“Brother Thomas, where is my mirror?” demands Morris Day.
In a snap, Thomas Austin swoops up a large mirror for Morris, who peers into it to adjust his hair and suit while preparing to perform for a good crowd at The Howard Theatre on Saturday night. The audience delights in the theatric exchange, which echoes a famous scene by Morris in “Purple Rain,” the 1984 movie in which Morris portrayed the rival to Prince’s “The Kid.”
Morris then begins his concert with “Cool,” the second single from his band’s 1981 debut album The Time. Morris moves with grace while he sings out to DC, breaking out some smooth dance moves that demonstrate some remarkable panache for the funky band leader. Just as remarkable perhaps is how well matched he is by his right-hand man Thomas, who keeps step with Morris as they sashay across the stage or do a two-step in front of a microphone. Early in the show, Thomas proves to be a savvy and charismatic entertainer in his own right, and his sense of timing lends itself to moments both sophisticated and comedic as he glides effortlessly from task to task, keeping his boss in the spotlight and helping him change into luxurious suits or coats upon demand.
After a jaunty rendition of “Shake,” Morris Day and The Time move into “Wild and Loose” from their 1982 album What Time Is It?, featuring the famous question “What time is it?” and of course it’s party time with Morris and the band as they jam through the Prince-produced number. Morris takes up drums set for him in the front of the stage, demonstrating some snappy rhythm as his band funks out around him.
Soon, Morris Day and The Time prep the house for another crowd-favorite — “The Oak Tree” from Morris’ 1985 solo album Color of Success. Here, I’m a bit late to recognize another great performer of the night — drummer “Jellybean” Johnson, one of two original members of The Time still with the band. As a funk and soul act, The Time depend heavily on Jellybean’s generous and open percussion, which sets “the time” and blends smartly with the instruments of his bandmates.
Midshow, Morris steps off stage for a costume change, and The Time carry on with a medley around “If the Kid Can’t Make You Come” from the 1984 album, Ice Cream Castles, which contributed its biggest hits to “Purple Rain.” The medley provides an opportunity for some fancy fingerwork from keyboardist Monte Moir, the second remaining original member of The Time, who dazzles every time Morris and his songs get a little synthy.
When Morris Day slips back onto stage in a suave new suit, he charms the audience with “Ice Cream Castles,” another Prince-produced track that proves to be smooth as its namesake.
As the everyone dances down to the end of the show, we are treated to a raucous performance of The Time’s first-ever single “Get it Up.” And then Morris Day and The Time close out with the one-two punch of “The Bird” and “Jungle Love.”
On Saturday, “The Bird” was particularly enjoyable, mostly as each single person in the theatre seemed ready to get up and dance along to a “brand new dance” and do The Bird. All the elements of the show by Morris Day and The Time came together seamlessly. Jellybean pounded out the beat, and Morris and Thomas swooped to the front of the stage, side by side, to demonstrate some fleet feet. The entire house rose to their own feet in shared excitement at the opportunity to dance along with the famous face behind the smooth moves.
Since the passing of Prince in April 2016, Morris Day and The Time have indeed been on the move, making appearances in every place they can and sharing the love of their late Svengali. In the past year or so alone, The Time have played at The Howard Theatre, Bethesda Blues & Jazz, and the Birchmere. They are set to resume their current run with more scheduled dates around the country in March and beyond.
If you’ve never seen Morris Day and The Time, now is the time to do so, as their groovy show is running like clockwork. And if you’ve seen them before, come on down and experience the joy I witnessed when The Howard Theatre danced along to “The Bird.” You’re sure to have the best of The Time.