem, as Prince’s people initially tried to put a ban on any guestlist spaces being allocated.
Simon revealed: ‘I told Prince’s chief of staff that there will be the owner’s guestlist of people and they said we were not allowed any guests.’ When he insisted that a guest list must be allowed, the chief of staff acquiesced that they could have 10 people on their list attend.
Simon continued: ‘Okay, so we’ve got past the point where we are allowed guests, but it was only 10 and of course Sally who owns this place doesn’t put up with that kind of s**t, she’s got a big guest list, and I’ve got family and they’re coming! ‘So we ended up with 73 guests. We snuck them upstairs through the backdoor, instead of through the front door where the Chief of Staff Paisley Park is monitoring the lobby.
‘We’ve got the door to the upstairs bar, so we’re filtering them up through the upstairs bar but then also in the office stairs. We ended up with about 73 people up here having a party on this floor and a bit upstairs. ‘There was Kate Moss, Stephen Fry, there was Noel Gallagher, Jamie Cullum, all sorts. The most bizarre gathering of people.
Celebs including Rita Ora were filtered down in small groups so Prince’s chief of staff didn’t notice the 73 extra guests ‘They were all up here and we were piling the champagne through the door and then we had to filter them down in bits because I can’t take 73 people down at once or we’re having a problem with the chief of staff! ‘So all these really famous people are being snuck down the stairs just so Prince doesn’t throw his toys out of the pram!’ As well as Kate Moss, Stephen Fry, Noel Gallagher, and Jamie Cullum, other attendees on the night included Adele, Rita Ora, Michelle Rodriguez, Nile Rogers and Cara Delevingne. Oh to be a fly on the wall of that office!
Ronnie Scott’s celebrates its 60th anniversary on 30 October with a star-studded gala performance from some of the jazz greats who have performed at the venue, taking place at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The venue’s original location, not far from where the club is located today, was also awarded an English Heritage blue plaque to celebrate the milestone this year.
See our story on Ronnie Scott’s here.