Morris Day and the Time
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
Friday, July 29
Better than: Watching the bonus Time videos on the 20th-anniversary edition DVD of Purple Rain. (Seriously, it’s just the same footage cut faster each time.)
Morris Day is to vanity what Jack Benny was to stinginess. No, not that Vanity—though if his old high-school bandmate Prince hadn’t beaten him to capitalizing it for the first and fiercest of his personally groomed nasty girls, Day might have thought to do it. Whatever the root of his cleaner-than-clean persona, Day has made it work for him for 30 years now—The Time was released in 1981. Some festival ought to give him a call and get the band to play it beginning to end.
I wonder if Day would go for it, honestly. He seems pretty well locked into routine. The Time’s second set at B.B. King’s on Friday night was medley-heavy: of the 14 songs I counted, 11 were performed in the set’s first half. A couple of times, Day checked his watch—”What time is it?” indeed. The current touring Time unit features another pair of original Time members (drummer Jellybean Johnson and keyboardist Monte Moir, a.k.a. “the white guy in the Time”), as well as long-serving latter-day members Ricky “Freeze” Smith (bass) and Tori Ruffin (guitar); there’s also a mirror guy/percussionist (Jerome Jr., basically) and a second keyboardist.
There’s nothing wrong with a veteran entertainer doing his job, particularly given that Day does it well. The Time’s songs are loose in spirit and taut musically, and that’s how the show was, too: graceful and still tight in the choreography department. Those moves were initially devised to minimize effort, meaning that Day looks as good doing them in his fifties as he was in his twenties. Still, a small stage and a hot night can make a man need to use that handkerchief he keeps flouncing out of his breast pocket, whether of his gold-lamé paisley jacket or the white pimp coat he emerged from backstage carrying on his shoulders to sing “Gigolos Get Lonely Too.” Before that, he called out: “Pardon me so much for singing from backstage, but I’m half-naked.”
Once out and finished with the song, Day made an announcement: “I’d like to straighten out some shit. You may notice a bit of moisture on my forehead, falling about my face. You might think Morris isn’t cool anymore.” What, he asked, does a bottle of water do on a hot day? “It doesn’t sweat—it condensates. That’s what you do when you’re cool from the inside. Morris Day doesn’t sweat, he condensates.”
Then, the band invited a bevy of women onstage to shake their stuff before “The Walk,” only to dismiss them out of hand. That went with Day’s persona as well, down to the tongue-in-cheek bravado: “Normally, if we do a full show, we get naked—but not tonight.” Of course: even the finest ladies don’t hold a candle to Morris himself.
Critical bias: I worked for nearly three years at First Avenue, where much of Day’s star-making performance was filmed. I have also never seen Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
Overheard: [standing on line outside] “No, I didn’t think Morris Day would be performing at a Burger King.”
Random notebook dump: “I never realized they used a two-sided mirror before.”
Skillet / Cool
Give It Up / Pandemonium / Chocolate / Wild and Loose / The Stick / Fishnet / Oak Tree / Jerk Out
Gigolos Get Lonely Too
The Walk / The Bird