Morris Day: Cool at the Howard Theatre

July 13, 2012

Morris Day performs at Howard Theatre. ( Liz Medina Chiomenti /Howard Theatre )

The cat from the ’80s who starred as Prince’s alter ego in the film “Purple Rain,” taunting the tortured Prince with that cackle of a laugh, the smooth moves on stage, crisp zoot suits — the suave ladies’ man who sang “Gigolos Get Lonely Too.”

Day plucks a white handkerchief and wipes his brow onstage at the Howard Theatre Thursday night.

He checks his collar, smooths his wavy hair, adjusts his shades and stands at the mike in a black suit, white collar, white cuffs and matching white, polished shoes.

“You may notice a bit of moisture on my forehead,” Day tells the crowd. “I know what you think: ‘Morris has lost it. Morris is not cool anymore.’ ”

Day smooths his hair. “Let me fix that [expletive] for you. This is not sweat.”

What is it?


Morris Day performs with the band The Time. (Liz Medina Chiomenti /For the Howard Theatre )

“Condensate,” someone shouts from the crowd at the dinner theatre.

“Ah,” Day says, “somebody bought the last album. That’s what you do from the inside out.

“When you are cool inside, you don’t sweat. You condensate.”

Then he answers the rhetorical question: “Yes, D.C., Morris Day is still cool!”

Morris Day, the suave, conceited, funny, pretty-man vocalist for “The Time,” brought the crowd to its feet with a tight band, funk-rock beats, the signature dance and legendary hits: “Get It Up,” “Cool,” “Girl,” “777-9311,” “Wild and Loose,” “The Walk,” “Gigolos Get Lonely Too.” “Jungle Love,” “Ice Cream Castles,” and “The Bird.”

Still pretty and light on his feet, and just as hilarious on stage, Day showed that he hasn’t slowed down: “I got diamonds on my fingers . . . D.C. I’m so cool. Honey, baby, can’t you see. I’m just cool. Ain’t nobody bad like me.

Offstage, Day says he is nothing like that ladies’ man he portrays onstage. “I like to enjoy being at home, at the Day’s Palace,” Day said from his hotel room in Crystal City, during a day off for the band before the show at the Howard Theatre.

“I’m pretty good with the remote. I can flip it in between flipping channels. I mix up a mean Cosmo. And I’m not too bad on the grill.” He pauses; then excuses himself. “My wife is in the background. I’m newly married.”

“A lot of people expect — if I’m out and about and run into people — they expect me to come in doing ‘The Bird’ and being obnoxious. I don’t think people think or believe I am really laid back. It’s an aspect of my personality, but not 100 percent. I don’t have to play that out off stage. It’s like having to hit the on switch, Then when I’m done, I put it in simmer mode. I wouldn’t say I’m shy. I’m just laid-back.”

To his fans, Day is frozen in “Time”: known for that outsize personality, the pretty boy who pulled out oversize mirrors onstage — right in the middle of the show — to check his waves.

But he doesn’t sound cool right now on the phone. A lot of time has passed since that hit. He talks in a low, smooth voice about the past and working with Prince.

What was it like working with Prince? A question that any fan of the performer is going to ask of someone who was close enough to touch the icon.

Day pops that bubble.

“Prince,” he said, “working with Prince was cool when it was cool. Then it was not cool when it was not cool. And it was not cool toward the end.”

What? Not cool? What happened?

“Differences of opinion and control issues,” Day said. “And it comes a time in your professional career when you realize it is time for you to move on. And I reached that point.”

In 1985, Day left the band to pursue a solo career. “Nothing was open to negotiation. You are in art to express yourself; without having your own voice, it shuts you down creatively,” Day said. “ ‘Ice Cream Castles’ was the last record I did.”

Day says now he spends his time touring. Last year, the band reunited as “The Original 7ven” and released the album appropriately called “Condensate.”

On Thursday night, Day thanked the crowd, “for following us since 1981, when we started with ‘Get it Up.’ ”

Then he broke into “The Walk.” The crowd rose to its feet, when the band performed “The Bird.”

“This dance is not for every body,” Day sang. “Just the sexy people.”

Later, as the show came to an end, Day tossed his white handkerchief — with condensation — to a woman. She swoons. Then the pretty ladies man left the stage. Still C-O-O-L. Still real cool.

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