While Day One of Paisley Park's Prince Celebration was something of a soft opening for fans who couldn't wait to set foot inside the hallowed halls of the Purple One's famous Chanhassen compound, Day Two was all about the Revolution.
Prince's most famous backing band – comprised of Wendy Melvoin, Mark "BrownMark" Brown, Dez Dickerson, Lisa Coleman, Matt "Doctor" Fink and Robert "Bobby Z." Rivkin – the Revolution performed on some the Purple One's most memorable albums, including 1999 and Purple Rain.
A notably diverse and eclectic group of musicians, the Revolution helped lift Prince into global superstardom and, during today's performance, now find themselves in the position of continuing their dearly beloved leader's legacy.
Without overstating the obvious, the Revolution had their work cut out for them preparing for this show and their subsequent tour. They're filling the hole Prince left in the fabric of their songs, and replicating some of his incredible onstage charisma, all while treading carefully around their own grief and loss. The Revolution performed shockingly well, and reinstated themselves as arbiters of Prince's music.
Sounding tight, funky and well-rehearsed from the first kick into "Computer Blue," the band was still moving impressively onstage, with Dickerson even sliding down onto his knees to punctuate the solo. Rather than attempt to fill Prince's otherworldly vocal talent with a single performer, the Revolution opted to share vocals, passing around verse lines to great effect. particularly on "1999."
The Special Guests
The Revolution were joined by Wendy Melvoin's twin sister Susannah and Mint Condition vocalist/drummer Stokely Williams. Susannah might be best known to Prince diehards as a frequent backing vocalist for the Revolution during the Purple Rain era, as well as a member of Prince's erstwhile side-project the Family and the main muse for "Nothing Compares 2 U." Both Susannah and Stokely lent a much-needed lift to the Revolution's vocals, and Stokely kept some of Prince's chicken-strut dance moves alive, sharing some well-choreographed steps with BrownMike during funkier tracks like "D.M.S.R." and "Erotic City."
The Panel Discussion
Fans were also treated to a frank and warm discussion panel featuring all of the Revolution, save Dickerson. Wendy Melvoin, perhaps seeking to clear the air of any lingering smell of "cash-in" was thoughtful and eloquent in her opening remarks and throughout, framing the show as way for the group's members to pay tribute to their departed friend's memory and "See where we're going together." Characterizing life with Prince as "Holding on to the tail of a comet," the guitarist sagely called upon the Purple People in the audience to help the Revolution shoulder the weight of the icon's massive legacy.
Things weren't totally dour however. BrownMike and Doctor Fink in particular were responsible for adding some much needed levity in the form of wild Prince stories about stealing megaphones from airplanes and ripping the seat out of countless too-tight stage outfits.
Deep Cuts from The Vault
Much has been made in the year since Prince's passing of the late icon's apparently vast archive of unreleased songs. While the Revolution's members were coyly tight-lipped when the subject came up during the Celebration's panel discussion, the group did trot out two deep cuts from the Purple One's proverbial vault: "Roadhouse Garden" and "Our Destiny," both ostensibly from the Purple Rain era. Like much of the Revolution's set, the tracks were brisk, uptempo funk workouts with hypnotic dance beats emanating from the still whip-tight rhythm combo of Bobby Z, BrownMike and Wendy Melvoin.
The Legend Himself
As a first-time Paisley Park visitor, I'll admit that the whole Prince Celebration had a somewhat surreal feel to it until we came to the archival footage portion of the afternoon. While yesterday's event showcased a recent full-band Prince performance from Amsterdam, today's footage came in the form of a taped performance from Prince's Piano and a Microphone tour, recorded right there in Paisley Park just months before he died. While the experience of the museum tour and even the Revolution's performance felt somewhat inevitably detached from the man himself, this footage was Prince at his most pure and magnetic.
Languidly flowing between story and song with a performance artist's sense of timing and a virtuosic mastery of piano, the roughly 30 minutes of the 'Piano and a Mic' video left the entire room spellbound and emotionally raw. Watching the ghostly projection of the Prince roll across the ivories with a soft fury on "The Beautiful Ones" truly brought home what an incredible talent we lost, one year ago today.