Light some candles. Put “Indigo Nights” on the CD player. Plop down on the couch. Crack open the book on the coffee table.
It’s called “21 Nights” (Atria Books, $50). It contains 124 photos taken during Prince’s 21-concert stand at London’s O2 Arena in the summer of 2007.
The book, published Wednesday, comes with “Indigo Nights,” a 14-song CD recorded during those late-night, after-concert club shows Prince is famous for.
The music makes the photos come alive. Photographer-to-the-stars Randee St. Nicholas captures Prince walking in the rain, stepping out of a luxury car, standing in an elevator, talking on the phone, sorting through his closet, strutting down a purple-lit backstage hallway, standing by the side of his empty bed, fully clothed, at 5:33 a.m.
The photos are perfectly lit. His makeup is impeccable, his hair immaculate. Stylists, makeup artists and clothing/jewelry designers are given proper credit (including phone numbers/websites for some) in the back of this fashion-obsessed book.
Yes, Prince conceived some of these scenes himself, probably including the photo of his personal Bible (with “Prince R. Nelson” inscribed on the cover) on a hotel bedstand next to his blinged-out glyph pendant on a necklace.
These luxe, highly stylized shots might remind you of Prince in 1986’s “Under the Cherry Moon,” his second feature film, set in Paris. “21 Nights” is set in London (with a sidetrip to Prague), but Prince appears as stiff here as he did in “Cherry Moon.” His expressionless face masks any emotion. The same could be said of the other characters in “21 Nights” — the various members of his NPG band and model Chelsea Rodgers as a hotel chambermaid.
Poetry and lyrics — some from unrecorded songs — help to bring Prince’s personality to the pages. None of those lyrics is featured on “Indigo Nights,” a typically exciting late-night blend of jazz, blues, funk and rock that’s split between cover tunes (“Whole Lotta Love,” “Baby Love”), Purple favorites (“Boys & Girls,” “Alphabet St.”) and two unreleased songs (the title track and “Beggin’ Woman Blues”). Prince gets funky, funny and, of course, sexy in these selections recorded during his after-parties at Indigo2, a club space attached to the arena. He shares the spotlight with his players and singers Shelby J. (Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue”) and Beverly Knight (Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady”).
As for the photos, surprisingly few actually show Prince performing on the O2 stage. In what she calls a “photographic essay,” St. Nicholas, who has directed more than 150 music videos (starting with Prince’s “Gett Off” in 1991), opts mostly for posed images — something Prince has done so well for so long.
“It is not a manipulation for control’s sake, as it is often judged,” St. Nicholas argues in a preface to the book. “It is a way of being, a way of constantly stirring things up.”
Think about that for a moment as you get up from the couch. Turn up the CD player. You can dance if you want to.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719