Morris Day with the Gin Blossoms

Saturday, May 24; Rib America Festival, Soldiers Memorial Plaza (Market and Tucker)

Although Morris Day and the Time's slicked-up show-band funk may not be the ideal soundtrack for a celebration of greasy, gristly barbecued ribs, it's great for getting a crowd moving. Day first jitterbugged into the public eye in the '80s as part of the psychedelic dance carnival spearheaded by Prince. The purple pervert casts a long shadow, but Day set himself apart from the ephemeral likes of Vanity and Sheila E by crafting a more intriguing persona and sound: Cab Calloway singing George Clinton songs as produced by Nile Rodgers. Day shamelessly preened and strutted across the stage like a peacock on jive, pausing every so often to theatrically primp his hair in the mirror proffered by his lascivious sidekick, Jerome Benton. Pastel zoot suits and conked hairdos enjoyed an unlikely moment of prominence thanks to Day's stylish camp.

His band wasn't too shabby, either: The original Time included bassist Jimmy Jam and keyboardist Terry Lewis, who went on to become a dominant R&B production machine, and shoulda-been-a-contender guitarist Jesse Johnson. (Alas, Johnson parted ways with the group during their heyday, and Jam and Lewis have gotten all huffy about Day's supposedly besmirching the band's name by reuniting.) Their choreographed moves matched Day's for showmanship; more important, they laid down a sleek, undeniable groove that made the songs more than mere novelty hits. For all their dated synthisms, "The Bird," "Jerk Out" and "Get It Up" can still start a fire out on the floor. Most of all, "Jungle Love" has become an enduring staple of retro-'80s nights, wedding receptions and karaoke bars -- count on Day's bringing down the house (tent?) with it at this show, too.

"Ain't nobody bad like me," the man still says after all these years. Until you can stand in front of thousands and check your 'do in your personal valet's handheld mirror, you'd do best not to argue.

 
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