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Purple City Take 3: Dancing at First Avenue on the anniversary of Prince's death

"Purple Rain" at First Avenue

"Purple Rain" at First Avenue

Day 2 of the Celebration at Paisley Park ended at the un-Princely hour of 9:50 p.m. Friday. The Purple One usually didn’t hit the stage in his own house till after midnight.

So what was a Prince fan in Minneapolis to do on the night of the first anniversary of his death?

Head to First Avenue for the late-night dance party.

I arrived just before DJ Jake Rudh wrapped up his set. He stopped the music, got on the mic and explained. “My last two songs are a bit on the emotional side. You can’t dance to them. But they must be played.”

With that, he spun “The Beautiful Ones” and “Purple Rain,” complete with footage from the movie.

The dancefloor was packed with revelers who looked a generation younger than most of the folks at Paisley Park’s Celebration. Maybe the First Ave-goers couldn’t afford the tickets to the $500-$1,000 four-day event in Chanhassen but wanted to celebrate the hometown hero on this significant night.

Two Twin Cities women I encountered mentioned that’d they been at First Avenue exactly 365 days ago.

When “Purple Rain” came on, the crowd woo-who’ed much louder than the 1,000 fans at Paisley Park had earlier on Friday during two separate performances (daytime and evenings) of the same song by the Revolution.

The footage on the screen was actually shot on the same stage behind the screen back in 1983. It was trippy to watch the live audience wave their arms in unison with the fans on film (extras, actually) who were at First Ave when the movie was made.

It was a cellphone moment.

Then as 1 a.m. struck. DJ Lenka Paris took over on the main stage, with a purple motorcycle festooned with a Prince symbol parked in front of her turntables. The party continued until the dawn, or at least 4 a.m.

The Revolution rocks Paisley Park with '80s-era Prince songs


(Above: The Revolution at Paisley Park on Friday. Photo by Steve Parke/Paisley Park Studios)


A sign of how well they know Prince’s musical instincts — even 30 years after they last played with him as a group — Wendy Melvoin and her bandmates in the Revolution unknowingly rehearsed the song “Paisley Park” with much the same spin Prince put on it for his last concert at the place he named after it. Melvoin only realized the similarities Thursday when she saw a video of her friend’s final hometown show.

“I said, ‘Oh God, I told you guys we had to do it!’” the Revolution guitarist told the Celebration crowd packed into the Paisley soundstage, where Prince’s “Purple Rain”-era band gave their first of two concerts Friday, the anniversary of their friend’s death.

Hard to believe it, but it was actually the Revolution’s first time playing Prince’s mega-studio in Chanhassen, which opened in 1987 right around the time the band dissolved. Unlike their emotionally raw reunion concerts at First Avenue in September, Melvoin and her bandmates — drummer Bobby Z, bassist Mark Brown and keyboardists Lisa Coleman and “Dr.” Matt Fink — kept Friday afternoon’s set squarely in the “celebration” category. They left out more heartbreaking fare like “Sometimes It Snows in April” and stuck to many of the most funked-up tunes, such as “DMSR,” “Let’s Work” (click for a clip), “Erotic City” and “Controversy” along with the must-do hits, including “1999,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Purple Rain.” Perhaps to add a spark of unpredictability around their upcoming tour dates, they also threw two 1984-era unreleased songs, “Our Destiny” and “Roadhouse Garden.”

They saved “Purple Rain” for the end and let the 1,000-plus fans bask in the purple lighting glow and “woo-hoo” outro. “You’re going to sing this for him, right?” Melvoin asked at the beginning. As the song came to its lilting end, she whispered into the mic, “Good night, sweet man.”

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