by Michael P Coleman
At the height of their fame, many considered The Time and their flamboyant frontman Morris Day a novelty act, a reputation they cultivated with studio albums and live performances that put the camp and humor front and center. Day himself wasn’t the singer that his former mentor Prince was, and Michael Jackson could have out danced him with one sequined gloved hand tied behind his back. The Time was a solid session band, but they weren’t Earth, Wind & Fire.
That said, few acts were as entertaining as The Time, and they scored several hit albums and singles driven almost solely by the over-the-top persona of Morris Day. At 58, he’s still got it, and brought it to Cal Expo for last night’s opening free concert at the California State Fair.
A capacity crowd welcomed Day and The Time, who, fittingly, started their show promptly at 8pm. All of the hits were there: “Get It Up” and “Cool” from their 1981 debut, “Wild And Loose”, “777-9311”, “The Walk” from their 1982 follow-up, and “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” which most fans know from their 1984 feature film with Prince, Purple Rain.
Day repeatedly punctuated the “o” in “Sacramento” to comic effect and paused several times for his valet (I don’t think it was the “Jerome” we all remember) to bring him a mirror so he could primp and put himself back together, even if it had to be done in the middle of a song. His trademark cackle and his rhetorical “What time is it?” were delivered repeatedly to the delight of his fans.
Another humorous segment, which seemed timed to give Day a chance to catch his breath, was his invitation to bring any woman in the audience who felt “sexy” to join him onstage. After announcing “I’m feeling sexy tonight, Sacramento, and I want to share that sexiness with each and every one of you,” he summoned women of various shapes and sizes to join him, and Day invited one to dance center stage while his guitar played jammed with her. “I’m going to turn you over…to the guitar player,” he joked. She seemed to have the time of her life, as did the audience as she…enjoyed herself performing a PG-13 bump and grind.
Throughout the show, it was great to hear Day delivering one-liners like the stand-up comic he could have been, while claiming his own legacy. “You’ve heard Bruno Mars say ‘I’m so pretty I want to touch myself’? Where do you think he got THAT s*&%t?” brought a riotous laugh, as he did after telling the audience members onstage that he wanted them to be “easy, breezy…but never sleazy.”
It was fantastic to see Day looking and sounding like he did in the 80s, and still performing with original group members Monte Moir (we knew him as “the white guy” in the group”) and Jellybean Johnson. They kicked off the California State Fair’s concert series with a bang.
The California State Fair features free concerts each night through July 26. Look for details at castatefair.org.