TVD Live Shots: The Revolution at the Joy Theater, 2/22

PHOTOS: INGRID WILLIAMS | From the opening notes of “America” all doubts were dispelled. The Revolution was hitting on all cylinders like the same well-oiled machine that helped expose Prince’s music to anyone unfamiliar with the icon in the period before “Purple Rain” made him a superstar. The rest of the concert was a history lesson, homage to the legend, and a real good time.

With bassist Mark “Brownmark” Brown and guitarist Wendy Melvoin (pictured at top) handling most of the vocal duties and acting as co-bandleaders, they tore through a set list of both hits and deep cuts demonstrating the depth of Prince’s catalog. A more obscure song, “Computer Blue,”  followed the opener which was the first single off Around the World in a Day, one of the albums that featured the definitive version of The Revolution.

After a high energy start filled with other funky tunes like “Take Me With You” and “D.M.S.R.” the audience was fully engaged with what the band was trying to do. They showed that they are not just a cover band reeling off hits by another artist, but the band, which had a hand in creating the songs.

Melvoin ably handled vocals on “Raspberry Beret” but cautioned the crowd that without Prince singing we would have to handle some of the vocals. Of course, the place went wild with a sing-a-long that was repeated three songs later on “1999.”

It was clear that the night was as emotional for the musicians as it was for the audience. This was never clearer than when drummer Bobby Z., keyboardist Dr. Fink, and Brown left the stage to allow Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman to duet on the bittersweet ballad, “Sometimes it Snows in April.” The feeling of loss was clear on their faces and throughout the audience as well.

With the full band reassembled, it was time to really get down. The final portion of the concert was one hit after another—“Let’s Go Crazy,” “Delirious,” “Controversy,” “Kiss,” “When Doves Cry,” and the set closer, “Purple Rain.”

Though Prince’s latter day bands often featured a saxophonist and backing vocalists, the Revolution was a small group that started out playing in small venues and ended up in stadiums. They still have the special ability to connect with fans intimately while at the same time reaching into the rafters. They are also willing to take chances. During “Controversy,” the group stretched out the song with a massive jam. Melvoin was practically running back and forth across the stage to engage with Brown.

While Prince generally encouraged the massive sing-a-long that accompanies “Purple Rain” knowing his audience would indulge any digressions that followed, it was risky for The Revolution to play anything after the career-defining hit. But they manage to bring the house down with two encores—a smoldering “I Would Die for You” lit the spark for the final, “Baby I’m a Star.”

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