Nineteen-ninety-one was a good year to be a Prince fan, with the New Power Generation operating at full steam and making their studio debut on the spectacular Diamonds And Pearls.
With a newly remastered deluxe reissue of the album now in record stores worldwide, behind-the-scenes footage has emerged from Prince and the New Power Generation’s warm-up for their set at the opening ceremony of the 1991 Special Olympics, which was hosted in Prince’s hometown, Minnesota.
In a sense, this footage captures the late pop genius as we didn’t often see him. Lit by daylight, in an abandoned stadium, with only the company of his band. And yet, this is Prince as we know and love him, even making soundcheck an act of theatre.
We see the New Power Generation goofing off and limbering up. The great Rosie Gaines had her electronic keyboard wrapped in magenta fur, as though dressed for the occasion by Jim Henson. Levi Seacer Jr is the epitome of cool in his khaki suit and a sunburst Epiphone Sheraton. Ditto, Sonny T with his custom Auerswald Cleo bass guitar.
Then Prince takes to the stage, with an air of celestial boredom on his face, but also maybe some mischief, and the look of someone who wants the sound to be perfect on the night. He picks up the Yellow Cloud electric guitar and shreds on its EMG bridge humbucker, and the band launch into Baby I’m A Star. Soundchecks are not usually like this but when you’ve got that talent onstage, gold microphones and Prince then you realise not all are created equally.
Prince and the New Power Generation played a three song set that night on 20 July 1991, opening with Diamonds And Pearls, followed by Baby I’m A Star with Push to close things out.
There are some details worth noting when it comes to the Yellow Cloud electric guitar. Built by Minneapolis’ Knut-Koupee Enterprises, this was one of the most iconic guitars in the Prince collection, having appeared in the videos for Cream and Get Off and used extensively from 1988 onwards.
This footage from the now-demolished Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome captures it when it had a fixed bridge. By 1994 it would be equipped with a Floyd Rose vibrato, which was Prince’s first, and retro-fitted by his guitar tech Zeke Clark when fixing a neck break. Clark would also count Eddie Van Halen among his clients.
The Yellow Cloud was sold at auction for $187,000 in 2016, when it was picked up by Jim Irsay. Prince's Blue Teal Cloud guitar fetched a then-world record the following year when it sold for $700,000.
The Diamonds And Pearls Deluxe remastered box-set is available now via Legacy Recordings.