Anyone, who knows me, knows I’m not a huge fan of tribute bands. There are some quite phenomenal ones and I’ve seen a fair few and enjoyed them but, if I’m honest, I can’t really see the point. Cover songs yes, emulate singers absolutely, but I’m just not sure of a recreation. There has to be something different for it to have purpose. So when the singer is a musical genius, a musical visionary, how can it honestly ever come close?
New Power Generation are not a tribute band, they have a far higher pedigree. They wrote with, supported, toured with and loved the legend that is Prince. To see them play their celebration of their friend’s music is more of a spiritual experience. It almost feels like they are creating a musical seance that will somehow summon his spirit to imbue the various vocalists with a little of the magic dust that Prince sprinkled so that old audiences and new audiences can appreciate the music they loved and love just one more time. They create a glimpse of the afterworld, a world of never ending happiness where you can see the sun, day or night. They invite us to go crazy one more time.
At the Indigo on Thursday evening, NPG leader Morris Hayes brought Prince’s band to London to celebrate the music of a man he describes as “the voice of a generation”. The NPG includes performers who’d backed him through his glory years including Kip Blackshire, Tommy Barbarella and Homer O’Dell, but the secret of the band’s popularity is the fact that this is not an exercise in impersonating Prince.
Vocals are shared amongst the band and guest vocalists so there is almost a continual level of interest in who will sing what. On Thursday, NPG were joined onstage by the superb Beverley Knight who sang ‘U Got The Look’, ‘Nothing Compares 2U’, and ‘Diamonds & Pearls’, bedecked in purple and bringing her soul and power brilliantly to the party. Lead NPG singer Mackenzie is a discovery of some note and his vocal range on some of the covers was quite simply incredible.
The other huge dilemma for the band must be what to play. There are so many songs, so many completely different Prince persona, how is it possible to ever keep everyone happy? Morris has said,
“finding the balance is fun and difficult, some people expect to hear ‘1999’ or ‘Purple Rain’, but there are those who would like the deeper cuts – stuff they might not have gotten to experience hearing Prince at various times”.
On Thursday, the band did just that ranging from ‘Jughead’ to ‘Purple Rain’, from ‘Daddy Pop’ to ‘Kiss’. There really was something for all of the fans who themselves came dressed in purple and wearing old Prince tour t-shirts. It really did feel like a celebration of a wonderful singer amongst friends you didn’t realise you had.
The most uplifting thing about the evening for me was probably the amount of young fans who obviously loved the songs and sang along to every song. It was this that proves that when a tribute, a celebration is done as well as this there is very much a purpose. The music of Prince must never die, and who better than his real friends in New Power Generation and Morris Hayes to make sure that never happens. This is not a tribute band, it is a very unique musical experience, a chance to party like it’s 1999 in 2018:; I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thank you NPG!
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