The secret London gig that changed AJ Odudu’s life

The ebullient ‘Big Brother’ host had one unforgettable night in Soho

Joe Mackertich
Written by
Joe Mackertich
Editor, Time Out London
AJ Odudu
Photograph: AJ Odudu/Time Out

AJ Odudu first came to London with big dreams of making it as a prime-time telly star. The Blackburn-born presenter may have taken her sweet time getting there, but it’s safe to say that these days she’s considered a staple of the small screen. We asked her to forget TV for just one minute and tell us about the best thing she’s ever seen on a London stage.

‘Ronnie Scott’s is my five-star venue. And I saw Prince there,’ she said on this week’s episode of the Time Out podcast. ‘It blew my mind. It was when he was doing those pop-up, secret surprise gigs around London. I was in Soho, I’d had a meeting, and was just passing. I saw these people queuing in the rain, so I just joined it and ended up paying 25 quid to see Prince. If you’ve ever been to Ronnie Scott’s you'll know it’s tiny. So it was like having Prince perform at me, in my living room. It was bonkers and nothing can top it.’

Prince came to London in 2014 and played a series of secret gigs in iconic venues. As well as Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club Prince also appeared (often with almost no notice given) at Koko, King’s Place, Electric Ballroom and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

‘He was majestic and indescribable,’ said Odudu. ‘No one that was there could believe that he was in the room, playing these actual classics. He was petite but beautiful. 

Want to hear AJ Odudu chat about her love of London while giving Time Out a guided tour of her favourite restaurants, parks and pubs? Have a listen to this week’s episode of ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’.

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Each week on ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’, someone interesting gives Joe a personal tour around a neighbourhood that means a lot to them. Four locations, with a bit of chitchat en route to each one, always finishing up in a pub. Interested in what Bimini makes of Bankside? Need Derren Brown to justify his abiding love of Hoxton? Fascinated by the prospect of Joe and Doc Brown drinking four pints of Guinness on the Kilburn High Road? This is very much the pod for you.

Sponsored by FREENOW, the mobility super app, ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’ will show you sides to London you never knew existed. Subscribe now for a new guest and a new neighbourhood every single week.

New episodes of ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’ are available every Tuesday.

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