The Revolution’s Closing Remarks
Prince’s peak backing band lights his eternal flame
By Alejandra Ramirez,
4:20PM, Mon. Jun. 19, 2017
“It’s not about us,” insisted Wendy Melvoin at the Revolution’s performance on Saturday inside ACL Live at the Moody Theater. “We’re just the band.”
You expect humility from most headliners, but Melvoin proved self-deprecation incarnate given the group she helped lead over the weekend: Prince’s band behind magnum opus Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade. Keyboardists Dr. (Matt) Fink and Lisa Coleman, drummer Bobby Z., bassist Brown Mark, and guitarist Melvoin reunited only a year after Prince’s death, so the danger of appearing exploitative felt very real.
“Remember,” repeated Melvoin. “This show is about you.”
Mowing down 23 tunes in 90 minutes, the Revolution demonstrated the opposite, rather. Their own catharsis hung in the air. As such, the full house followed every twist and turn with joy and awe.
That no one in the band dared play obvious bandleader made the feat all the more remarkable. After the X-rated exchange between Melvoin and Coleman on “Computer Blue,” purple lights shimmered and then gave way to a lone spotlight center stage where their leader once stood.
Mirroring the First Avenue stage in the 1985 film Purple Rain, the musicians settled into their respective roles. Coleman and Fink, the latter decked in his staple scrubs, hid behind keyboards, stabbing a euphoric “1999” and slinky “Controversy.” Mark’s fingertips zigzagged like jumping spiders across the fretboard, while Bobby Z thumped dive bomb beats reminiscent of an Eighties drum machine.
For her part, Melvoin grooved through funk shuffles and weeping solos that would’ve made the Purple One proud. Providing the occasional support for Prince’s falsetto was Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams, whose first appearance came during a raunchy get-down medley of Dirty Mind’s “Uptown” and 1999’s “DMSR.”
While the concert followed in the footsteps of Prince’s dance utopia, one moment imparted grieving. “Sometimes It Snows in April,” a solemn, acoustic performance between Coleman and Melvoin served as the obvious centerpiece of the evening.
“This song has turned into a very hard song for us,” lamented Melvoin. “Looking at videos of us writing this song in the studio with him, we saw the date was on the day of his passing.”
The singer-guitarist then switched the third verse in honor of its author: “I often dream of heaven and I know that he’s there/ I know that he’s probably found a lot of great friends.” Slow and languid, it felt like a public mourning. In a dead silent house, Melvoin sang with such reverent softness you could hear the audience’s mournful exhale.
Once an instance of Prince’s keen humor, the line “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” rang like space-age gospel in Austin. The Revolution then launched Purple Rain triptych “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Purple Rain.” Likewise, “Listen to my body tonight,” a line from “1999,” bottled Prince’s other religion – outrageous sexuality. Encoring with “I Would Die 4 U,” the Revolution lit the eternal flame of Prince Rogers Nelson now and forever.