Local Current Blog

Morris Day – and Judith Hill – remind Paisley Park what Time it is

The Time's 1982 album 'What Time Is It?'

Friday night’s show at Paisley Park felt like a family reunion — even if the family’s most famous member, and the host of the gathering, kept himself discreetly tucked out of sight. (Some concertgoers did spot Prince, though I didn’t.)

“We go too far back with Prince,” mused Morris Day from onstage. “Too many memories.” Thanking his host, he concluded, “We love you, Prince.”

Day and Prince have known each other since their shared Minneapolis youth. Though they were friends and collaborators, Day and Prince were introduced to millions as onscreen rivals in the iconic hit Purple Rain — a movie that pitted Day’s band the Time against Prince and the Revolution in a fictional battle for a coveted headlining spot at First Avenue.

In reality, the Time were formed and produced by Prince — who brought Day together with an existing band called Flyte Tyme, and wrote most of the band’s best-known material. The Time quickly became a formidable unit with an unforgettable live show, sometimes threatening to upstage the headliner when they opened for Prince in the early ’80s.

Fittingly, then, on Friday night the Time themselves had a tough act to follow: Judith Hill, an L.A.-based singer who Prince invited to Paisley Park to record her strong, soulful solo album Back In Time. The album first surfaced as a free download offered to fans last March; in October it received an official release, and on Friday night, Hill proudly pointed concertgoers to some of the first physical copies of the album, for sale (along with newly-pressed copies of Prince’s HITnRUN phase two) at the lobby’s merch counter.

When it came to family, Hill was not to be outdone: her crack five-piece band featured both of her parents. Bassist Robert “Pee Wee” Hill and his wife, keyboardist Michiko Hill, met in the 1970s when they were in a funk band together, and on Friday night they showed that they’ve both still got it — to say the least. They took turns ripping raucous solos with the rest of the band, billed as Judith Hill & FAM.

Judith Hill and her family band — which also includes guitarist Tony Maiden of Rufus — have been touring together, and Hill commanded the stage like a true bandleader. The setup in Paisley Park’s large performance room had been rotated 90º from last week’s Piano & a Microphone concerts, with rows of VIP seating up against the stage and space for general admission in the rest of the room. Behind the stage where Prince performed last week, Judith Hill’s circular logo was projected on top of Prince’s trademark glyph in an apt visual metaphor for their collaboration.

Many recent media headlines about Hill have played on the title of 20 Feet From Stardom, the 2013 documentary in which Hill was featured among other backing singers who were still waiting for their chances to take center stage. Hill definitely has that spot now; her comfort and command were clear throughout her 11-song set, as was her stylistic range, from the bluesy “Wild Tonight” to the jazzy “Love Trip” to the anthemic “My People” and the soulful “Cry, Cry, Cry.”

Resplendent in red crushed velvet, Hill seemed as comfortable at Paisley Park as if it were her own living room — which it virtually is, given how much time she’s spent there rehearsing, recording, and performing over the past couple of years. The next performers haven’t been quite as frequent guests of late, but they made clear that they were home, too.

Taking the stage after a video montage recalling their cinematic history, Morris Day and the Time wasted no time getting down to their signature antics in songs like “Cool”: iconic gestures like checking their watches, dance moves honed by 35 years of repetition, and lovable schtick like Day combing his hair in the mirror held by a right-hand man (Thomas Austin, in for original sidekick Jerome Benton).

After a volley of hits including “Wild and Loose” (the song that kicks off with Day’s signature rhetorical question, “What time is it?!”) bassist Ricky “Freeze” Smith, after thanking Prince “for all these years,” challenged the crowd to recognize some of the Time’s slow songs. The joke was that the Time are not particularly known for their slow jams, but Day remembered them — singing along from offstage, where he claimed to be “half naked” in a costume change.

Day re-emerged in a white coat, though he didn’t abandon for long his previous yellow jacket (“Could you bring me my pimp coat?” he asked, calling for the yellow outerwear’s return). With the band in slow-burn mode, Day acknowledged his band — which included original Time members “Jellybean” Johnson on drums and Monte Moir on keys — and took time out (so to speak) to mention one of his musical heirs.

“You know Bruno Mars, in ‘Uptown Funk’?” asked Day, referencing the monster hit Mars cut in collaboration with Mark Ronson, a song that unapologetically cops the Time’s pop-funk vibe. “He says, ‘Gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty.’ Where do you think he gets that s–t from?” We knew.

