For fans worldwide continuing to mourn the loss of Prince, “music is truly medicine.” In its first tour in decades, The Revolution is celebrating the iconic and influential music as part of the prolific artist’s enduring legacy with a “message of hope, love, and unity.” One could add “healing” as well. The original band features Lisa Coleman on keyboards/piano, Wendy Melvoin, on guitar, Brown Mark on bass, Bobby Z on drums and keyboardist Matt Fink. Going through their own gamut of emotions and processing the memories and time together recording and touring with Prince, It clearly brings up a lot for each individual musician. From when they originally reunited for three special sold-out sold shows at Minneapolis’ First Avenue, the birthplace of Purple Rain, to being approached to perform at Paisley Park on the first anniversary of Prince’s death to the decision to take The Revolution back on the road. To discuss that and more, tHeARTofla spoke with Matt Fink for an in-depth interview that touches on all aspects of this very special reunion tour and what it means to The Revolution and how it is affecting the devotees of Prince they perform to in concert every night.
What was the experience like for the band playing the sold-out shows at First Avenue? Did it feel surreal, sad or uplifting or all of the above?
Yes, all of the above. All of the above. And just so you know, the Revolution performed in early 2012 — for a special event that was sponsored by the American Heart Association.
This was about a year after Bobby, our drummer (Bobby Z) had suffered a pretty bad heart attack and we almost lost him. He developed a relationship with the American Heart Association and wanted to give something back as a fundraising event. So we got behind him and did that event.
Again, in another surreal moment, back, maybe the end of ’03 I think it was. We did another fundraising event for Sheila E’s nonprofit that she has about the Lil’ Angel Bunny Foundation. That was the first time the band reunited after a 17-year hiatus from one another. Who knew at that time that we would have even reunited without Sheila asking us to do it? So, we did that, and it was exciting at that time, and also very surreal for me, to see everybody.
Really, the thing that the band really wanted and needed was to have Prince reunite with the group somewhere along the way. We really desired that, and we all had approached him at different times because concert promoters were approaching us as well as band members, to do something.
So there has been more than one opportunity, but Prince refused those opportunities.
Then it was early September of 2014, and I had a meeting with Prince out at Paisley Park, and Bobby Z was with me at that meeting as well, and the first thing out of his mouth was wanting to discuss the possibility of a reunion. He was beginning to think about it at that time, finally. We left that meeting hopeful that he was going to do something within the next year or two.
He had obviously made plans to do the 3rdeyegirl project, and then he went out and did his solo piano tour and all that. He was in the midst of that when he passed away. So we were thinking — OK, so after the piano tour, maybe in 2017, or late 2016, that’s when he’s going to start thinking about The Revolution reunion.
Ultimately a full-on Minneapolis sound tour, with The Time, Prince and the Revolution again, and Sheila E and all those people. It would have been really cool, but unfortunately, it didn’t come to fruition.
That was all being looked at by him at the time. Wow, so it’s…. You know it’s… An alternate history that could have happened.
Yes, and so that’s another reason why we’re out here. Well, we thought he was going to do it; we feel like we owe it to our fans to do this at this time. It’s just sort of all those mixed things that we need to do, so come all together and do it.
Photos by Robert Georgeff (c) 2017
How has the tour been going? What has the response been from the fans and their reactions? Is there anything that surprised you touring now?
Oh, they love it. The fan reactions are awesome. Reviews have been great. There are rarely any negative comments from reviewers, in fact not at all actually. I did see a fan actually, this morning… I had shared the Wiltern show on my Facebook page again, and everybody there was excited and most of the people had already purchased their tickets and were just saying how excited they were to come to the show. There was only one person, one guy, who was a naysayer. [laughs] I thought, well, you know, hey you know 0.001% isn’t bad. So I’m OK with that.
How do you choose what songs to perform? Do you mix up the set list each night of the tour or “wing it”?
Well, the way we’re doing it right now is we’re trying to keep just a set that we like right now, with very little variation, because it just makes life easier right now the way we’re doing this. Because everybody is so busy we just don’t get a lot of time rehearsing on the side. I mean when we’re out on the road, we’re taking breaks in between different segments of the tour, because we’re all doing other things on the side.
So just getting it together — it was a lot of work and effort because of the lack of time involved getting it ready.
But now that we have it together it’s a great show, it’s flowing properly and we as a group decided to have every band member create their own wish list and possibly even try to put it in an order if they could, and then we all compared notes and managed to come to a consensus as to what songs we put into the set.
What has it been like performing onstage every night without Prince? Do you feel his spirit every time you play the songs?
Well, I suppose. It depends on your level of spirituality and what your beliefs are in that respect. I’d say that we all have a belief that he’s there in spirit and he’s watching over it — at least I do. One can if you’re very religious and you believe in that sort of thing, yes. The people who are atheists probably don’t think that. [laughs]
I’m not saying anyone is an atheist in the band, and there isn’t, but the issue is — some people believe in the afterlife and some don’t. But if he’s there, that’s great; if some people have that ability to feel the presence of another soul around, that’s another thing and I know people that are able to do that. I’m not that gifted when it comes to that. But I’ve had my own spiritual experiences and issues with ghosts and feeling a presence or a being shown that they’re around — things like that from time to time. Then I know people who are really good at that, really good at sensing people’s presence who passed on. So I tend to believe in it, yes — that he is hanging out; he’s watching; he’s probably got a smile on his face.
On a less spiritual note, I’m sure that there’s some responsibility you guys feel towards bringing some grace and dignity as human beings just doing this work that you guys created together. Is there any way that you guys reflect that during the show?
Absolutely. Yes, there’s just so much respect that we have for him and for maintaining some kind of legacy moving forward here so that we can play from time to time and keep the music going for the fans.
There’s a lot of people who say, “Hey, I never got to you guys back in the day” or “I was too young, I was too young, but became a fan later because my parents turned me on to you and I’m coming to the show because of that.”
There’s all these comments coming at us and I just love to see that, it’s great. It’s why bands like The Beatles are still big and why Paul McCartney’s out there carrying on at the age of 74. I saw him — what an inspiration he is — three-hour sets in front of stadium crowds, I mean he’s doing that constantly and it’s amazing. It’s amazing. I hope we’re doing that. I hope we’re all going to move on into the future and play the hits and maybe, hopefully — I’m not saying maybe — I’d like to be doing some new originals with the group and putting those out there.
— and also playing unreleased material out of the vault that we recorded.
Yes. So all of the above, something that I’ve wished for many years actually and the group itself has. So now that we’re here at this moment in time, that’s what it looks like we’re going to do.
So you have plans to release and perform other material that you guys worked on with Prince?
Yes. I’d say yes to that. They’ve already released two songs from the vault that we’ve been playing, and now they’re out there as a single right now, “Roadhouse Garden” and “Our Destiny” which we really only played at a show one time back in 1985.
header image by Ron Harris (c) 2017