"A Brief History of the NPG and "Celebrating Prince"
In a late-1990 press release drafted in his own handwriting, Prince wrote that his new band, the New Power Generation was his "best band ever.” Those who followed him knew that he was always pushing himself and experimenting with new sounds and the musical chemistry of working with new musicians was a part of that process. This new band took him down a new path - one that was soulful, electrifying and funky!
For Prince, the term New Power Generation seemed to have a deeper meaning than merely what he called his new band. In fact, before giving the name to his band, he wrote the phrase, “Welcome to the New Power Generation" for the opening track of 1988’s Lovesexy. Although he had parted ways with The Revolution in 1986, The NPG was not formally introduced as his new backing band until the summer of 1990 when most of the members made their live debut on the Nude Tour. In fact, the NPG was also the name of his band in the film, Graffiti Bridge, which included the song, “New Power Generation” on the accompanying soundtrack album.
“Lay down your funky weapon, come join us on the floor. Making love and music’s the only things worth fighting 4. We r the new power generation, we want 2 change the world. The only thing that’s in our way is u. Your old fashioned music, your old ideas, We’re sick and tired of u telling us what 2 do. We r the New Power Generation.....” ( Prince )
The NPG made their recording debut in 1991 on the wildly successful and critically acclaimed, “Diamonds and Pearls” album – which spawned more hits on the Billboard charts than any other Prince album released since Purple Rain.
Music critics around the world expressed their excitement about Prince’s new musical direction with the NPG. Most reviews on the first official release of Prince & the New Power Generation’s “Diamonds & Pearls” pointed to the musical synergy between him and his new band – such as this Spin Magazine review of ‘D&P’ in a look back at staffers’ favorite Prince albums written after his death in 2016:
“Prince was in a transitional place in 1991 … and was in the midst of a creative renaissance following the Nude Tour with his newly-formed band, the New Power Generation. After the critical and commercial success of ‘Sign o’ the Times’ in 1987, Prince had started moving back towards the funk and R&B of his earlier years after several albums of more pop/rock-oriented material. But it wasn’t until 1990 that he began putting together his new “official” backing band. And with Diamonds and Pearls, Prince married his new band to Bomb Squad-style hip-hop production and New Jack Swing (a distinctive mix of R&B, dance, and hip-hop that had emerged in 1987) while also delivering his most accessible set of pop songs since 1984’s Purple Rain.
“’Gett Off’ hit radio that summer, a supercharged sex anthem laced with booming bass, an instantly catchy flute, and a Public Enemy-style “kettle whistle” sax loop. It announced that Prince was back — and not just with a new album. This was Prince’s brand of hard funk and dance filtered through hip-hop aggression and edge, a raunchily aggressive track that served as announcement that Prince still understood the times — and he could grasp what was happening in R&B/pop, meld it into his own sound, and still be Prince….
“’Thunder,’ the album opener, is a straightforward melody buried under an ornate production that features o throwing in synth-sitar loops, heavy guitars, and hard drum beats — establishing the album’s sonic trademarks — before it explodes into a coda showcasing some of Prince’s virtuosity. It’s more confident than almost anything on Graffiti Bridge but unlike a lot of Prince’s classic album openers, it’s merely a musical appetizer for what follows."
Fast forward to October of 2016 at the acclaimed official Prince Tribute Concert in Minnesota when Morris Hayes – who was the longest-running member of the NPG after playing keyboards with Prince off and on for 20 years - was tapped as the MD for the event. He brought in the original members of the NPG to serve as the house band but also expanded the group to include a number of other former members who played in later configurations of the band over the years.
The feedback from the fans was that the official tribute concert was both exhilarating and healing. “Exactly what we needed” was a typical comment from the fans. As a result, Morris had a meeting with some of the original members of the NPG about a month after the show to discuss an ‘official’ reunion in order to perform a series of tribute concerts. The premise was to bring the live music to Prince’s 'fams' throughout the world in order to allow them the opportunity to take part in a celebration of Prince and his music. Their intent: to honor their boss, their mentor and his music. Thus, the birth of "Celebrating Prince," a musical performance with alumni of the NPG was born.
The configuration of the band changes with each segment of the "Celebrating Prince" tour but always with NPG alumni making up the majority - if not the entire band. At the core is Morris Hayes (MD and keyboards – joined the NPG in 1992), Tony Mosley (guitar and vocals – joined the NPG in 1990), Kirk Johnson (drums – joined the NPG in 1990), Damon Dickson (percussion, background vocals and dancer – joined the NPG in 1990) and others – Tommy Barbarella (keyboards - joined in 1990), Levi Seacer Jr. (guitar- joined in 1990), Sonny Thompson (bass - joined in 1990), Michael Bland (drums - joined in 1990), Chance Howard (keyboards), Mono Neon (bass), Mike Scott (guitar), Ida Nielsen (bass), Donna Grantis (guitar), Andrew Gouche (bass), Kat Dyson (guitar), Keith Anderson (sax), and the Hornheadz (1990-1996) have all joined them on live performances in the past year. And Homer O'Dell, the guitarist for the Grammy-nominated Mint Condition, has joined them as well when work schedules have not allowed for other NPG guitarists to perform on a particular date or tour.
Special guest vocalists for "Celebrating Prince" will vary subject to availability. To date, they have been joined by Prince's life-long friend and musical collaborator, Andre Cymone, along with former NPG vocalist and keyboard player, Kip Blackshire for a short European tour this past summer. Other former NPG vocalists - such as Shelby J., Marva King, and Liv Warfield - have joined them for special performances and the Grammy-nominated, former NPG singer, Tamar Davis, has plans to tour with the band in 2018. Other special guest artists may occasionally join them - just as the very talented artists Bilal, Candy Dulfer, and Ana Moura did last summer.