In the days leading up to their set at the Tito’s stage on Sunday, many didn’t realize that the Revolution listed on the bill was Prince’s prime backing unit. “I thought that was just some new indie band,” came the refrain time and again over the weekend. Seeing the sheer numbers crammed inside ACL’s quonset-like hut at 6pm, word must have gotten out.
No mistaking this band, as a tape of their introduction from the Purple Rain soundtrack unspooled over the PA. Suddenly, it’s 1984, you’re at Minneapolis’ First Avenue club, and cameras are rolling over your shoulder. Onstage: guitarist Wendy Melvoin and bassist Mark Brown in head-to-toe white; keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink in his surgical scrubs; and Bobby Z behind a kick drum featuring a prominent, Purple Rain font band logo!
Then came the Minneapolitan funk dance party: “America,” “Computer Blue,” B-side “Erotic City.” The beat dropped hard and the energy skyrocketed with the Revolution adhering to the songs’ original arrangements. Brown and Melvoin shared vocals in the absence of their late leader, until Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams joined five songs in.
Nonstop hits fired from that point forward: “1999,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” with Melvoin reproducing the fallen bandleader’s crazed lead guitar breaks, and a joyous “Raspberry Beret.” Come “Purple Rain,” Melvoin urged the audience to take the lead vocal. Hundreds sang every word, joining the Revolution in honoring a musician who cut across all parameters.
At that moment, Prince entered the room.
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