Review by Hayley Clark with Photography by Robert Barrett

It’s always something special to see your childhood musical icons come across the pond to the UK, even more so when it’s your hometown but I think tonight at Birmingham’s iconic Institute building had that added magic, whether it be the tightness of the sound or how lead singer MacKenzie has evolved on stage, it’s no doubt “Rock ’n’ Roll is alive and lives in Minneapolis” as the legendary New Power Generation wowed the crowds.

New Power Generation

As the over 14 venue started to fill, the mature crowd filtered in adorning Prince Tees and the colour purple, the love for the Purple Yoda was strong with the warm up DJ spinning on stage. His presence a little lost with the audience as a playlist of old school R&B, back to back, and the odd funk thrown in with Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ filled the heavily smoky room. As the static crowd chatted away he beamed, he was about to play his favourite song and as the opening beat of Curtis Mayfield started to chime he was informed he’d ran over his set time and it was time for the main act. To be honest adding a DJ as support was a nice touch but the eager crowd weren’t disappointed at his news as they were here for one thing and one thing only, to celebrate the life of the one and only Prince Rogers Nelson and what better than with a mix of both those influenced by and some of the talented musicians to have ever played with the greatest of all time.

With longstanding NPG stalwart and musical director Morris Hayes at the helm ravishing the keys you knew things were going to get funky with a capital F and Birmingham were ready to get wild.

New Power Generation

New Power Generation

“Just a small boy from Virginia” in his own words humble frontman MacKenzie’s appearance on the stage grabbed the audience and instantly awoke them from slumber, a positive charge of energy filling the room as he burst into ‘Live For Love’, bouncing around the stage and getting the crowd going. Since joining the band for their super bowl shows early 2018, his journey has been nothing short of epic as he has evolved within the band, his stage presence is immense and it’s developed through the short period of time both with the band and his phenomenal reception on America’s Got Talent. Audiences watch in awe as his sultry tones fill venues and captivate them, amazed by the versatility in his voice and melodies that bring out goosebumps in even the hardest of men, tonight was no different as he gave it his all and then some in a spectacular performance.

Joined by the stellar line up of original NPG members Tony M, Damon D ,Sonny Thompson and Hornhead’s Kenni Holman, Minneapolis legends Mint Condition’s guitar maestro Homer O’Dell and drummer Les Cleveland, who studied with the late John Blackwell, they turned up the heat on the wet and dreary Tuesday in the second city, ’17 Days’ was an appropriate addition to the setlist.

New Power Generation

New Power Generation

It wasn’t long before this supercharged celebration had the audience clapping their hands and stomping their feet to the tight sounds oozing from the stage as they were treated to an array of the classics, Morris making love to his keyboard through the sounds he was producing and joking with the audience about tales of how he argued with Prince over setlist choices back in the day, so thought they’d include the upbeat ‘Lady Cab Driver’ this time around. MacKenzie’s purr like vocals and the tracks catchy rhythm instantly a hit in the night, heads bopping left and right as the groove was too hard to resist.

Guest vocalist Mica Paris brought a jaw dropping rendition to the night performing ‘Until The End Of Time’ , singing her heart out to cheers from the audience, her voice was on fire as she appeared in a sparkly number twinkling like diamonds in the smoke filled room.

New Power Generation

New Power Generation

With two thirds of the legendary TDK in the house you know it was time to party hard, with hands in the air they whipped the audience into a frenzy with favourites ‘Deuce and a Quarter’ and ‘Call The Law’. Damon’s infectious smile lighting up the stage, a joy to see as he was having as much fun as the audience below and Tony M showing those that were not aware, he has a true talent for spitting out beats as well as the mean funky guitar rifts keeping them all on their feet.

Mac kept the love strong with ‘I Could Never Take The Place’ with faces of joy and elation as he gyrated and swung his hips owning the stage, it was time for something a little special, Morris’s stories recalling how Prince used to go over to Andre Cymone’s house to watch their very own “alien from outta space” play when they were young leading way to an out of this world bass solo from Sonny Thompson. The bass felt dirty and the floor vibrated eagerly showing his true craftsman ship like something from another planet, he works that bass with style producing a cosmic sound leaving the audience whooping and cheering at what they witnessed.

New Power GenerationNew Power Generation

Acknowledging Prince as the greatest artist and songwriter of our time MacKenzie reminded his captured crowd he wrote some very sexy songs too. Notably tipped in the night with both breathtaking versions of ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and ‘Call My Name’ his raw emotion and passion filled the air as the heart rendering lyrics sounded beautiful. The sultry sounds and vocal mastery left you spellbound from low to high with spiralling falsettos thrown for good measure a few tears fell in the audience having earlier been treated to a goosebump filled duet between him and Mica on ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ accompanied by Kenni’s spine tingling solo looping and swirling the sax solo as he took the ballad to church.

Mixing up from last year, the eye popping ‘Black Sweat’ was a welcome addition to the setlist, oozing sex and bringing the temperature to boiling point MacKenzie stole the track and made it his own with his slick moves and facial expressions working the crowd into a frenzy.

New Power Generation

New Power Generation

The consistency of Les’s drum beats and energetic solos grabbed the audience as he twirled his sticks looking cool as a cucumber in his shades, having joined the latest line-up since the start of the year the audience were raving over his solos at the end of the evening.

As well as the usual party hits ‘1999’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Controversy’ ensuring the crowd were constantly on their feet, the axe welding solos coming from Homer O’Dell were on fire tonight, the recognisable down and dirty rhythm at the end of ‘Gett Off’ just dipped the audience toes before he transfixed Birmingham like a master to their slave in the finale of ‘Purple Rain’. Feeling the passion and funk in the notes he played the passion was electric as he owned the solos in the ultimate tribute to their mentor.

New Power Generation

New Power Generation

With the setlist was just under thirty songs in length, no one could argue this sold out evening wasn’t value for money. It’s not every day you witness the magic of these talented musicians, in an intimate venue as they play with such vibrancy that the crowd were enthralled still wanting more, even if it’s for Morris’s dodgy London accent talking about Mac meeting Simon Cowell he having the audience in stitches with his tongue in cheek take that sounded like someone had been watching far too much Mary Poppins.

The phenomenal show is a perfect way to keep the legacy alive, funky yet respectful you can see the passion on stage these guys have for their mentor/inspiration, it’s pretty clear that this show is motivated from the heart and love of the music. MacKenzie has just evolved since that Super Bowl show, every time I see him perform he excels the previous performance, moves slicker, works the crowd harder, adds a new new note to make your mouth drop and best of all he’s himself at all times, his own style, he’s just him and the crowd love it that way, the boy from that small town has done good.

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