“Admission is easy, just say U believe and come 2 this place in your heart
Paisley Park is in your heart.”
Prince – “Paisley Park,” from 1985’s “Around the World in Day”
CHANHASSEN, Minn. – There was never any doubt that plenty of tears would fall inside Paisley Park on April 21.
On the first anniversary of Prince’s death, the 1,000-plus fans from around the globe who gathered to continue the four-day Celebration 2017 at his sanctuary spent most of the day with The Revolution, the “Purple Rain”-era band that added to Prince’s background flair.
But even as the original quintet (along with Melvoin’s twin sister Susannah on background vocals) bounded through the bass-heavy funk of “Computer Blue” and “Erotic City” and led the crowd in arm-waving bounces during “Take Me With U” and “Raspberry Beret,” there was an underlying poignancy to even the most festive moments.
“You see that symbol right there,” guitarist/singer Wendy Melvoin said, pointing to the giant, lighted Prince symbol hanging at the back of the Paisley Park soundstage, “that’s just getting brighter right now.”
The band – which also includes drummer Bobby Z, keyboardists “Doctor” Matt Fink and Lisa Coleman and bassist Mark “BrownMark” Brown – launched their reunion tour with their Friday performances at the compound (interestingly, it was the first time The Revolution played there, since it was constructed around the same time they disbanded in the late-‘80s).
In an interview last week, Fink said The Revolution will likely visit Atlanta on a second leg of the tour this fall.
Brown and Melvoin handled the majority of the vocals, but the occasional appearances by Mint Condition singer Stokley Williams, a compelling presence who adroitly slithered through the naughty funk of “D.M.S.R.” and traded lines on “1999,” emphasized the need for a central figure on stage.
Throughout the musically taut hour-long set, the band pinpointed their rich history with Prince with a quick dive into the vault (“Our Destiny” and “Roadhouse Garden”) and subtle examples.
Melvoin recalled rehearsing a version of “Paisley Park” for their performance without realizing the arrangement was the same one that Prince had conjured for his final concert at the venue that shares the song’s name.
“Irony of all ironies,” she said with a wry smile.
Melvoin also tweaked the spoken-word intro to “Let’s Go Crazy” (“we are gathered here today to get through this thing called grief”) and, minutes after Bobby Z’s mournful high hat kicked off “Purple Rain,” Melvoin murmured, “Goodnight, sweet man,” as the song fluttered to a close.
A good thing security guards had passed around a box of tissues at the start of the band’s set.
In addition to reveling in The Revolution’s performance and panel session, during which the band shared funny stories about Prince and expressed their admiration for his creative genius – “We won’t be around forever, but he will,” Bobby Z said, gesturing around the Paisley Park air. “This will be happening 100, 200 years from now” – fans received other surprises.
Some of Prince’s siblings, Alfred Jackson and Sharon, Norrine and Tyka Nelson, came onstage and shared an emotional minute of silence, followed by a minute of cheering, before introducing a 45-minute video of Prince’s final performance at Paisley Park – a preview of his “Piano & A Microphone” tour held on Jan. 21, 2016.
During the concert — which occasionally resembled the Atlanta shows he would perform three months later but was filled with more playfulness and an artful deconstruction of songs – Prince oozed raw talent.
His falsetto was achingly seductive on “Do Me, Baby,” and “(Sometimes I Feel Like A) Motherless Child” was proof that you don’t need a high hat and bass to bring the funk.
During the lovely piano ballad, “Free,” Prince stopped cold and choked up, wanting to pay quick tribute to David Bowie, who had then recently passed away.
It was a sweet, humanizing moment, and one that reminded us that it’s OK to cry for our fallen idols.
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