By Jeff Baenen
MINNEAPOLIS — For members of Prince’s 1980s backing band The Revolution, reuniting and hitting the road for a spring U.S. tour is how they are coping with the “Purple Rain” pop superstar’s unexpected death a year ago.
“We’re taking it to the people who are grieving like we are, and letting them have a little bit of relief,” guitarist Wendy Melvoin, sitting on a couch with other members of the band during a break at their Minneapolis rehearsal space, said Wednesday.
When Prince died of an accidental painkiller overdose, members of The Revolution were mourning at a Minneapolis hotel and made an impromptu video, promising to reunite for shows honoring their one-time flamboyant front man. After three sold-out shows at the fabled First Avenue nightclub (the setting of Prince’s hit 1984 movie “Purple Rain”) in September, The Revolution is back, preparing to kick off a tour Friday at Paisley Park in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen on the anniversary of Prince’s death.
The tour includes stops in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco before ending in Seattle on July 15.
Melvoin is joined by bassist BrownMark, keyboardists Matt Fink and Lisa Coleman, and drummer Bobby Z. The reunited Revolution plans to play Prince’s synthesizer-heavy 1980s music through his lauded 1987 double album “Sign o’ the Times.”
“We have the ability now to give people a glimpse of what we experienced with him,” BrownMark said. “And I think that’s a powerful thing. I know it helped me heal.”
While Prince had a reputation as a perfectionist, members of The Revolution remember the good times goofing in the studio.
“We had fun. We had a lot of fun. Sometimes we would be rehearsing and we’d crack up, we’d just laugh for an hour, cracking jokes,” BrownMark recalls.
“We’d go play softball,” keyboardist Fink said. “‘OK, we’re not going to rehearse today, let’s go play softball.'”
After years of recording and touring with The Revolution, Prince “did what any boss would do and just put it (the band) to bed,” Bobby Z. said.
“That intense run we had, all those years, it was starting to come apart at the seams, with personalities and under that kind of pressure, just like human beings do, and he just kind of made a decision,” the drummer said. “And he wanted to move on as basically a solo artist with a backing band, no disrespect. But this was a band he was a very critical member of.”
Whether The Revolution will continue beyond this tour is an open question.
“We’d love to be able to see if there are some legs with this,” Melvoin said.