BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Prince is gone, but The Revolution continues.
The quintet famous for backing Prince during his commercially massive ‘80s period – “Purple Rain,” “Around the World in a Day” and “Parade” – has been helping fans adjust to his loss since the fall of 2016, when they regrouped to heal themselves as well.
Their sporadic touring since then hadn’t led to Atlanta until Saturday night, when Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Mark “Brownmark” Brown, “Dr.” Matt Fink and Bobby Z. strutted and sweated through a nearly two-hour show at the Tabernacle.
From the opening “America” to the last fizzy notes of show-closer “Baby I’m a Star,” The Revolution brought fans as close as they will ever get again to live Prince songs, and did it with the kind of taut musicianship that would have made their leader proud.
The back line of Fink, Bobby Z. and Coleman proved a steady force throughout, while Melvoin and Brown – who recently relocated to Atlanta – offered the flash, musically and through their showmanship.
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Under a swirl of flashing indigo lights, Brown beat his bass in his trademark downstrokes while handling the lead vocals on “Computer Blue,” while Melvoin soon stepped in for vocal duty on “Mountains.”
A frequent guest at The Revolution’s shows, Stokley Williams of Mint Condition, whirled through after the band conquered the cascading keyboards and aching romanticism of “Take Me With U.”
An electrifying figure in shades and a fedora, Williams adeptly dove into “D.M.S.R.” and, with his falsetto in top form, “Let’s Work.” The veteran R&B singer knows his purpose isn’t to imitate, but to bring the Jolt Cola to an already caffeinated set by a group of musicians whose heritage is 100 percent legitimate.
The seamless set segued from one familiar Prince gem (a slightly recast “Raspberry Beret”) to another (a rafters-shaking “1999”) with a handful of rarities (“Anotherloverholenyohead” from “Parade” and “All Day, All Night” among them) to give the diehards a reason to grin.
A would-be highlight, the deeply emotional “Sometimes it Snows in April” – which resonated even greater after Prince’s April 2016 passing – was instead marred by a crowd more interested in loudly conversing instead of listening to Melvoin and Coleman, alone on stage, presenting an emotional read of the heartbreaking song.
But fans’ attention – and phones – returned as soon as Melvoin intoned the famous “Dearly beloved…” opening of “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Williams bounced back onstage for lead vocals, and coordinated dance steps with Brown and Melvoin, for “When Doves Cry,” which featured an impressive combination of Melvoin’s screaming guitar and Williams’ impassioned shrieks at song’s end.
And, as even the most casual Prince fan might have expected, “Purple Rain” sparked a crowd sing-and-sway-along, which continued until the final pretty piano notes filtered through the air and Bobby Z. offered a final roll on his crash cymbal.
The joyous ending of The Revolution’s performance, “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star” (two of the best tracks on “Purple Rain”), left fans on an uplifted note, a vibe that Prince undoubtedly would have approved.