The funkmeister’s original Minneapolis band rocks Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas…
We’re just the band, okay? We’ll never replace him…we’ll never be him…we’ll never try. We’re just going to be The Revolution.
Last year, in my review of Westgate‘s resident show Purple Reign, I had this to say:
“Reign is as close as you could get…and ever will again…to a genuine Prince concert”. And while that production still sizzles with jaw-dropping authenticity and onstage talent galore, the original band from Purple Rain has made a bit of a liar out of me.
The Revolution has done the unimaginable and gotten back together to honor their front man. The reunion show, currently touring nationwide, brings the gift of their music back to the stage for a landmark evening.
Having lived the songs and experiences as they happened, only The Revolution is able to deliver the early songs of Prince to fans in a way that no tribute show ever could.
A somewhat anonymous backup group from their beginnings through the double-length album 1999, The Revolution officially received its name and identity via Purple Rain. That iconic 1984 movie highlighted their memorable talents and personalities. It also depicted the real-life struggle that Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman had in getting the Purple One to recognize their own compositions.
After his death in 2016, guitarist Melvoin, keyboardists Coleman and Matt (Doctor) Fink, bassist BrownMark and drummer Bobby Z performed a series of sold-out shows at First Avenue Nightclub in Minneapolis. Returning to the actual setting of Purple Rain inspired them and healed them. So, they decided to take that therapy on the road.
Wendy recently told Billboard Magazine “We all sort of had this moment where it felt like this was almost too much. But at the same time we made people smile and they felt good and they got to grab onto at least the legacy of him so that his death didn’t feel so permanent.”
BrownMark added “We have the ability now to give people a glimpse of what we experienced with him, and I think that’s a powerful thing. I know it helped me heal.”
One of the biggest live-entertainment regrets this writer has carried through the years is that I’d never gotten to see Prince and The Revolution performing together. The many Prince concerts I’d attended were subsequent to their disbanding in October of 1986.
Prince had constantly reinvented himself throughout his career and changed (or lost) backup performers with regularity. So it was with great pleasure that I got the opportunity to witness The Revolution at Brooklyn Bowl on June 21st.
Still shot from the 1984 film (above)….
…and at Brooklyn Bowl on June 21, 2017…
The Brooklyn Bowl concert venue, bathed in purple floodlights and a light veil of fog, was the perfect place to recreate the legacy of First Avenue. Of course, Wendy, Lisa and the others made the illusion a reality, performing with precision and plenty of heart.
Opening with the infamous “Wendy…is the water warm enough?” line from “Computer Blue” and seguing into the politically-charged anthem “America” (from Around The World In A Day), it was clear that the 80’s lyrics resonated just as strongly today. Next came the euphoric “Mountains” from Parade (aka the Under The Cherry Moon soundtrack), followed by 1999‘s “Automatic”.
With that quartet of opening numbers, the band had already visited four massively successful albums in as many years, spanning multiple genres with ease. But there was plenty more to come in the nearly two-and-a-half hour show.
Eschewing their trademark frills, make-up and lace for conservative slacks and jackets (Dr. Fink rocked the scrubs and stethoscope), The Revolution delivered that rare reunion performance that didn’t feel like an obligatory money grab.
They also left behind the posturing and characterizations that once provided memorable foils to their flamboyant leader. With Prince now looking down from the Heavens, what remained was a very genuine group of friends…who touched the audience with sentiment, appreciation and love.
The band was joined on several numbers by Stokley Williams, lead singer of Mint Condition. Rather than mimic the vocals and stylings of Prince, Williams gave them his own flair, infused with energy and plenty of funk.
At one point the venue felt silent as Melvoin delivered an emotional tribute via “Sometimes It Snows In April” (also from Parade). As she approached the mic, an electronic thump boomed from the speakers. “Is that you, Prince?”, she mused.
Always cry for love…never cry for pain.
He used to say so strong unafraid to die.
Unafraid of the death that left me hypnotized.
Sometimes it snows in April.
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad.
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending.
But all good things, they say, never last….
The guitarist took several opportunities to remind the audience that all of these great songs now belonged to the fans. Through them, Prince and The Revolution would live to sing another day.
It’s important to know when you leave here tonight that these songs really belong to you guys. If you wondered “Who’s singing these tracks?”… if you came here going “Who’s gonna do this? Who’s gonna do that?” YOU guys are! Wendy Melvoin of The Revolution
The Revolution continues their tour of North America through August 11th. Cities and dates are available by clicking here.
Photos and video: [Sammasseur]