(In fairness, earlier that evening, Day told The Current’s Andrea Swensson that “Uptown Funk” was “awesome”; “they did a really good job.” Listen to their conversation below — and hear it again on the Local Show this Sunday night, Feb. 7, 6-8 p.m. on The Current.)

  1. Listen Andrea Swensson talks with Morris Day

Day then asked the crowd to imagine joining him in “that yellow limousine — you know, the one from Purple Rain. I think it’s in the basement here somewhere.” (Not a wildly implausible notion, given that the motorcycle from that movie is parked in the lobby.) “We’re going to go back to 1984, and take a trip from the Northside of Minneapolis to the Southside, to the Nacirema Club.”

The Nacirema Club — which Day pointed out was “American” spelled backwards, something I hadn’t noticed — was an actual Minneapolis hotspot back when Morris Day and Prince were still in their high school band Grand Central. What actually happened there has been documented in the invaluable photographs of Charles Chamblis, but what virtually happened there on Friday night was a dance party that had a couple dozen women invited onstage for the Time’s “Ice Cream Castles.”

After a skit that had Day invite one woman (he had to go through a couple before he found one who was older than her early 20s — “got me feeling like a pedophile up here!”) to gamely dance with guitarist Tory Ruffin, leaving me to wonder how that skit goes at venues that aren’t, as Paisley Park is, alcohol-free.

“If you’ve been following this band since 1981,” declared Day, “you know where this party’s about to go!” The band tore back into their set, which concluded with “The Bird” and, for an encore, the indelible “Jungle Love.”

(Before the encore, fans got a special treat: Day took a turn at the drumset, while Johnson stepped out to pick up a guitar and rip a searing take on “Black Cat,” the Janet Jackson chart-topper that Johnson co-produced when Rhythm Nation 1814 producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis decided that hard rock wasn’t their forte.)

After spending his entire adult life playing a silky-smooth, hyper-confident version of himself, Day commands the stage like a prizefighter. A quick left (check the watch), a quick right (check the mirror), a feint (mop the brow), and a hop (a hop) — and he still leaves ’em floored.

Though Prince wasn’t seen onstage, he made his approval clear on Twitter — and hinted that his postponed European tour might be getting a reboot. “LONG LIVE THE MPLS. SOUND!!! MORRIS DAY & THE TIME RULE!!! WE ALL THANK U ALL & ALL OF US THANKEACHOTHER!! EUROPE IS CALLING..PICKUP THE PH-”

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  • Clearly, Prince really needs to hire The Time back, with the original members + Jerome.

    I say this because while listening to Morris Day & The Time rip up the stage at PP last night, they are Prince’s best competition, which forces Prince to write better, stronger music, & make greater music videos.

    Prince loves to play basketball, well The Time is the best team that he should play against 4-sho, but Prince needs The Revolution on his side, because The Time will kill The NPG, but The Revolution will also put The Time to work..

    The NPG, like The Family, is a great Prince protege band, but The Revolution is Prince’s perfect backing band, he made a great choice when he put them 2getha..

    Prince listen to your fans bro, bring back The Time & The Revolution, & you will be untouchable….another movie with them all, will definitely be overwhelming…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    • 25%

      I used to be a diehard Prince fan. I don’t support him anymore.

      • need I say more…

        still love Prince, but my expectations of him are xtremely low.. he appears to be a very mean person…realtalk..

        • 25%

          Prince’s earlier music is an indelible part of the soundtrack of my youth. I learned a lot about the importance of blazing my own trails from him, but aside from his musical abilities, he is anything but a role model.

          Approximately seven years ago, I called Susan Moonsie after tracking her down online. I was running a news blog at the time and I wanted to interview her.

          Before I could make my proposal, Susan indicated that she thought I was Prince pulling a prank on her and immediately hung up on me! When I tried to call her back, several days later, the number had been disconnected! I couldn’t help but wonder why she would react that way to phone call from Prince.

          A few years after that incident, I had my own close encounter of the purple kind and he was a complete jerk!

          Prince will never get another dime of my money.

          • funny you say that. I’m trying my hands in music, & I listen to alot of his older stuff for great ideas
            & technics.

            And I used to want to meet Prince one day, but I hear & read so much negative stuff about him being hateful to ppl he works with, I’m like nah, I’ll pass. I will shake his hand, & be honored, but that’s it..

            He aint God, & even God is alot nicer than Prince, & he is God, the creator of heaven & earth.

            And it’s crazy cuz my family would really be shocked to hear me say that I wouldn’t work with Prince..

