Party like it’s 1999 at the Cork Opera House

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Arguably, the virtuosity alone would have been close enough for jazz, but the brilliant New Power Generation also gave us stunning volume, engagement and energy in this memorable show.

After leaving the stage to the trampled chants of “one more air” still ringing in their ears, the collective cores of NPG will tremble as they return to the daily routine, their feet in Minneapolis, their hearts in Ireland. Few concerts will sound longer or louder than NPG at Cork Opera House.

New generation energy at the Cork Opera House for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. Photo: Naoise Culhane

“I had a great time here tonight, it’s so good to be here,” said Morris Hayes, musical director, NPG keyboardist and one of Prince’s favorite producers and collaborators. “If you want NPG back in Cork, tell everyone about us. Do you want us to come back?

Ok, yes, the walls vibrated, as they vibrated for all the hits: Girls & Boys, Cream, Sign O’ The Times, 1999, Let’s Go Crazy, Gett Off, Sexy MF and, of course, When Doves Cry and Violet Rain.

Morris introduced the other band members. Guitarist and rapper Tony M was with Prince for the Diamonds and Pearls show at RDS, Dublin in 1992. Breathtaking roars for Tony M.

Mackenzie on stage with New Power Generation at the Cork Opera House for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.  Photo: Naoise Culhane
Mackenzie on stage with New Power Generation at the Cork Opera House for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Volleys of approval also welcomed Hayes introducing the brilliant Mike Scott on lead guitar, Keith Anderson on saxophone and Chaka Khan drummer Chris Bailey.

The star of the show was lead singer Mackenzie. An incredible singer and captivating dancer, he also has an incredible rapport with the audience.

Mackenzie may sing Prince’s repertoire, and do so with deep love and respect: “Prince was better at everything than all of us; a better singer, a better dancer, better at the guitar, more beautiful. Well done, Mackenzie, but you really are a star in your own right.

And NPG is not a tribute. NPG has its own power and its own camaraderie. It really is a magic group, a real group of magicians. Morris Hayes is a wizard. And Mackenzie has us under her spell.

Yet, much like a Man United line-up minus Cristiano Ronaldo, you can’t help but gaze longingly towards the substitutes’ bench. What would Prince himself have thought of this show?

As a devoted Prince fan and one of thousands disappointed by Prince Páirc Ui Chaoimh’s rambling 1990 show, I imagine the Purple One would thank NPG not just for keeping his legacy alive, but for reimbursing a debt owed. Arguably.

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