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The Revolution At BB Kings, Friday, April 28th, 2017, Reviewed

I walked out on the Revolution after 30 minutes, during a poorly paced and terribly sung “Erotic City”. Not unlike Vito Corleone,  don’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand. But the Revolution’s business is a little dangerous. Prince’s worst band (worse than 3rdeyegirl), they have no singer and they don’t know how to play the songs. Truly, in 2017 using backup vocals (is that Prince I hear?) and basic tracks is hardly a sin… even so, when you are presenting yourself as the spirit of Prince incarnate, it’s a little dangerous.

Still, is that what Prince’s backup band from 1979 – 1986 were really up to? With an audacity which would have Prince bitch slapping Wendy Melvoin, she claimed “Tonight, this evening, is only about you and you taking all of these songs back. While we’re playing them, you’re gonna wonder how we’re gonna do it, who is gonna do that, who’s gonna be this. You guys are.” These are not these guys songs to give to anyone, they belong to Prince and he fought his entire career to present them as he saw fit. He hadn’t worked with these Minneapolis based hacks in forty years. The reason is because they aren’t very good, his NPG band was vastly superior. But the only answer for Prince would be not to die. A year after his passing, everything you know he would want to happen to his catalog has been completely ignored and has been fakers are coming out of the woodwork to give his belongings away.

The evening was so bad, it boggles the mind. With the doors opening late because the Revolution decided to soundcheck late, the doors opened and the place was packed to the gills with people who for some reason hadn’t figured out that the loud sucking sound in the middle of the stage is where Prince should be. After an hour long DJ Set (why? Is Drake coming out soon?), the Revolution, aka  Wendy and drummer Bobby Z, bassist Mark Brown and keyboardists Lisa Coleman and “Dr.” Matt Fink. The opening song, “Computer Blue” offered a small promise: it was out of sync but not terrible. “Mountain” was brutally bad, with the audience of easily entertained Prince fans lapping it up, “Mountain” was out of tune and it never even began to recover.

It is not merely that no one can sing or play them, or that a singer, who can really dance but can’t sing Prince, and couldn’t do anything with “Uptown” -an embarrassment that nearly had me leaving even earlier, are performing versions that while rehearsed, and while certainly heartfelt, sound like crap. “Raspberry Beret” had me inching my way out and “Erotic City” did it for me.

I don’t doubt the Revolutions motives here, they are doing it for money but they care anyway, and I don’t care that Prince would have loathed this awful and embarrassing mess of a band, incapable of nailing a groove, nailing a melody or really do anything much beyond karaoke, but I do care about paying good money to see amateurs. There are ways to be a cover band and this isn’t that. Listen to the Fab Faux for the Beatles or the Soft Parade for the Doors. These are major attempts to come to terms with seminal bands catalogs while respecting themselves and the source. Or think of an artist of Bruno Mars stature performing a Prince tribute show. We are discussing a giant here, folks, Prince was close to the stature of James Brown and Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, being performed by a band who don’t know how to play em. If the Revolution have any reason at all, any right at all, to play these songs, why did they wait till Prince was dead to do it?

The audience were having a blast and you could feel their energy uplifting Wendy, she had a deep smile and a deep joy so OK, good but I just don’t get what they are enjoying. This tuneless trainwreck of a performance? Alright, I don’t have a moral disagreement with Wendy and Lisa: people have to make money to live and this is an opportunity of a lifetime, it’s all good.  I have an artistic argument. If you can’t play em and you can’t sing em, why do em?

Grade: D+

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