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Long-dormant Revolution blazes in Prince tribute concert

April Fillmore show manages to honor late legend without trying to replace him

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Revolution concert review, gay news, Washington Blade

A newly reunited Revolution pay homage to late mastermind Prince on a current tour. (Photo courtesy Fillmore Silver Spring)

The Revolution contributed to some of the most important recordings of the last four decades, appearing on Prince albums like “1999,” “Purple Rain,” “Around the World in a Day” and “Parade.” “Purple Rain” made them more famous than most backing bands.

The young, no-nonsense and blazingly talented guitarist Wendy Melvoin was one of the few who would stand up to Prince (in “Purple Rain” and in real life). Her partner Lisa Coleman is a gifted pianist, songwriter and vocalist, someone who helped bring dimensions of color to Prince’s music that otherwise would never has existed. Bobby Z., Mark Brown and Matt Fink all made important contributions as members of the Revolution.

Though disbanded by Prince amidst tension following a 1986 tour, they’ve now reunited and are touring. On April 27th, they played the Fillmore in Silver Spring.

Prince was a peerless performer. He was a dynamo like no other, dancing, singing and knocking out blistering guitar solos or wildly intricate piano with equal proficiency. Nobody will ever compare to Prince and the Revolution doesn’t try. In his live performances, Prince would often run through his hits in abbreviated versions or as part of medleys, and sometimes he would go off on long funk jams. He was not the type to choose a set list of 25 songs, play them in full and change it up from night to night to keep the audiences surprised. But the Revolution did exactly that. Their 22-song set covered all of the albums on which they were featured, focusing mainly on the hits but throwing in a couple deep cuts as well. Throughout the night the band paid respect to the music, treating it with reverence and bringing it to electrifying life before a wildly enthusiastic crowd.

Most of the lead vocals were handled by Melvoin and bassist Mark Brown, both of whom did their former boss justice. Vocalist Stokley Williams of Mint Condition guested throughout much of the show, generally performing lead on the more funk-oriented tracks like “Kiss,” “Erotic City,” “Uptown” and “Let’s Work.” Williams faced a difficult task. Obviously replacing Prince is impossible, and he didn’t try. He kept the audience singing along, dancing and leading the crowd in arm-waving and cheers, but he didn’t go too far over the top or showboat. He allowed the attention to be on the Revolution but still delivered the dynamic vocals the songs required.

The band opened with their iconic dialogue on the hard-edged funk/rock classic “Computer Blue,” and delivered scalding takes on “1999,” “D.M.S.R.,” “Controversy,” “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Delirious.” The more pop-oriented songs were all crowd-pleasers, and the whole room sang along with “Take Me With U,” “Paisley Park,” “Mountains” and “Raspberry Beret.”

“When Doves Cry” was absolutely blazing from start to finish, Melvoin nailing the opening snarls of guitar and the searing solo midway through, and keyboardist Matt Fink deftly managing those slithery lines of synth near the end. Most of the night was a party, but one somber moment came when the rest of the band left and Wendy Melvoin, after a short and emotional speech about Prince, and Lisa Coleman together performed “Sometimes it Snows in April,” alone on the stage. The room was silent as a seance, apart from the hushed voices singing along. It was a shared moment of connection, of loss and love. Wendy & Lisa recorded the original with Prince in one take, and his absence from that stage was felt to the bones by everyone in that room.

The main set of course closed with “Purple Rain” and it was hard not to feel Prince’s presence smiling down as Wendy nailed his famous solo and the crowd waved their arms in the air and sang along with his great epic. Then just like in the film, after the dramatic title song the band walks off stage, only to return to the sound of wild applause. Then, bam! Pure funk amped to the highest wattage with the one-two closing punch of “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star,” which sent the crowd into a frenzy of dancing and the pure love and celebration of Prince and his music.

The Revolution
 
Fillmore, Silver Spring
 
April 27, 2017
 
SET LIST
 
1. Computer Blue
2. America
3. Mountains
4. Automatic
5. Take Me With U
6. Uptown
7. D.M.S.R.
8. Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden
9. Raspberry Beret
10. Erotic City
11. Let’s Work
12. 1999
13. Paisley Park
14. Controversy
15. Sometimes it Snows in April
16. Let’s Go Crazy
17. Delirious
18. Kiss
19. When Doves Cry
20. Purple Rain
ENCORE
21. I Would Die 4 U
22. Baby I’m a Star

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Music & Concerts

The Atlantis to showcase musical legends of tomorrow

New venue, a near replica of original 9:30 Club, opens next month

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A look at the interior of the original 9:30 club. (Photo public domain/Library of Congress)

A new nirvana for music fans opens next month adjacent to the 9:30 Club. Dubbed The Atlantis, this intimate venue embraces a 450-person capacity – and pays homage as a near-replica of the original 9:30 Club.

