Celebrating Prince with The Revolution: Our Destiny Is to Fall in Love (1/2)

This is the first of a 2-part series on the Revolution’s 2017  San Francisco shows. Read part 2 here.

What does it mean to flow into our destiny? And how can legends guide us there?

The 4/21/16 passing of Prince, legendary entertainer and musician, has cradled me in its mystery and grace. My desire to know more was sparked as soon as news of his death hit the airwaves. The global wave of grief had lingered, like a long tail search engine result hiding deep inside pockets of pain, trailing wisps of sorrow, nostalgia and regret.

I’d penned him a tribute, and I’d chronicled his backing band the Revolution’s emotional reunion concert last September. My own unfolding destiny, to be a spiritual biographer, was beginning to interweave with what Prince stands for – qualities of peace, freedom, creativity and joy.

But something was still missing.

I know my heart is beating, my drummer tells me so

Then the Revolution announced their 2017 tour.
And then it hit me – I needed to hear Prince’s music LIVE.
It needed to course through my consciousness, pulse through my veins, drum through my soul.
And in the earthly absence of the man himself, I needed to hear it performed by people he loved, who helped him shape his game-changing sound.

“And what a lot of people don’t realize is that we all, all 5 of us collectively, we were there day and day, and night and night, writing with him. We helped put all this together.” -BrownMark, bassist for the Revolution, on the making of “Purple Rain” in an interview with NBC 15 Madison, WI

 

I might dine in San Francisco

Prince performed 26 times in San Francisco proper, from large venues to small afterparty clubs, from 30-minute sets to more than 2-hour long concert extravaganzas.

He knew and loved this city well. And now we were about to return that love to his band the Revolution. The band that rode the Purple Rain phenomenon with him, the players who are singular artists in their own right (more on this later), who respect his genius, who trusted his vision and who treasure his mentorship.

Pop life, We all got a space 2 fill

People call me rude
I wish we all were nude
I wish there was no black and white
I wish there were no rules
– from “Controversy”, title track off Prince’s 1981 album

In a May 2017 interview with ABC News, Bobby Z – drummer and longest-playing member of the Revolution – shared how Prince embodied a mystique from the very beginning, and how he’d handpicked each band member for a vision that they live to this day. Prince wanted a cast of characters to bring his utopian vision to life, a vision where color, creed and conformity make way for humanity, creativity and mastery.

“The first time I saw Prince and saw Wendy (Melvoin) play the guitar, I taught myself how to play the guitar after that. She was the first female that I saw playing the guitar, rocking on the guitar, and I wanted to be like her.”
– Macy Gray, recording artist, from “The Impact & Influence of Purple Rain”

A romp through Prince’s online footprint soon reveals how the Revolution has inspired millions to discover the inimitable space they’re here to fill.

As the day of their concert approached, I was ready to feel that communion with Prince’s utopia, that reverence for the Revolution’s artistry.

And yet, there would need to be…

The ladder

Everybody’s looking 4 the answers
How the story started and how it will end
What’s the use in half a story, half a dream
U have 2 climb all of the steps in between
– from “The Ladder”, off Prince and the Revolution’s album “Around The World In A Day”

photo by Chris Bazar

As thrilled as we were to see the Revolution perform, the San Francisco Bay Area was one of those pockets of pain, filled with fans carrying wisps of sorrow, nostalgia and regret.

On Jul 11 2017, the first night of a 2-night run, we streamed in to The Fillmore auditorium, and the chandeliers above us mirrored the beautiful fragility of our grief. It might not take much for tears to cascade through the 1000+ sold-out crowd, as the band’s melodies would soon cascade into our raw hearts.

We’d have to climb the steps in between our grief for Prince’s sudden passing and our gratitude for his music. As Bobby Z so eloquently put it, this 2017 tour was a “seance of joy.”

Only mountains and the sea

Tears did cascade that first night, particularly when Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (keyboardist) performed the now prophetic elegy Sometimes It Snows In April. A girl near me sobbed and dug her head into her friend’s shoulder. We stood in sacred silence, transmitting our strength to Wendy as she soldiered through.

Backstage, Bobby Z, BrownMark and Dr. Fink (keyboardist) have been finding their way to cope with this heavy moment. They shared:

“(It’s) quiet. It’s just a moment of silence, of heavy reminder of what’s going on here. It’s the words that make it difficult. The lyrics are just so haunting, given the author.” – Bobby Z.

“It gets easier to hear it without being choked up. You know those initial times performing it…doing it like at First Avenue, as well as at Paisley Park when we kicked off the tour…you can lose it very easily. It wasn’t easy there you know. In the audience there everybody’s in tears.” – Dr. Fink

“I just go to the dressing room. I don’t listen, and turn my ears off. I don’t listen because I just can’t. I can’t do it. Not every night. Once in a while I’ll listen (to) see how they’re doing, but most of the time I just turn it off.” – BrownMark

He said the sea would 1 day overflow with all your tears,
And love will always leave u lonely
But I say it’s only mountains and the sea
Love will conquer if u just believe
– from “Mountains”, off Prince and the Revolution’s album “Parade”

The band’s decision to perform Sometimes It Snows In April, and to embark on this tour at all, is a deep expression of their love for Prince. They also hold a deep conviction that performing his music helps them feel better and, in turn, helps his fans heal.

By the second night (Jul 12), that healing mojo was seeping in. The heaviness seemed to have evaporated and morphed into a sustained celebration. The iconic opening chords of Let’s Go Crazy and Purple Rain evoked screams of delight.

“These songs belong to you now!” Wendy cried out to us before they played Mountains. “Take them back and sing them loud.”

It all made sense. This was now our legacy to love, to honor and to pass on. We weren’t there to simply listen to the Revolution. They were there to back us up.

Wendy had stated as much. “We’re giving it right back to the fans. We’re their pit men. We’re the band, they’re the singers.”

And boy did we sing. We knew every lyric, every “UHOAAH” yelp, every “oh yeah”, every choreographed hand gesture. Wendy would go off mic every now and then, cupping her hand behind her ear, inviting us to sing the next pulsating phrase. Just like Prince had. Just like the Revolution now would. For us. With us. Because of us.

The love in the room was conquering the mountains of our grief and the sea of our tears. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl hold her hands up in worship, two graceful antennae waving the music into her, filling herself with the joy we were now determined to feel.

Good times were rolling
White, Black, Puerto Rican
Everybody just a-freakin’
Good times were rolling
– from “Uptown”, off Prince’s album “Dirty Mind”

End of part 1. Read part 2 here.

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About the author

Maya Mathias

Maya Mathias is a global leadership veteran, with a life and career spanning 3 continents and 5 inspired self-reinventions. She is a peaceful leadership advocate and mentor, bringing her unique blend of East & West to her leadership development and innovation management practice. Maya’s life began with a lower-middle class upbringing in Asia, surrounded by poultry & vegetable farms and the ‘simple life’. She doesn’t forget her humble roots, and her body of work seeks to bring more equality, justice and personal purpose in troubling times. Learn more about Maya here.

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