When Prince played Hong Kong: memories of a funk-filled night beside Victoria Harbour

Multi-talented star’s concert launched Harbour Fest, a four-week series of open-air concerts by local and international stars to help revive Hong Kong’s economy after scourge of Sars epidemic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2016, 11:13am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 April, 2016, 12:49am

The death of Prince will come as a shock to Hong Kong music fans who attended his packed concert at Harbour Fest beside Victoria Harbour in October 2003.

The multi-talented singer-songwriter and producer headlined the first night of the series of open-air concerts in a temporary outdoor stadium at Tamar, Admiralty, aimed at reviving the Hong Kong economy, badly hit by the deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) earlier that year.

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The diminutive star with a huge stage presence, who has died at age 57, did not disappoint.

The Post reported that the star opened with a medley of favourites – When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy and I Would Die For You – before trying out more unfamiliar material.

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He was soon back in the groove Hong Kong was in the mood for, with Sign Of The Times getting the crowd of nearly 13,000 to their feet. He saved his best, including Purple Rain, for last, the Post said.

US fan Andrew Morse, 29, told the Post: “It’s hard to find good music in Hong Kong and this is great. I just had to be here. I’m looking forward to Santana and the Rolling Stones” – other world-renowned artists who performed at the festival, which later made more headlines for its accounts than for the stars who played. And what a roster it was - Neil Young, Westlife, perennial Hong Kong favourites Air Supply and the Gypsy Kings were among the international acts. Local acts included Twins, Eason Chan and Gigi Leung.

Organised by the American Chamber of Commerce and bankrolled by InvestHK, the Harbour Fest was widely criticised for the HK$100 million the government spent on it.

Nevertheless, for those who attended the shows, including Prince’s stunning set, Harbour Fest was the best of times for music fans – long before the annual Clockenflap festival was dreamed of.