Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Concert review: Morris Day and The Time at Mahaffey Theater

A look back at Friday night's show, in words & photos.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Morris Day
With the plethora of colorful, unique and memorable music stars that emerged in the 1980's, few came equipped the class, style, comedic timing and the talent of Morris Day. Lead singer, dancer and fashion plate of Minneapolis native funk unit The Time since the dawning of the '80s, Day and the current version of his fine band made a rare appearance last Friday night at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater and successfully turned the gorgeous venue into a wild and loose dance party.

Taking the stage shortly after 9 p.m., the five-piece band began warming the crowd with their infectious funk, Day making his appearance shortly after in typical grandiose style. Decked out in a slick black suit replete with bedazzled lapels, Day looked as stylish and debonair as ever. And not too far behind was his trusty sidekick, Jerome Benton. Benton is every bit a member of the band and responsible for their success but his most memorable contributions are those he offers as Day's comedic foil and constant supplier of a large mirror he flashes in front of Morris so that he can check his look at any given moment; it's still every bit as entertaining today as it was in 1984 when the duo so richly showed off their penchant for a good comedic bit in Prince's semi-autobiographical hit film, Purple Rain. Day and the Time came awfully close to stealing the show in that film and, in turn, were introduced to a whole new audience who quickly took notice of the fantastic band and their undeniably funky jams.

Years after lawsuits, acrimony and bitter feeling have clouded the waters between The Time and their mentor, the great purple one, the band continues to do their thing. While original members have come and gone, the 2014 version of the band is capable and mighty of doing the classic material justice and adding their own spin to it.

Morris Day and The Time

Granted, the largest ovations came when Morris and company dipped back into the vault and unleashed the songs they're best known for. A mixed-age crowd whose average age hovered around the 40-something range ate it all up, too. Day and Benton's choreographed, synchronized moves were perfect as they shimmied and shook during "Cool," a standout from the band's 1981 debut album.

Morris Day and The Time
A muddy, dull sound mix came close to ruining the momentum and the exuberance that was being poured out onstage for the first half of the tune; luckily, the issue seemed to be rectified before the extended jam was complete and provided the band with the true dazzling sound they deserved.

Day treated fans to a red hot rendition of "The Oak Tree," a cut off his 1985 solo album, and not a single seat remained occupied during the number. It was obvious that this was a dancing crowd, as not many seats were occupied during the evening's energetic 80-minute set. True, fans needed to be prodded a bit early on to stand and dance at guitarist Tori Ruffin's insistence, but after that, the ice was broken and the dancing hit a fever pitch.

And when Day and company asked for some "sexy ladies" to come up on stage to show off their moves, the massive stage was taken over by a vast array of females fans in varying degrees of provocative attire, who bumped, grinded, shook and gyrated as the band eagerly egged them on.

A short foray into slower numbers, including signature tune "Gigolos Get Lonely Too" from 1982's What Time Is It? album, did nothing to slow down the audience's enthusiasm; many fans remained upright as they sang along and swayed to the music.

Morris Day and The Time
An obligatory costume change found Day sporting a long, dramatic, almost blindingly white trenchcoat and he looked every bit the suave, classy entertainer he so obviously remains. At 56, Day is still as spry, likeable, charismatic, flirtatious, cocky, self-centered and self-assured as ever ... and why should he change his onstage persona now? He's every bit a shining star as he ever was and his stage presence and swagger is easily some of the absolute best in the biz.

His explanation for his profuse sweating was turned into a hilarious anecdote; he compared himself to a fine bottle of chilled champagne. And what happens to a bottle of bubbly when it's removed from a refrigerator? "It starts condensating from the inside out ... 'cause it's so cool inside!" he rationalized. Not many other performers can get away with that type of pomp and arrogance and make it sound so comical and believable.

The band's most widely recognized numbers closed the party and evoked the loudest and most impassioned ovations of the night. The one-two punch of the set-closing "The Bird" and the night's sole encore, "Jungle Love," prompted some pretty over-the-top dance moves from not only those in attendance but from all the musicians on the stage as well.

The Time proved that their time has definitely not come and gone and that they still know quite a bit about throwing a party. The schtick, comedy, and all-out funk, grooves and soul they sprinkle in there is icing on the big sexy cake they still serve.

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