If you live in Minnesota, you might get excited about seeing celebrities. The state is incredible — and more people should visit — but it’s so rare to see someone like Stevie Wonder in town that when he shows up, telling your friends is automatic. This weekend, then, when Minnesota became the celebrity figure in and of itself, it was fun to watch. Of course, what brought in people from all over the world was the three-day run of reunion shows by the Revolution, Prince’s band from 1979-86 and his co-stars in Purple Rain.
Since Prince’s passing, as Andrea Swensson noted in her review of Thursday’s show, closure has been hard to come by. Acceptance isn’t easy when your favorite artist is gone — and as we’ve heard from many people, Prince was even more than an artist for many. He was a hero; a game-changer; an inspiration. For the many fans who haven’t found peace since April, these shows are helping in leaps and bounds.
The Revolution stuck to the first night’s set list, again bringing on early Prince players André Cymone (in a fantastic, feathered red hat) and Dez Dickerson to perform with them. East Coast singer Bilal nailed “The Beautiful Ones,” slaying hearts with those lingering calls of “baby” and the earthshaking, anguished screams. Wendy and Lisa’s stripped-down “Sometimes It Snows In April” will go down as one of the most tender songs they’ve ever played.
Most people talking about these shows will make this caveat, I imagine, but it’s still got to be said; no one will ever play Prince’s music like Prince. Those squeals and roars from his guitar and his voice — they’ll never be made again. But at the Revolution’s show, what honestly counted was the heartfelt, tremendous effort by everyone who honored their former leader.
I found myself most absorbed during the instrumental sections — the long “Purple Rain” intro, BrownMark and André’s bass-slapping jam after André asked, “Y’all want to hear a little double bass?” Sometimes, when I shut my eyes, I could picture Prince about to grab the mic.
But the Maya Rudolph appearance! Fans had posted pictures with her earlier outside of First Avenue, and she danced in the owner’s box for a good part of the show. The actress is a huge Prince fan, and she started an artist-approved cover band called Princess with Gretchen Lieberum. So when Wendy bellowed, “Is Maya Rudolph in the house? Princess! Now!” it felt amazing to see Rudolph and Lieberum run onto the stage. They sang every word to “Baby I’m A Star,” bursting into the most contagious dance moves with off-the-charts energy. Behind them, the band grinned.
Questlove also stopped in town to DJ dance parties on Friday and Saturday, and there was one more surprise guest: when Apollonia came out to talk to the crowd this time, she brought Brenda Bennett (of Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6) with her. Bennett met Prince on December 9, 1980, she said — “the day after John Lennon was shot.” The murder broke her heart. But little did she know that Prince would also become an icon, “not just for me, but for you, and for the world.” She said, “What he did, he did out of love.”
Wendy also shared a couple of stories, like the one about her first show with Prince. “When I joined the band, I was 18 years old,” she said. “Are you nervous?” Prince asked. “Hell yeah,” she answered, heart racing. But just before they went out on stage, Prince told her to count out the measures in half-time. “You’ll play behind the beat,” he said, and Wendy said that was the best rhythm guitar advice she’s ever gotten.
Later, while talking about Purple Rain, she said that she’d had to film at First Avenue in the winter. Since she and Lisa lived in California, she told us, “Prince called us on the phone, and he said, ‘Make sure you get up three hours early and turn your car on.’” The crowd laughed. “‘Just leave your heat on. Don’t drive downtown unless the car’s been on three hours.’ I thought he was insane.” But he was right, and when she left town on Christmas Eve, the windchill was something like -70 degrees. When she arrived back in Los Angeles, she revelled, “it was 70 above.”
Minnesota was Prince’s home; warm, cold, or freezing, the state was where he chose to be. This weekend, thousands of others chose to be here for a party to remember, hopefully falling in love with some of the same places and people Prince did. As Paisley Park opens for tours on October 6, Prince’s legacy will continue to bring fans here. I can’t wait to keep seeing his legacy unfold.