Growing up in the '80s, millions of kids caught their initial glimpses of the backing band of our dearly departed Prince in a string of childhood-defining music videos. The Revolution seemed in perfect synchronicity with their eccentric and brilliant singer/guitarist.
Even after his passing, the band is still in perfect, cosmic rhythm, as evidenced by last night's show at First Avenue (the first of three).
Every song was deemed worthy by the band for the full "let's sing/clap/both!" extended jam treatment, making the show a near-continuous funk workout.
You have to hand it to Wendy, Lisa, Brownmark, Dr. Fink, and Bobby Z (along with special guests Dez Dickerson and Andre Cymone). They played hit after hit of late '70s through mid-'80s. The bass thwacked you in the face, the keyboards made your backbone slide, the guitars provided the crunch, and the drums insisted you move with it all.
The Revolution is one drum-tight, rocked up, funky little monster of seasoned musicians who know what they are doing.
Opening with "Let's Go Crazy" was both a natural and a ballsy choice. Of the songs, Wendy implored the crowd to "Take them back. It's what he wants." The sold-out crowd did just that last night, singing, dancing, and rocking to some of the most revered Prince songs in the catalog.
It was a nice, probably appropriate decision to skip the final, indelible guitar freakout that everyone has learned to love at the end of "Let's Go Crazy." It was surreal to hear another Purple Rain track right away in the set without Prince leading the charge, but "Computer Blue" was in the Revolution's capable hands.
From there, it was rapid-fire, song after song played with obvious love and skill. After "America," Wendy introduced the special guests, guitarists Dickerson and Cymone. "Aren't they handsome? Prince would be in tears."
Bobby Z laid down the beats, Fink and Lisa filled in the open spaces with keyboard effects, while Brownmark, Wendy, Andre, and Dez handled most of the vocals.
Dirty Mind and Controversy were well represented with songs like "Do it All Night," "Let's Work," "Controversy," "Party Up," and "Uptown."
As an aside, why is bass soloing only allowed in funk music?
When the stage was bathed in red light, the crowd seemed to know that "Little Red Corvette" was next. Perhaps understandably, this track felt a little lost vocally, but it was still just what the doctor (Fink) ordered.
1999 was also represented with the title track, and it sounded amazing. Wendy and Lisa took the stage by themselves for a spare, wounded, barely-there version of 1986's "Sometimes it Snows in April." It was raw, and tears were shed both on stage and off.
Special guest vocalist Bilal promptly nailed -- absolutely nailed -- 1984's "The Beautiful Ones." It was freaky.
Sticking with Purple Rain, the Revolution delivered the goods on "When Doves Cry," signature Prince guitar work included. Wendy asked the crowd, "What's it like to look at all this on stage?" to the roar of approving voices. Unable to escape the reason we were all there, she added, "We miss him a lot."
Apollonia made an appearance to talk about love, and to throw jewelry (I think) into the crowd. Bilal returned for "Kiss," and then things went bananas for 1984's "Baby, I'm a Star." There were confetti cannons, solos, and a cavalcade of friends, family, and musicians. Mayte was there, along with everyone else.
Was there any doubt about how the Revolution would end the evening? After opening with "Let's Go Crazy," it was pretty obvious which song would cap the night off.
"Purple Rain" was a bit fragile, maybe hesitant. This happened occasionally on Prince's mega hits. I suspect the band was feeling the pressure, which is obviously understandable.
The final song came into its own when Wendy started tearing up the guitar parts, and the crowd helped out with the "OOO OOO OOO OOOOOOO" part.
It was obvious before the first note was struck that it was gonna be a beautiful night, and after the last it was obvious the Revolution succeeded in remembrance, celebration, and setting the stage for tonight and beyond.
"He can never be replaced. We won't try. That's a promise."
The Crowd: The older fans came early, pre-show for the hors d'oeuvres, younger people filtered in when the doors opened. Overall, more nattily dressed than the standard First Avenue crowd.
Overheard "Here comes a special guest; Bet it's Questlove!"
Random Notebook Dump: Three-quarters length coat with shoulder studs? Check. Unbuttoned frilly shirt? Check.