Vive la Révolution: Seeing the Revolution (Without Prince) in Silver Spring, MD


I have to admit: when I first heard the Revolution were reuniting, I wasn’t sure what to think. The very notion of the Revolution without Prince sounded bizarre, like Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding getting together to tour as the Experience sans Hendrix. But when I read the reports from their first set of shows in Minneapolis last year, suddenly it made sense. This was, in many ways, less a conventional rock reunion than an act of collective mourning. All of us, the majority of whom never met the man in person, felt a profound loss when Prince passed; so how does one even fathom what it meant to the people who shared some of his most successful and creatively fertile years? And if listening to “Sometimes It Snows in April” helps to process our grief, can we really blame Wendy and Lisa–who were, as Wendy recalled the other night, actually present and involved in the song’s composition–for singing it to process theirs?

Yet even after I understood the reunion, I still didn’t know what to expect. I was two years old when the Revolution disbanded, so they always seemed frozen in time to me: forever lip-syncing on the First Avenue stage in Purple Rain. Did I really want to see them in their fifties–not to mention without the pint-sized whirling dervish of musical and sexual energy who had always been the group’s unambiguous focal point?

A post shared by Zach (@poorlonelycomputer) on Apr 27, 2017 at 6:08pm PDT

Because I’m sure I’m not the only arrogant thirtysomething with these misgivings, allow me to answer my own question: yes, I did want to see the Revolution. Astonishing as it may be, 30 years later, they still have it. They aren’t quite the well-oiled machine they were in the mid-’80s–how could they be, without their tiny slavedriver in heels cracking the whip?–but they can still ride a cyborg funk groove like nobody else. More importantly, they’re clearly having a blast: Brown Mark remembering way more of his old dance steps than one could have reasonably expected; Dr. Fink still iconically geeky in scrubs and shades; Bobby Z as rock-solid a timekeeper as ever; Wendy and Lisa now delightfully resembling the coolest lesbian moms we could ever ask for. Seeing them–real, appropriately aged, and in person, not immortal in celluloid and Aquanet–is wonderfully humanizing. And if the band missed a few cues here and there, then maybe that’s for the better, too. Prince, as we all know, was perfect, until suddenly–and tragically–he was not. Maybe the best way to remember him is to embrace our humanity and imperfections, and the fact that we’re still alive to appreciate them.

Certainly, as a Prince fan who never got on board with his family-friendly 21st-century reinvention, I appreciated being able to remember him with a few cuss words intact. Having witnessed the bowldlerized version of “D.M.S.R.” on the Musicology tour, it felt goddamn liberating to be in a room full of people–onstage and off–singing the proper “shake your body like a whore” line. The Revolution never got truly nasty last night, which is probably for the best: songs like “Head” and “Jack U Off” are best left in the past, and to the one person who could really pull them off. But “Erotic City,” for example, was a pleasure to hear; and if a room full of consenting adults singing “we can fu(n/c)k until the dawn” is an affront to God, then I don’t particularly want to go to heaven anyway.

Baby I’m a 🌟

A post shared by Kia (@kiamatthews) on Apr 28, 2017 at 4:49am PDT

My favorite part of the show, however, was the way it underlined these songs’ continued relevance and vitality. Yes, on one level, this was about a bunch of quarter-to-middle-aged people (and I absolutely include myself in that description) grasping desperately at the thing that made their childhoods/twenties/whatever feel magical. We were there, as Prince once dismissively put it, to “get our Purple Rain on.” And on that level, it absolutely worked: seeing an ebullient Stokley Williams of Mint Condition lead the band on “Baby I’m a Star” made me nostalgic for things I wasn’t even alive for. But–and maybe this is still the nostalgia talking–the music also felt stunningly of-the-moment, in a way that even I as a fan wasn’t fully conscious of before.

I’m just going to come out and say it: in today’s political climate, “1999”’s defiant pleasure in the face of impending apocalypse has never felt quite so real. The binary-smashing identity politics of “Controversy” and “Uptown” have never felt quite so radical. Even “America,” which always felt like an ideological muddle of protest and patriotism, takes on new life, its critique of racial and economic inequality finally triumphing over its sense of Cold War paranoia. Maybe, in this grim, desperate Trump era, what we need is music from the equally grim, desperate Reagan era–music that is neither grim nor desperate, but almost, well, revolutionary in its optimism. That’s how I felt last night, anyway. And if hearing those songs made me feel for even a couple of minutes like there was some light at the end of This Thing Called Life, then I’d say my money and time were well spent. Vive la Révolution.

(This post originally appeared on my chronological Prince blog, dance / music / sex / romance.)


Filed under Bobby Z, Brown Mark, concerts, Lisa Coleman, Matt Fink, Prince, Prince & The Revolution, Wendy Melvoin

2 responses to “Vive la Révolution: Seeing the Revolution (Without Prince) in Silver Spring, MD

  1. Its good that you managed to get a perspective on the current Revolution tour. And it showcases how there is going to be musical life out of the Minneapolis school in the post Prince world.

  2. Nisha

    I saw a clip of The Revolution live on tour. The song playing at the time was Computer Blue. So of course, in my mind, I recall the scene of Wendy on her knees simulating the act on Prince’s guitar, which is probably the most iconic scene EVER. Well, when that part of the song comes on, this guitarist (I don’t know who he is as he is not an original member) comes out of no where and gets on his knees in front of Wendy as they both play the guitar LOL What a riot!!! OMG!! I laughed so hard, I’m sure my neighbors across the street could hear me.

    The Revolution on tour is a good thing. Although I have not seen them, I think it’s great for others to have the opportunity. After all, they (pre Wendy and with Wendy) helped make the magic happen with Prince. Long live The Revolution!!@💜💜💜💜

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