It was an unbelievable, unforgettable night at City Winery last night for the New Power Generation finale show. It was billed as a VMA afterparty, and after watching the VMA’s on TV, we were more than ready for some real music.
The "midnight show" got rolling by about 12:30am with the full NPG taking the extended stage, their 10-piece horn section leading the way. They're one of the finest, tightest bands I’ve ever heard live. Shelby J and Liv Warfield from The NPG opened with a few R&B powerhouse tunes. Then a real highlight came next in the form of FUV fave Alice Smith, who delivered one of those career-changing performances. The guys sitting behind us were all saying, "Who is she?! Alice Smith?" It was great to hear that.
At this point, Prince was not yet in the building, and nobody was really sure he was going to perform. No matter. Lenny Kravitz, Bruno Mars and Rhianna were all rumored to be showing up.
Cee-Lo Green hit the stage next, boldly taking on Prince’s “You Got the Look” for an audience sing-along.
Then New Yorker and legendary rapper Doug E. Fresh came on, with a hip-hop, beatbox-driven set that really got the crowd going. He worked “Teach Me How to Dougie” into his fun set, along with his big hit, “The Show.” At this point, we were still hoping for Prince, but recognized that it was already a pretty amazing show.
I saw Dan Bern, Joseph Arthur, James Maddock, Questlove and Citizen Cope all digging the show too.
Larry Graham joined the band for a bunch of Sly Stone songs, and his trademark bass-slapping bottom end really got the room moving.
And remember — we’re in City Winery. It's one of the best sounding rooms in New York. They amped up the sound system for these NPG shows, and it all sounded great. The tables were pulled off of the main floor and it was a standing, dancing, sweaty crowd.
Then at about 3am, here we go -- out comes Prince! He was looking sharp in all black – tight pants, black jacket (later just a sleeveless shirt), long gold chain and retro sunglasses. His set wound through covers like "Ain’t Nobody," "What Have You Done for Me Lately" and "Dancing Machine," alongside his own songs both new and classic. Watching Prince in action that close up is stunning: His endless energy, his artistic instincts, his bandleading spontaneity and that spot-on voice. He clearly loves the people he plays with. At one point, he dropped backward to the floor to be quickly revived by his band, and then went into "Nothing Compares to U."
A small crowd was gathered to watch thorough the front windows of the club, even past 5am. This was a purple moment to be remembered. I left wondering what Prince would do at dawn in New York City as he left the building.