            But as mean as he is being about the youtube thing & stuff, man Prince is hateful, realtalk..

            He is a definite control freak. I guess he feels he’s punishing the world. What if an earthquake, or flood destroyed all his work in Paisley Park, then he would be looking funny cuz he never showed everyone his work. Plus he is not setting an example for younger artist who have no interest in learning instruments.
            One of my reasons for desiring to play all instruments, was because of growing up watching him play them.
            The kids today don’t get that privilege, they don’t know Prince or understand his reasons for holding back, so they go to the next lesser talent they can find. They kids, that’s all they know to do.
            Prince can still be mysterious without being hateful…

            He is not the only one God has blessed with talent, he has to remember, he could “Die any day” like he once quoted in his own song”1999″.

            I doubt if The Revolution will even work with him.. I heard an interview with Dr. Fink, & when that question came up, Fink was nice about it, but you can tell by the tone of his voice that he was tired, & getting too old to keep playing these games with Prince. I think they(The Revolution) are very hurt by Prince. God don’t like ugliness, which is why I believe Prince has not really topped the charts since he parted ways with The Revolution. They heavily influenced his output.
            1987-1989, I believe was overflow of The Revolution’s influence, after that, it’s hit & miss, but the mystique is definitely been gone, “bye Felicia”.
            The NPG is nice, but nah, they can’t compare to The Revolution, they are seasoned musicians, Wendy aint no punk, she aint scared of Prince, apparently he is scared of her tho’.

            I mean just look how many comments are here, that speaks volumes, loud..

            Who wants to read about a concert that the rest of the world can’t see?

            That’s old, & at 43, I’m too old for this..

            Not even the ppl who attended the show are commenting, real sad..

            Prince is almost 60 acting like Justin Beiber…..really?

            It’s crazy when his old girlfriend/protege ran from him, while he’s still a millionaire..WOW..

          • 25%

            Prince has never gotten over being abandoned by his parents. He has never gotten over being bullied and teased in school.

            When Prince feels himself becoming attached to someone or something, he obliterates the connection. To him, love equals a loss of control and nothing frightens Prince more than the lack of control.

            Did you know that Prince bulldozed his old purple mansion, where a lot of his earlier hits were created? Prince moved out of the home and gave it to his father. When his father died, his father apparently gave the house to Prince’s older sister. When a legal battle started to brew, Prince demolished the property!

            Prince sold The Revolution a bill of goods. He convinced them that they’d be together, forever, like The Rolling Stones. His headgame worked, because that band would have jumped off a cliff if Prince would have asked them to.

            A couple of years ago, the original members of The Time were staging a comeback, when Jesse Johnson unceremoniously pulled out of the band. At the time, I was running a news blog, so I wrote an article about what I thought went down. Someone posted the article on Jesse Johnson’s Facebook page and every single commenter agreed with my assessment of the situation: Prince was the reason Jesse no longer wanted to be part of The Time.

            Like you said, Prince is staring sixty in the face. He’s running out of time to grow up!

            By the way, most Prince articles have no comments, because Prince has alienated his fan base. He doesn’t realize (or he simply doesnt care) that when he threatens Wendy and Lisa with lawsuits for merely mentioning his name during interviews, he looks like a complete fool.

          • That part about not getting over parental separation, & childhood bullying, I can personally relate too, especially just being an inch & a half or two taller than Prince, basically I’m short technically speaking.

            I’m an introvert as well, I believe by nature, but then traumatic events during development has me alot more introverted to this date.

            My parents got back together after 4 years of separation. But the scars to this day still affect me, I believe mainly because my father is still a bully. Prince actually reminds alot of my father, accept my is an alcoholic.
            Funny thing is they separated around the time Around The World In A Day(a few months after) came out, I was around 13, Prince was 10 I believe, right. Those are strong development times when a child really needs their father around, & you’re right, once you been stung real good when you’re vulnerable, you will never be the same again. U build walls around yourself, because it’s the only way you’ve learned & know how to protect yourself.
            Tho people try real hard to get in, & some get very close, people who have scars will just build another wall that the person who thought they were close has to climb all over again, & it is a pattern from there.
            Take it from someone who knows.
            Tho Prince is no alcoholic,I’ve heard he snorted cocaine & smoked weed from ppl I’ve met that knew him in high school, they said he mainly did cocaine. And I knew ppl who snorted cocaine, & it makes them extremely paranoid. I tried it, but it didn’t make me paranoid, made me feel weird, but not paranoid, I guess it affects ppl differntly, I was a pothead, so maybe that’s the cocaine didn’t bother me. I could see Prince snorting coc, as paranoid as he acts. In some of those backstage pics from 1979, him & Andre Cymone look really wired, as well as the rest of the band.