The $10 million venue comes courtesy of I.M.P., the independent promoter that owns and operates the 9:30 Club and The Anthem, and operates The Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Foo Fighters will inaugurate The Atlantis on May 30, which is also the 9:30 Club’s anniversary. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, during a concert in 2021, kicked off speculation that I.M.P was planning to open a new venue, noting that, “We’ll probably be the band that opens that place, too, right?”

Other big names on the inaugural 44-show run roster: Franz Ferdinand, Barenaked Ladies, Third Eye Blind, Spoon, and Billy Idol.

To thwart scalpers, The Atlantis utilized a request system for the first 44 shows when they went on sale two weeks ago. Within four days of the announcement, fans had requested more than 520,000 tickets, many times more than the total 19,800 available. All tickets have been allocated; fans who were unable to snag tickets can attempt to do so in May, when a fan-to-fan ticket exchange opens.

While I.M.P. oversees multiple larger venues, “We’ve been doing our smallest shows in other peoples’ venues for too many years now,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. “We needed a place that’s ours. This can be the most exciting step in an artist’s career.”

The 9:30 Club holds 1,200 people, while The Anthem has space for up to 6,000.

“This will be where we help introduce new artists to the world… our smallest venue will be treated as important, if not more, than our bigger venues. If the stories are told right, both the artists and the fans begin their hopefully longterm relationship. Its stage will support bourgeoning artists and the legends of tomorrow,” Hurwitz said. Hurwitz and the team developed a tagline for the new venue: The Atlantis, Where Music Begins.

Hurwitz got his start at the original 9:30 Club, originally located at 930 F St., N.W. He was an independent booker of the club for the first six years and then he bought it, and managed the move from its original location to its current location in 1996. The venue first opened in 1980.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, I.M.P. communications director, provides further insight. “We were missing small venues in our umbrella. Big acts don’t start in stadiums. We need a place for emerging artists and for the community to discover new acts. The Atlantis can help new artists grow.”

While design elements are still coming into focus, Schaefer says that the space will be intimate, with almost no separation between the artist and the crowd. “There will be energy on both sides of the stage,” she says.

Although The Atlantis is set to be a replica of the original 9:30, I.M.P. has spared no expense. Schaefer notes that the sound and light systems use the latest available technologies, similar to next door at the current 9:30 Club.

The Atlantis takes over the footprint of now-closed Satellite Room. The venue will have at least two bars flanking the stage; cocktails but no food will be available.

Schaefer notes that since its early days, 9:30 Club and I.M.P. “has always been a place where people are welcome. People come and feel safe with us.” 9:30 Club has hosted several LGBTQ Pride parties, the BENT dance party series, and other events for LGBTQ patrons. Particular acts of note during the kickoff run include Tegan & Sarah and Tove Lo.

The Washington Blade was a neighbor to the 9:30 Club at its original F Street location back in the 1980s. Despite their proximity, noise wasn’t an issue for on deadline nights, when Blade staff worked late hours.

“We would of course work later hours back then,” said Phil Rockstroh, a longtime Blade staffer, in a 2016 Blade interview. “Everything was typeset and done by hand without computers and fax machines so getting through deadlines was much more time consuming.”

Rockstroh said the noise wasn’t a distraction.

“It wasn’t too bad as older buildings were constructed more solidly,” Rockstroh said. “There was only one entrance to the building and you entered so far to the elevator that went up to the other floors and then continued down the hall to the entrance to the 9:30 Club. Frequently at night if I was coming or going, there were people spilling out the doors.”

“The Blade has always had a friendly relationship with the 9:30 Club,” he added.

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Music & Concerts

National Philharmonic to perform classical, contemporary works

Violinist Melissa White returns

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The National Philharmonic will host “Beethoven’s 7th” on Saturday, April 15 at 8 p.m. at Strathmore.

Past and present will collide in this performance of contemporary works and classical masterpieces. Maestro Piotr Gajewski will direct Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja, Anthem for Unity for Orchestra” Violinist Melissa White will also return to the Philharmonic to perform Florence Price’s sweeping, melodic “Violin Concerto No. 2.”

Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased on the Philharmonic’s website.

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Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations

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Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

ANTHEM
Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

CAPITAL ONE ARENA
Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

JIFFY LUBE LIVE
Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

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