×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Revolution Pay Tribute to Prince With an Emotional New York Concert

The Revolution
BB King Blues Club & Grill
New York, NY
April 28, 2017

There are an infinite number of ways that The Revolution going on tour and playing Prince songs barely a year after their leader’s death could have gone badly. The hole in the center of the stage and the sound could have been too big. His absence could have made it all feel too inappropriate or, worst of all, exploitative. Or, they simply might not have been up to the task, some 30 years after they’d last played together with him, of performing those complicated, difficult songs that they used to execute with the military precision of which he relentlessly demanded. It all could have been too sad.

But on Friday night at a densely packed B.B. King’s in Times Square, none of those things happened. The band was razor sharp, inspired, and knew exactly what the audience wanted: a concert that was a celebration, a reunion, a public mourning — and perhaps most of all, a release. And from the very beginning of the set, The Revolution made everyone in the crowd a participant.

The house lights went down and the announcer said “Ladies and gentlemen, the Revolution,” just like in the “Purple Rain” film. The beat from “Computer Blue” kicked in as the group — guitarist Wendy Melvoin, bassist Brown Mark, drummer Bobby Z., and keyboardists Matt Fink and Lisa Coleman — walked onstage. Wendy, now the de facto frontperson purely because she’s the main singer (and the most talkative), strode up to the microphone and said, “This is about taking these songs back. Everyone’s wondering ‘Who’s gonna sing this, who’s gonna sing that’ — you are.” Then Brown Mark, playing the id to her superego, yelled, “Are you ready to party?!”

The crowd erupted as Wendy and Lisa completed the song’s introductory dialogue — and they were off. The Revolution roared through an opening salvo of songs that had the audience raving: “America,” “Mountains,” “Automatic,” “Take Me With U.” While there was a refreshing mix of ages, races, and genders (kind of like a more middle-aged and modestly dressed version of the crowd in “Purple Rain”), the house was generally packed with dedicated, die-hard, longtime Prince fans; the band originally booked the tour cautiously, but this thousand-odd-capacity show sold out so quickly that they added another show at the 1,500-cap Webster Hall on May 3rd. These fans, who bought up the tickets so quickly, didn’t just know every word, a lot of them yelled out the tricky “Hey!”s in “Automatic” and the “Guitars and drums on the one, HUH!” in “Mountains” perfectly on cue.

It was one of the happiest concert crowds we’ve ever been in.

The group was then joined by Mint Condition singer Stokely Williams, the only guest vocalist of the night (others, such as Bilal, are playing different shows on the tour). A formidable frontman in his own right with solid dance moves, Williams not only knew Prince but was respected by him. He handled most of the songs that Prince sang in a higher range, and the torrid opening salvo continued with “Uptown” and “DMSR,” both of which got rousing singalongs from the crowd.

The pace then slowed down as Lisa announced a song that “You may not know or you may not” — and the group launched into a medley of two hitherto-unreleased and hard-to-find tracks from the forthcoming “Purple Rain” deluxe edition: “Our Destiny” seguing into “Roadhouse Garden.” (Not surprisingly, this was lost on more than a few audience members, but the woman standing next to us practically lost her mind.)

Everyone was back on board for the next song — “Raspberry Beret” — and the nearly two-hour-long set continued with hits (“1999,” “Let’s Work”), fan favorites (“Erotic City”), and songs that weren’t hits but were still integral: Wendy introduced “Paisley Park” as “the essence of what he tried to say and give to you guys”: a haven, a mystical, mythical place that he kept writing about and ultimately created for himself and the people around him.

After a funky take on “Controversy,” Wendy spoke about when she and Lisa wrote with Prince the song that’s become his elegy: “Sometimes It Snows in April.” “What has happened for a lot of us, especially The Revolution, is that he lives inside of us,” she said. “And when I’m recording something that’s completely different from this world [Wendy and Lisa are Emmy-winning film and TV composers], I think to myself, ‘Is that good enough? Would he like it?’ So we need to kind of create a place for us to land — our own little shiva.” She wept as she finished speaking and struggled a bit through the middle verses.

But the uplift came right away, as the band raced through the songs they and Prince would often use to close their sets: “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” “When Doves Cry,” and, of course, a soaring “Purple Rain,” which had hundreds in the house slowly waving their hands, continuing as the band said goodnight and left the stage. Of course there was an encore, and of course it was “I Would Die 4 U / Baby I’m a Star.” And sure, everyone wished Prince were still here — none more than the people onstage. But since that can’t happen, joyous communal wakes like this one will do just fine.

More Music

  • Seth Meyers TV Take Podcast

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Seth Meyers's Standup Special

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced the premiere date for “Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby” and Epix released a trailer for “Belgravia.” CASTING AMC announced that “Succession” actor Sarah Snook, David Costabile (“Breaking Bad”) and Sonya Cassidy (“Lodge 49”) have been cast in its upcoming anthology series from Will Bridges and Brett Goldstein. The still-to-be-titled series is set 15 years into the [...]

  • jody gerson

    Universal Music Publishing Group's Jody Gerson Honored by Hometown of Philadelphia

    Since her time as chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group (January will mark her five-year anniversary), Jody Gerson has both been given and gifted her share of honors. On Tuesday, Oct. 22, she received recognition by her hometown of Philadelphia: a plaque on the Avenue of the Arts Walk of Fame presented by [...]

  • Chuck D of Public EnemyGods of

    Public Enemy's Chuck D to Receive 2019 Woody Guthrie Prize

    Chuck D, founder and frontman of the legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy, will receive the 2019 Woody Guthrie Prize. The hip-hop icon, author and social activist will be honored for his career-long dedication to shining light on social issues, specifically Black issues, through his music and writing. Named for American folk singer Woody Guthrie, the [...]

  • Nick Lachey Mansion

    Nick and Vanessa Lachey Seek Off-Market Sale of Valley-View Mansion

    An eagle-eyed informant snitched that a secluded mansion in the affluent Los Angeles, Calif., suburb of Encino, owned by Nick Lachey and Vanessa (Minnillo) Lachey, has been floated for sale as an off-market listing with Craig Knizek at The Agency with a $7 million asking price. The 98 Degrees singer, host of Nickelodeon’s soon-to-premiere reality [...]

  • Music engineer Ed Cherney is inducted

    Ed Cherney, Grammy-Winning Engineer for Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton, Dies at 69

    Ed Cherney, a Grammy- and Emmy-winning producer and engineer who worked with Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Jackson Browne, Elton John, Etta James, Willie Nelson and many more, died in Los Angeles on October 22 following a battle with cancer. He was 69. Cherney, who worked out of the iconic Village recording studios [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content