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Prince's former band launching a Revolution

Late superstar Prince's former band, The Revolution, is hitting the road and paying homage to the Purple One. GETTY

Late superstar Prince's former band, The Revolution, is hitting the road and paying homage to the Purple One. GETTY


A year after Prince's shocking death from an accidental fentanyl overdose, The Revolution, his Purple Rain-era backing band, are back out on the road.

Guitarist Wendy Melvoin, of Wendy & Lisa fame, says following two months of rehearsals they felt ready to head out and honour The Purple One by playing such hits as Raspberry Beret, 1999, Let's Go Crazy, Kiss, When Doves Cry and Purple Rain - despite feeling "ambivalent" about it initially.

"There's great stuff and horrible things all existing at the same time in the choice to do this," said the 53-year-old musician whose brother and Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose in 1996.

"But our curiosity and our need to find a place to let this horrible situation land propelled us into the choice to do it."

24 Hours caught up with Melvoin down the line from her L.A. home before she joins The Revolution - rounded out by keyboardists Lisa Coleman & Matt Fink, drummer Bobby Z. (Robert Rivkin), and bassist Brown Mark (Mark Brown) - on stage Sunday night (May 21) at Toronto's The Phoenix for their only Canadian tour stop.

The timing of their North American tour also coincides with the June 9 re-release of the 1984 Purple Rain album - the sixth best-selling soundtrack of all time which won an Oscar for Best Original Song score - for which The Revolution helped write new liner notes.

How have the shows been going?

They've gone incredibly well. I'm so actually afraid to say that. I don't want to jinx it. Surprisingly healing, not just for us, but I think for the fans, if I could be presumptuous in saying so. It's been great for all of us.

And you launched on the first year anniversary of Prince's death at his Paisley Park home outside Minneapolis?

That was the hardest place to perform of all the places because that was his home and it was for the estate. I don't know what the real reason was other than it was the anniversary of his death. We thought that was reason enough to sort of make it The Revolution's first foray into this, I guess.

Had it been a while since you'd been to Paisley Park?

I hadn't been in there since he created it. It's been years. It was awful, actually. It just felt like there was a big wound. There wasn't enough you could do. We're playing in his home and hoping he'd show up.

How are you feeling personally just over a year after his death?

It's been a very complicated year with that loss. I knew five of the main people that died last year and I knew them quite well. Even Carrie Fisher. I played with Leon Russell, he was the first person I played with. I was eight years old. I played with Leonard Cohen. I played with George Michael. I had met Bowie a few times and had a small relationship with him, however, distant it was. And then, of course, Prince. It was awful.

Had you spoken to Prince recently before he passed?

A year prior to his death, that was the last we had spoken. We'd see each other when he'd come into town, in L.A. Lisa and I would see him. So it was just (the year before his death) that we really lost touch with him.

So was the cause of death a shock then?

It was. I had lost a brother to the same kind of thing. It's like a brick wall that you can't reason with. It's an awful feeling to try and navigate your way towards some kind of internal answer to someone's pain. And you just can't do it. You can't know. It's the survivors who have to struggle with that.

So without Prince, who sings lead on the live shows?

We're all singing songs that really fit more of the group vocals. None of us are even attempting to do Prince. We are sort of a silent movie pit band. The audience is a black-and-white film and when they start singing, all of the sudden it's Technicolor. They are the actors. They are the lead singers. We are the band. It's really more about that. It's about an experience. I want people to think that they are going to be singing with the band. Put some Coat Throat in your mouth, take a couple of lozenges and come and sing some songs.

And is THE moment when you play Purple Rain the song?

Definitely. It's sort of his defining moment.

Did you know Prince when he was married and living in Toronto?

I sure did. I'm still in touch with (his former second wife, Torontonian) Manuela (Testolini). I've been going to (Toronto) for years. It's one of my all-time favourites to go to and I can't wait to get there, actually. Toronto's going to be fantastic.