The Revolution Is Now

The Revolution, Prince's original band, is back and hoping to help still-grieving fans heal

"Don't worry, I'll take good care of you," Wendy Melvoin reassured me as we began our recent phone call.

To be honest, it was comforting to hear. Melvoin -- known for her body of work in Wendy & Lisa, the music she's composed for a litany of television shows, and as the guitarist in the Revolution -- is quite the daunting musical figure to someone like myself, a professed fanatic of the late great Prince Rogers Nelson. To have the opportunity to speak with someone who worked so closely for years with the legend, well, where was I supposed to start?

Let's begin with this: The Revolution, the band Prince formed in 1979 that was famously featured in the "Purple Rain" film and soundtrack, and which also accompanied him on the "1999," "Around the World in a Day," and "Parade" albums -- is back. Better than ever? Melvoin had some choice words about the initial readjustment period.

"It was a little bit like wearing a suit that you were a little too fat for," the guitarist joked. "But we've slimmed down, we can get into the suit again. At first, it was a little awkward, like 'I feel like a sausage in these pants, this is awful,' but now it's all good."

On Thursday, June 22, original members of the Revolution (which, aside from Melvoin, include keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Matt "Doctor" Fink, drummer Bobby Z., and bassist BrownMark) take the House of Blues stage to offer up a sense of closure to still-grieving Prince fans by letting the audience itself take center stage during the show. In a reverent (and fitting) move, no one is trying to fill Prince's shoes during the shows.

"We're doing the catalog that we know we can do without looking like assholes," Melvoin explained, laughing. "I'm not singing 'Darling Nikki,' and neither is Mark and neither is Lisa. Bobby's not getting off his drums and going up to the front row and singing 'Do Me, Baby.' We're being respectful of the catalog that the Revolution did and did well. For the most part, we are asking the audience to sing the songs."

It's a great idea, and one that's gone over pretty well so far to say the least. However, Melvoin admitted it's still emotionally challenging even now.

"It is hard. The strongest feeling that keeps us doing it is turning around and looking at each other and going 'Wow, I really like being up here with you guys.' [We're] ready to turn, as best as we can and authentically as we can, our moment into a gift to the fans who are trying to figure out how to deal with this loss. We are too. We decided we were going to play these songs and see whether or not everybody could find a place to land. And so far, the experience is giving people a place to land and that's all we could hope for."

Of course, they've also had to wade through offers from around the globe, asking them to play this and this, perform at tributes galore, or collaborate with a who's who in the music biz ("We're really careful not to perform on a cruise ship for a s---load of money," she said laughing), but they're not interested in gaudy cash-grabs. This club tour is really the only thing Melvoin and the rest of the Revolution wanted to participate in. And in fact, Melvoin can't imagine what Prince would've thought if they had tried to replace him with other guest performers.

"You know something? He'd slap us," she said laughing. "If I could speak to any kind of airy, fairy spirituality, he has guided this. He has told us in these weird little ways, 'You guys go do this -- go.'"

And why wouldn't he? In the past, Bobby Z. has famously declared that "The Revolution was the last real band Prince was in." When asked about that claim, Melvoin emphatically agreed.

"I think that's 100 percent accurate. You know something? He was our Black Hat Chef. He came to the table with these incredible recipes but he had to get a group of people that could f---ing cook the stuff, and who had the right ingredients. You have to have the right kitchen, and the right people in it, for it to be functioning and for it to be at the top of its game. We were that group of people in that kitchen. You know, he had great restaurants moving forward in life -- awesome, great -- but you know, the Revolution became that which all was measured by for him. We were the last band he was in, where we all sat at a table together and said, 'OK, tonight we're cooking this.'"

Some hardcore fans will be familiar with the rumors that Prince had actually plotted a Revolution reunion in 2000 for an album titled "Roadhouse Garden." However, scheduling conflicts allegedly put an end to the plans. But during our conversation, Melvoin confirmed its existence and spoke on the late superstar's creative drive.

"There's stuff in the vault for that for sure," she said. "But it never did come together because Prince was a comet and you were damned if you didn't hold on tight to the tail. One minute, it was happening, the next you didn't know where he was. He was like a hummingbird. I've known everyone in the business -- not kidding, I've known everybody -- but he was nonstop."

While it remains to be seen what the future holds for the reunited Revolution, one thing's for sure, Melvoin and the rest of her bandmates are thankful for the opportunity to provide some kind of geniune relief for the Prince faithful.

"If I step outside myself and satellite-watch the Revolution from a distance, am I going to want to get messy emotionally with his later bands? Maybe," she said. "But to really, really speak to the vulnerability of what happened to him and where we're at right now, I'd want to be hanging with us. That's a party I'd want to go to."

The Revolution headline House of Blues San Diego on Thursday, June 22. Doors are at 7 p.m. and show begins at 8. Tickets are available here.

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow, plays in Diamond Lakes, and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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