Bassist Mark Brown is enjoying the reunion with his bandmates in The Revolution, though it’s obvious something’s missing: “It’s different without the little guy,” he says. “The purple Yoda, the funky Yoda.”
Prince is gone and it’s impossible not to notice, but the man who brought The Revolution together in the first place is still the glue. His death a year ago spurred his most famous backing band — which also includes drummer Bobby Z, guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink — to reunite, starting with a trio of shows at First Avenue in Minneapolis last fall.
“It didn’t hit us until we got on the stage,” says Brown, who performs as Brown Mark. “That first night was rough. … We put his guitar center stage — we would look over at it and he wasn’t there.”
Though members of The Revolution played together off and on since Prince disbanded the group in 1986, their current reunion tour — spurred by those hometown shows last fall — is their first extended stint together since the band’s ’80s heyday. Brown says these shows will mostly stick to Prince’s Revolution-era catalog (including classics like “Purple Rain” and “1999”), but there may be some surprises (like a medley of unreleased songs). Most shows will also feature guest singers, though Brown and Melvoin will handle the bulk of the vocals.
“What we’re trying to do is give people the experience,” Brown says. Ahead of Thursday’s show at the Fillmore, Brown shared some of his favorite Prince stories.
The first time Brown encountered Prince, Brown made him pancakes. Brown, who thinks he was 15 at the time, was working as a cook at a Minneapolis-area diner when Prince — who had released his early single “Soft and Wet” and was dating a waitress at the restaurant — walked in. “I was this crazy kid in the back with a big Afro who kept jumping up and down trying to look over the ledge,” Brown says. Years later, Brown recounted the details of the story to Prince at band practice (down to naming the waitress) and Prince replied, “I remember that very clearly.”
The ultimate audition
In the late ’70s, Brown joined a band called Fantasy that often played the small room at First Avenue, where Prince often played. “I noticed he would always come watch us,” Brown says. In 1981, when he was 19, Brown was rehearsing with Fantasy at a community center when he got a phone call around midnight from Prince. “I don’t even know how he knew we were there,” he says. “So it’s obvious that he had been doing his research.” Prince told Brown he wanted him to audition for his band the next night and that he’d need to learn his first three albums. “I studied all night,” Brown says. “I learned every lick.” At the audition, they jammed on two songs with Bobby Z; then Prince said they were done and offered to drive Brown home. Brown thought he’d blown it. As they were driving, Prince casually offered Brown the gig. “That was it — I was hired.”
Brown fondly remembers Prince as a prankster. One day, while Prince and The Revolution were on tour in Ohio, Brown was late to catch the bus after a show. He walked out, signed a few autographs for fans and realized the bus had left without him. “I’m standing with my bass and it was gone,” he recalls. “I was so embarrassed.” About 90 minutes later, he had a taxi on the way when the bus returned. “By this time, I was boiling,” Brown says. “I had smoke coming out of my nose and Prince is laughing in the front of the bus, and he said, ‘I bet you won’t be late next time.’ Those are the kinds of pranks he would pull — he was notorious.”
Fillmore, 8656 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; Thu., 8 p.m., $35.