Prince launches purple Vegas reign

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LAS VEGAS - Purple was the color and Prince was the star on Wednesday as the eccentric musician launched a nightclub venture that will see him performing twice a week in Las Vegas.

Prince, 48, the sometimes reclusive singer, composer and producer with a penchant for surprises, is taking up residence in the desert gambling resort for an indefinite period, playing at the Rio Hotel in the 3121 club -- named after his 2006 hit album.

"I like Las Vegas," said a peach-suited Prince, during a sneak peek three song set featuring his signature wailing guitar solos and the 1984 hit "Purple Rain" that made him a superstar. The regular Friday and Saturday night shows start on November 10 and tickets at $125 are already sold out for the first weekend.

Prince himself has given few clues as to why, and why now, he has chosen to set up shop in Las Vegas amidst the topless dancers, magicians, Cirque du Soleil spectaculars and crooners such as Barry Manilow and Celine Dion who have also set up semi-permanent residence on the Strip.

A rare giver of interviews, he appointed his Australian twin backup singer-dancers, known as The Twinz, as his official spokespersons on Wednesday. "He wants to bring raw, live music back to Las Vegas. He wants a more positive vibe," Maya Mcclean, one of The Twinz, told reporters.

Prince is regarded as a perfectionist who from 1993 to 2000 changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in what was thought to be a protest against the demands of his record label at the time. For a while he was dubbed "The Artist Formally Known as Prince."

But the intimate 3121 club, decked in purple and seating 900, will be under his sole artistic control. An adjacent restaurant, 3121 Jazz Cuisine, is being run by Prince's personal chef.

"This is his vision. This is his room. This is his club," said John Meglen, president of AEG Live which is backing the venture.

"The one thing about this town that Prince realizes is that if you go back to the Fifties, to the days of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Las Vegas was a place where all the world wide great musicians came out and played," Meglen said.

"There is no-one more high energy than Prince. You're not going to see any lip synching on this stage," Meglen said.

After more than 20 albums, the versatile Prince emerged from self-imposed obscurity in 2004 with a lucrative tour and performances in 2006 at the Brit awards, TV's "American Idol" and "Saturday Night Live."

He is expected to stay in Vegas for several months. Or as Twinz spokesperson Maya Mcclean said "until he figures out what he wants to do next."
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