For drummer Bobby Z, the decision to film and record Prince and the Revolution’s stop at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York, on the tail end of the band’s Purple Rain Tour was an apt decision based on its reverence as one of the most iconic shows of the era.
“It was close to the end of the tour, and it was a compromise to not continue the tour into Europe and Japan,” he tells SPIN over the phone. “He was already kind of bored and had moved on. Around the World in a Day was already in the can before we played Detroit. He’d always be onto the next thing. So this particular show, with the satellite feed and the Carrier Dome being somewhat bigger than the normal arena, he loved all of that pressure. He’d put all of this tremendous pressure on himself, and then would feel it and rise to the occasion, which was the goal. And we had to go with him.”
Yet when you experience Prince and the Revolution: Live, either when it was originally released on VHS and…LaserDisc, or in the form of this stunning latest project from the Purple One’s rarities-rich archives, it’s easy to see why this show remains iconic. The energy inside the Dome was high as any late ‘80s (or Carmelo Anthony-era) Syracuse basketball game, and as palpable today as it was 38 years ago when it was beamed to a worldwide audience.
“It was such a powerful period for the band,” keyboardist Lisa Coleman, who is sitting with her longtime partner and bandmate Wendy Melvoin, tells SPIN over Zoom. “It’s a great experience to hear this freight train that was Prince and the Revolution.”
“There was a lot of pressure to not make a mistake, because we knew it was going to be televised live all over the world,” adds Melvoin. “So by the time it was the second-to-last night of the tour, we were a well-oiled machine. We knew we were on a different level with the show’s performance. It was very second nature by that time.”
For the members of The Revolution, the very fact that Around the World in a Day was written and recorded in between stops on the Purple Rain tour is a testament to that five-year period when Prince’s most famous band was working double-time to keep up with the creative output of their boss.
“We were touring and making records during that whole period,” says Melvoin. “That whole five-year period was so fertile and so busy. And not only with the Prince and The Revolution stuff, it was all the other bands and all the other projects we were doing at the same time as well. Wherever we were stopped, there was always a mobile truck available or we’d book a studio. Sometimes Lisa and I would be sent back to L.A. while he was handling X, Y and Z and we’d finish tracks. It was nonstop.”
A tape deck was always at the ready, whenever Prince was ready to hit record.
“Around the World in a Day worked itself out during rehearsals on the Purple Rain tour,” adds Bobby Z. “He had a two-inch 24 track sitting in a room. So he did it, and put that album together during rehearsals and would run overdubs after our set. And lo and behold it was done, and we went onto the next date of the tour. The future was always more important than the present. The ideas from today washed over his ideas from yesterday.”
Yet that’s what makes this such an important addition to the parade of archival titles coming out of the Estate. It’s like a bottle of well-preserved lightning that symbolizes the avalanche of creative purity emerging from The Artist at this moment in his career.
“This concert shows what Prince was all about,” proclaims Bobby Z. “This guy was a figure skater up there, just moving and flowing and playing and singing. Nobody could dance and play instruments and be a bandleader like Prince. And it really manifested itself at this high point, this Purple Rain tour, which turned out to be his moment. I know his career was long and he didn’t dwell on anything. But now that time has frozen upon his passing, this is a real serious moment. That guitar solo during ‘Purple Rain’ alone is something to behold.”
“We were on fire as a band,” adds Melvoin. “Lisa and I watched the new print of the film and we were both taken by how good it was. You forget details like that as the years go by. We’ve also played a lot in the five years since his passing, and we are still a great band. But we were something else back then.”