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Prince Celebrates London Concerts

NEW YORK (AP) — At a celebration and concert for Prince's new book, late night had turned into early morning, the bar was closing and party organizers were deciding what decorations to pack up first.

But Prince was still onstage — and still captivating the exclusive group of about 200 fans who had gathered in an intimate penthouse loft to hear him perform.

Although he had taken about a two-hour break between sets, Prince was entering hour four in what would become an almost five-hour musical extravaganza that not only included his seminal hits Purple Rain and Little Red Corvette but also interpretations of music from Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and even Janet Jackson and India.Arie.

It's this kind of magic that Prince tried to capture with 21 Nights, a glossy coffee-table book that documents the glamorous rocker's record-breaking, 21-night run last year at London's 02 Arena.

"No one had ever sold out 21 nights in a row," said

photographer Randee St. Nicholas. "So I thought, 'We should do a book surrounding this point in his life because this is a great point in his life.' "

While his three-decades-long career has been meticulously chronicled, Prince is quick to point out, "Not by me — never by me. That's someone else who's on the outside looking in."

This time, it's Prince — with St. Nicholas — telling the story, through his own frame of reference.

"This was a landmark event," the musician said. "No one believed that it would do what it did. Everyone tried to talk me out of it."

Of course, Prince is used to proving skeptics wrong. These days, he's regarded as a pioneer for artists' rights and known for releasing music via the Internet.

St. Nicholas, a longtime friend, said Prince's conversion to the Jehovah's Witness faith several years ago has helped him evolve into a more spiritual person — and a more open one, in comparison with his reputation as a moody recluse.

But Prince's public image has never been the real Prince that friends see behind closed doors, she added.

"He's shy. But he doesn't necessarily hide or shield himself and attempt this mysterious persona that he has," she said of the star.

Although he talked about biblical implications to the stock-market plunge ("That's why I had to bring back this song," he said as his band rehearsed 1999 in the background), he's nonchalant about a personal milestone.

"How old are we really?" asked the musician, who turned 50 in June. "It's about ascension. It's not the other way. There's nothing down about it. Everything is better.

"I look forward to these years where everything is just open sky."