            Man that stuff about Jesse I believe is true, cuz Jesse loves The Time, he aint gonna cut out for no reason. Now he with D’Angelo, which is cool, but D’Angelo is a student to Jesse, it looks weird, it should be the other way around. Jesse is a punk funk master, D’Angelo is soul R&B, that format doesn’t work right. And yes, I read that article you’re talking about, agree 100% with all the others.

            Prince is like ppl, we called in the military, who pull rank, power trip on others because, just like you said, they were picked on as kids, so now they have a chance to do the picking. We had NCOs & Spec 4s tripping left & right, they had us walking on eggshells..

            I believe Prince has done this so long that it has become his DNA. On the other hand, Prince is also like a spoiled brat. He knows he can get attention just by walking in a room, so he uses it as a manipulation tool, in other words the “I know you want me to do this, but I’m not gonna do it on purpose to show you that I don’t have to do it just because you want me to” attitude. I recognize that because I have a baby brother, baby sister, & younger cousin who acts exactly that. The minute you stop paying attention to them, then they say “okay, I’ll do it now”, by then it’s too late, the thrill is gone, then they beg you to “hey look at me, aint I cute anymore”, & we be like, “yeah you cute, uh-huh, BYE FELICIA, game over.”
            Their cute & spoiled, so they use it to their advantage. I watch that when dating women, I will date a decent woman with a warm attitude, before I date a real cute woman who I recognize gets alot of attention everywhere she goes, I date a pretty women, but there is a certain attitude I look for 1st.
            Thank God for my spoiled bratty baby sister.

            Look at Susan when she thought u were Prince, Susan said “BYE FELICIA”..lol, sad but true..

            I read Prince destroyed his Purple House, but I didn’t know the story behind it. He is mean, that was an ugly thing to do, really..

            I believe he threatened Wendy & Lisa with lawsuits for saying his name is really because he is paranoid something may get out about the kind of person he really is, about how hateful & evil he is, which will contradict his LOVE GOD image quote. He will be known as the real hypocrite he is being.

            But just like a beach ball held under water too long, eventually everything he is trying to hold down will come up, flying fast.

            Sooner or later the truth will come to late, what’s hidden in the dark will come to light. Some one is going to find a way to reveal everything they want to about him, by getting around his confidentiality one day..

            I look at Prince’s audience, & I can count on one hand, how many beautiful women there are, & how many black people there are, that is really sad. I guess he figured writing a song called Baltimore would win back his people. Naw man, a song like that deserves some funk on it, straight funk.
            James Brown made “I’m Black & I’m Proud” to stop riots back in the day, & it worked, to a certain degree. Why, because James made a song for his target audience. This Hi-Hop generation aint gonna listen to “Baltimore”, they can tell that was made for rich people. Prince could’ve made an updated remake of “I’m Black & I’m Proud”,without making it a hip-hop, or a rap song, just a strong hardcore funky street R&B song that banged hard, & I guarantee you black folks would still be bangin it right now, or he could’ve just made “Baltimore” alot more funky.
            I remember reading about the title online that it was coming out soon, I got real excited, I thought & said, “oh yeah, Prince getting ready to bring it home on this one, it’s for a worthy cause”, I was all excited, & waiting in anticipation. Then I heard it, & it was like air being let of a balloon. I was like “What is this?” “I aint feelin this, none of the folks rioting is gonna listen to this”. He better come with something like “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye. I’m sure the family of Freddy Gray appreciated the recognition, I mean but come on Prince…really, bye felicia..

            3RDEYEGIRL & Joshua Welton definitely have their mouths shut, just like Prince want them too, scared, lack of knowledge & wisdom, why because they are young & don’t know any better. Another form of pimping, find a young teenage girl, blow her mind, & keep her on lock & key(with threats) for their own benefit.
            Prince can’t do The Time & The Revolution that way, that’s why he’s afraid of them

            Judith Hill sounds wonderful, she is really awesome, but again, Prince is a punk funk king, JH does not fit his format. Prince should do what he does best 1st, Punk Funk, then do the other stuff.

            I read that Mayte is working on a tell all book, & she plans to spill the beans all over the place, she must have really great lawyers.

            I mean if Prince is so honest, real, & pure, then what is he hiding?

  • Deb

    Great review, Jay.