The year was 1984 and Prince’s soon-to-be-iconic masterpiece, Purple Rain, was released to much fanfare. The seminal album and film featured a slew of hit singles (“When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U”) that have withstood the test of time for nearly 30 years. They also shone a spotlight on an amazing backing band, the Revolution, which shared the stage with Prince for many years. This past February, the band came together again in support of one of its own—to celebrate drummer “Bobby Z” Rivkin’s one-year anniversary of surviving a near-fatal heart attack—and to raise heart health awareness and money for MyPurpleHeart.Org and the American Heart Association.
More than 1,500 friends and fans from around the world packed First Avenue in Minneapolis, the legendary venue that had a starring role in both the album and the movie. They came to see the band play together for the first time in years: longtime Prince sideman Matt “Doctor” Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums, Brown Mark on bass and vocals, Lisa Coleman on keyboards and vocals, Dez Dickerson on guitar and vocals, Wendy Melvoin on guitar as well as lead and background vocals and longtime Prince sideman Eric Leeds on saxophone and Greg Sain and Bryna Marie Tally on additional backup vocals. Furthermore, the show brought back many of the original crew: drum tech Brad Marsh, guitar tech Mike Soltys, and respected FOH engineer Rob “Cubby” Colby, who worked with the band from 1982 to 1989 and mixed the benefit show on a DiGiCo SD7. DiGiCo national sales manager and Prince crew chief alum Matt Larson was the show’s production manager, along with Mike Kranz as assistant PM and stage manager. Other key players in the production were lighting designer Roy Bennett, who helped support the First Avenue staff with Upstaging lighting, Greg Huber on monitors, and Eighth Day Sound.
“A show of this magnitude, which would’ve normally taken months to pull off, came together in a matter of weeks,” said Larson. “Because it was a benefit, we really wanted it to be a first-class event as one would expect. One of the more difficult tasks was getting the original sounds that were used, as well as getting gear that we needed to pull it off. In addition, when you try to pull off an event like this with past members of a band, you usually get mixed up into all sorts of legal clearances to protect the rights of the brand. Prince was very gracious to make sure the lawyers did not get involved and allowed us to promote this as a true Revolution benefit, which we respected.”
“Not only was the reunion an incredible show for an incredible cause,” Larson continued, “but also, having all the crew and band together again put it all in perspective. Rallying around Bobby, we were reminded of how precious life is and it renewed the bond amongst the Revolution family—a brotherhood that grew out of touring together so many years ago. And the fact that we were able to raise money for the Heart Association while having a great party was the perfect way to celebrate Bobby’s milestone. In many ways, it was like the high school reunion you all wanted to go to. I’m certain all the touring folks understand the lifelong friendships that are made when you tour together, and how fortunate we are to be in such a great industry.”