Shame on me. I should’ve known better. But now I know: “Morris Day & the Time” is not the same thing as “The Time“.
A few weeks back, a local Old School radio station, Mega 104.3, threw itself a 10th birthday party at one of the cool, retro venues in town, Phoenix’s Celebrity Theater. The bill: 70’s R&B outfit GQ, disco/funk/jazz group Brick, and the evening’s headliner, Morris Day and the Time.
Morris Day and the Time? Hell yeah I’m going! So in the days leading up to the big night, I’m checking out the “Original” Time’s Facebook page and wondering why they’re not plugging their gig in Phoenix. I’m reading their tweets, and notice no chatter at all about any upcoming gigs (if you’re following them, you see approximately 2-3 tweets a day about their new album to be released this fall – ad nauseam, day after day with no details).
But still I don’t connect the dots. I meet up with my friend Jen and head to the Celebrity Theater excited as all hell to see Jimmy, Terry, Jesse, Morris, Jellybean, Monte, and maybe even ol’ Jerome.
So we were close to the stage (which is in the round, by the way, rotating slowly clockwise & counter-clockwise), about 6 rows back. First, GQ was introduced. Out walked a single solitary man – “Mr. Q”, I soon found out – aka Emmanuel Rahiem LeBlanc. He played guitar and sang a short set of his hits along to a full backing track. Interesting, and I came away thinking, “Man, you gotta hand it to Mr. Q for having the balls to keep the GQ thing going on his own.”
Next up: Brick. Most of you have heard “Dazz” I’m sure. Here…
And Brick killed it! They were great. The star of the show was without a doubt Mr. Jimmy Brown – singing, dancing, and alternating flawlessly between sax, trumpet, and flute. He’s gotta be in his mid to late 60’s, and he just won over the crowd from the first song. It was a Disco Jazz Funk workout – great stuff, and completely unexpected. Jimmy Brown: a consummate showman.
So after Brick tore it up, the mood was just right when Morris Day and the Time were introduced, and out walked the boys in the band.
“Huh”, I thought, “that doesn’t look like Jesse..”
“Okay, that looks like Jellybean.”
“Well, that’s not Jimmy Jam.”
“And that’s definitely not Terry Lewis on bass.”
“That looks like Monte on keys.”
My “A-ha” or “What the fu–” moment came when a short chubby guy in a hat came out with a mirror, playing the part of valet. A fake Jerome!! Nooooo!!
The immediate feeling was disappointment. I felt like I was watching a Vegas tribute act, where each member tried to resemble the originals. Yeah, Morris came out and they launched into “Cool” and “Wild & Loose”, but it just didn’t feel right. It seriously took me 20-30 minutes before I loosened up and accepted “Morris Day and the Time”, and got back into the spirit of the night. The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to mind a bit. There was crazy Morris Day, after all, working his 30 year old schtick in the flesh.
Granted, it was good to see drummer Jellybean Johnson. It was good to see keyboardist Monte Moir. Obviously it was fun to see Morris sing those great songs: “Jerk Out”, “Jungle Love”, “The Bird”, “777-9311”, “The Walk”. And no disrespect to the musicians either, including bass player Ricky “Freeze” Smith and guitarist Tori Ruffin.
But I was led to believe I was gonna see the real thing.
It turns out I didn’t do my homework. A couple of my Prince peeps on Twitter acknowledged that Morris regularly tours with this band as “Morris Day and the Time”. And one of my buds, Mr. Popblerd, was right when he remarked that it’s bad for the brand.
So buyer beware. Morris Day and the Time is not The Time, or, rather, The Original Time Band – I mean The Original 7ven. Confusing, I know – but when you’ve worked for Prince, everything’s complicated.
You’ll have a good time with Morris Day and the Time. You just need to make your peace with a fake Jerome.